It was reported last month that federal judges have been retiring at a rate of one per week this year. This is driving up the number of vacancies that have nearly doubled since President Obama took office. These departures are delaying trials in some of the nation’s federal courts. The workloads for judges in the federal system has greatly increased. The crisis is most acute along the southwestern border, where immigration and drug cases have overwhelmed court officials. The three judges in Tucson, the site of last month’s shooting rampage, are each handling about 1,200 criminal cases. There is a crisis in Arizona where criminal trials are being delayed.
Since President Obama took office, federal judicial vacancies have risen steadily as dozens of judges have left without being replaced by the President’s nominees. There are several reasons for this problem. Republicans have blocked nominees, the White House has been slow with nominations, and a dysfunctional Senate confirmation system is also being blamed. Senate Republicans and the White House should work together to set aside the divisions that have slowed confirmations.
There are now 101 vacancies among the nation’s 857 district and circuit judgeships, with 46 classified as judicial emergencies in which courts are struggling to keep up with the workload. At least 15 more vacancies are expected this year, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. When Obama took office in 2009, 54 judgeships were open. The effect is most visible in civil cases, with delays of up to three years in resolving discrimination claims, corporate disputes and other lawsuits. The vast majority of federal cases are dispensed through the district and circuit courts of appeal, with the Supreme Court hearing fewer than 100 cases each year. The 60 nominees confirmed in Obama’s first two years in office made up the lowest number in 35 years, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Source: Washington Post
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