The year 2003 was a year of significant challenges for the Court. Case filings continued to increase to 16,159, a 3% rise over the preceding year. The implementation of the Electronic Case Filing System continued, with approximately 32% of documents being filed electronically last year. Substantial changes to case administration procedures resulted from the Electronic Case Filing system, including the system for order entry and preparation by the Court for hearings. A new Chief Deputy and Administrative Manager were appointed upon Janell Hedgepath’s retirement after 28 years. My Chambers staff changed entirely with Tammi, Cheryl and Brian joining the Court. Judge Bishop also welcomed Lydia and Brian to his staff. A few large Chapter 11 cases, HomeGold, Carolina Investors, Georgetown Steel and Ducane Gas Grills were filed which required many expedited hearings under our complex case procedures. The Local Rules Committee was reestablished and has suggested changes to our form Chapter 13 plan. Two major training seminars, one for new attorneys and one for paralegals/legal assistants, were sponsored by the Court and more than 150 persons attended. New office space and a courtroom were opened in Spartanburg . Regrettably, Congress failed to restore a third judgeship to this District and also severely reduced the budgets for the U.S. Courts for next year.
These factors were among many which made it difficult for the Court to maintain its high standards for speedy and thorough resolution of cases. Nevertheless, our Court met its goals and continues to rank high in the nation in criteria indicating successful operations. I personally have felt, and probably have shown at times, the strain. However, with a new year there is new hope and renewed determination. We hope that you will join us in an effort and dedication to make 2004 one of the best years ever.