With the Senate still out on recess, no action has been taken by the body to confirm the 37 pending federal bench nominees. In December, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked more than 50 pending nominations, including 21 who are ripe for an immediate Senate vote.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is reportedly holding up the nomination of Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by failing to return his blue slip, a senatorial courtesy device for home-state senators, according to The Star-Ledger. In a statement after the news broke, the senator said, “In my opinion, Judge Shwartz did not adequately demonstrate the breadth of knowledge of constitutional law and pivotal Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United that we should expect from a United States Circuit Court judge.”
The Daily Report reports that Atlanta litigator Jill A. Pryor is being considered for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; a local country superior court judge informed the newspaper that a representative of the committee that rates White House judicial nominees had called him regarding Pryor. The seat remains vacant since Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. retired last August.
I remain concerned about the impact sustained judicial vacancies are having on our courts around the country. This is arguably the greatest threat to the trial and appellate courts of the federal judiciary. For the last three years, dozens of judicial nominations have been delayed in the Senate. In fact, nearly 20 judicial nominations pending and stalled before the Senate should be confirmed when the body resumes session in January. This would lower the current number of vacancies by nearly 25 percent. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to provide its advice and consent in the confirmation of federal judges. Only then can the federal judiciary fulfill its own constitutional role.