Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are Republicans responsible for the judicial crisis?

The crisis in the judiciary is not entirely the Senate's fault.

Among the law news last night and today was the fact that the United States Senate has reached a deal that will allow 14 of President Obama's judicial nominations will be confirmed by the Senate.  The Washington Post's coverage of the deal is here

One of the popular themes of the fight over judicial nominations is that Republicans in the Senate are stalling the nomination process as a political move to ensure that President Obama doesn't get to appoint too many judges rather than the underlying qualifications of any particular nominee.  There is, of course, some evidence of this.  As the Post's article notes, each of the 14 received unanimous approval from the Senate judiciary committee but the nominations were still being held up.  Also, the article notes that, "Obama’s judicial nominees wait an average of 93 days to be confirmed, according to Senate Democrats. Republican nominees at the same point in George W. Bush’s presidency averaged a 22-day wait." 

Looks bad for the GOP right? I certainly thought so but then I saw the last sentence of the article.  "There are 83 judicial vacancies, according to Senate Republicans, who urged Obama this week to name his nominees to fill the vacant positions."  Are there currently vacancies on the federal bench for which President Obama has not nominated a successor?  It appears that there are.  According to, a project of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, there are forty-four openings on the federal bench without a proposed replacement.  The are listed below.  The number next to the court name is the number of open seat (open gavel?).

District of Massachusetts 1

District of Puerto Rico 1

Eastern District of New York 1

Southern District of New York 4

Western District of New York 1

Eastern District of Pennsylvania 4

Middle District of Pennsylvania 2

Eastern District of North Carolina 1

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals 1

Middle District of Louisiana 1

Northern District of Mississippi 1

Eastern District of Texas 1

Southern District of Texas 1

Western District of Texas 1

Western District of Kentucky 1

Eastern District of Michigan 1

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals 1

Northern District of Illinois 1

Western District of Wisconsin 1

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals 1

District of Arizona 1

Central District of California 2

Northern District of California 2

District of Oregon 1

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals 1

District of Kansas 1

Southern District of Florida 1

Northern District of Georgia 2

Circuit of the District of Columbia 3

District of District of Columbia 1

This list does not include announced future vacancies. 

While the pace of confirmations should certainly be sped up, it is hard to see how the GOP is entirely to blame for an understaffed judiciary when so many vacancies do no even have a nominee.  More troubling is the fact that President Obama has apparently decided that Mr. Torvik and I are not even qualified to be nominated to the bench in those positions where the President apparently cannnot find anyone else to do the job.  It's almost like he doesn't read this blog.

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