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Study: US federal judges’ caseloads vary widely

WASHINGTON — Federal judges across the nation are bearing criminal case­­l­oads that vary widely in size, sometimes even among judges in the same courthouse, according to a study released Sunday.

The study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University found three courthouses where the judge with the largest criminal case­load had sentenced more than twice the number of defendants as the judge with the smallest caseload from October 2006 through July 2012. They were Los Angeles; Beaumont, Texas; and Camden, N.J.

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The study found 18 courthouses where the heaviest sentencing load was at least 1.4 times larger than the smallest.

The study was made possible because the clearinghouse, that uses the Freedom of Information Act to collect criminal justice data, earlier this year assembled the first publicly available database of sentencing records, sortable by judge.

Judges in the courthouses with the widest disparities cited unique local circumstances to explain the differences.

David Sellers, a spokesman for the administrative office of US courts, said he wasn’t surprised or concerned with these findings. He noted, however, that the judiciary needs more judges.

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