Arizona Federal Courts Suffering From “Dire” Criminal Caseload


The Tucson shooting spree that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed U.S. District Judge John Roll worsened a problem that had preoccupied both Giffords and Roll: Arizona's short-staffed federal judiciary, an urgent example of federal judicial vacancies across the U.S., reports Politico. “The situation in Arizona is dire,” said Roslyn Silver, chief federal judge in Arizona. “We are very frustrated and impatient.” Since 2009, the Obama administration has been beefing up law enforcement in southern Arizona. The influx of 2,000 additional Border Patrol agents over two years has led to a 65 percent boost in criminal cases — many involving illegal immigration. That surge would clog most federal courts, but Arizona also faces three vacancies for federal judges in Tucson. As a result, the remaining judges there each currently have about 1,200 criminal cases pending.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees Arizona, recently declared a “judicial emergency,” slowing the speedy trial requirement in criminal cases for the first time since Manhattan federal courts did so after the Sept. 11 attacks. “They have been underwater even before the unfortunate murder of Judge Roll,” said Alex Kozinski, 9th Circuit the chief judge. “Arizona, being a border district, has a very serious case control problem.” At the time of Roll's death, Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, both Republicans, had yet to submit any names to the White House. Four months later, there are few public signs of progress.

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