(CN) – The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Arizona has declared a judicial emergency in the overburdened court system, where the criminal caseload has increased by 65 percent since 2008, the 9th Circuit announced Tuesday.
The Jan. 8 shooting rampage, which took the life of a federal judge, only compounded matters, officials said.
Federal law requires criminal trials to begin within 70 days of a complaint or indictment; the Tuesday order extends the time limit to 180 days.
The declaration temporarily suspends the time limits for bringing accused criminals to trial and is meant to head off the possible dismissal of the criminal cases under the Speedy Trial Act, according to an order by Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver.
In Tucson, where the recent shooting death of U.S. District Judge John Roll has left a vacancy, three judges are handling approximately 1,200 cases each, many of them related to border crime, smuggling and illegal immigration. The Arizona federal court has the third highest criminal caseload in the nation. The court has 13 judgeships and three vacancies, two of them in Tucson.
“The district court in Arizona urgently needs additional resources,” Chief Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski said in a statement. “Judicial vacancies need to be filled and new judgeships should be given strong consideration. There is also a need for more court staff and facilities.”