Friday, March 16, 2007

Federal Judges Want More Federal Judges; Court Stats

The Judicial Conference of the United States voted to recommend that Congress create 67 new judgeships (15 appeals court, 52 district court). Why? Consider that the number of appellate judges has remained constant since 1990, while the number of appeals filed has gone up 55%. Congress has increased the number of district judgeships 4%, but the caseload has gone up 29%. Federal Judiciary News Release, March 15, 2007.

The local angle:

  • The Ninth Circuit currently has 28 judgeships. The Conference recommends 5 permanent and 2 temporary judgeship be added.
  • The Western District of Washington currently has 7 judgeships; the conference recommends one more.
The Judicial Conference also:
  • Gave the go-ahead for a pilot project adding digital audio recordings to PACER.
  • "Strongly urged" courts to make it more clear when cases have been sealed. When you search electronic dockets currently, you can sometimes get a notice that "case does not exist"; the Conference says the message should be "case under seal."
  • Told the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability to work up guidelines on judicial disability that could be applied nationwide.
This week, the U.S. Courts also released its annual statistical report (covering the year ending Sept. 30, 2006), Judicial Business of the United States Courts 2006. For an overview, see the press release (March 13, 2007).

The local angle:
  • Civil Cases Filed (Table C-3, p. 172)
    • total civil cases: E.D. Wash. 701; W.D. Wash. 2,772
    • "U.S. Civil": E.D. Wash. 288; W.D. Wash. 677
    • Social Security: E.D. 175, W.D. 254
    • Civil Rights: E.D. 7, W.D. 47
    • Prisoner Petitions
      • Motions to Vacate Sentence: E.D. 27; W.D. 35
      • Habeas Corpus General E.D. 5; W.D. 91
Case Dispositions (Table C-5, p. 194).
  • How many case dispositions in each of our districts? How long did they take (median time)? E.D. Wash. 533 dispositions, 8.1 months; W.D. Wash. 2,815 dispositions, 9.1 months.
  • How about different types of disposition?
    • No court action: E.D. 170 cases, 5.7 months; W.D. 885 cases, 6.2 months
    • Dispositions before pre-trial -- E.D. 319 cases, 9.5 months; W.D. 1,879 cases, 11.1 months
    • During or after pretrial -- E.D. 30 cases, 15.5 months; W.D. 20 cases, 16.0 months
    • Trial -- E.D. 14 cases, 17.5 months; W.D. 31 cases, 19.4 months.

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