Betty Fletcher, Seattle's Octogenarian Judge, Gets National Press as Federal Courts' Savior

Betty Fletcher_Seattle Weekly.jpg
Steven Miller
A couple years ago, an SW cover story called attention to arguably the most influential judge nobody (outside legal circles) has heard of: Betty Fletcher, the octogenarian, Seattle-based jurist for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "Judge Betty," as we called her, kept standing up to presidential and military power despite her age and reliance on a walker. On the cusp of her 88th birthday, the Los Angeles Times has now also discovered Fletcher.

The pioneering women judge, pictured in pearls and a white suit that matches her hair, leads a Times story this morning about how "senior" judges--supposedly retired yet often, like Fletcher, working full-time--are coming "to the rescue" of the federal court system.

The problem: The system is overburdened by a flood of immigration and drug cases. And Congress hasn't created any new judgeships in two decades. According to the Times, fiscal conservatives don't want to pay for such an expansion.

Undoubtedly, too, conservatives of all stripes are particularly reluctant to expand the 9th Circuit--long considered, not entirely correctly, as a bastion of liberalism. Ironically, that hesitation seems to be keeping one of the circuit's most liberal judges of all--Fletcher--on the bench. She told the Times she's eager to pitch in given the courts' dire need.

Reached today by SW, Fletcher says she has just returned from a tour of duty in Pasadena, one of four cities where 9th Circuit judges meet. "We heard 29 cases," Fletcher says. "It was very intense."

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