May 17 2011

Senator Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Reduce Caseload in Overburdened Federal Courts

Sacramento and Fresno courts would receive new judgeships

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to create new judgeships in federal districts across the country that are facing emergency situations, including courts in Sacramento and Fresno.

The Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011 would create new judgeships in U.S. District Courts where the need is most immediate.  The bill would create four new judgeships in the Eastern District of California; two in the District of Arizona; two in the Western District of Texas; one in the Southern District of Texas; and one in the District of Minnesota.  Additionally, the bill would convert existing temporary judgeships to permanent status in the District of Arizona and the Central District of California.

“When our courts become overburdened, we leave criminal matters in limbo, and civil litigants without resolution to their disputes,” said Senator Feinstein.  “What this means is that individuals and businesses must wait months, or even years to have their legal issues resolved.”

The Eastern District of California, which encompasses California’s Central Valley, is home to more than eight million Californians, but has only six active District Judges.  The District faces far and away the worst caseload crisis in the nation. 

As of December 31, 2010, the District was managing 1,133 weighted filings per authorized judgeship -- a caseload that is not only the highest in the nation, but also 300 weighted filings per judge higher than any other District Court in the country and almost three times the threshold at which the Judicial Conference recommends additional judgeships. 

According to the most recent statistics, criminal felony cases remained pending in this court for a median of 12.7 months; and more than 10 percent of all civil cases were taking more than three years from the date of filing to be decided.

“The Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011 is a narrow, emergency measure to provide relief in the handful of Districts that need it the very most,” continued Feinstein.  

The Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011 is co-sponsored by Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

###