EVEN CONSERVATIVES COMPLAIN ABOUT THE CRISIS ON THE COURTS…. When it comes to confirming qualified judicial nominees, the status quo is unbefitting a mature, functioning system of government.
Republicans, engaging in tactics that no one has ever seen before, have brought the entire process to a generational standstill. It’s untenable and arguably dangerous. It is no exaggeration to say the status quo is the worst it’s ever been — the Alliance For Justice recently reported that President Obama “has seen a smaller percentage of his nominees confirmed at this point in his presidency than any president in American history.”
How bad is it? Ian Millhiser reports that seven Republican-appointed federal judges co-signed a letter last week, urged Senate Republicans to please allow votes on pending nominees. Their letter read:
“In order to do our work, and serve the public as Congress expects us to serve it, we need the resources to carry out our mission. While there are many areas of serious need, we write today to emphasize our desperate need for judges. Our need in that regard has been amply documented (See attached March 2009 Judicial Conference Recommendations for Additional Judgeships). Courts cannot do their work if authorized judicial positions remain vacant.
“While we could certainly use more judges, and hope that Congress will soon approve the additional judgeships requested by the Judicial Conference, we would be greatly assisted if our judicial vacancies-some of which have been open for several years and declared ‘judicial emergencies’ — were to be filled promptly. We respectfully request that the Senate act on judicial nominees without delay.”
As a rule, judges just don’t take steps like these. It’s a reminder of how dire the situation really is — and how destructive Republicans’ mindless recklessness has become to our system of government.
And while I realize this issue probably isn’t sexy enough to generate widespread media attention, it’s not just these Republican-appointed judges who’ve noticed the crisis on the courts. The Federal Bar Association wrote to the Senate leadership yesterday, imploring the chamber to “fulfill its constitutional responsibility” and hold votes on judicial nominees already approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This comes on the heels of the Washington Post editorial board, not exactly a bastion of liberalism, condemning Republicans for “offensive” and “unconscionable” delays on would-be judges.
Occasionally, this even trickles down to the local level. In North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer noticed that the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved hometown Judge Albert Diaz for a seat on the federal appeals bench — 299 days ago. He can’t get a floor vote, the Observer complained, because Senate Republicans won’t allow one.
The status quo is simply untenable. This is no way to run a country.