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August 28, 2011

Shouldn't we celebrate a reduced federal caseload in western Virginia due to less crime?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting local piece which is headlined "Less crime also doesn't pay in Western Virginia's federal courts."  The subheading of the piece is "Lighter criminal and civil caseloads in Western Virginia may result in the need for fewer courthouses and less staffing," and here are excerpts:

The number of cases in Western Virginia's federal courts is falling, bucking a national increase and raising the possibility that in a time of tight federal budgets, the region could be headed for vacant judgeships and closed courthouses.

The region's caseload, including criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits, has dropped every year except one since 2002, when the caseload peaked in the sprawling federal district that covers Virginia west of Charlottesville.  Since 1996, the number of cases filed each year in district court has fallen by a third.  "We're all being asked to do more with less," said U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy, the district's top federal prosecutor. "We're all braced for what that's actually going to look like," he said.

Crowded federal dockets in metropolitan districts have driven an overall increase in cases in the United States. Since 2005, the number of cases filed in the nation's district courts has climbed every year.  The number of cases filed in 2010 increased more than 25 percent from 15 years earlier.

Glen Conrad, chief judge of the Western District of Virginia, said most rural districts around the country have not shared the growth of their urban counterparts.  But most have at least maintained caseloads, he said. If the caseload here keeps dropping, the district could be barred from hiring a new judge the next time a judgeship comes open, Conrad predicted....

Further into the future, federal courthouses could even be shuttered, as the U.S. District Court in Big Stone Gap was from the 1930s to the 1970s, Conrad said.  Big Stone Gap remains one of the least used of the district's federal courts, along with Danville, Conrad said....

The declining caseload in the Western Virginia district has been offset for probation officers by increased supervision duties resulting from the resentencing and release of people incarcerated on crack cocaine charges, said Phil Williams, who leads the district's federal probation office.

At one point early in the decade, the Western District of Virginia had more crack cocaine cases per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.  That has not been true for years, and the cocaine-sentencing boost for probation officers is short term, Williams said in an email. If the district's caseload doesn't increase, the probation office likely will face cuts, Williams said....

Roanoke Circuit Court figures for the past three years show a similar decline in civil and criminal caseloads.

The decline in crime, the slack economy and federal court rules that some lawyers find daunting may be driving the federal drop. "My guess is that lawyers generally feel unfamiliar with all the federal court rules and thus feel more comfortable in state court," Bill Poff, a Roanoke attorney with decades of federal experience, said in an email....

Heaphy said the number of white-collar criminals pursued by his office has remained stable. But drug and gun cases have fallen, he said. Three elements may be affecting that slowing criminal caseload, Heaphy said.

First, more cases are staying in state court rather than being supplanted by federal charges, Heaphy said. At one time, local law enforcers tried to maneuver criminal cases into federal court, where mandatory sentences tend to be harsher. At the same time, budget cuts at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have limited investigators' reach. "The DEA and ATF task forces that are our bread-and-butter case generators are down people," Heaphy said. Similarly, local police are "pulling all their resources just to keep the streets patrolled," he said. The final factor "is fairly obvious," Heaphy said. "Crime is just down."...

Conrad said federal judges discussed Western Virginia's falling caseload at a conference this summer.  There was agreement that the use of sentencing guidelines, which add a measure of certainty to the outcome of a criminal case, and mediation, which can resolve civil litigation without expensive trials, were reducing the number of jury trials, he said. But there was no consensus about why the district's numbers are falling more than others with similar rural characteristics.

Conrad said the most dramatic effects of the falling caseload, such as courthouse closings, likely are distant.  But as the trend continues, it prompts growing concern, he said.  "We want to be overutilized.  We want to be a place where people feel comfortable bringing disputes," Conrad said.

Especially with the chief federal judge expressing "concern" about the falling federal caseload, I cannot help but channel SC and the tea party when commenting on this piece.  Specifically, I find remarkable andf telling that the falling caseload is being discussed here in dour terms.  Rather than being excited that crime is on the decline and that both civil and criminal litigants and courts seem to be able to do less with more, all the lawyers and government employees seem quite depressed that government here is shrinking rather than continuing to expand as it is doing elsewhere.

August 28, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Permalink


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All laws should meet Daubert standards that,

1) they try to prevent a physical or economic harm, not hurt feelings;

2) they actually are safe and effective;

3) the unintended consequences are tolerable.

Without proof of these three elements, the law is a fraudulent pretext.Because that is fraud in bad faith, to enhance power and earnings, pretexts should be criminalized. Once a law fails one of the above elements, the legislature should have a month to repeal it, or get arrested for defrauding the government. All legislative immunities must end because they are the biggest tort feasors of all. Because punishment is the sole tool of the law, their torts meet criteria for strict liability, i.e. they can hurt people in their ordinary use, not just in their negligent use.

Ironic that all fields of services and products are skyrocketing in their effectiveness, dropping in cost, and increasing benefits to the consumer. The exception is law making. Expose them to liability for their own good. Liability shrinks the entire enterprise I have shown by many naturalistic experiments in history, including the double on-off, on-off liabilities of the KKK. If people want to shrink government because it does nothing well, end its self-dealt immunities, as unjust, psychosis/religion based, from Henry of Bratton's "the Sovereign speaks with the voice of God." Bratton is Brittany. That a-hole worked for Edward I (Longshanks in Braveheart), and was French. Thus he has to be wrong on everything until proven otherwise. For some reason, we are still practicing 90% of his Notebook of cases today. This is ridiculous atavism, and from a French a-hole, to boot.

I suspect, the American lawyer is not a complete idiot. He has accepted this ridiculous atavism and total failure of all goals of law subjects to pick up the business model of the Inquisition. That ended only in the French Revolution. They beheaded and expelled 10,000 Church officials. That model may have to be applied to the American lawyer hierarchy as well. As they are pitiless with the American people, so we should be pitiless in hunting them, arresting them, trying them in an hour's fair trial, and eradicating these internal French influenced, Inquisition practicing traitors to the constitution. Short of this rapid response, a boycott by all product and service providers should be started against a list of this hierarchy.

No one here is remotely close to being at risk for getting on the list, if any one was wondering.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 28, 2011 1:21:08 PM

Where's BO on this one? These judges and prosecutors can't punish themselves! Crime can't be going down and rehab measures can't possibly be working; this reeks of a liberal conspiracy!

Posted by: POB | Aug 30, 2011 11:11:01 PM

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