On the day of the Tucson, Arizona shooting that killed six, and injured another thirteen, Arizona’s Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll reportedly arrived at the meet-and-greet event to speak with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords about the exorbitant caseloads each judge was trying to handle. Sadly, Judge Roll was shot and killed at that Tucson grocery store, but both his wife and fellow judge Fred Biery say they hope that, from this tragedy, the message he was trying to convey will finally be heard.
With all the focus on immigration in the Southwestern states recently, and due to the lack of judges to try them, “The caseload [for each judge] is enormous,” said Biery. “Perhaps out of this tragedy people will focus on what is going on down here.”
Among all the judges in the area though, the number of cases each of them sees yearly varies. The one judge in Del Rio, Texas is handling about 2,000 cases a year, while in El Paso, four judges split about 4,000 yearly.
In Laredo, Texas, things are horribly backed-up as there are two judicial vacancies. At the end of 2010, the number of pending cases (5,875) had risen 15 percent from the same time in 2009.
Over in the U.S. District of Arizona, there was a 67 percent hike in the number of cases filed, while the District of New Mexico saw an 18 percent increase.
In his annual report, Chief Justice Roberts said the White House was failing to nominate and confirm judges in a timely matter, and that it had “created acute difficulties in some judicial districts.”
Immigration cases in U.S. federal courts nationwide rose 9 percent, but Roberts stated that in that 73 percent of those cases were filed in the five Southwest border districts in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and the Western and Southern judicial districts of Texas.
President Obama has nominated two people to fill a couple of Laredo’s judicial vacancies, and they currently await Senate approval. He has not yet nominated anyone for the empty seats in El Paso and San Antonio.
Another part of the hold-up is the fact that state senators have been arguing over those nominated for the judgeships, and the senators have the power to block any nominees in their home state.
The state senators however, argue being blamed for the backup, and say the problem is the ever-increasing size of the caseloads, not the lack of judicial nomination approvals.