"Judge stripped of cases," is Dan Horn's report in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
he chief federal judge in southern Ohio took five death penalty cases from a colleague Thursday because he was taking too long to resolve them.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith, the court's chief judge since 2004, said she made the unusual move to ease the workload of U.S. District Judge Walter Rice.
"Judge Rice has a very heavy docket, and it seemed logical to give him some relief," Beckwith said. "These are enormous cases. They take a lot of time."
Rice did not return a call seeking comment Thursday, but one of his defenders said the criticism is unjustified. He said Rice is a thoughtful judge who thinks that death penalty cases should be closely scrutinized.
"His decisions indicate an extremely deliberative process by him," Bill Gallagher, a Cincinnati lawyer and death penalty opponent, said. "He has handled some extremely complex cases."
Although all five cases are death penalty appeals, Beckwith said the move was not made in response to complaints about Rice's handling of capital cases.
Instead, she said, death penalty cases were an obvious choice because they are among the most complicated and time-consuming cases on any judge's docket.
"We've been talking over some period of time on how best to address the older cases," Beckwith said. "We mutually reached the conclusion that this would be the best way to give him some relief."
Rice, who is based in Dayton, was appointed by President Carter and joined the court in 1980.
Beckwith, who is in Cincinnati, was appointed by President George H. W. Bush and joined the court in 1992.