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Texas Has Nation’s Highest Number Of Judicial Vacancies In Federal Courts

Experts say it is slowing down the justice system in the state and impacting both individuals and businesses.


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Texas is currently the state with the highest number of judicial vacancies in federal courts and the situation is slowing down the justice system in the state.

Texas has 12 vacancies, 10 of them in district courts and the other two in circuit courts.

According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, adding up the number of days the positions have been vacant is the equivalent of 20 years.

"That's a long time for us not to have the judges we need to hear the cases that are critical to people, critical to folks who are trying to get restitution for property rights, for labor disputes, for businesses seeking different licenses," says Phillip Martin, one of the report's authors.

An example of the slow down due to the backlog is what has happened at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which currently has two of the referred vacancies.

Official data compiled by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts show that it received over 7,000 cases in 2014.

However, by the end of that same year, more than 4,000 of those appeals were still pending.

"These are important criminal cases, civil cases and it’s not just the litigants in those cases that are concerned, the businesses interests in Texas are feeling a big impact," notes professor Jim Alfini, Dean Emeritus at the South Texas College of Law, who adds Texas is the "epicenter" of the crisis.

The report also notes that some people are agreeing to plea deals because of the delay in their trial dates.

"We see defendants pleading guilty in criminal cases even if they are innocent," indicates Anisha Singh, co-author of the report, "just because they might get out of jail faster if they plead guilty than waiting for their trial."

President Barack Obama introduced five nominees for Texas federal courts in March.

All of them had been recommended by both Texas Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee is currently vetting the nominees.

The next step is setting their hearing dates, after which those who are approved would move on to a final confirmation vote by the entire Senate.

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