This was a slow week for judicial nominations. On Tuesday April 8, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the nomination of Michelle Friedland to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On Thursday, April 10, the Senate voted 56-41 in favor of cloture on her nomination. Because she is nominated to a circuit court, Senate rules require 30 hours of post-cloture debate before a final confirmation vote, unless there is unanimous consent to yield back that time. As they have done since the November rules change, Senate Republicans refused to yield. Sen. Reid had said that he would keep the Senate in session for an usual Friday afternoon vote but he changed course Thursday evening, announcing that the confirmation vote for Friedland would take place on Monday, April 28, the first day the senators return from a two week recess.
Also this week, there were conflicting reports about President Obama’s progress on filing judicial vacancies. Some argued that he has been as successful as President Bush because of the number of nominees confirmed at this point in their presidencies. Others, however, argued that raw numbers do not offer an accurate comparison because President Obama has seen more vacancies, yet had a lower percentage of his nominees confirmed.
There are now a total of 85 current vacancies and 23 future vacancies (including three vacancies that will become current if a sitting district court judge is elevated to a circuit court). There are 50 pending nominees, two of whom are nominated to future vacancies. There are 36 judicial emergencies. Thirty-one nominees remain pending on the Senate floor.