By Glenn Sugameli, Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife's Judging the Environment. Sugameli founded in 2001 and still heads the environmental community's Judging the Environment project and website on federal judicial nominations and related issues.
Justice delayed continues to be justice denied, as unjustifiable Senate obstruction of federal judicial nominees delays resolution of urgent health, safety, environmental, and other cases.
In the latest example, Nevada GOP Senator Dean Heller’s misunderstanding of the Supreme Court’s coincidentally-named D.C. v. Heller decision has led him to block a Judiciary Committee hearing on a pending nominee.
My December 2008 ACSblog guest post discussed the need to fill the then-existing 44 empty federal judgeships. Since then, the vacancy crisis has worsened. March 27, 2012 marked the 1,000th consecutive day with 80 or more current vacancies. Today there are 81 current vacancies, and with 18 announced future vacancies, there are 99 seats to fill. My September 2011 guest post described how U.S. Courts declared "judicial emergency" vacancies had increased during President Obama’s term from 20 to 35; now there are 34.
To fill one of these judicial emergencies, President Obama selected Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish for a District of Nevada seat. In 2007, Cadish was appointed to replace a retired state judge. She was elected in 2008 with strong support from the Editorial Boards of the Las Vegas Sun, and of the Las Vegas Review Journal, which stated: “In her knowledge of the law, in her intellectual firepower and judicial demeanor, Elissa Cadish was a superlative appointment who voters can proudly retain.” For the federal district court, the American Bar Association rated Cadish unanimously Qualified.
The vast majority of Republican senators have strongly supported President Obama’s judicial nominees from their state. This even includes freshmen Republican senators who helped to confirm 10 nominees for judgeships whom Obama re-submitted after the senators were elected.
Sen. Heller, however, has refused to sign the home-state senator “blue slip” that is needed for Judge Cadish’s Committee hearing. Moreover, he would only be willing to hold a pointless meeting with her “to tell her why I don't support her nomination."
The Las Vegas Sun editorial “Preventing Justice” explained: