Monday, January 01, 2007

We're Back

Welcome back to work, and thanks for sneaking away for a few minutes to check in here. (You won't find any resolutions or wish lists here. For that check out Rumpole or Brian Tannebaum.)

The last two weeks have been quiet in the District, but things always heat up to start the year. For example, lots should be happening with the biggest case in the District (and probably the country) -- the Padilla case. Oral argument on the Government's expedited appeal will be heard this month. Also, Padilla will be evaluated by a jail doctor shortly. And soon to follow will be hearings on Padilla's allegations regarding torture and misconduct.

To start the year, I'll give you the end of year report from Chief Justice Roberts, which can be read here (hat tip to the usual suspects -- Doug Berman, ScotusBlog, and How Appealing). It's an interesting read, asking for only one thing: higher salaries for federal judges to ensure the independence of the judiciary. He also notes that the pay problem has had other consequences -- judges are starting to come mostly from the public sector where in the past most judges came from private practice. Even though it's a pretty dry subject, the Chief is such a great writer, making the report fun to read.

Here's the intro:

Between December 19 and January 8 there are 32 college bowl games–but only one Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. I once asked my predecessor, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, why he released this annual report on the state of the federal courts on New Year‘s Day. He explained that it was difficult to get people to focus on the needs of the judiciary and January 1 was historically a slow news day–a day on which the concerns of the courts just might get noticed.

This is my second annual report on the judiciary, and in it I am going to discuss only one issue–in an effort to increase even more the chances that people will take notice. That is important because the issue has been ignored far too long and has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis that threatens to undermine the strength and independence of the federal judiciary.

I am talking about the failure to raise judicial pay. This is usually the point at which many will put down the annual report and return to the Rose Bowl, but bear with me long enough to consider just three very revealing charts prepared by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

The appendix is also interesting. Here's a portion from the Appendix:

Nationwide, the number of criminal appeals dropped by 5% to 15,246 filings, after rising by 28% in 2005 in response to the Booker decision. Despite that decline, the number of criminal appeals in 2006 surpassed by more than 25% the number of filings in the years before the Court's decision in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004)....

The number of criminal cases filed in 2006 decreased by 4% to 66,860 cases and 88,216 defendants. The decline stemmed from shifts in priorities of the United States Department of Justice, which directed more of its resources toward combating terrorism. The number of criminal cases filed in 2006 is similar to the number of cases filed in 2002, when criminal case filings jumped by 7% following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Although the number of criminal case filings declined in 2006, the median time for case disposition for defendants climbed from 6.8 months in 2005 to 7.1 months in 2006. The median time period, which was 27 days longer than in 2004, reflected an increase in the time that courts needed to process post-Booker cases.

Anyone have the numbers for this District?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

88,216? What a joke the feds are. There are well over 40,000 criminal cases filed in Miami-Dade each year (Felony) and at least double as many misdemeanors, not to mention traffic offenses.

The feds are a joke, complainting about over burdened court systems. Let the chief judge go visit the REG building some day and speak with a prosecutor who has 350 felony cases set for trial, who is making 40,000.00 per year, and who is in front of a judge with 700 cases on a criminal docket. If any money at all goes into the system, it needs to go in the state system.

After all, isn't the public effected even more by State-style violent crime?

I would love to hear from a Fed. Prosecutor (aka, "glorified law clerk who gets every thing they want from very conservative judges" aka "tool") on this. Hey guys, do you think the federal system needs more money? Or, are you not satisfied with the big new beautiful courthouse that is now opening up and will leave some courtooms wanton for judges and staff?

It would be nice if they moved some state judges into the empty space to expand that system down here.

s/ I admit to having courthouse envy.