On the opposite end, the courthouse in the nation’s capital had the lowest average number of criminal defendants sentenced per judge — 147 over the nearly six years in the study.
“We have many more complex cases than most of the districts listed in the report,” said Washington’s chief judge, Royce Lamberth. He noted that the court handles public corruption cases, white-collar cases and any prosecution for obstruction of Congress, which can be time-consuming. Just this year, the court tried former baseball pitcher Roger Clemens on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing Congress for denying he had used performance-enhancing drugs. A jury acquitted Clemens of all charges after a trial that lasted more than nine weeks.
“So comparing a case in which there’s a one-hour, at most, guilty plea in an immigration violation, and probably one hour spent on sentencing, can’t really compare to the kinds of cases we’re doing,” Lamberth said
Sellers, spokesman for the office that provides administrative support to federal courts, said that differences in caseloads have “been a reality of judging — not just in federal courts — for more than two centuries.”
“I would liken this to a study that concludes that cars traveling on the same road, or different roads, travel at different speeds,” Sellers said.
That doesn’t mean things can’t be improved, he added. “There are courts that have tremendous needs for new judgeships, particularly on the Southwest border. There are longstanding judicial vacancies.” But the judiciary doesn’t control the number of judges.
The report acknowledged that Congress, which funds the courts, and the executive branch, which brings prosecutions, both have a responsibility for helping to manage criminal caseloads.
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