“One judge down. Just 69 more vacancies — including three in Nevada — to go For the past few years, political and procedural standoffs have stymied President Barack Obama’s attempts to get dozens of his nominees’ bids approved in the Senate, leaving dozens of gaping holes on benches across the country. But in few states has the situation reached such a fever pitch as it has in Nevada, where three of the state’s seven seats on the federal bench have become vacant in the past year. Seasoned lawyers say it’s the most troubling federal court crisis they’ve seen in Nevada in decades. And, they warn, it’s a crisis with real consequences.” [full story Las Vegas Sun]
As the article makes clear, criminal cases take precedence in scheduling because of the “speedy and public trial” provisions of the 6th Amendment. The implications are obvious. Civil cases will pile up in the backlog as three judges take on a workload intended for seven. Have an issue involving water rights in a federal court? — wait your turn. Have an issue with contract enforcement or terms in a federal court? — wait your turn. Have an issue with the application or interpretation of federal guidelines in almost any subject? — wait your turn. And, wait and wait and wait. “On Sept. 30, 2007, there were 3,685 cases pending before U.S. District Court in Nevada. On Sept. 30, 2012, there were 4,364.” This in a state which has grown by nearly 50% since the 2000 Census.
Worse still, we aren’t alone. Here’s the compilation of vacancies as posted by the U.S. court system:
There are 18 vacancies at the Appellate Court level, and half remain “pending.” Of the 69 vacancies at the District Court level 24 are pending. The two vacancies in the U.S. Court of International Trade are both “pending.” So, what constitutes an “emergency situation?” The definition is as follows:
“Any vacancy where weighted filings are in excess of 600 per judgeship; or
Any vacancy in existence for more than 18 months where weighted filings are between 430 and 600 per judgeship; or
Any court with more than one authorized judgeship and only one active judge.” [Judicial Nominations]
Nevada hits two out of the three elements, and at the rate we’re going item 3 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
It’s time to remember that Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.
A bit of blatant blog flogging: The Fix is seeking nominations for state based political blogs to add to its annual list. Your nomination for Desert Beacon would definitely be appreciated. Link Here.