Across the country, Americans are being denied the opportunity to have their day in court due to an overload of cases and a shortage of judges. For decades, Indiana and a number of other states have faced these judicial emergencies.
This is especially true in central and southern Indiana, where our courts are among the most overworked in the nation. In fact, in 2019, the judges in the Southern District of Indiana each had more than 1,100 cases, which is almost three times the recommended number. The closure of courts due to coronavirus and our growing civil challenges have exacerbated these judicial emergencies, and the need for action is more urgent than ever before.
Long wait times for trials mean citizens are unable to resolve their disputes in a timely manner. If you are waiting a year to have your case heard, if your life and liberty are left in limbo, then you are being denied justice by our federal system, and that is simply inexcusable and cannot continue. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Continued delays throughout the court system challenge the very foundation of America’s democracy.
Many people believe that the judicial system is weighted against individuals of limited means and small businesses who have neither the time nor the resources to undergo prolonged litigation. I believe that we have an opportunity to add qualified judges in America’s communities, like Indiana, to help these who have waited far too long for justice.
Soon I will be introducing bipartisan legislation that will help solve this challenge by increasing the number of federal district judges in the most overworked regions of the country. In Indiana, this means adding two district court judges.
The last comprehensive authorization of new judgeships occurred in 1990, which established 11 additional circuit court judgeships and 74 district court judgeships across America.
Since then, targeted legislation enacted between 1999 and 2003 created 34 additional district court judgeships. However, it has been over a decade and a half since Congress last authorized additional district judgeships and the time is ripe to establish new judgeships in districts with the worst backlogs.
As noted by the Committee on Judicial Resources, this lack of additional judgeships, combined with growing caseloads, creates challenges for many district courts. Last year, the Committee noted over two dozen district courts are struggling with sustained, high workloads and require further judgeships.
The committee’s report recommended additional judgeships across a wide array of courts, including the Southern District of Indiana, the District of Arizona, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Middle District of Florida, the District of New Jersey, and the Western District of Texas. Given the makeup of the states identified, this solution should garner bipartisan support.
For too long, Congress has failed to address this crisis on account of its perceived difficulty. I have been told that the issues addressed by our federal courts — issues like religious liberty, the protection of life, and the right to purchase firearms — preclude solving this national crisis. But, as I learned in the Marine Corps, “the difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.”
Now is the time to show the country that we can accomplish challenging things — together.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this topic and the importance of a bipartisan solution. I’m optimistic that we can make progress before the end of the year. As Indiana’s Southern District chief judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said, there has been a need for this for decades, but it has now become critical.
Amidst our economic, public health and civil challenges, let us show that government of, by and for the people can work.
Todd Young is a Republican U.S. senator from Indiana. Send comments to [email protected]