by Jeremy Leaming
Though the Senate finally confirmed Judge Patty Shwartz to a seat on the federal appellate court bench, one should hardly take that as a sign that the Republican-led band of obstructionists is ready to alter its agenda of delaying judicial nominations.
Shwartz was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by a vote of 64 – 34. She was re-nominated earlier this year by President Obama. As Judging The Environment notes, Shwartz was originally nominated by Obama in fall 2011.
ACS President Caroline Fredrickson, while applauding the confirmation of Shwartz, a federal magistrate judge in Newark, N.J., said the process was “all too typical for the president’s judicial nominee, and that must change.” She continued, “Filling our benches must become and remain a priority for the Senate so people can have faith in our system to guarantee every American fair and swift justice.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also noted the snails’ pace of confirmation for judges. Shwartz “should not have been delayed for more than a year,” he said in a statement. “Sadly, this is not an isolated case but one in a steady pattern of obstruction.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, before the vote took place, noted that nearly 400 days had passed since Shwartz’s second hearing.
Carney said, “After her expected confirmation, there will still be 14 other judicial nominees awaiting floor votes. Of these 14, 13 were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously, and the five nominees would fill judicial emergencies. They have been waiting on the Senate floor for an average of 67 days for a vote. That’s nearly twice as long as President’s Bush’s judicial nominees.”
There remain close to 90 vacancies on the federal bench. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which handles some of the more weighty constitutional concerns of all the appellate circuits, has four vacancies. The Senate has already scuttled one of the president’s nominations to the Circuit. Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing for the nomination of Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit. Srinivasan’s nomination was made more than 300 days ago.
While some pundits may argue that the Obama administration is “dithering” on making judicial nomination, the reality is that U.S. Senators have been dragging their feet on working with the administration to select and put forth nominees. Those pundits should take a bit of time to familiarize themselves with what’s typically called the blue-slip process. (Essentially the president seeks a stamp of approval from a judicial nominee’s home state senators. The senators provide their approval by returning blue slips to the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and then the process can move forward first with a hearing before the Committee. Too often senators are the ones dithering on providing their blessings of nominees.)
In fairness to pundits who peddle the blame-both-parties-story, it may be time for Obama to stop working with senators on filling federal court vacancies. Maybe the president should flood the pipeline, so-to-speak, with nominees. Such action undoubtedly would snap the process into shape and the slow-walking of nominations would become a thing of the past.