justice system," 80 percent of all judges agreed (Table 2.6, Q23). Again, however, a higher percentage of Republican appointees favor this statement than Democratic appointees, 87 percent to 67 percent, respectively.
Consider also that when judges were asked whether "[p]oor litigants are treated fairly in the courts," about 78 percent of all judges agreed (Table 2.6, Q24). Again, a higher percentage of Republican appointees, 84 percent, support this statement compared to a somewhat smaller percentage, 67 percent, of Democratic appointees.
Lastly, the NDJS asked the judges whether "more women and minority judges would improve the overall quality of the district courts." In response, about 40 percent of the judges agreed, however, only 32 percent of Republican appointees agreed with this statement compared to just over half, 54 percent, of Democratic appointees (Table 2.6, Q25).
The basic focus of this chapter has been to examine the basic institutional and systemic role and functions of the federal district courts in the American federal judiciary. This profile emphasized, among other characteristics, the broad jurisdiction, increasing caseload, and the critical function of the courts as both visible trial courts and "gatekeepers" to the higher federal courts.
Overall, it follows that increases in the jurisdiction, caseload, the number of sitting judges, and their supporting personnel combine to illustrate the key policymaking role and potential of our federal district courts. In addition, relevant NDJS data were provided to fill the gaps between the institutional nature of the courts and the practical realities about what the judges actually believe about the courts' institutional functions in the American political process. These data reveal that majorities of district court judges agree that they are indeed involved in the policy process; large numbers of these judges do in fact make law; many feel that they should make law; and, many feel that one special and unique function of the federal judiciary is to protect minority rights against the majority.
On balance, the institutional nature of the district courts, combined with the judges' own attitudes about the function of these courts contribute to the increasing visibility and importance of district courts in the policy process. Thus, the focus on who these judges are and how they are appointed to serve on the district courts is increasing. These matters--the selection and confirmation processes for district court judges--are discussed in the next chapter.