Updated: Nov 3, 2021
On October 28, 2021, the San Diego Chapter and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California hosted the annual State of the District and Bartick Award event. This year’s event was held in person, at the Jury Assembly Room of the Carter Keep U.S. Courthouse. The program for the event can be viewed here. Following are a few highlights of the event.
FBA President Rebecca Church provided opening remarks, and introduced the program for the day.
Chief Judge Sabraw discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the operations of the Court. He thanked Judge Larry Burns and Judge Anthony Battaglia for their work in finding ways to continue operations, including hearings and jury trials, during the pandemic, while also being mindful of CDC health guidelines. The District has been a model for other districts to follow in terms of functioning during the pandemic.
Chief Judge Sabraw further noted the current judicial vacancies, and credited the senior District judges for helping the District manage its ongoing caseload. Chief Judge Sabraw stated that currently the District judges each have over 400 criminal cases. If all vacancies are filled, that number would drop to over 200 criminal cases per judge, while the average criminal caseload for District judges across the country is in the neighborhood of over 100 cases per judge.
Chief Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Mann reported on the operations of the Bankruptcy Court, and acknowledged the challenges of operating during the pandemic. She noted that bankruptcy filings had decreased during the pandemic, likely due to social safety net programs that had provided aid to people who may have otherwise had to seek some form of relief in bankruptcy court.
Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal provided a briefing of operations for the Magistrate Court, and welcomed new Magistrate Judge Dan Butcher. Judge Skomal described the adjustments that had been made during the pandemic to allow court operations to continue. In particular, he said that utilizing remote conference technology, such as Zoom, had proved helpful in conducting settlement conferences.
Ninth Circuit Judge John Owens described operations at the Court of Appeals during the pandemic. He acknowledged that the Court had not been holding in-person oral argument, but that the Ninth Circuit may start experimenting with in-person oral argument soon. Judge Owens also discussed the potential changes that could be in store for the Ninth Circuit resulting from the sheer volume of turnover in personnel should eligible judges start to take senior status in the near future.
Chief Judge Sabraw presented the annual Bartick award for civility to Assistant United States Attorney Sasha Foster. Chief Judge Sabraw introduced Ms. Foster and noted that she had grown up overseas and served as a justice in foreign countries, helping countries to set up their own legal systems.
The FBA thanks Betsey Boutelle, Janet Cabral, Steve Chu, Rebecca Church, David Finn, Hugh Kim, Michelle Pettit, and Cheryl Soto for their help in organizing the event.