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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Senior judges work to take up strain on courts

Today's LA Times profiles the work being done by senior judges in the federal courts. The escalating crisis in our courts has led to a crushing caseload for many courts as the Senate has been glacially slow to debate and confirm judges to fill vacancies. Senior judges are now being called upon to work long past retirement to help manage the growing workloads.
[Judge Betty] Fletcher, who turns 88 this month and relies on a walker to navigate airports and courthouse corridors, retired a dozen years ago yet still works full time, on what is known as senior status, for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. She travels throughout the court's nine-state region for hearings and spends seven days a week poring over foot-high stacks of written filings.

As federal courts stagger under the weight of mounting caseloads and vacant judgeships go unfilled for years, senior judges like Fletcher have come to the rescue, especially in the 9th Circuit, where they shoulder a third of the legal load.

"It's kind of a double whammy," Fletcher said of the courts that have had no new judgeships added in 21 years and that have declining numbers of active judges because of partisan posturing in Congress. Nearly 11% of the nation's 875 lifetime positions are empty.
Click here to read the full article.

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