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Federal Judicial Emergencies

SOURCE: Flickr/edenpictures

The doors to the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

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Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population—170 million Americans—today are living in a jurisdiction that has been declared a judicial emergency* meaning that in courtrooms across the country there aren’t enough judges to hear the cases that are piling up. The map below depicts the areas of the country where there are federal district courts and circuit courts of appeal with judicial emergencies. In practical terms, it shows where judges are overworked and where justice is being significantly delayed for the American public. The nation’s federal courts—where Social Security appeals are heard, employment cases decided, immigration issues settled, and where Americans vindicate their constitutional rights—are in a crisis because there simply aren’t enough judges on the bench.

Seven judicial emergencies at the federal circuit court level:

As of May 9, 2013, there are seven judicial emergencies in the following circuit courts:

  • (2) Fifth Circuit—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi
  • (1) Seventh Circuit—Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin
  • (2) Ninth Circuit—Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii
  • (2) Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals—Alabama, Georgia, Florida

Twenty-nine judicial emergencies at the district court level:

As of May 9, 2013, there are 29 judicial emergencies in the following district courts:

  • (1) District of Puerto Rico
  • (1) Southern District of New York
  • (1) Western District of New York
  • (1) Eastern District of North Carolina
  • (2) Eastern District of Texas
  • (1) Southern District of Texas
  • (1) Western District of Texas
  • (1) Western District of Wisconsin
  • (5) District of Arizona
  • (1) Eastern District of California
  • (3) Northern District of California
  • (2) District of Montana
  • (1) District of Oregon
  • (1) District of Kansas
  • (1) Northern District of Alabama
  • (2) Middle District of Florida
  • (2) Southern District of Florida
  • (2) Northern District of Georgia

Federal judicial emergencies

* The nonpartisan Administrative Office of the United States Courts defines a judicial emergency as: a circuit court vacancy and adjusted case filings greater than 700, or an 18-month vacancy and filings between 500 and 700; or a district court vacancy with filings greater than 600, an 18-month vacancy where weighted filings are between 430 and 600, or any court with more than one judgeship and only one active judge.

Andrew Blotky is the Director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. Sandhya Bathija is a Campaign Manager with Legal Progress at the Center.

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