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June 2007

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Temporary Judgeship Bill to Help Five Districts

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved and sent to the Senate floor for a vote, a bill, S. 1327, that would create two temporary district court judgeships and extend three others. Committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also indicated he would support a more comprehensive judgeship bill in the future.

“Last Congress two of these needed temporary judgeships were allowed to expire,” Leahy said. “One was in Nebraska and the other in California. That was unfortunate in my view since they continue to have high caseloads.” S. 1327 would create temporary judges in the Districts of Nebraska and the Eastern District of California.

The bill also would extend three temporary judgeships, one in the Northern District of Ohio and one each in the Districts of Hawaii and Kansas. All three districts have high caseloads with temporary judgeships close to expiring. “I support acting to ensure their continuation,” said Leahy, “until we have had the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of the judgeship needs throughout the Federal system. I hope to undertake that review next year.”

During the Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the legislation, Leahy made clear, in response to a considered attempt to add judgeships to the bill, that he was willing to work with committee members to draft a separate judgeship bill—which would take effect in 2009.

Although the judges appointed to the temporary judgeships have lifetime appointments, legislation creating temporary judgeships specifies that the first vacancy in the district after a set date cannot be filled. Under the provisions of S. 1327, in any of the five districts, the first vacancy occurring 10 years after a judge was appointed to the temporary judgeship would not be filled.

The Judicial Conference recommends a new judgeship be considered for a district where the current caseload is above 430 weighted filings per judgeship, after factoring in any additional judgeships. Nebraska’s weighted caseload per judgeship is now at 617 and the Eastern District of California’s weighted caseload per judgeship is at 952. The three other districts for which temporary judgeships have been recommended would see their weighted caseload per judgeship near or exceed 430 if they lose their current temporary judgeships.