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June 2011

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

 

Judgeship Bills Seek Relief for Five Districts


Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Two bills creating new Article III judgeships were introduced in the Senate in May.

“When our courts become overburdened, we leave crime victims and criminal defendants in limbo and civil litigants without resolution to their problems,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said as she introduced S. 1014, the Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011. The bill would create new judgeships in five districts: four permanent judgeships in the Eastern District of California; two in the District of Arizona; two in the Western District of Texas; one in the Southern District of Texas; and one in the District of Minnesota. The bill also would convert existing temporary judgeships in the District of Arizona and the Central District of California to permanent judgeships.

S. 1014 has bipartisan support in the Senate. It was introduced by Feinstein and Senator John Kyl (R-AZ), with co-sponsors Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Al Franken (D-MN).

Senator John Kyl (R-AZ)

Senator John Kyl (R-AZ)

S. 1032, introduced in May by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) with co-sponsor Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), would create 41 new judgeships for all the federal districts in Arizona, California, Texas, and New Mexico. It also would convert four existing temporary judgeships to permanent judgeships. In early 2011, Administrative Office Director James C. Duff, acting in his capacity as Secretary of the Judicial Conference, wrote to leadership of Congress and the Judiciary Committees asking for prioritized attention for the judgeships needs of the Eastern District of California and the Western District of Texas—two of the Judiciary’s most consistently overburdened courts.

Senator Jeff Bingaman(D-NM)

Senator Jeff Bingaman(D-NM)

Feinstein noted that no permanent judgeships have been created in the Eastern District of California since 1978, and the only temporary judgeship was allowed to expire, despite a weighted caseload per authorized judgeship that is the highest in the nation. Except for some caseload spikes due to isolated events, the Eastern District of California has had the highest caseload in the country since 2005, and the Western District of Texas has had the second highest caseload in the country since 2008. In March, the Judicial Conference submitted a request for 88 new judgeships to Congress, which the Conference continues to seek.

“We are grateful that the sponsors of these bills have recognized these and other judgeship needs,” said Duff. All the judgeships in S. 1014 and S. 1032 are recommended by the Judicial Conference.