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Monday, May 7, 2012

Three Judges Confirmed by the Senate

The Senate has confirmed three new judges to the federal bench: Jacqueline Nguyen to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Kristine Baker to the Eastern District of Arkansas, and John Lee to the Northern District of Illinois. Nguyen received an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 91-3. Baker and Lee were confirmed on voice votes. 

All three judges are filling seats that have been designated as emergency vacancies, meaning there are not enough judges in the courts to hear the cases coming before them in a timely manner. Republican intransigence at every step of the nominations process has caused these nominees to be held up in the Senate for far too long.

Nguyen was stalled in the Senate for 159 days awaiting her final vote; 225 days have passed since she was first nominated. Baker, nominated 188 days ago, has been waiting 82 days for her Senate vote. Lee has also been waiting 82 days for his confirmation vote; 180 days have passed since he was nominated.

With the confirmation of these three judges, 93 current and future federal judicial vacancies remain; a third of them (34) are judicial emergencies.

The votes on Nguyen, Baker, and Lee bring to a close the deal on confirmation votes struck between Senate leadership—a deal struck after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was forced to file cloture on 17 judges in order to make action happen on confirmations. With the deal at an end, the focus on nominating and confirming people to the bench must increase even further. Republicans could start by allowing action today on the 19 nominees still awaiting their confirmation votes. With 1 in 10 seats on the federal bench vacant, the movement to keep filling judicial seats so that ordinary people can access justice in our courts cannot be allowed to slow or halt.

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