According to gvwire, 10/8/18,
Judge Lawrence O’Neill is leaving the federal bench in 16 months. He’s circled the date on his calendar: Jan. 31, 2020.
But he’s concerned hyper-partisanship will delay his replacement and cause such crippling judicial gridlock that some suspects will have to go free.
Serving as the chief district judge for the Eastern District of California since 2016 (and on the federal bench since 1999), O’Neill told a Maddy Institute luncheon crowd last week of an impending crisis.
“We’re in trouble in the eastern district,” he said.
The judge notes that there are only six district judges on staff (as well as 21 judges in other categories). Each has a load at any given time of 900 cases, more than twice the national average. The district stretches from the California-Oregon border, south through Kern County, with courts in Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Redding, and Yosemite National Park.
O’Neill isn’t the only judge planning to leave the federal bench. U.S. District Judge Morrison England (based in Sacramento) plans to retire next year.
Civil cases, especially involving water, would be in jeopardy, according to O’Neill. Criminal suspects could go free because there is just not enough time or space to try them at the federal court.
A June 2018 open letter, by O’Neill and eight other judges, warned that the lack of new judges and increased caseload “will result in an inescapable consequence of being wholly unable to handle civil matters.”