James Lawrence King, chief of the U.S. District Court for Southern Florida, is sinking -- not in the Miami surf, but in a never-ending flood of drug and organized-crime cases that is overwhelming his 10-judge crew.

Things were looking up for a while, King said in an interview last week. The brighter days came after Burger worked out a plan to have each of the nation's 12 judicial circuits send King four judges a year, each for one month. That, in effect, gave King an additional four judges.

But the program ended 18 months ago. Now King's backlog stands at 751 criminal cases. He calculated that if he and his colleagues did nothing but the 51 most complex cases on the list, they would be busy for six months, doing no civil cases, doing nothing on the remaining 700 cases or the more than 100 new cases filed each month by prosecutors.

Congress last year passed a bill creating three new judgeships, but those have not been filled. For now, Burger and local U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Flannery are beating the judicial bushes for help. The response has been good, King says, but not nearly enough. "It's a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging artery," King laments.

Even filling the vacancies won't do, he argues. "I'm not sure how many more judges we need, but Congress has got to do something to get more help down here," he said.