Two cases involving hot-button issues pending before Northern District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong were yanked from her docket today without explanation.
She was presiding over a case involving a federal court employee’s bid to get health benefits for her same-sex spouse and one involving half of the country’s sugar production – two cases with no obvious ties except neither is moving particularly fast.
An order signed by Chief Judge Vaughn Walker only says that Armstrong is “unavailable.”
Now the same-sex benefit case goes to Judge Susan Illston and the sugar beet case to Walker.
The parties weren’t seeking a new judge, and attorneys involved seemed surprised by the reassignments.
The rest of Armstrong’s caseload doesn’t appear to be affected and her calendar continues to reflect hearings in other matters. She didn’t return a message left with her chambers. Her assistant indicated she wouldn’t be able to return nonurgent calls until November.
Lambda Legal’s Jennifer Pizer, an attorney for the federal employee in the benefits case, hopes things will move along a little faster now.
A motion for preliminary injunctive relief has been briefed since March, and Armstrong hasn’t yet ruled on it or had a hearing. One hearing date for arguments was previously continued by the court without explanation.
“The lapse of time is unusual and particularly so for an injunction,” Pizer said.