The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the front office of the federal judiciary, has done the legwork to figure out which of the 94 federal trial courts cut through its caseload most efficiently in the fiscal year that ended in September 2014.
The AO ranked U.S. district courts by hours on the bench, hours in trial, and number of civil and criminal trials. At the top of the 2014 list is the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The Miami-based court was No. 1 in trial hours, No. 2 in hours on the bench, No. 15 in civil trials and No. 5 in criminal trials.
The “America’s Most Productive” rankings don’t include court-specific data. The average judge, nationally, spent 364 hours on the bench and 182.7 hours in trial, and conducted four civil trials and 3.5 criminal trials in 2014.
A disclaimer: These numbers are likely inflated, because they don’t account for the work of senior U.S. district judges, who opt to work a reduce caseload instead of retiring.
Chief Judge K. Michael Moore of Florida’s Southern District said civil cases that go to trial in his court take about 16 months from start to finish, while cases that settle prior to trial resolve themselves, on average, in six months.
In fiscal 2014, the number of civil and criminal cases filed per judge in the Southern District, which also encompasses Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, was 695, compared to the national average of 533.
Judge Moore, whose court ranked No. 2 overall in 2013, said his aim is to promote a culture in which lawyers know that “you’re going to have to complete your task in a defined amount of time.”
“Holding lawyers to a trial date is the biggest incentive for them to do the work that they need to do,” he said. “The days of judges sitting back and being passive participants in the case-management system are gone.”
Still, judicial vacancies are growing and the Senate isn't doing anything. Sen. Leahy is pissed:
We are now three months into the new Congress with Republicans in the majority. The Republican reign thus far has been defined by an attempt to shut down the Department of Homeland Security; a refusal to even allow a floor vote on an eminently qualified nominee for Attorney General; and the decision to inject a partisan abortion fight in what is otherwise an uncontroversial bill to build on our efforts to combat human trafficking. On top of all of this, the Senate Republican Leadership has been unwilling to bring up for a vote any of the judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar. Not one.
The refusal by the Senate Republican leadership to schedule votes on any Federal judges is completely contrary to historical precedent. This is also in stark contrast to the way Democrats treated President Bush’s judicial nominees. During the Bush administration we were able to reduce overall judicial vacancies from 110 down to 28. In the 17 months I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during President Bush’s first two years in office, the Senate confirmed 100 Federal circuit and district court judges. I also served as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the last two years of the Bush administration and continued to hold regular hearings on judges and we confirmed 68 district and circuit court judges in those last two years.
The Senate must continue to fulfill its constitutional obligation of advice and consent. The fact that we are in the last two years of this presidency does not mean our work is done. In the last two years of the Clinton administration, 73 judges were confirmed, and in the last two years of the Reagan administration, 83 judges were confirmed. I have heard Senate Republicans state that 11 of the judges confirmed in the lame duck last year should count towards confirmations this year. That is a bizarre claim. Prior Congresses have always confirmed consensus nominees prior to long recesses. And Senate Democrats were only forced to do so because Republican obstruction had left judicial vacancies close to or exceeding 90 through the first six years of this President’s tenure.
H/T Glenn Sugameli