Senate Cuts Deal to Vote on 10 of 27 Pending Judicial Nominees

September 27, 2011

by Nicole Flatow

In response to mounting pressure to end obstruction of judicial nominations, the Senate has come to an agreement to schedule votes on ten nominees.

The deal moves forward several long-delayed nominees, but follows a pattern that has developed of leaving to languish many other nominees with bipartisan support. Among the 17 pending nominees that were not included in the deal, four have been awaiting a vote by the Senate since the 111th Congress, and seven are considered judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“For far too long, those of us who are gravely concerned about the health of our court system have implored the Senate to take up-or-down votes on all pending judicial nominees,” American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson said in August, following another Senate deal in which four of 24 nominees were confirmed before a month-long Senate recess.

Fredrickson called on the Senate then to make “extraordinary efforts to expedite the pace of confirmations” upon its return in September. But until the Senate deal was announced, the Senate had only taken action on three nominees since its August recess.

As part of the deal announced late Monday, the Senate will vote Oct. 3 on Fourth Circuit nominee Henry Floyd, and will confirm by unanimous consent district court nominees Nannette Jolivette Brown for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Nandy Torresen for the District of Maine, William Francis Kuntz for the Eastern District of New York, Marina Garcia Marmolejo for the Southern District of Texas and Jennifer Guerin Zipps for the District of Arizona.

Sometime on or after Oct.11, the Senate will vote on another four district court nominees: Alison Nathan and Katherine Forrest for the Southern District of New York, Jane Margaret Triche-Milazzo for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Susan Owens Hickey for the Western District of Arkansas.

Glenn Sugameli, who leads the Defenders of Wildlife’s Judging the Environment project, praised the “partial break in the deep freeze on U.S. Senate confirmations of judicial nominees,” but lamented that the deal “unjustifiably leaves in limbo 17 judicial nominees awaiting votes, most of those who were approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

“Senate Republican obstruction needlessly continues to prolong the judicial vacancy crisis by preventing votes, regardless of need, qualifications and bipartisan home-state Senator support,” Sugameli said in a statement.

There are now 93 vacancies on the federal courts, 35 of which are considered judicial emergencies. Christopher Kang, who is leading the White House’s judicial nominations efforts, told The National Law Journal this week that he plans to get the vacancy rate back down to about 55 by the end of Obama’s first term.

To learn more about the judicial vacancy crisis and follow developments, visit JudicialNominations.org.