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Thursday, July 12, 2012

City of Pittsburgh to US Senate: Fill Judicial Vacancies

Access to justice is being stifled throughout the country, as more than eight percent of all federal judgeships are currently vacant while partisan gamesmanship in the U.S. Senate holds up the confirmation of judicial nominees.

In Pittsburgh, the City Council is responding to this crisis by calling on Pennsylvania’s senators to do all they can to fill the state’s federal judicial vacancies by the end of the year:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of Pittsburgh supports a strong judiciary, and calls on Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to recommend qualified nominees to the White House and work with their colleagues to fill the eight federal judicial vacancies in the state of Pennsylvania before the end of the year.
Pennsylvania is far from the only state suffering from the judicial vacancy crisis.  There are 91 current and upcoming vacancies nationwide.  Thirty-one of these are judicial emergencies. Women and minorities are largely affected by the stall on confirmation; eighteen of the 34 pending nominees are women or minorities.

A new fact sheet from Alliance for Justice calls on the Senate to stop playing partisan games and do its job to address this crisis in the weeks remaining before Congress takes its August recess, noting that:
  • The 15 nominees pending on the Senate floor could receive confirmation votes immediately, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has invoked the so-called “Thurmond rule” in order to attempt to halt the nominations process in an election year;
  • Republican leaders are obstructing qualified, consensus nominees like William Kayatta and Robert Bacharach to seats on the First and Tenth Circuit Courts, respectively, although each has the full support of their Republican home state senators;
  • Years of obstructionist tactics  have left President Obama trailing President Bush 152 to 197 in total district and circuit court confirmations at this point in their respective presidencies.
Click here to download the fact sheet as a PDF.

With a growing consensus for action on nominees from voices including the American Bar Association, Chief Justice John Roberts, and a growing number of federal and circuit court judges, the White House and Senate should move swiftly to fill existing vacancies.  Our justice system can’t function effectively without enough judges on the bench, and it shouldn’t be held hostage by political games.  It is not hyperbole to say that justice hangs in the balance.

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