August 19, 2021
When Michael Zweiback worked as a prosecutor in the Central District of California, he noticed federal judges worked long hours and juggled an extremely large amount of cases.
“The working conditions of a federal judge are not great,” Zweiback told the Southern California Record. “They’re underpaid when compared to state judges and it’s a very high-pressure job.”
In fact, the number of weighted filings per judgeship for the Central District of California spiked to 691, which is an increase of 10% from 627 a year ago, according to the Central District’s annual report of caseload statistics. That’s compared to the national average of 535 weighted filings per judgeship.
“California’s caseloads, just like everywhere else in the country, have been crushingly high from the immigration cases that are pushed as a priority on the criminal side to the more complicated class action cases that you see filed in California all the time,” Zweiback said. “The complexity of the cases have gone up too and the judges in all of the districts in California certainly need some form of relief.”
The need for relief is being addressed by both the House and the Senate.
Last week, U.S. Senate Democrats introduced a bill that, if approved, would add 77 new district court seats while the House introduced a bill to add 203 new judges, according to media reports.
“The 203 number doesn’t bother me overall because when you spread that over 94 judicial districts, it’s really not a large increase with respect to the overall number of judges that we have in the federal judiciary,” Zweiback said.
Although federal judges enjoy the prestige of being appointed by the U.S. President and confirmed by the Senate, the number who commit to a 20-to-40 year career on the bench has diminished as the gulf between salary and resources widens, according to Zweiback.
“When judges look at the fact that they could go out into the private sector and work as arbitrators or mediators and make two or three times what they earn in the public sector, it becomes a much more difficult decision to remain in government service,” said Zweiback, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who served in Santa Ana, Riverside, and Los Angeles federal courts.