Sunday, January 2, 2011

Confirming Judges

Chief Justice Roberts should be commended for making a point of urging the next Senate to speed up the process of confirming federal court judges.  There are currently more than 90 vacancies in the federal district and appellate courts, and more than 40 nominees awaiting confirmation.  The Senate's delays in confirming judges is causing substantial problems in a number of busy districts.  It means litigants wait many months for decisions.  It means justice is denied. Politics always plays a role in this process, of course, and it was fair for Roberts to point out:
Each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes.
I well remember the outcry from conservatives, such as my friend Hugh Hewitt, when Democrats blocked some of George W. Bush's nominees.  Republicans in those years loudly demanded an "up or down vote" on nominations that were held up by Democrats in the Senate.  Funny that you do not hear any politicians or pundits on the right now crying out for an up or down vote on the many Obama appointees who have been blocked in the last two years.  So again, kudos to a Republican Chief Justice for calling for faster confirmations.

In this area, the Obama administration has lagged far beyond its predecessors in number of judicial appointments confirmed during the first two years, as this chart from Think Progress shows:

We could argue about whether this president has been slower to submit names to the Senate--he has been a bit slower-- or whether Republicans have been worse in obstructing nominees than the Senate Democrats were during the Bush administration--they have been worse--but those kinds of arguments don't get us anywhere.    The Senate simply needs to make it a priority to start filling an enormous number of vacancies on the federal bench.  There is no excuse for delaying the vast majority of these appointments any longer.

(Ron Edmonds AP photo, showing a previous occasion on which Justice Roberts extended a hand to President Obama.)

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