Fed Judge Vacancies at Crisis Level

Tuesday, 08 Feb 2011 12:08 PM

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Vacancies in the federal judiciary have risen dramatically since President Barack Obama took office two years ago and are now at crisis levels. Judicial retirements coupled with delays in confirming new judges have led to dramatic workload increases and even delayed trials, The Washington Post reported.

federal district courts crisisThree judges in Tucson, Ariz., are handing 1,200 cases each, and three of four authorized positions in a federal district in Illinois are vacant. Chief Judge Michael McCuskey is traveling 90 miles between Urbana and Springfield and relying on two retired judges, both 81, to take up the slack.

"I had a heart attack six years ago, and my cardiologist told me recently, 'You need to reduce your stress.' I told him only the U.S. Senate can reduce my stress,'' he told the Post.

There are delays of up to three years on the civil docket that handles such things as civil rights cases and business disputes. The 9th Circuit in California has spent $250,000 to fly judges to the island of Saipan in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands because the areas only judge retired a year ago, the Post said.

Of 857 federal judgeships, 101 are vacant, with 46 of those classified as judicial emergencies. There were 54 vacancies when Obama took office in 2009. Blame for the numbers fall on GOP delaying tactics, a slow pace of nominations, and a poor confirmation system.

The crisis has pushed Republicans and the White House to work together, and the Senate approved three nominees on Monday, with another eight expected soon, the Post reported.



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