Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A very remote--but busy--federal court

See yesterday's story in the New York Times about the federal magistracy in Yosemite National Park. The headline for Jesse McKinley's report is "Spectacular Distractions are Perks of Judgeship," and here's the lede and another excerpt:
The search is on for a candidate for one of the most scenic jobs in American law: magistrate judge for the United States District Court in Yosemite National Park, home not only to towering sequoias but also to a tiny federal courthouse where park justice is doled out 52 weeks a year.
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Felony cases that originate in the park are sent to federal court in Fresno, about 70 miles away, but Yosemite’s magistrate judge handles misdemeanors from throughout the 750,000-acre park, including petty offenses one might not expect to see at the federal bench.

“We get a lot of biking while intoxicated,” said Laurie Yu, the courtroom deputy and its de facto den mother. “And biking without headlamps.”

The setting is dramatic, the docket monotonous, and the courthouse tiny, but a magistrate judge from Idaho who filled in at the park for two weeks this summer picked up on a similarity between this and other federal courts: “the law is the same as in San Francisco or Boise or Manhattan.”

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