Alliance for Justice Pledges to Continue Fight for Senate Rules Changes in Spite of Failure of Reform Efforts and Urges Action on Judicial Nominations
Press ContactKevin Fry firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C., January 27, 2011—Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement in the wake of today’s votes on Senate rules reform:
The inability of the United States Senate to adopt meaningful reforms to its rules is a deep disappointment. At the same time, we strongly commend the courageous efforts of Senators Harkin, Udall, and Merkley to adopt reasonable changes to Senate procedures and end the gridlock that has plagued the Senate for far too long.
We are committed to ensuring that their bold and principled leadership is not forgotten. Today’s votes will not be the last word. It is clear that many Senators believe that informal agreements and modest changes to the use of “secret” holds are sufficient to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the Senate. Recent history says otherwise, but the legitimacy of that belief will quickly be put to the test as the legislative term unfolds. One area where it can and should be immediately tested is in how the Senate deals with the growing crisis in the federal courts.
There simply aren’t enough judges to hear the cases brought before the federal courts, causing significant delays in criminal cases and potentially violating federal statutes and constitutional guarantees concerning speedy trials. There are currently 99 vacancies in district courts and circuit courts of appeals, 49 of which are considered “judicial emergencies.” More than one in nine federal court seats are empty, with another 17 scheduled to become vacant in the near future. Senate leadership must commit to ending this appalling crisis and to ensuring that obstructionist tactics that were used during the past two years will not be permitted to continue. The purported spirit of compromise that Senate leaders are touting as justification for the actions today can be put to work immediately on the 42 nominees President Obama has already re-submitted for consideration.
The Senate has missed an opportunity to reform rules that became partisan weapons in the last Congress. We trust that the abuses of parliamentary practices that have characterized Senate behavior in recent years will end of their own accord. But if they do not, many progressive organizations, tens of thousands of concerned Americans, and leading traditional and new media voices will continue the fight to restore democratic principles.
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For up-to-date statistics on judicial nominations and vacancies in the federal court system, click here for AFJ’s Judicial Selection Snapshot (updated whenever the numbers change).
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Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations dedicated to advancing justice and democracy. For more than 30 years, AFJ has led the fight for a more equitable society on behalf of a broad constituency of environmental, consumer, civil and women's rights, children's, senior citizens' and other groups. Alliance for Justice is premised on the belief that all Americans have the right to secure justice in the courts and to have our voices heard when government makes decisions that affect our lives.