by Nicole Flatow
Although many prominent legal leaders, editorial boards and commentators have long lamented the high number of judicial vacancies plaguing our courts, it is not easy for those removed from the process to understand how judicial nominations work, and what impact these empty seats have on our justice system.
The White House has put together a new infographic that paints a powerful picture of the nature of Senate obstruction of judicial nominees, and highlights Obama’s efforts to diversify our federal courts.
Here are a few key facts included in the infographic:
- Obama’s nominees are highly qualified: All 155 of President Obama’s nominees have been rated qualified or well-qualified by the American Bar Association, yet only 97 of the 155 have been confirmed.
- Obama’s judicial nominees have waited more than five times longer for a Senate confirmation vote than Bush’s nominees: President George W. Bush’s district court nominees waited an average of 20 days for a Senate confirmation vote following their approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which vets judicial nominees. President Obama’s district court nominees have waited an average of 103 days, and his circuit court nominees have waited an average of 151 days. Some of President Obama’s nominees have waited as long as 21 months for the Senate to schedule an up-or-down vote.
- While nominees are held up, justice is delayed: In 16 percent of civil cases before the federal courts in 2010, individuals had to wait more than three years for a resolution. In 2006, only six percent of cases took that long. (And in the districts containing some of the 37 vacancies deemed judicial emergencies, the waits can be much longer.)