Case load not improving for Arizona's federal judges

March 21, 2012

Arizona’s federal court system is overloaded. So much so that its chief judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a judicial emergency last year. That allowed for visiting judges to hear cases. But that emergency declaration expired Monday. From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports.

PAUL ATKINSON: A growing caseload and shrinking number of judges prompted the judicial emergency last year. Two judgeships were vacant when Chief Judge John Roll was murdered in the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last January. Visiting judges from other federal jurisdictions were brought in to help manage an increasing caseload. Still, Arizona’s U.S. District Court System saw the number of criminal cases per judge grow to 554, the most in the nation. One of the three vacant judgeships has been filled, but Congress has not approved another nominee. Chief Judge Roslyn Silver says the judicial emergency extended the amount of time judges had to hear cases, but the emergency declaration cannot be renewed for six months after it expires. Silver says court officials may have no other choice but to consider renewing the judicial emergency.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally aired Monday, March 19.

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