My Baby Steve Zack, He Wrote Me A Letter!

Not one to simply let Chief Judge Moreno hog all the spotlight, ABA Prez Steve Zack (captured mid-phone above) has jumped in with his own letter about all those darn federal judicial vacancies, and why can't the Senate just get along pre-recess and confirm a few of these folks so that whole system of laws thing doesn't break down, don'tcha know:
Thirty-eight of the present vacancies have existed for so long and created such untenable workloads for the remaining judges on the courts that the seats have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. As lawyers who practice in federal courts across this nation, ABA members know firsthand that long-standing vacancies on courts with staggering caseloads impede access to the courts and create strains that will of the courts to vindicate constitutional rights or render fair and timely decisions. In Arizona, for example, the Speedy Trial Act has been temporarily waived, and criminal defendants wait up to 6 months for a trial, while businesses and individuals wait up to 2 years before their cases are heard.
So far so good (I mean bad).

But then Steve continues:
We realize that the aging of our federal judiciary has contributed to the growing vacancy crisis.
 Hey now!

Being the silver-tongued devil that he is, Steve politely refers to the nationwide decaying judge issue as "attrition":
According to Department of Justice estimates, 60 new vacancies will be created through attrition each year for the next decade. Obviously, progress toward reducing vacancies requires a confirmation rate that outpaces the attrition rate; at present, it is barely keeping abreast of it.
So I believe what Steve is saying is we either need to develop new methods of preserving and extending the lives of our aging federal judges -- perhaps through alien intervention, cloning, cryonics, or sophisticated and groundbreaking time-travel technologies that are currently beyond our scientific capabilities -- or we just need to confirm some of these nominees.

Hard to tell which is a more realistic and practical course of action given what's happening in DC at the moment.


  1. Workloads sooo heavy -

    I challenge people to walk to the Fed Ct House right now and count the number of courtrooms being used - probably 4-5.

    sooo Heavy that a judge might have to schedule is 3 tee time for 3:30

  2. Ask the Judge who sits out on the porch at La Loggia how heavy his State case load is. You can find him there between the hours of 11:30 and 2:30.

  3. Inspired stuff at the end, SFL.

  4. the lack of trials does not mean judges are not working hard. to the contrary, they are writing so many summary judgment orders smoke comes out of their ears. maybe they should deny one of them every once in a while, you know, to let a juror weigh in occasionally?

  5. The problem is that Congress and lobbyists have come to realize that federal judges, over the last decade or so, have increasingly become "silent" and virtually uncontrollable lifetime "legislators." So it becomes critical to have someone they like in those offices. When is the last time you heard of a incompetent or incapacitated federal judge (yes they exist) voted out of "office"?
    Appeals court routinely churn out contradictory per curiam or short unexplained orders, leading to a silent "tower of babel" situation that has enormous impact on our country.
    Until federal judges recognize a problem, largely of their own making, that is, a complete lack of accountability and supervision by the electorate, the problems will just get worse. When was the last time you heard of a judicial complaint in the 11th circuit ever acted on? Never that I can recall, despite thousands of complaints.

  6. These types of rants are common and are, fortunately, subject to some type of empirical verification. Every year CJ Roberts (and Rehnquist before him) complains about the low pay of federal judges. Nonsense. If the pay were too low, there would be a corresponding decline in the quality of candidates applying for each position. That is clearly not true in this district. So are federal judges overworked. I don't know. But this link is instructive
    ( It does not appear that the number of dispositions and pending cases is any different from year to year, especially in the past five years. What would be interesting to know is if the number of criminal filings has varied over the past 30 years compared to the number of judges. And if the system is overburdened, it is a two way street. For every litigant who complains, there is someone on the other side who is only too happy to see the case die of old age. And speaking of old age, SFL, you commit a common old timers sin of omission. 99% of people will associate the word "letter" and music with the Box Tops classic hit. Not fair. My all time favorite is RB Greaves "Take a Letter Maria." Much more poignant. And has the nice touch of a very 60's finale: a wronged man runs off with his secretary. Very Don Draperish.


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