A judicial body is urging Congress to authorize new bankruptcy judgeships to cope with a surge in bankruptcy filings that has tracked weakness in the U.S. economy.

Barbara Lynn, chair of the bankruptcy committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, recommended at a congressional hearing that Congress authorize 13 new permanent bankruptcy judgeships and make 22 temporary bankruptcy judgeships permanent.

The conference, which advises Congress on where to place judges, also called on Congress to extend the term of two temporary bankruptcy judgeships for five years.

Without congressional action on the judicial resources recommended by the Conference, the bankruptcy courts could face record filings at the same time as a reduction in judicial resources to handle them, Lynn said in prepared testimony for the commercial and administrative law subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lynn said that filings have risen steadily, growing 38 percent from 2006 to 2007 and another 31 percent to 2008.

In the 12-month period ending March 31, 2009, there were approximately 1.2 million bankruptcy petitions filed -- nearly double the number of petitions filed in 2006, Lynn said.

There are currently 324 bankruptcy judgeships, according to the Federal Judicial Center, an education and research center for the federal courts.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)