Alliance for Justice Joins 75 Organizations to Call on Senate to Return to "Regular Order" on Judicial Nominations
Press ContactKevin Fry email@example.com
Washington, D.C., February 15, 2011–Alliance for Justice has joined with a diverse coalition of 75 other organizations in signing an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging the Senate to return to “regular order” and permit swift confirmation votes on President Obama’s judicial nominees.
The letter decries the persistent pattern of obstruction in the last Congress that “led to the lowest percentage of a president’s nominees being confirmed at this point in his presidency than any president in American history.”
The 76 groups signing the letter represent a wide range of constituencies and reflect growing concern throughout American society about the crisis in the courts and the threat to the viability of the judicial system posed by unfilled judicial vacancies. Among the organizations speaking out are the National Resources Defense Council; The Wilderness Society; the Sierra Club; Human Rights Campaign; the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; AIDS United, Communications Workers of America and Service Employees International Union.
Senate leaders have promised a new spirit of compromise and cooperation during the recent debates over rules reform. Although the Senate has confirmed 5 nominees in this session, that number does not even keep pace with retirements from the federal bench announced in the last few months. President Obama has already renominated 42 nominees who were returned at the end of the 111th Congress, and the Senate has pledged to accelerate the pace of nominations in the current Congress.
“Over 100 federal judgeships are currently vacant,” Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said in explaining why AFJ signed the letter. “That’s more than one in nine, with 44 of those classified as judicial emergencies. A terrible price is being paid by our judicial system due to relentless obstructionist tactics over the past two years. Dozens of courtrooms are dealing with backlogs and crushing caseloads, threatening the ability of our courts to provide justice to the American people. Alliance for Justice has signed this letter with dozens of other organizations because we all believe the crisis must end and Senators Reid and McConnell must fulfill their promise to get the judicial confirmation process back on track.”
The letter expresses a growing fear that “continued obstruction of nominations would further poison the political atmosphere, needlessly heighten partisan tensions, and make it far more difficult for the federal government to serve the public interest.” The signatories call for the members of the Senate to “work together in a bipartisan fashion to proceed with prompt confirmation votes.
See below for the letter text and a list of signatories. A PDF copy of the letter is also available online.
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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 as the numbers change).
The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
February 15, 2011
Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:
The undersigned organizations, who represent the interests of everyday Americans, strongly urge you to work to ensure that judicial nominees are given timely confirmation votes in the Senate during the 112th Congress.
In the 111th Congress, filibuster threats, anonymous “holds,” and the failure to hold regular votes created a troubling backlog of judicial nominees, resulting in widespread unfilled vacancies on the bench that are hindering the important work of our judicial branch - particularly in the many areas of our nation that now face judicial emergencies. We cannot tolerate a repeat of these obstructionist practices, as they led to the lowest percentage of a president’s nominees being confirmed at this point in his presidency than any president in American history.
Since taking office, President Obama has worked with home state Senators on a bipartisan basis to select extraordinarily well-qualified judicial nominees who could easily be confirmed by wide margins and begin serving the public, if their nomination were only brought to a vote before the full Senate. Yet a troubling number of these nominees, many of whom were cleared by the Committee on the Judiciary in the 111th Congress with little or no opposition, were blocked from up-or-down confirmation votes for reasons that defy explanation. Indeed, many of President Obama’s judicial nominees languished for many months on the Senate floor, raising significant doubts about the legitimacy of the ongoing delays in confirmation proceedings. This is not the way nominations have been treated by prior Congresses.
Due to arcane floor procedures that allow a single member to impede the important business of the Senate, our judicial branch has reached a state of crisis. Out of 875 federal judgeships, 101 are currently vacant, with 44 of those vacancies now characterized as “judicial emergencies” in which courts are being overwhelmed by filings. As a result, a growing number of Americans, from all walks of life and across all economic strata, are finding it increasingly more difficult to assert their legal rights and to have their fair day in court.
We write to you at a time when our nation faces numerous challenges that cry out for bipartisan cooperation, including major economic challenges and continued international threats. We strongly believe that the continued obstruction of nominations would further poison the political atmosphere, needlessly heighten partisan tensions, and make it far more difficult for the federal government to serve the public interest.
For these reasons, as the 112th Congress gets under way, we strongly urge you to continue to work together in a bipartisan fashion to proceed with prompt confirmation votes on judicial nominees who have been approved by the Committee on the Judiciary. Floor votes should be taken on nominees shortly after they have been reported out of committee, so that the process can work in a regular manner.
Thank you for your consideration.
Alliance for Justice
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Constitution Society
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
Business and Professional People for the Public Interest
Campaign for America's Future
Center for Inquiry
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Defenders of Wildlife
Environmental Working Group (EWG)
Equal Justice Society
Friends of the Earth
Hispanic National Bar Association
Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary
Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Justice at Stake
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
League of Conservation Voters
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)
National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Health Law Program
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)
National Native American Bar Association
National Organization for Women
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Senior Citizens Law Center
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Open Society Policy Center
People For the American Way
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Public Advocates, Inc.
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Secular Coalition for America
Service Employees International Union
The Advocacy Fund
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Wilderness Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Voices for Progress
Women’s Law Project
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