The Senate yesterday confirmed seven nominees for judgeships on the D.C. Superior Court, bringing what officials hope will be badly needed relief to the backlogged court.
The action caps months of wrangling that saw the proposal for additional judicial manpower mired for a time in a dispute between the mayor's office and the Justice Department over the city's home rule authority.
"I'm delighted. It's been a long struggle and I'm very happy," said Superior Court Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I, who led the push for more judges.
"The city is in debt to them members of Congress ," Moultrie said. "I'm sure we'll be able to get them the new judges on board as quickly as possible."
Congress approved funds for the new judges last year but the money could not be used because authorization for the seven judgeships -- raising from 44 to 51 the number of judges on the court -- did not pass on the Hill until February.
The court has been plagued in the last two years by an unprecedented number of serious criminal cases, primarily because of stepped-up police efforts to arrest drug offenders.
Growing caseloads have been accompanied by long delays in the criminal justice process, raising concerns in Congress about defendants' rights to speedy trials.
More than 35,000 criminal cases were filed in the courts last year and more are expected this year. Many felony cases now take well over a year between arrest and trial.
"We're very happy that the Senate acted expeditiously so that the judges could be put to work immediately and help reduce the backlog there," said U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova.
According to one official, the average felony judge has nearly 300 cases pending on the calendars, or double the recommended number. Misdemeanor judges have an average of about 400 cases pending.
Confirmed yesterday were:
*Susan R. Holmes, an assistant U.S. attorney in Superior Court;
*Rufus King III, a partner in the law firm of Berliner & Maloney;
*Colleen Kotelly, an attorney for St. Elizabeths Hospital;
*Noel Anketell Kramer, an assistant U.S. attorney in U.S. District Court;
*Robert Richter, public integrity section of the Department of Justice;
*Robert Tignor, also from the Department of Justice's public integrity section;
*Emmett G. Sullivan, a partner in the law firm of Houston, Sullivan & Gardner.
The new judges are expected to be sworn in later this month.