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Thursday, August 4, 2011

AFJ Urges Full-Scale Push To Confirm Judicial Nominations When Congress Returns In September



Washington, D.C., August 4, 2011— When the United States Senate left town this week for its August recess, it left behind the unfinished business of fully staffing the federal courts. Twenty nominees to federal district and circuit courts of appeal were left stranded on the Senate floor, unable to get a final confirmation vote as Republicans continued their tactics of endless delay and unwavering obstruction. Even including the four nominees approved on Tuesday, Republican leadership has allowed votes on only 10 nominees to lifetime seats in the last 12 weeks.

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron repeated her call for action to end the crisis that has left federal courts across the country understaffed and increasingly unable to serve the interests of justice. “This week, once again, Republicans in the Senate have proven that they are willing to use the federal courts as pawns in an increasingly destructive and irresponsible partisan game,” she said. “This has been going on since Day One of the Obama presidency and it has to stop. The president has done his part to increase the pace of nominations. The Senate Judiciary Committee has vetted and voted on nominees at a brisk and responsible pace. But Republican leaders bring the entire process to a screeching halt on the Senate floor. When Congress returns in September, the blockade must end and the process must be allowed to move forward before more damage is done.”

Aron also praised the statement made today by White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler highlighting the gender and racial diversity of President Obama’s appointments. “One of President Obama’s greatest achievements is the extraordinary progress he has made in bringing diversity to the federal bench,” Aron explained. “It’s striking, in fact, that half of the 20 nominees currently being blocked from receiving final Senate votes are women. The old glass ceiling has apparently been replaced by a brick wall of intransigence and political gamesmanship.”

The plain unvarnished facts of the judicial crisis serve as evidence of the complete breakdown of the confirmation process and an unprecedented and reckless abandonment of constitutional responsibilities by Senate Republicans:

•    In January, at the beginning of the 112th Congress, there were 114 vacant or imminently vacant judgeships in the federal judiciary – more than one in seven authorized judgeships.

•    Today, the federal bench has 111 judgeships currently or imminently vacant, including 35 that are so serious that they are considered judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

•    This year, the Senate has confirmed about one nominee per week. This sluggish pace has been almost completely offset by the creation of approximately one new vacancy per week due to retirements or deaths.

•    Overall, at this point in their first terms, Presidents Clinton and Bush had seen 152 and 144 of their federal district and circuit nominees confirmed, respectively. The Senate has only confirmed 93 of President Obama’s nominees.

•    If the current confirmation pace holds there will be approximately the same number of judicial vacancies at the end of the year as there were at the beginning of the year.

•    The Senate recessed without taking action on 20 nominees pending on the floor.  Sixteen of these nominees were reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without opposition from Republicans, and three others were reported out with strong bipartisan support.  Ten of the pending nominees would fill seats considered to be “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

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Alliance for Justice is the leading provider of information on judicial nominations. A continuously updated statistical summary of the nominations process is available here: http://www.afj.org/judicial-selection/judicial-selection-snapshot.pdf.

Additional information is also available on the AFJ Website at http://www.afj.org/judicial-selection/.

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