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Judicial Emergency Declared in Arizona
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Criminal Caseload Comparison
Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver has declared a judicial emergency in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona that will temporarily suspend the time limit set by the Speedy Trial Act to bring accused criminals to trial.
The judicial emergency took effect on January 20 and was set to expire on February 19, 2011, but at Silver’s request the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit agreed to exercise its authority under federal law to extend the judicial emergency by one year. Complaints and indictments brought during this combined 13-month period will not be subject to the 70-day trial requirement.
“The need to suspend the time limits is of great urgency due to a heavy criminal caseload, a lack of adequate resources, and the tragic death of Chief Judge John Roll on January 8, 2011,” Silver wrote in an order announcing the emergency. “The District of Arizona ranks first in the Ninth Circuit and third in the nation for criminal case and defendant filings, an increase of 65 percent since 2008. During this same time, the Tucson criminal division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona has doubled in size, adding AUSA’s to prosecute border crimes. There has been no corresponding increase in judgeships or other judicial resources.”
Three judges in the district’s Tucson division handle approximately 1,200 cases each. The district is authorized 13 judgeships and currently has three vacancies, two of them in the Tucson division, where Judge John Roll was killed last month. Roll had pursued a declaration of judicial emergency in the district in November 2010.
“The district court in Arizona urgently needs additional resources. Judicial vacancies need to be filled and new judgeships should be given strong consideration. There is also a need for more court staff and facilities,” said Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.
The emergency declaration does not affect another Speedy Trial act provision requiring filing of an indictment within 30 days of arrest, nor does it affect the time limits for defendants in custody solely because they are awaiting trial.