Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Judicial Emergency in Arizona

Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver (D. Az.) last Friday issued General Order No. 11-01, Declaration of Judicial Emergency Under the Speedy Trial Act, for the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

The judicial emergency is authorized by 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3174(e):

If the chief judge of the district court concludes that the need for suspension of time limits in such district under this section is of great urgency, he may order the limits suspended for a period not to exceed thirty days.  Within ten days of entry of such order, the chief judge shall apply to the judicial council of the circuit for a suspension pursuant to subsection (a).

The Order suspends time limits in 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3161(b) of the Speedy Trial Act:

Any information or indictment charging an individual with the commission of an offense shall be filed within thirty days from the date on which such individual was arrested or served with a summons in connection with such charges.  If an individual has been charged with a felony in a district in which no grand jury has been in session during such thirty-day period, the period of time for filing of the indictment shall be extended an additional thirty days.

According to the Order, "[t]he need to suspend the time limits is of great urgency due to a heavy criminal caseload, a lack of adequate resources, and the tragic death of Chief Judge John Roll on January 8, 2011." 

The District of Arizona ranks third in the nation for criminal cases and defendant filings.  The U.S. Attorney's Office has doubled in size since 2008, bringing yet more criminal cases.  But there are only three active federal district court judges in Tucson.  Each has 1,200 criminal cases.  There are two judicial vacancies in Tucson and one in Phoenix.


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