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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dale Drozd Confirmed as Federal Judge in Fresno

(CN) - The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Dale Drozd as federal judge to fill a three-year vacancy in the Fresno division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The Senate voted 69 to 21 to confirm the 60-year-old Drozd, who has been a magistrate judge in the Eastern District's Sacramento division since 1997 and its chief magistrate judge since 2011.

Drozd got his bachelor's degree from California State University San Diego in 1977 and his law degree from UCLA in 1980. He was in private practice from 1982 until he became a judge. His new job carries lifetime tenure and a current annual salary of $201,000.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, who recommended Drozd to the White House, said that he is "an experienced and respected judge who will do an excellent job serving the people of the Eastern District. I am thankful that the Senate has confirmed him so he can quickly get to work hearing cases."

Drozd will fill the vacancy in Fresno left by District Judge Anthony Ishii, who took senior status on Oct. 31, 2012. Senior status enabled Ishii to choose how many cases he wanted to handle while letting the Obama administration know that it was time to find a replacement.

The Eastern District of California, which has its main two courthouses in Sacramento and Fresno, is one of the busiest courts in the country. The caseload per judge has climbed from an average of nearly 600 in the 1990s to more than 1,000 today, but the district still only has six judicial positions - the same as in 1978.

The Fresno division sees thousands of civil cases a year, but has only one full-time district court judge, Lawrence O'Neill, who has often pointed to his heavy caseload and the many delays faced by litigants.

Boxer told the Senate floor on Monday that O'Neill had written a letter to her saying that the Eastern District had reached a point of desperation and "every day of delay makes an enormous difference. Needing help is a severe understatement."

President Barack Obama nominated Drozd to fill the vacancy, which was classified as a judicial emergency, nearly a year ago. But the judge did not receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee until May.

Drozd is the seventh federal judge to be confirmed this year, drawing criticism from groups who say that the Republican-controlled Senate is dragging its feet.

"Seven judges confirmed in 10 months is nothing short of pathetic," said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president and director of policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

"There is no excuse for not moving judges while our courts suffer from so many vacancies and judicial emergencies. Republican leadership must return to regular order and resume regular floor votes on judicial nominees. As the thousands of Americans who continue to wait for their day in court know, justice delayed is justice denied," Zirkin said.

Left-leaning organization People for the American Way said that the current rate of judicial confirmations is the slowest since the 1950s, when there were far fewer vacancies to fill.

"We congratulate Judge Drozd, a highly qualified nominee, on his long overdue confirmation today. But inching forward on the critical task of judicial confirmations is not enough," said Marge Baker, the group's executive vice president.

"The GOP needs to stop putting politics above the basic functioning of our judicial system," she said.

Drozd was not a controversial nominee and had bipartisan support, receiving praise from George W. Bush appointees Judge O'Neill and Eastern District Chief Judge Morrison England.

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