This week, the Senate incrementally moved forward with its responsibility of confirming appointees to the federal bench in the midst of a judicial vacancy crisis that has left 1 in 10 seats empty. Three District Court nominees had their Senate Judiciary hearings, three were reported out of committee to await their confirmation votes on the Senate floor, and two were confirmed as part of the deal on confirmation votes struck earlier this month between Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm United States District Court nominees Miranda Du to serve the District of Nevada by a vote of 59-39 and Susie Morgan to serve the Eastern District of Louisiana by a vote of 96-1. It took 147 days for Du, and 140 days for Morgan, to receive their confirmation votes after being reported out of the Judiciary Committee. Two hundred and forty days passed from the date of Du’s nomination to her confirmation to fill an emergency judicial vacancy; the time was even longer for Morgan, who was in the Senate process for 296 days.
Earlier that day, hearings were held for District Court nominees Michael Shea, Gonzalo Curiel, and Robert Shelby nominated to the District of Connecticut, the Southern District of California, and the District of Utah, respectively. The hearing was chaired by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Ranking Member Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) were also in attendance. President Obama appointed Curiel and Shelby on November 10 and November 30 last year, respectively; Shea was appointed on February 2 of this year. The hearing was non-controversial. Now, they await consideration by the Committee and a vote to report them to the Senate floor, where the waiting process for a confirmation vote will begin. While Shea, who was nominated on February 2 of this year, had to wait 56 days from nomination to the time of his hearing, both Curiel and Shelby had to wait twice as long to take the next step forward in the confirmation process. Curiel, nominated on November 10, 2011, waited 140 days for his hearing. Shelby, nominated on November 30, waited 120 days.
The Judiciary Committee reported three nominees – Richard Taranto, Robin Rosenbaum, and Gershwin Drain – to the Senate floor on Thursday. They join 15 other judicial nominees who are awaiting confirmation by the Senate before they can assume their seats and being to serve people by dispensing justice in our nation’s federal court system. As the Senate is leaving town for a two-week recess, no further action will take place to confirm judges until April 16, when a vote on the nomination of Stephanie Dawn Thacker to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to take place.
By the Numbers
3 District Court nominees had hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee
3 nominees reported out of Committee to the Senate floor: 1 Circuit Court nominee, 2 District Court nominees
2 District Court nominees confirmed
The week comes to a close with:
97 total judicial vacancies, including 33 judicial emergency vacancies
80 current vacancies; 17 future vacancies
17 circuit court vacancies; 80 district court vacancies
34 pending nominees; 63 vacancies without nominees
16 nominees pending in committee; 18 pending in the Senate
For the most comprehensive, up-to-date information on judicial nominations, visit the Judicial Selection Project website.