Lazy judges: 16,000 cases are three years old --- or older!

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,House of Representatives,Judicial Branch,Law,Federal Courts

There's one problem with the lifetime appointment of federal judges. What can be done about lazy judges, like some of those sitting on about 16,000 civil cases that are three years old or older?

According to two top court officials: Not much other than embarrassment.

In a revealing discussion at a recent House Appropriations Committee subcommittee hearing to discuss the judiciary’s budget, Illinois Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley said that in observing judges for years, “Obviously, some of them are more productive than others, much more productive than others.”

But, he added, since “it’s not exactly like you can fire them,” how can they be prodded to work harder?

John Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, said judges are sometimes offered help and advice. And when that doesn't work, they can see just how badly stacked their caseloads are compared to others in a congressionally required semiannual report on cases cases three or more years old.

The latest report, from March 2013, cited 16,860 old cases in a report that runs more than 3,300 pages. And the number of cases is down 6.9 percent from September 2012.

And if they ignore that, Julia S. Gibbons, chair of the Committee on the Budget of the Judicial Conference of the United States, said officials try some plain old embarrassment. She said appellate judges have to fill out an internally distributed report about their activity — and inactivity. “So that the embarrassment factor figures there, too,” she said.

In the video above, the discussion begins near the end at 1:36.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at