AP NEWS

Presidential election could stall Indiana judgeships

December 25, 2019 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Republican U.S. senator from Indiana has been urging Congress to add two judges to one of the nation’s most overworked federal courts, but district judge appointments have stalled due to the upcoming presidential election.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana is the state’s most overworked and ranks second in the nation for highest caseload — an issue Sen. Todd Young wants to tackle now.

Young indicated that he’s ready to push for legislation that would add judges in Indiana and similarly overbooked courts in Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas.

But since district court judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which Republicans now control, the legislation hasn’t moved forward as the 2020 election is underway.

Young says he reached out to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to offer a compromise: Allow President Donald Trump to appoint some new judges in 2020 and let whoever is president in 2021 appoint the remainder.

“It just struck me as sort of a reasonable and obvious compromise, especially in light of the fact that her state as much as any other requires more judges,” Young said.

Feinstein’s office said she is looking into the issue but didn’t comment further, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s problem is real, said Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson.

“There has been a need for decades, but it’s becoming pretty critical at this point,” Magnus-Stinson said.

She said her district has 1,266 civil cases, nearly three times the number of new filings per judge this year than the national average.

Young said he’s open to discussing other solutions, adding that he’s doubtful matters will be less partisan following the 2020 election.

“Unless Democrats control all of the levers of power in Washington in 2021,” he said. “I cannot conceive of a situation that will be a more hospitable atmosphere (for Democrats) toward adding federal judges and reducing caseload.”