Let’s project past the partisan noise and hand-wringing of the Nov. 8 election. It is never too early to take stock of judicial nominations in the post-election lame duck session of Congress.
Since Senators left the Capitol in September, vacant seats on the federal bench quietly keep growing. On Oct. 31, Judge Donovan Frank of the District of Minnesota retired from a full-time caseload, creating the second vacancy in one of the busiest courthouses in the nation. This seat has been designated a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office for U.S. Courts and is the second one for this District alone. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) promptly announced their process for filling these vacancies.
Now Minnesota has only five full-time federal district court judges. When fully staffed, it has seven. This smaller bench translates into larger caseloads for remaining judges and longer wait times for anyone seeking justice.
For a second year in a row, this court will operate with a minimum of one vacancy. The court last year had a vacancy for six months. In a bit of good news, the Senate confirmed Judge Wilhelmina Wright, the first female African American federal judge in Minnesota, to fill the vacancy this past January.