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October 29, 2004

The most overloaded branch

Alexander Hamilton (and Alexander Bickel) famously described the judicial branch as the "least dangerous" branch of government. Especially in a post-Blakely world, I am seeing that the label "most overloaded" branch would also fit.

As noted before here, my discussion with court administrators highlighted to me their chief concerns about how Blakely may further burden an already over-burdened system of federal court administration. And yesterday I heard from a law clerk in charge of helping to process habeas claims who explained that if "a hundred legitimate, and several hundred frivolous, claims suddenly appeared, we would be in serious trouble."

Further evidence of these realities and concerns comes from this The Third Branch interview with Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa (S. D. Tex.), who was appointed chair of the US Sentencing Commission in July. (The Third Branch is the official newsletter of the federal courts and it did a terrific job covering Blakely here back in August.) The Hinojosa interview includes a bit of interesting Blakely and PROTECT Act talk, and highlights this noteworthy trend in federal criminal caseloads:

[I]n fiscal year 1990, the Commission received documentation for 29,000 cases sentenced under the guidelines. Ten years later, in FY 2000, without any increase in allotted staff, the Commission logged in 59,846 cases. In FY 2004, the projected total number of cases filed is hovering at 70,000.

October 29, 2004 at 09:00 AM | Permalink


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