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Public Statements

Realignment of Southern Judicial District of Mississippi

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2871 but also ask that this body continue to work assiduously on the remaining budget matters so that the judicial branch has the funding to do its work that every American has a fair trial--and that they do not have to drive so far that they need to camp out overnight.

In 2012, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended that certain federal court facilities be closed. This includes leased court space in Meridian, Mississippi. An ad hoc committee of judges, which included the Chief U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, was convened to review the issues created by the closure and to recommend the best course of action. I am aware like most Members, that cost-savings are extremely important--but we should be mindful of any perceived inconveniences to plaintiffs and defendants--in a state that is regularly ranked one of the poorest.

Moreover, with numerous nominees of President Obama being held up in the Senate via a nominations process that has in fact become an allegations process, I am also inclined to agree with the judgment of the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Chief Justice of the United States that additional judgeships should be created in many parts of the country in order to ensure that the Constitution's promise of justice is fulfilled.

But the need for Congress to create new judgeships aside, I believe the first step in resolving the crisis in our courts is to fill all the existing district and circuit court seats. As of today, there are 91 total vacancies--74 in district courts and 17 in circuit courts. Astonishingly, there are more empty judgeships now than when President Obama took office, almost five years ago. So while it may be appropriate to eradicate duplicity--let this House institute other reforms in a bipartisan manner so that access to justice is not an abstract notion. Indeed though--we all know that the Senate holds nearly all the cards in this part of the discussion.

We must ultimately consider the effect the proposed changes have on the court's efficiency and stability of the rule of law in the circuit. My experience is that a decrease in space might lead one to believe that justice might be negatively affected but considering that my colleagues from both sides of the aisle are in full support--we must wait and see and hope that justice is not too deliberate in the affected areas of Mississippi.

The chief argument for this legislation is cost-cutting and simplification--but the Judicial Committee did this with an eye on the budget matters that we have dealt with in this body and Mr. Speaker, I must say that if the cost-savings do not injure the provision of justice then this legislation is supportable in its present form.

I urge my colleagues to Support this important legislation.

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