Judicial Nominees

  • January 7, 2011

    Following a flurry of activity at the end of the lame duck session in which the Senate confirmed 19 "noncontroversial" nominees, President Obama renominated all but one of the 43 nominees who failed to receive an up-or-down vote. There are currently 99 vacancies on the federal courts, nearly half of which are designated judicial emergencies. The renomination of these 42 candidates came in the wake of Chief Justice John Roberts' year end address, in which he called attention to the obstruction of nominees and cited "an urgent need for the political branches to find a long-term solution to this recurring problem." To learn more about federal judicial vacancies and follow the latest developments, visit JudicialNominations.org.

  • December 3, 2010

    There was action on judicial nominations in the White House and the Senate Judiciary committee this week, but not by the full Senate, resulting once again in no new federal judges being confirmed. With the Committee's approval of 11 more nominees, the total number now awaiting a confirmation vote climbed to 34. Of these stalled nominations, 26 were approved unanimously by the committee, a fact emphasized by Chairman Patrick Leahy in a statement that called "counterproductive" the failure to vote on nominees "who, if considered, would receive unanimous or near unanimous support, be confirmed, and be serving in the administration of justice throughout the country." President Obama also moved to lower the record vacancy level on the federal courts, nominating eight more to federal judgeships this week: seven to seats on the U.S. District Court and one to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

  • November 19, 2010

    Pressure is mounting on the lame duck Congress to act on pending judicial nominees. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy released a statement urging his fellow Senators to consider 20 nominations during the lame duck session, sixteen of which have already been approved by the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is lining up signatures for a cloture petition to force a vote on the confirmation of four long delayed judicial nominees, all of whom had to be re-nominated after their nominations expired. Meanwhile, two former federal judges, Abner J. Mikva, appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Carter, and Timothy Lewis, appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, writing in Politico, called for action on the nominees.

    The Judiciary Committee considered several new nominees this week, and President Obama chose six nominees for seats on the U.S. District Court, even as new vacancies were announced in Kansas and D.C.

  • November 5, 2010

    The results of this week's elections will affect the composition of the Senate Judiciary Committee, changing the game in the ongoing judicial vacancy crisis. Republican gains "will only intensify the [Senate] Judiciary panel's fight over judicial nominations," CQ Roll Call reports in its "Guide to the New Congress." All seven Republican members of the current Senate Judiciary Committee are expected to return and an increase in the number of Republican posts to reflect the new Senate balance is likely. While Sen. Patrick Leahy is expected to remain chairman of the committee, three of the twelve Democratic members will not be returning, reports The Blog of Legal Times.

    Even after committee approval nominees are likely to face an uphill battle. "On judicial nominations, the Democrats' much-reduced majority in the Senate puts in doubt the confirmation prospects of various nominees," writes Lawrence Hurley in The New York Times. The changed balance in the Senate makes it easier for the minority to obstruct President Obama's judicial picks, as Hurley cautions, "With the number of Senate Democrats reduced to a bare majority come January, the chances of Republican leaders being able to win the 41 votes needed to filibuster a nominee have increased considerably."

    Visit JudicialNominations.org, a website developed by ACS to track nominees, delays, and the continuing vacancy crisis, to follow the latest developments. Follow us on Facebook or bookmark JudicialNominations.org to receive regular updates.

    The Latest "In the News"

    • 11/04/10 - "Lame Duck Congress, Lots to Do, Little Time" on MSNBC
    • 11/04/10 - "Election Likely to Affect EPA Litigation, Judicial Nominations" in The New York Times
    • 11/03/10 - "Republican Gains in Senate Mean New Faces on Judiciary" in Main Justice
    • 11/03/10 - "Three Senate Races Too Close to Call" in The Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire"
    • 11/01/10 - "Election 2010 and the Senate Judiciary Committee" in National Review
    • 11/01/10 - "Judicial Activism" in The National Law Journal
    • 11/01/10 - "What Would GOP Takeover of Congress Mean for Judiciary Committees?" in Politics Daily
    • 10/29/10 - "Rejection of Schumer's Choice Complicates Filling Bench Vacancy" in The New York Law Journal


  • October 29, 2010

    President Barack Obama twice called for reform of the filibuster-one of the procedural tactics that has been used to block confirmation of judicial nominees-this week: first during a meeting with liberal bloggers and again during an appearance on "The Daily Show." "What we've been seeing is unprecedented, and that makes it very difficult for us to move forward," Obama told host Jon Stewart. During his earlier meeting with progressive bloggers, the president said the filibuster is not in the Constitution and "may have arisen purely by accident because somebody didn't properly apply Robert's Rules of Procedure and forgot to get a provision in there about what was required to close debate. And folks figured out very early, this could be a powerful tool. It was used as a limited tool throughout its history. Sadly, the primary way it was used was to prevent African Americans from achieving civil rights."

    The filibuster and other procedural measures have allowed a minority in the Senate to impede the confirmation of qualified nominees, leading to a critical number of vacancies on the federal bench. Matthew Yglesias, a fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, touches on this connection in a video podcast interview with ACSblog here.