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Help Wanted: Case Delays Likely to Grow with Deaths of Five 9th Circuit Judges This Year

Posted Oct 17, 2011 6:32 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals takes more time to issue opinions than any other appeals court.

Some fear the pace will slow even more with the deaths of five appeals judges this year.

The average length of time to issue an opinion after an appeal is filed is 16.3 months for the 9th Circuit, compared to 11.7 months for all the circuits, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Judge Pamela Ann Rymer was a full-time judge on the 9th Circuit when she died in September after a battle with cancer. Four senior judges also died this year, including Judge Robert Boochever, who passed away earlier this month. In addition, two 9th Circuit judges retired last year and another, former Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, plans to take senior status at the end of the year.

Two of President Obama’s nominees for the 9th Circuit are still pending, the story says. The president has not yet nominated anyone for three other vacancies. And Congress has not acted on a U.S. Judicial Conference recommendation for an expansion of the federal judiciary that would add at least five new judicial positions to the 9th Circuit.

University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman notes that nominees can face a difficult confirmation process for a relatively low-paying job. "What we know is that the nominations haven't been coming through with the speed we would expect,” Hellman told the newspaper. “What we don't know is whether that is because the president is not asking people or whether he is being turned down.”

Corrected on Oct. 18 to note that Schroeder was former chief judge.

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