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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

As Judicial Vacancies Rise to Crisis Levels, the Senate Confirms Three District Court Nominees, the First of the 112th Congress

This morning’s Washington Post ran a front page, above-the-fold article entitled "Federal judicial vacancies reaching crisis point." The Post reported that "Federal judges have been retiring at a rate of one per week this year, driving up vacancies that have nearly doubled since President Obama took office. The departures are increasing workloads dramatically and delaying trials in some of the nation's federal courts."

The article contains several notable quotes from judges in overburdened districts. Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver of the District of Arizona—which was declared a judicial emergency several weeks ago—described a "dire situation" in her district. Similarly Chief Judge Michael McCuskey of the Central District of Illinois said that he "had a heart attack six years ago, and my cardiologist told me recently, 'You need to reduce your stress.' I told him only the U.S. Senate can reduce my stress" by confirming more judges in his district. Additionally, the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alex Kozinski, said that as litigants have to wait up to three years in resolving discrimination claims, corporate disputes and other lawsuits, "people will lose faith in the rule of law. We as a nation believe that if you have a dispute, you go to court and within a reasonable period of time, you get a decision." Judges Silver and McCuskey are Clinton appointees and Judge Kozinski is a Reagan appointee. The article also quotes White House Counsel Bob Bauer, responding in part to the article's criticism that the Administration has been slow in making judicial nominations. Bauer says that the courts face "a severe problem," and that the White House will move nominees "at a very steady clip... We will use all the resources at our disposal to bring attention to the issue and work on a bipartisan basis."

Last night the Senate took a promising first step in returning to regular order on judicial nominees by confirming its first three judges: Paul Holmes to the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas by a vote of 95-0; Diana Saldana to the United States District Court for the for the Southern District of Texas by a vote of 94-0; and Marco Hernandez to the United States District Court for the for the District of Oregon by unanimous consent. Eight other nominees—all of whom were reported out of the judiciary committee without opposition—are also pending on the Senate calendar and should be confirmed without delay.

The full Post article is available here

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