WASHINGTON, D.C.—After months of Rep. Greg Stanton working with the House Judiciary Committee, today a bill advanced with unanimous Committee support to make Arizona’s judicial system more accessible to residents in the northern and southwestern parts of the state. 

Rep. Tom O’Halleran introduced H.R. 1569 earlier this year to amend the U.S. code to allow both Flagstaff and Yuma to hold district court proceedings. It has the support of every member of the Arizona delegation.

“This is a common-sense bill that will bring important judicial services to Arizona communities that need them—that’s why every member of our state’s delegation supports it,” said Stanton, who worked closely with Committee leadership to advance the bill in today’s markup.  “It’s one action we can take right now to improve the efficiency of our state’s court system.”

Earlier this year, Arizona’s District Court identified amending the statute that organizes the state’s court activity as a top priority. Currently, the statute only allows district court proceedings to be held in Globe, Phoenix, Prescott and Tucson. The statute is long outdated—it hasn’t been amended since it was enacted in 1948, and court hasn’t been held in Globe for at least 50 years.

“Access to justice is fundamental to the rule of law, and this straightforward, bipartisan legislation will bring Arizona’s U.S. district judges closer to the communities they serve,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler. “I want to thank Mr. Stanton for his strong advocacy of this legislation, as well as the efforts of Mr. Biggs and Ms. Lesko.”

Flagstaff and Yuma are home to federal courthouses that oversee substantial judicial and law-enforcement activity. Since 1991, the demand in Flagstaff has required a full-time magistrate judge to preside over the court. But for district court proceedings, district judges, law enforcement, parties to cases and jurors must travel long distances to those designated cities where court can be held. 

“This legislation will make better use of the judicial and attorney resources and make better use to serve the public by allowing the district court judges to hear the cases that exist in federal court houses in Flagstaff and Yuma—with minimal if any additional administrative costs,” said Ranking Republican Member Doug Collins. “I congratulate the Arizona delegation for coming together and I highly recommend this.”

The two cities are already equipped to handle the court operations, and both have heightened needs. Allowing federal district court in Flagstaff would serve the nearby Indian nations. Likewise, allowing federal district judges to hear cases closer to the border will likely to improve access to the court for people with immigration-related matters in federal district court.

Stanton advocated for the bill during today’s hearing. His full remarks as prepared are below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’m very happy to see the Judiciary Committee moving forward with H.R. 1569—a bipartisan bill that will add the cities of Flagstaff and Yuma to the list of locations in which district court can be held in my home state of Arizona.  It has the full support of our Arizona delegation, including my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Biggs and Congresswoman Lesko.

Currently, district court related matters can only be held in Globe, Phoenix, Prescott, and Tucson, even though both Flagstaff and Yuma have federal courthouses.  At the moment, these courthouses have magistrate judges that oversee judicial and law-enforcement activity, but they cannot oversee criminal cases and trials.  H.R. 1569 would change this. 

Under the current structure, Flagstaff and Yuma-area residents have to travel long distances for district court proceedings.  If a Yuma resident needs to attend a hearing or report for jury duty, they have to travel about 195 miles to Phoenix.  A Flagstaff resident would have to travel almost 100 miles to Prescott.  We can do better.

Access to courts—whether we are talking about a physical location or reducing cost barriers to our court system—is critical to protect the American people’s constitutional rights to equal protection and due process under the law. 

Access to justice should not be dictated by where you live.  I am proud to support H.R. 1569 because it will have a tremendous impact on the residents in these parts of the state. 

Simply put, this is a common-sense action that will make our court system in Arizona more efficient.

I yield back.

Video of Stanton’s comments is available here.