The Ability of the American People to Seek Justice Threatened by Dysfunctional Senate Process for Confirming Judicial Nominees
Press ContactKevin Fry firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C., September 6, 2011—Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement as the United States Senate returned from its summer recess facing a federal judiciary in crisis, with 114 current or future vacancies afflicting the court system, and with evidence of a return to the unprecedented Republican stalling tactics that plagued the first two years of the Obama administration:
After almost three years of delay and dysfunction in the Senate’s judicial confirmation process, one out of seven federal judgeships remains vacant. Some people have said that isn’t really a crisis. We disagree. Partisan games have real consequences. Ask the people and companies unable to get justice because courtrooms are empty. Ask the small business owner who is teetering on the edge of financial viability because he can’t resolve a dispute with an international supplier. Ask the worker whose gender discrimination case can’t be heard, leaving her without a job. Ask the family crushed under medical bills because it can’t resolve a suit involving a defective medical device. Those people understand that the federal judiciary isn’t an abstraction that can be held hostage to political posturing. They know that courts deal with legal issues that affect real people with real problems, and whose lives and livelihoods are sometimes on the line.
According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts there are 37 full-fledged judicial emergencies in courts across the country. But in reality every case that can’t be resolved in a timely manner because there aren’t enough judges to hear them is an emergency to the parties involved. There are thousands of those.
Since Day One of the Obama administration, Republicans have used one tactic of obstruction after another to prevent the president’s judicial nominees from taking their seats on the federal bench. Even after a public and media outcry and bipartisan condemnation from Supreme Court justices, judges, and others within the legal community, the Republican leadership has persisted in squeezing confirmations down to a trickle. In spite of conciliatory words, in the last three months only nine new judges were confirmed. The math doesn’t lie. At the current snail’s pace we will end the year with more vacancies than there were when this Senate session started.
When the Senate left town for the summer, 20 nominees were unnecessarily left cooling their heels on the Senate floor, awaiting a final vote, in spite of the fact that none of them were controversial. They are still there. A vote on Sixth Circuit nominee Bernice Donald is scheduled for this evening, but it’s time to give all of these dedicated men and women the vote they deserve and to let them take their seats in our overstressed federal courthouses.
We know we are entering a contentious period as Congress tackles difficult economic and budgetary issues. But we call on the Senate to set aside the partisan rancor long enough to reestablish fairness to the confirmation process and restore the full promise of justice to the American people.
* * *
Alliance for Justice is the leading provider of information on judicial nominations. Attached is a newly updated statistical report on judicial nominations, covering the period ending in August 2011. The report can also be downloaded here. It includes pictures of the 20 nominees currently pending on the Senate floor.
* * *
Alliance for Justice is 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. AFJ works to ensure that the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process. AFJ is based in Washington, D.C. Additional information can be found at www.afj.org.