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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sen. Coburn reads the election returns; predicts quick action on two stalled judicial nominations

            In July, the United States Senate reached a new low when, for the first time, Senate Republicans filibustered a nominee for a judgeship on a United States Circuit Court of Appeals even after the nomination had been voted out of committee with bipartisan support.

Judge Bacharach

            The nominee is U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach, whom President Obama wants to appoint to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Senate has become a theater of the politically absurd, and is so poisoned with partisanship that even the two senators from Judge Bacharach’s home state, who had expressed unequivocal support for his nomination, willingly voted to ignore their obligations to the Constitution and their fellow Oklahomans.

            But now, at least one of those senators, Tom Coburn, is singing a different tune.  He told The Oklahoman that the nominations of Bacharach and John Dowdell, who was nominated for a U.S. District Court judgeship in Tulsa, should “fly through” the Senate, when it reconvenes for a lame-duck session next week.

            What’s changed? There’s less partisan advantage for Republicans in trying to keep good judges off the bench.  As The Oklahoman points out: “Had Republican Mitt Romney won, he would have been able to make his own judicial nominations.”

            In addition to Bacharach and Dowdell, 17 other judicial nominations have been stalled by Senate Republicans after being voted out of committee.

            But as former U.S. Attorney Dan Webber told The Oklahoman:

Most of the nominees, including Judge Bacharach and John Dowdell, face little or no opposition and could be confirmed by unanimous consent or voice vote.  The Senate could confirm a dozen or more nominees, including the Oklahomans, in less than an hour.

            We hope other Senate Republicans will read the election returns in the same way as Sen. Coburn.  There is no reason the Senate can’t give swift approval to all 19 pending nominations during the lame-duck session, and begin to ease the critical shortage of federal judges, a shortage that delays, and sometimes denies, justice across the country.

            AFJ will be keeping the pressure on to get the Senate to move.

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