Blood From a Stone: The Ongoing Judicial Crisis in the Eastern District of California Enters its Final Stage
By Geoffrey Wilson and Alyson Berg
Afederal judgeship is considered the crowning achievement of a stellar legal career. Lifetimes are spent preparing for the mere opportunity to be considered for such a prestigious position: nominated by the President of the United States, confirmed by the Senate and appointed for life. Unfortunately, for those judges toiling in the Eastern District of California under the crush of one of the nation’s highest per-judge caseloads, this lifetime appointment may seem a bit more like a life sentence.
After serving as a California Superior Court Judge and a United States Magistrate Judge, Lawrence J. O’Neil was appointed as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District in 2007. He became Chief Judge in 2016 and now presides over one of the most heavily impacted caseloads in the nation. When we spoke with him about the challenges facing the District, he was extremely grateful for the assistance the District had received from the Administrative Office of the Courts, but candid that without the Congressional creation of new judgeships, the District was headed for disaster.