WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 19, 2012 — “Ceaseless obstruction of judicial nominees” has left the federal bench with more vacancies than when President Obama first took office, according to a new study from the Alliance for Justice.
“The Republican record gives new meaning to the term ‘obstruction of justice’” said AFJ president Nan Aron. “When vacancies go unfilled, Americans wait months, sometimes years to get a chance to stand up for their rights in court. Some lose that chance entirely.”
AFJ’s report, Unfinished Business, provides the best publicly-available information on judicial nominations. It includes comprehensive statistics on President Obama’s judicial nominees since the beginning of his administration, the Senate’s confirmation process, and comparative data comparing the first-term records of the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations.
The report calls on the Senate to “confirm all of the 19 nominees currently pending on the Senate floor during the lame duck session. Fourteen of the 19 nominees faced no substantive opposition in the Judiciary Committee, and ten would fill judicial emergencies,” – that is, situations where a vacancy has caused such profound delays that the situation has been declared an emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
“We call on the Senators to give Americans something to be thankful for and confirm these judges when they return to work next week,” Aron said.
This report is the latest in a series documenting delays in filling judicial vacancies. Among the findings:
- During President Obama’s first term, current vacancies have risen by 51%. This trend stands in stark contrast to President Clinton and President Bush’s first four years, when vacancies declined by 65% and 34%, respectively.
- Nearly one out of eleven Federal judgeships remains vacant. Judicial vacancies are nearly triple what they were at this point in President George W. Bush’s first term.
- The number of seats considered to be “judicial emergencies” has risen by 65%, from 20 at the beginning of President Obama’s term to 33.
- The Senate has confirmed far fewer nominees at this point in President Obama’s first term than it had for his two predecessors in office. The percentage of confirmed district court nominees is at historically low levels.
- Republican appointees still dominate the federal judiciary. Since the end of the Bush Administration, the percentage of Republican-appointed circuit court judges only dropped from 61.3% to 51.8%, and the percentage of Republican-appointed district court judges only dropped from 58.6% to 53.6%.
- Republicans filibustered a historic number of district court nominees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was forced to file cloture on a record 20 district court nominees. Cloture was filed on only one district court nominee during the Clinton and W. Bush presidencies.
The full report is available here (PDF).
And click here if you want to help us press the Senate to confirm these nominees.