The report discussed in this statement is available here
The process of confirming federal judges has ground to a standstill since Republicans took control of the Senate, delaying justice for millions of Americans, according to a new report from Alliance for Justice. The report comes one day after the Wall Street Journal editorialized that Senate Republicans should refuse to fill circuit court vacancies, meaning that “[i]n 2017 a Republican president would . . . have more judicial openings to fill.”
“There have been no judicial confirmations in the Republican-controlled Senate despite a near doubling of judicial emergencies since January,” said AFJ President Nan Aron. “This delay means that important vacancies remain unfilled and justice goes unserved for millions of Americans. And it appears to be part of a political strategy to leave these seats open, no matter the cost.”
According to the report:
Rather than working to ensure that our federal courts have enough judges to fairly administer justice, Republicans have adopted a slow-walk approach at each point of the nomination and confirmation process—from working to fill vacancies in their own states, to processing nominees through committee, to holding confirmation votes on the Senate floor. As a result, vacancy numbers are once again rising, and the number of “judicial emergencies”—vacancies on courts that right now lack enough judges to handle their caseloads—has nearly doubled.
The report notes that since taking over as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has convened only two confirmation hearings. At the most recent hearing, he listed only two nominees when he could have scheduled a panel of both pending circuit court nominees, and another panel of four or five district court nominees.
“This is a far cry from what Sen. Grassley promised when he took over the chairmanship,” Aron said. “He promised ‘no discernible difference’ in how he would run the committee. But bringing the confirmation process almost to a halt is pretty hard to miss.
“The slowdown is just as discernable on the Senate floor,” Aron said. “Five judicial nominees reached the floor in February; none has been scheduled for a vote.”
Republicans also have failed to work with the White House to find nominees for seats in their own states. As a result, more than 80 percent of the current vacancies without nominees are in states with at least one Republican senator. Texas alone has eight vacancies without a nominee, and the nation’s oldest circuit and district court vacancies are in Wisconsin and North Carolina, respectively.
“When Republican senators stall the process this way, the people they hurt most are their own constituents, who must wait that much longer for the chance to stand up for their rights in court,” Aron said.
“Along with the failure to confirm Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General, unconsionable in itself, the process of filling scores of judicial vacancies has also languished,” Aron said. “The Senate delay is unconscionable.”
Alliance for Justice, www.afj.org believes that all Americans have the right to secure justice in the courts and to have their voices heard when government makes decisions that affect their lives. We are a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. Through our justice programs, we lead the progressive community in the fight for a fair judiciary, and through our advocacy programs, we help nonprofits and foundations to realize their advocacy potential.