Federal Judiciary:

Information on the Weighted Filings Assigned to Senior District and Magistrate Judges in Fiscal Year 1997 in 21 District Courts

GGD-99-37R: Published: Mar 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the weighted filings assigned to senior district and magistrate judges in fiscal year (FY) 1997 in 21 district courts, and the impact on nonsenior district judge workload of the FY 1997: (1) weighted filings assigned to senior district judges; and (2) weighted civil consent cases assigned to magistrate judges in each of the districts that had judgeship requests pending before Congress on March 31, 1998.

GAO noted that: (1) in FY 1997, the weighted filings assigned to senior district and magistrate judges varied widely among the 21 districts whose case filings GAO reviewed--ranging from about 3 percent to about 50 percent of the total weighted filings per authorized judgeship in each district; (2) authorized judgeships are the number of judgeships authorized by statute; (3) each weighted filing decided by a senior district judge or magistrate judge in a district reduces by one the total weighted filings that must be decided by nonsenior judges in the district; (4) consequently, nonsenior judges were assigned from about 3 percent to about 50 percent fewer weighted filings than would have been the case had no weighted filings been assigned to senior district or magistrate judges in each district; (5) under the written policies of the Judicial Conference of the United States, a district court may generally be considered for additional district judgeships if its weighted filings are at least 430 per authorized judgeship; (6) deducting the weighted filings assigned to senior district and magistrate judges brought the FY 1997 weighted filings per authorized judgeship below this general 430 threshold in either 3 or 6 of the 21 district courts, depending upon the case weight value assigned to certain categories of cases that have 2 possible case weights; (7) age is one factor that may affect the case filings that senior district judges are willing and able to accept; (8) as of September 30, 1997, the number of senior district judges who were age 76 or older in each of the 20 districts that had senior judges ranged from 0 to 3; (9) senior district judges who were 76 or older represented from 0 percent (5 districts) to 100 percent (3 districts) of the senior district judges in each district that had senior judges; (10) the number of senior district judges in a district may also change at any time; and (11) between September 30, 1997, and March 31, 1998, two districts each gained one senior district judge, and in one district a senior judge died.

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