San Diego Union-Tribune

Page B-10

25-Jan-2001 Thursday 

Feinstein renews try for more U.S. judges 


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein is trying again to add judges to San Diego's beleaguered federal bench.

The California Democrat introduced a bill Tuesday to add eight judges to the Southern District of California. The measure is co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

The GOP leadership scuttled a similar bill last year.

This time, the prospects are good because President Bush is a former Texas governor familiar with border problems, a Feinstein spokesman said.

"We feel that President Bush is very aware of the problem along the Southwest border," spokesman Howard Gantman said.

Despite soaring caseloads fueled by drug and immigration cases, no new judgeship has been authorized in San Diego in more than 10 years, leaving the court so shorthanded that it routinely seeks help from judges in other courts.

The court's 13 judges, who are appointed for life, include six senior
status judges, who range in age from 68 to 86 and usually handle lighter caseloads.

"The Southern District of California and other border districts cannot
continue to function effectively with a skeleton crew of judges," Feinstein said. "The crisis in San Diego, in particular, has reached a point where citizen access to justice is being threatened."