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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 7, 2022


Territorial Court Judge Maria Cabret told the Senate Rules Committee Thursday her main goal as chief judge would be to end the backlog of civil cases in the congested court docket.
She proposed an "immediate improvement in case-flow management."
"The problem of the congested court docket is never unique or endemic to the Territorial Court," Cabret said. "It's a nationwide problem."
Cabret, with 12 years on the bench, said her other priority is to computerize the court's operations. Everyone from lawyers to clerks and the general public is waiting for full computerization, she said.
"And no one — no one – is more eager than I," she said. "But it will take substantial up-front funding."
Computerization would be a major factor in unclogging the backed-up court docket by allowing judges access to information on cases, she told the senators.
Cabret also said that if confirmed as chief judge she would work toward increasing retirement benefits for Territorial Court judges. With a retirement benefit cap of $65,000 a year, she said, judges face a low pension after serving on the bench. They now earn $100,000 annually.
"This guarantees a lower standard of living once they retire," she said. "Our benefits must improve."
The Rules Committee voted to recommend Cabret's nomination to the full Senate. The committee also forwarded the nominations of Judge Ive Swan and attorney Rhys Hodge to the St. Thomas bench.
The Territorial Court docket currently is so crowded that some civil cases don't come to trial until years after the first complaint is filed. Court observers point to at least two reasons for the congestion.
The first is that criminal cases generally are given priority.
The second is that business has boomed in the Territorial Court ever since it became the court of original jurisdiction some 10 years ago. Prior to that, the federal court handled most cases, both criminal and civil.
The retirement cap applies to all sitting judges. It did not apply to judges who were appointed in the 1970's. They retired on full salary. Chief Judge Verne Hodge was the last of those. Hodge also is seeking about $400,000 in unused vacation time and sick leave accumulated during 22 years on the bench.

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