DENVER — A group of federal judges from Oklahoma City are traveling to Denver to lend a hand with Colorado court cases. The last time that happened was in 1996 when the Murrah Federal Building bombing case was in court in Denver. Three judges from the Western District of Oklahoma federal court are presiding over cases part-time, indefinitely, in federal court in Denver. "They need some help (and) we’re most amenable to help,” said Senior U.S. District Judge Timothy Leonard, speaking from his chambers at the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City.
Two judges shortThe U.S. District Court for Colorado is short two judges because of a death and a resignation. Because the case against Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols was moved from Oklahoma City to a federal judge in Denver, federal judges in Oklahoma City traveled to Denver to help the bombing case judge with some of his other case load. The current assignment of visiting judges to Denver’s federal court will continue until President Barack Obama nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms replacements for the two vacancies. There is no indication when that will happen.
Fitting schedulesBesides Leonard, judges David Russell and Robin Cauthron will occasionally conduct trials of Colorado federal court civil cases. "We could all fit it into our schedules,” Leonard said. "I think every one of us works hard to stay caught up with our cases — we wouldn’t have done it if it would affect our schedules here.” A federal judge from Kansas City, Kan., and one from Watertown, N.Y., also will be helping in Denver. The administrator of the Colorado federal court, Clerk of the Court Gregory Langham, said the five judges volunteered to help. The current five full-time federal judges in Denver have been backlogged for many months. The visiting judges will speed up cases that are ready to go to trial.
Assistance beginsLeonard and Russell already have begun work in Denver. Russell presided over a pre-trial hearing last week and Leonard presided over a trial the week before. The visiting judges return to their home courts when they do not have cases in Denver. Leonard, as a senior judge — unlike Russell and Cauthron — works only part-time. "I’m carrying a half-load here.” He said he will preside over a federal trial in Nevada in October because all of the judges there are disqualified in the case.