Phillip Martin, director of research & policy, Progress Texas, responses to PolitiFact Texas (excerpted)

1:38 pm, Feb. 15, 2012


There are 94 federal judicial districts in the United States, including at least one district in each state. (Source). The list of judicial emergencies across the country, as provided by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, can be found at this link.

Texas currently leads the country with 5 judicial emergencies in its district courts: one in the Eastern District, two in the Southern District, and two in the Western district. Looking at the future judicial vacancies, we can see Texas will have two more -- one more in the Eastern District, and one more in the Southern District. If you need any help decoding the abbreviations for other states, let me know.

On the web page that lists all the judicial emergencies, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts offers an explanation of how they define a judicial emergency:

A judicial emergency is defined as the following:

Circuit Court

·  any vacancy in a court of appeals where adjusted filings per panel are in excess of 700;

·  any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where adjusted filings are between 500 to 700 per panel.

District Court

·  any vacancy where weighted filings are in excess of 600 per judgeship;

·  any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where weighted filings are between 430 to 600 per judgeship;

·  any court with more than one authorized judgeship and only one active judge.

Weighted Filings

As you can tell, the definition of an emergency district relies on the "weighted filings." The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts maintains management statistics of all their courts. Their website "provides statistical profiles for each of the 12 U.S. courts of appeals and 94 U.S. district courts..." You can find a link to their management statistics page here. If you click through the 2011 Sep District Courts link, you come to a page where you can search through district courts. At the bottom of that page is a PDF explanation of selected terms, which includes the following about weighted filings:

Weighted filings statistics account for the different amounts of time district judges require to resolve various types of civil and criminal actions. The Federal Judiciary has employed techniques for assigning weights to cases since 1946. In 2004, the Judicial Resources Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States approved a civil and criminal case weighting system proposed by the Federal Judicial Center. On a national basis, weighted filings did not change significantly after the implementation of the new case weights. More than two-thirds of all district courts saw their weighted filings change by 10 percent or less. Average civil cases or criminal defendants each receive a weight of approximately 1.0; for more time-consuming cases, higher weights are assessed (e.g., a death-penalty habeas corpus case is assigned a weight of 12.89); and cases demanding relatively little time from judges receive lower weights (e.g., an overpayment and recovery cost case involving a defaulted student loan is assigned a weight of 0.10).

For comparative analysis in this report, the totals for weighted civil and criminal filings for prior years have been revised based on the new case weighting system. The weighted totals for criminal defendants include reopenings and transfers. Data on civil cases arising by reopening, remand, and transfer to the district by order of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation are not included among the totals for weighted filings.


In the statement you are fact-checking -- which I believe was in a press release -- we neglected to include the word "emergency" when talking about judicial vacancies. This was an accidental oversight in the press release. On our petition page about this action, as well as on our communications on our blog, we include the word emergency or emergencies, and to the best of our knowledge all the communication from coalition members about this action includes the term emergency or emergencies.



Phillip Martin

Research & Policy Director, Progress Texas