The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana is getting more help from within the circuit.
Chief Judge James Shadid of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois and Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, with the consent of Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, will sit by designation to assist with the caseload of the Southern District of Indiana. Chief Judge Diane Wood of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals designated the two judges this month.
Judge Pallmeyer will try a civil matter, Sterett Crane and Rigging, LLC v. White Construction, Inc., 1:16-cv-00094, beginning Oct. 23, 2017. Chief Judge Shadid will sit by designation to hear United States v. Pierson, 1:16-cv-00206, a criminal trial scheduled to begin Nov. 6, 2017.
“We are very grateful to Chief Judge Shadid and Judge Pallmeyer for their willingness to preside over these trials,” Southern Indiana Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said. “By stepping in on such short notice, they have ensured that justice in the Southern District of Indiana continues to be done in a timely manner.”
The Southern District of Indiana is in a state of judicial emergency by virtue of an existing judicial vacancy and a weighted caseload filing in excess of 800 cases per judgeship. Exacerbating the situation has been the recent deaths of Senior Judge Larry McKinney, who died Sept. 20, and Magistrate Judge Denise LaRue, who died Aug. 2.
Earlier in October, Senior Judge Robert Miller, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, was tapped to sit by designation on the Southern District bench. He has been assigned the multi-district litigation patent case McKinney had been handling, In Re: Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems, 1:2010-ml-02181. Also, Miller has picked up other cases from McKinney’s docket and is accepting civil cases from the Terre Haute division.
In all, Miller is taking about 50 cases at a time from the Southern District on top of his docket from the Northern District.
Along with Miller, two magistrate judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois were loaned Sept. 20 to help with cases.
In the 12-month period ending June 30, 2017, the weighted filings per judgeship in the Southern District stood at 915, making the court the first in the circuit and second in the nation. At the time of his death Sept. 20, 2017, McKinney had 250 pending civil cases and 27 pending criminal cases. Most cases have been reassigned to his colleagues in the Southern Indiana District Court but additional assistance is needed.
“The court deeply appreciates (Shadid’s and Pallmeyer’s) assistance, and the continued assistance of magistrate and district judges from throughout the circuit during this time of unprecedented loss,” Magnus-Stinson said.