Eye On Boise

MONDAY, NOV. 14, 2011, 9:23 A.M.

Federal judges in Idaho face swelling caseload

Idaho's two U.S. District Court judges are juggling three times the caseloads of federal judges in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Alaska, and each of those states has three federal judges, instead of two, the Idaho Business Review reports. In fact, the state's population has more than doubled since Congress last approved an additional federal district judgeship here. Click below for a full report from the Business Review and the Associated Press.

Idaho federal judges face increased workloads

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's two federal court judges are facing increased workloads to handle cases in a state that has more than doubled in population since Congress approved an additional district judgeship.

Officials tell the Idaho Business Review (http://bit.ly/s6iE9y) that the size of the court hasn't kept pace with the increase in case filings. Idaho's population in 1960 was about 700,000 residents, and is now 1.5 million.

Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill and District Judge Edward J. Lodge are the state's two federal judges. The court also has two magistrate judges and two retired magistrates to manage caseloads. The district judges handle felony criminal cases, while the magistrate judges handle civil cases, criminal misdemeanor cases and other criminal motions.

"I have my own standards, but it's getting very, very hard to meet my standards," Winmill said. "I want to have my decisions out in 30 days. Historically, I've done OK — until last year."

Rules that require speedy trials mean district judges have to resolve criminal cases first, delaying civil cases. Complex cases can tie up district judges, leading to visiting federal court judges from out of state handling some Idaho cases.

"That means non-Idaho judges are deciding Idaho cases," said U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson.

The court in 2008 listed a 96 percent increase in visiting judge hours. Those judges conducted 22 civil and criminal trials in 2008, and 15 civil and criminal trials in 2009.

District Court records show that in 2008, there were 532 weighted case filings per judgeship. A weighted case requires more time because of its complexity. Winmill said his weighted case filings are closer to 600 now.

Idaho, along with North Dakota and Vermont, are the only states with just two district judges.
Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Alaska each have three federal district judges, though Idaho has three times the caseloads of those states.
Information from: Idaho Business Review , http://idahobusinessreview.com/

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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