Thursday, August 4, 2011

Partisan Obstruction On Federal Judges Continues

I have repeatedly noted how Republican obstruction and Democratic apathy have resulted in an alarming number of judicial vacancies throughout the federal courts.  (See, e.g., Tit for Tat; Courting Failure; Lame and Lamer; Vacant and Lame.)  While early this year a bipartisan agreement was allegedly reached to speed up the process, Senate Republicans are continuing to block votes on non-controversial, qualified nominees.  It is up to Obama and the Democrats to, dare I say, be a whole lot more aggressive in pushing the process forward.

Four Nominees Confirmed Before Month-Long Recess, But Many More Left Behind

By Nicole Flatow, cross-posted from American Constitution Society.

The Senate left town yesterday, heading into recess several days ahead of schedule. In its final hour, the Senate confirmed by unanimous consent four of the 24 judicial nominees that were ready for a Senate vote, and scheduled a vote on a fifth nominee for September.

But as ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson pointed out in a statement after the vote, 19 other candidates were left behind “whose nominations have been fully vetted and could have been voted on immediately.”

“This current pace of confirming judicial nominees is far from adequate to the job,” Fredrickson said in her statement. “While the Senate is on break during the month of August, matters involving Americans’ safety, freedom, and livelihoods will continue to be delayed. And in some of the most overburdened districts, our judges may be forced to rush through burgeoning criminal dockets without taking crucial time to consider the arguments before them.”

Most of the 19 nominees that were left behind were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with absolutely no recorded opposition from members of either party. Earlier this week, ABA President Stephen Zach called for the Senate to confirm all 20 unopposed nominees before the recess. And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy pointed out that all 24 nominees could be disposed of in less than an hour.

“It is not accurate to pretend that real progress is being made in these circumstances,” Leahy said in a statement. “Vacancies are being kept high, consensus nominees are being delayed and it is the American people and the Federal courts that are being made to suffer.”

He pointed out that, just last week, “the Congressional Research Service released a report that confirms what many of us have been saying for some time: This is the longest sustained period of historically high vacancy rates on the Federal judiciary in the last 35 years.”

Fredrickson lamented that, “[f]or far too long, those of us who are gravely concerned about the health of our court system have implored the Senate to take up-or-down votes.”

She noted that a deal announced at the beginning of the year to eliminate procedural blocks on judicial nominations has made no difference, as the Senate goes into recess with nearly as many vacancies now as when the year started.

“With 110 current and future vacancies on the courts, our senators have gone home. Another month will pass with no further relief for our courts,” she said. “Upon their return in September, senators must make extraordinary efforts to expedite the pace of confirmations.”

Those nominees who were confirmed include R. Brooke Jackson to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Sara L. Darrow for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Kathleen M. Williams for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and Nelva Ramos for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The Senate also scheduled a vote for September 6 on Bernice Bouie Donald’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

See the full statement by Fredrickson here, and visit to learn more about the judicial vacancy crisis and follow developments.


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