Yesterday the Senate confirmed Stephanie Dawn Thacker by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 91-3 to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The only "no" votes came from Republican Senators Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, and David Vitter, who have made it their habit to vote against all of President Obama's nominees, regardless of merit or circumstance.
Thacker is the first woman from West Virginia to sit on the Fourth Circuit, the federal appellate bench that covers Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in addition to West Virginia; her confirmation will create a bench where four of the sixteen judges are women.
Thacker was nominated to the seat on September 8, 2011. Moving expeditiously through the Senate Judiciary Committee, she had her hearing on October 4, and was unanimously approved by the committee on November 3.
At that point, proceedings bogged down due to deliberate obstruction by Republican senators who are attempting to prevent President Obama’s nominees from filling the nearly 100 vacancies on the federal bench.
Thacker waited 166 days after committee approval for her confirmation vote. As Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted, over five and a half months passed before a nominee who received unanimous support in committee received her up-or-down vote. Of the 221 days since she was nominated, 25% of that time was spent in committee; the remaining 75% saw her nomination stalled on the Senate floor.
The vote on Thacker was obtained as part of a deal worked out after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was forced to file cloture to break a blanket filibuster on 17 district court nominees. The deal, reached on March 14, allowed for 12 of those nominees, in addition to two circuit court nominees, to receive votes by May 7. Thacker was one of the two agreed-upon appellate nominees in the deal.
She is only the second circuit court nominee to be confirmed by the Senate this year, and there are 16 remaining vacancies in the circuit courts.
Partisan games may simply be dismissed as “politics as usual.” But while Republicans play games with the nominees, millions of people are being harmed by an understaffed bench, threatening their ability to seek justice in our courts.
For the most comprehensive, up-to-date information on judicial nominations, visit the Judicial Selection Project website.