The chief judge of D.C. Superior Court sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid warning of the “adverse impact” of judicial vacancies on the D.C. bench, specifically in the division that handles cases involving youths.
In the Sept. 10 letter to Reid (D-Nev.), Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield urged the Senate to confirm pending judicial nominees to fill three slots that opened up because of retirements. The letter was first reported by the Legal Times.
When fully staffed, the court, which handles about 100,000 cases a year, has 62 judges. The first vacancy was created in 2010 with the retirement of Kaye K. Christian. Last year, Franklin Burgess Jr. and Natalia Combs Greene also retired. Their potential replacements, who were approved by President Obama, have been pending confirmation by the Senate. There will be a fourth vacancy in November, when Robert I. Richter retires.
Repeated calls to Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman, were not returned.
Satterfield said in the letter that the “most pressing” impact of the vacancies was being felt by Family Court, the division that handles youth and juvenile issues, including abuse, neglect, domestic relations, child support, mental health and delinquency cases. Currently, the court has four judges handling five neglect and domestic-relations calendars.
“Family Court judges make life and death decisions about neglected children in the District so it is imperative that the Court has a full complement of judges to handle these cases,” Satterfield wrote.
Satterfield said the vacancies were creating a large caseload for the sitting judges. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 18, 2,494 cases were added to the system.
“It is my hope that before Congress adjourns, that the Senate will vote on the pending nominations so that we can better serve the people of the District of Columbia,” he wrote.