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Bar News - June 8, 2007

First Circuit Vacancy is ‘Judicial Emergency’


A recent article in the Providence Journal (May 14, 2007) reports that a year-old vacancy on the First Circuit Court of Appeals is a “judicial emergency” that should be filled as soon as possible, according to the Judicial Conference of the United States, a governing body that sets federal court policy.


A “judicial emergency” is defined by the Conference as a vacancy on an appellate court where there are more than 700 cases filed for each three-judge panel. The vacant seat, according to the Conference, is one of 16 judicial emergencies on appellate and district courts nationally. Not only is the court down by one full-time active judge, Gary H. Wente, circuit executive for the 1st Circuit, said the Judicial Conference has recommended that its caseload actually merits a seventh judge.


One of the six judges on the court, Judge Bruce M. Selya, 73, sought senior status (which allows him to hear cases but not full-time) last year. The Bush administration has not nominated anyone for the vacant post.


The caseload is being handled by the five active judges and four senior judges including Selya. The other senior judges are Levin H. Campbell, 80, Conrad Cyr, 76, and Norman Stahl of New Hampshire, also 76.


The Providence Journal quoted US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI) a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as saying the nomination process might be slowed because of new White House counsel and by the controversy surrounding US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.



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