Southern Indiana District Court on list for more judges

The Judicial Conference of the United States is asking Congress to create 79 new judgeships in federal courts across the country, including adding two new permanent judges in the Southern Indiana District Court.

In addition, the federal courts are renewing their call for improved personal and courthouse security. Congress failed to vote on the Daniel Anderl Judiciary Security and Privacy Act, named after the murdered son of Judge Esther Salas, while civil unrest in the past year resulted in damage to more than 53 courthouses, including the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis.

The judiciary will be submitting a supplemental funding request to Congress to address existing vulnerabilities at courthouses, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“These incidents demonstrated the increasing threat to our courthouses and their occupants,” said Judge David McKeague, chair of the Judicial Conference’s Judicial Security Committee. “Our security needs require urgent attention to ensure that these types of things don’t happen again.”

With regard to the judgeships, the conference wants Congress to create two new appellate court seats in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals along with 77 new district court seats. The conference is also requesting that nine temporary district judgeships be converted to permanent status.

Congress last enacted a comprehensive bill to increase the number of appellate and district judgeships in 1990. A total of 34 district court judgeships were created between 1999 and 2003 as part of other legislation, primarily appropriations bills. No new court of appeals judgeships have been created in more than 30 years.

Support is growing on Capitol Hill to expand the federal judiciary, according to a report from The Hill. Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young is among those who is planning to introduce legislation creating new seats in the district and appellate courts.

However, the push for more judges is getting bogged down in partisan bickering. Namely, Democrats and Republicans are disputing whether President Joe Biden or the next president would be able to nominate the new judges.

Since at least 2018, the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has been on the list of federal courts needing additional judges and has received special support from Young.

The district court, with courthouses and divisions in Indianapolis, Evansville, New Albany and Terre Haute, has five judgeships, none of which are vacant. As part of the recommendation from the conference, the Southern Indiana District would get two new permanent judges.

Caseload is driving the need for new judges. A new weighted caseload analysis from the Administrative Office found the Southern Indiana federal judges were handling 880 cases each as of the end of September, which represents a drop of more than 250 cases per judgeship from the prior year.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson was able to get some additional staff attorneys last year after she made a personal plea to James Duff, now-retired director of the Administrative Office.

Also, the Southern Indiana District court was one of just four to receive funding for a new magistrate judge position. Indianapolis attorney Mario Garcia was appointed in December 2020.

The Northern Indiana District Court was not included on the list for new judgeships but it currently does have a vacancy. Judge Theresa Lazar Springmann, who was appointed Judge in 2003, took senior status in January.

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