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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chairman Leahy calls on the Senate to do better

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) yesterday laid out an agenda for his committee for 2011, and made a special point about the need for a dramatically speedier and less contentious confirmation process for judicial nominations in the new Senate.

At his remarks at Washington’s Newseum, Chairman Leahy said:
In his annual report on the Federal Judiciary, Chief Justice Roberts recently wrote of the urgent need to fill the Federal judicial vacancies. These vacancies have reached historically high levels and resulted in overburdened courts that now face crippling caseloads. I will try to work with Senator Grassley and our Senate leadership in both parties to fill these vacancies without unnecessary delay. This is another instance where partisanship has been a destructive influence.

We need good and capable men and women to be willing to serve as judges to protect the rights of all Americans and uphold the rule of law.

We cannot ask people to take on public service as a judge, and then subject them to needless, unexplained, humiliating partisan delays in the confirmation process.
And while there was the predictable reaction to his remarks from those who turned obstruction into an obsession in the last Congress, the fact remains that judicial vacancies are crippling our courts, and the Senate has been unforgivably slow to confirm qualified judges for critically important seats on the federal bench.

Senator Leahy is right to call attention to the appalling inaction of the Senate. In the last two years, the Senate has confirmed only 60 of President Obama's circuit and district court nominees, compared to 100 confirmed in President George W. Bush's first two years. President Obama has had a lower percentage of his judicial nominees confirmed a this point in his term of office than any other president in American history.

After months of obstruction and delay, the Senate finally voted to approve 19 judicial nominees in December's lame-duck session, but left another 19 highly qualified men and women behind. Last week, President Obama re-nominated 42 individuals whose nominations stalled last year. Twenty-three of the re-nominations are for seats that are considered "judicial emergencies" because of the extraordinarily high caseloads in certain districts.

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on judicial nominations, visit the Alliance for Justice’s Judicial Selection Project website.

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