Press Releases

Senator Feinstein Introduces Measure To Create a Temporary Federal Judgeship for the Eastern District

-Will help ease caseload crisis in Eastern District of California-

Washington, D.C. –Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to create a 10-year temporary federal judgeship for the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California.
 
The new judgeship will help ease chronic understaffing in the federal courts in the Eastern District of California, which has the heaviest caseload on a sustained basis of any federal judicial district in the nation.

“There hasn’t been a new permanent judgeship for the Eastern District of California since 1978, and since that time this district has seen explosive growth – in population and in prisons,” Senator Feinstein said.

“Today, the caseload is so heavy that it has become utterly unmanageable. When our federal courts are unable to do their jobs, it means victims must wait longer for justice, and civil litigants must wait years for their lawsuits to be resolved.

“This is unacceptable. This new judgeship will help ease this burden, and I intend to introduce legislation later this year to authorize more judges for this district.”

The legislation, S.193, also creates a temporary judgeship for the District of Nebraska and extends temporary judgeships in the Northern District of Ohio, the District of Kansas, and the District of Hawaii.

is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii);  Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii); Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio); George Voinovich (R-Ohio); Mike Johanns (R-NE); Ben Nelson (D-NE); Sam Brownback (R-KS); and Pat Roberts (R-KS).

Background

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California consistently has one of the highest caseload burdens in the country. 

For nearly three decades, the district’s caseload has increased steadily, due to population growth and prison construction. The Eastern District is home to 18 of California’s 25 fastest-growing counties. In addition, 19 state and federal prisons are located in the district, and hold roughly 100,000 of California’s 167,000 prison inmates.

Congress last authorized a new permanent federal judgeship for the Eastern District in 1978. Since then, federal court filings by prisoners skyrocketed by 700 percent. In 1992, a temporary judgeship was authorized in response to the skyrocketing caseload, but that judgeship expired in 2004.

The Eastern District’s six active judges handled an average of 968 cases each last year. 
As a result of this high caseload, civil litigants have to wait an average of 42 months for their cases to run their course to conclusion. This delay is twice the national average.

In June 2008, the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in San Francisco, declared an emergency in the Eastern District of California, asking all appellate and district judges in the 9th Circuit to voluntarily hear Eastern District cases.

Although 84 judges volunteered and relieved the district of 1,000 cases, thousands of cases remain to be heard.

                  
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