by Jeremy Leaming
Yesterday’s confirmation of J. Paul Oetken as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, as noted here, continued the Senate’s snail’s pace for filing vacancies that are severely undercutting the ability of federal courts to function.
And there appears to be no end in sight to the Republican-led opposition of President Obama’s judicial selections. The Republican leadership is only focused, seemingly, on the debt-ceiling debate, which they aren’t doing much on either. But the debt-ceiling debate is proving good cover for Republican inaction on federal court vacancies.
ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson, while lauding the confirmation of Oetken, the first openly gay man to be confirmed to the federal bench, blasted the ongoing obstruction.
“Republicans are playing politics with the nation’s financial obligations, while at the same time kicking other responsibilities down the road,” Fredrickson said. “The rising federal court vacancies are not going to solve themselves. Judges need to be confirmed, and the Republican opposition seems immovable. Yesterday’s confirmation of J. Paul Oetken was one, as Sen. Leahy noted, that should have come months ago. Instead his nomination is only the fifth judicial nomination to be considered by the Senate since mid-May. Americans deserve a court system that operates at full capacity. A federal bench with 91 vacancies and more to come is one that is seriously hobbled.”
Oetken and other minority candidates have faced a tough confirmation process. As noted in this guest post by the National Women’s Law Center’s Amy Matsui, forty-nine percent of President Obama’s judicial selections have been women, and while many have been confirmed, many others have been left to languish for months.
For example Caitlin J. Halligan was first nominated in fall 2010 to be a U.S. Circuit Judge, District of Columbia, and renominated in January. She was reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March of this year and her ABA rating is “unanimously well qualified.” Bernice B. Donald was first nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in fall 2010, and renominated in January. Donald, also with positive ABA rating, was reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May. Wisconsin’s junior senator, Ron Johnson, a Republican with major Tea Party backing, has held up the nomination of Victoria Nourse to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Leading Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Cudahy took note of Nourse’s predicament at the recent ACS National Convention.
Visit JudicialNominations.org for analysis and updates of the efforts to confront the judicial vacancies crisis.