The Eastern District of North Carolina finally has a new federal judge on the bench after a record-breaking 14-year vacancy. Richard E. Myers II, a former law professor at UNC, was confirmed in December. Born in Jamaica, he grew up in Wilmington, where he served as a journalist for StarNews before attending law school at UNC Chapel Hill. His credentials including service as both a criminal defense attorney and federal prosecutor.
Political discord left the seat empty for over a decade. Barack Obama and George W. Bush both tried to fill it, but their nominees stalled. Trump twice attempted to move forward with Bush’s nominee, the controversial Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr. Like Bush, Trump couldn’t get the necessary Senate votes. Myers represents a more politically neutral choice.
Fewer delays, lighter caseloads
The longstanding vacancy likely contributed to greater delays in the often slow-moving federal justice system. According to research from the Brennan Center for Justice, a federal vacancy lasting 12 months results in a two-percent rise in cases that are pending for three or more years. Multiplied by 14 years, that’s a lot of delays.
In addition to speeding cases along, the addition of Judge Myers will also mean lighter caseloads for the entire bench. Prior to Myers’ appointment, the remaining five federal judges were shouldering the workload for the vacant seat.
Drug crimes, violent crimes remain key focus
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District will likely continue to prioritize drug crimes, firearms offenses and violent crimes through initiatives such as:
- HEAT (the Heroin Education Action Team), which focuses on opioids
- Take Back North Carolina, an initiative to curb drug trafficking and drug-related violent crimes
- Project Safe Neighborhoods, which is aimed at reducing gun violence
The Eastern District covers 44 counties, with courthouses in Raleigh, Greenville, Wilmington, Elizabeth City and New Bern.