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Friday, March 2, 2012

Action on Judicial Nominations

Steps taken this week to address the judicial vacancy crisis that has left 1 in 10 seats on the federal bench empty include the confirmation of one judge, hearings for three nominees, a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on one nominee, and the nomination of new people to become Article III judges.

On Monday, the Senate voted to confirm Margo Kitsy Brodie to be a United States District Court judge in the Eastern District of New York by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 86-2.  Due to obstruction from Senate Republicans, it took 145 days for Judge Brodie to receive her final confirmation vote after being unanimously reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 6 of last year.

Judiciary Committee Hearings for three nominees were held on Wednesday: Richard Taranto to serve as a United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit, Gershwin Drain to serve as a United States District Court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Robin Rosenbaum to serve as a United States District Court judge of the Southern District of Florida.

That evening, President Obama sent the names of two new judicial nominees to the Senate: Brian Davis, nominated to the Middle District of Florida, and John Dowdell, nominated to the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Thursday, the Judiciary Committee reported Andrew Hurwitz to the Senate floor on a bipartisan vote of 13-5; consideration of four additional nominees was stalled due to Republicans reflexively invoking a Committee rule allowing for a one-week delay without having to give a reason.

During the hearing on Wednesday, committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) spoke about Republican obstruction of the entire nomination process, both in Committee and on the Senate floor.  He said:
I have accommodated Senator Grassley's preferred schedule now for several months, holding a hearing for only one nominee in all of December and moving our last hearing back a week at his request. Regrettably today's hearing is another with less than a full slate of nominees. This is true of both of our February hearings because the minority did not review background paperwork of the nominees I wanted to include. With vacancies on Federal courts across the country remaining extremely high, as they have throughout the term of the Obama administration, we cannot afford to slow down our consideration of nominations in this manner.
Senator Leahy went on to note that with judicial vacancies at historic highs, the crisis on the courts is being exacerbated with every day that Republican senators slow-walk and obstruct the process of giving due consideration to the President’s nominees and allowing them a timely up-or-down confirmation vote by the full Senate.

By the Numbers
2 new nominations
3 nominees who had hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee: 1 circuit court nominee and 2 district court nominees
1 nominee reported out of Committee to the Senate floor
1 nominee confirmed: Margo Kitsy Brodie to the Eastern District of New York

The week comes to a close with:

103 total judicial vacancies, including 34 judicial emergency vacancies
84 current vacancies; 19 future vacancies
17 circuit court vacancies; 86 district court vacancies
43 pending nominees; 60 vacancies without nominees
23 nominees pending in committee; 20 pending in the Senate

For the most comprehensive, up-to-date information on judicial nominations, visit the Judicial Selection Project website.

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