White House Counsel Highlights Ongoing Struggle to Fill Judicial Vacancies at ABA Meeting

April 14, 2011

Touching on the Senate’s sluggish pace of confirming judicial nominations, White House Counsel Robert Bauer has called on American Bar Association members to help build a sense of urgency.

Appearing before an ABA gathering in Washington, Bauer said, “We need to escalate significantly the general sense of urgency,” The Blog of Legal Times reports. “That is where, I believe, the outside –Washington community – the lawyers in the community, the judges, the editorial writers, the business groups – has an enormous role to play in continuing to bring home to those of us who work in Washington, D.C., the impact or the effects of gridlock.”

JudicialNominations.org reports that there are currently 94 vacancies on the federal bench, 37 of them have been declared judicial emergencies. 

At an ACS event focusing on judicial nominations earlier this year, Bauer (pictured) noted that many of the president’s judicial nominations have been “left to languish on the floor for as much as hundreds of days without a vote …. It is a quiet blow to the process, but it’s a heavy blow nonetheless. No shouting on the floor; just nothing on the floor. It is as if – and it is apparently to some – as if it did not matter at all.”

Bauer continued:

But of course it matters a great deal – to the nominees, to the courts to which they were nominated to serve, and to the parties before those courts. Chief Justice Rehnquist quite rightly pointed to the grave loss in the quality of justice when we don’t have enough judges for the cases to be decided. And it is a loss in the quality of justice when this very proposition – the proposition that we urgently need judges to have effective, responsive justice – draws a limited or intermittently attentive audience.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy highlighted Bauer’s ACS comments in a press statement urging his colleagues to stop the needless delays, saying that the “ability of all Americans to have equal access to a fair hearing in court is at risk.”  

Video of Bauer’s comments at the ACS event, followed by a panel discussion on judicial nominations, is available here. A transcript of Bauer’s remarks is here.