The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill backed by Arizona’s entire congressional delegation that would expand access to federal courts in the state.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran in March and is co-sponsored by Arizona’s eight other House members.
It would amend Title 28 of the U.S. code to add Flagstaff and Yuma to the list of cities that could hold federal district court proceedings.
Under current law, those proceedings in the state can be held only in Globe, Phoenix, Prescott and Tucson. That means Arizonans living outside those areas, including witnesses and jurors, might have to travel long distances for hearings and trials.
The statute hasn’t been amended since it was enacted in 1948, even though court hasn’t been held in Globe for at least 50 years, according to a press release from the office of Rep. Greg Stanton.
“A pillar of the United States’ structure of democracy is for all Americans to have access to the courts — whether that is by its literal location or by reducing cost barriers,” Stanton, a Democrat, said during floor debate.
“We are weakening that pillar when residents must drive over 100 miles for their day in court. Access to justice should not be dictated by where you live.”
A companion Senate bill was also introduced in March by Republican Sen. Martha McSally, with Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as the sole co-sponsor.
McSally issued a statement applauding Wednesday’s House vote.
“Access to our judicial system shouldn’t discriminate based on where you live,” she said.
“I am glad to see the House pass my legislation and look forward to the Senate moving quickly to send it to the president’s desk.”
The mayors of Flagstaff and Yuma expressed their support for the bills when they were introduced.