Federal judges to share courtrooms to save money

September 15, 2009

The policy-making group of judges for the federal court system meets only two times a year at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The big news out of Tuesday’s meeting was a decision for magistrate judges to share some courtrooms in an effort to save money, and for free public access to reports by judges who take a long time to decide their civil cases. TOBACCO RACKETEERING

The group, called the Judicial Conference of the United States, last year adopted a policy on new courthouse  construction for senior trial judges to share their courtrooms.

Chief Judge Anthony Scirica of the U.S. appeals court based in Philadelphia and the chairman of the group’s executive committee told reporters the conference voted on Tuesday to extend the courtroom sharing to federal magistrate judges.

There are more than 500 magistrate judges, who are judicial officers of each federal district court and who perform various jobs, including holding hearings and making recommendations to the district judges.

The other action by the judicial group involved making reports by judges on their long-pending civil cases available for the first time on the Internet without any charges.

The reports show all motions pending more than six months, all bench trials undecided after more than six months, and all civil cases pending more than three years. The reports are designed to reduce delays in civil litigations.

“It has an effect,” Scirica said.

He said there were about 300 requests for the reports last year under the court’s electronic records system, which charges a small user fee. Starting next year, the reports will be available for free on the judiciary’s Web site.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (federal court in Washington)

2 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

The upside to having judges decide and move their cases is self-evident. The downside is that many federal judges who are unwilling or unable to handle their case loads with the required dispatch will use as many devices as possible to get cases off their calendars. This includes granting motions to dismiss or for summary judgment, or making matters so difficult for one side or both that they will give up or be forced by rulings to give up. I had the most unpleasant experience of a 40-year career with one particular judge who has a reputation as being lazy and unwilling to allow any complex civil case to get to trial. He made both sides (a virtually penniless plaintif suing defendants fat with ill-gotten cash from their own commercial misconduct and willing to employ all litigation devices to obstruct)prepare exhaustive final pretrial orders and exhaustive briefing. The court first gutted plaintiffs’ case by granting sumary judgment on all of the substantively strong counts and leaving two defamation claims, but leaving the SLAPP suit counterclaims pending. When Plaintiff still didn’t quit, he granted judgment on the pleadings on the day of trial on the remaining counts that had already survived motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, leaving Plaintiffs with no option but to take a walkaway – giving up its right to appeal in return for dismissal of the countercalims. He avoided trying the case, avoided being reversed on appeal, and moverd a case off his docket at the “small” price of denying justice. Statistics are nice, and justice delayed may be justice denied. I say better snail’s paced justice than justice denied totally, mean-spiritedly, and at great additional cost to the injured party.

Posted by James Toohey | Report as abusive

Summary judgment and granting motions to dismiss are favorite tools of another judge, and he is known for the amazing volume of work he handles.

Don’t expect him to read the Complaint, though. And his interns do most of the research and writing when necessary. He never met a defense counsel or a defense strategy he didn’t love. Discovery? If you are the plaintiff, watch out! If you are the defendant, relax. This judge is so overtly biased and uninterested in the proper interpretation and application of The Law and Justice, one day soon his peers and Chief Judge will be held accountable for remaining silent and passive. In the meantime the damage he perpetrates will never be undone.

Posted by Terri Blanchert | Report as abusive