U.S. Senate Takes Holiday Break, Leaving a Lump of Coal
in the Stocking of America’s Federal Courts

Washington, D.C., December 20, 2011—Once again, the United States Senate has left town for a holiday without fulfilling its obligation to fully staff the federal courts and ensure that justice is available to all Americans. With 100 judicial vacancies in the federal court system, Senate Republicans continued their widely condemned tactics of obstruction and endless delay, and prevented final consideration of 21 nominees who have been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee, in most cases with no opposition, and who simply need a final yes-or-no vote to take their seats on the seriously understaffed federal bench.

Sadly, 2011 will end in the same way it began, with one in nine federal judgeships unfilled and Republican promises to restore the nominations process to fairness and rationality in tatters. When the Senate returns in January it will find 37 of the President’s nominees in the nominations pipeline, either in committee or on the floor, and it will have an opportunity to both restore faith in the constitutional nominations process and to bring the woefully understaffed federal courts back to health.

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron called on the Senate to mend its ways in the coming year, saying, “All Americans should be saddened, if not infuriated, by the endless political games being played with our federal court system. There seems to be no limit to the depths to which Republican senators will sink to appease their most extreme constituencies. Deals for action are cut by the leadership and then broken under pressure from hyper-partisan ideologues. The president’s nominees, all distinguished, highly qualified men and women, are treated with disrespect and stuck in legislative limbo for months on end. The courts are left without enough judges to do their work. Senate traditions are trashed. National polls showing support for Congress at record lows prove that the American people are tired of this kind of gridlock and gamesmanship. Obviously, we have run out of time for action this year, but for the sake of the nation, 2012 must tell a different story. Starting in January, willful obstruction must end and the confirmation process must be allowed to proceed in a rational and constructive way.”

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