No modern economy can prosper without a strong system of courts to protect public safety, secure property rights, enforce contracts, and resolve disputes. In fact, an effective judiciary lies at the heart of the very foundations of Western civilization. Even so, many states and locales face poorly funded courts, while the Federal courts have been hampered in recent years both by the inability of Congress to fill vacancies in a timely manner and by the failure to expand the number of judgeships as economic and demographic growth demand. There is perhaps no place where this situation is more acute than the Eastern District of Texas.
The inadequacy of judicial infrastructure in the Eastern District, which is among the most strained in the entire US, will predictably constrain economic growth over time. This outcome is unavoidable in the absence of corrective action. The Perryman Group was recently asked to examine the potential economic benefits of filling current vacancies and adding judgeships.
The current authorized level of eight judges is insufficient to meet the needs of the area, particularly as population and economic expansion continue. Other factors exacerbate the situation, including the fact that two of the authorized judgeships have been vacant for much of the past few years. A single retirement, serious illness, or accident would in effect crack if not temporarily collapse the judicial infrastructure of the Eastern District. The situation is particularly unsustainable in the Sherman Division, which is among the fastest growing areas in the US and home to numerous technology companies and major corporate headquarters.
Delays in filling vacancies in the Federal courts and the failure to expand the number of judgeships to keep pace with increases in the population and the level and sophistication of production processes are compromising the essential framework for social progress and prosperity. Just as a failure to maintain an adequate network of roads, bridges, rails, utilities, and communication to accommodate growing needs will limit prosperity, a lack of judicial infrastructure correspondingly retards economic and individual potential and frustrates societal advancement.
Just as a failure to maintain an adequate network of roads, bridges, rails, utilities, and communication to accommodate growing needs will limit prosperity, a lack of judicial infrastructure correspondingly retards economic and individual potential and frustrates societal advancement.
Without additional judges, the current difficulties in the Eastern District (and certain other districts around the country) will only become worse in the future, with caseloads rising, judges increasingly overworked, criminal cases delayed, and people and businesses unable to resolve disputes in a predictable manner and in a reasonable amount of time.
If a critically strained judicial infrastructure is not addressed, “…and Justice for All” — citizens, businesses, and those who protect them — will, over time, become less and less attainable. If this stressed infrastructure were to crack or collapse, the economic disruptions could be calamitous until a functioning and predictable system could be restored.
The full report can be downloaded as a PDF below.