by Jeremy Leaming
The Senate confirmed three federal judges today, taking an incremental step toward addressing the high number of vacancies besetting the federal bench.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy emphasized the slight improvement of the situation, noting that only “three of the 26 judicial nominations reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee” received action today.
Following the three confirmations, Leahy (pictured) said, “This is an area where the Senate must come together to address the serious judicial vacancies crisis on Federal courts around the country that has persisted for well over two years. We can and must do better for the nearly 170 million Americans being made to suffer by these unnecessary Senate delays.”
Before the Senate confirmed Robert Scola Jr. to the federal district court in the Southern District of Florida, Mark Hornak to a federal seat in the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Robert Mariana to the federal district court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Leahy, as he has done on numerous occasions, called for an end to Republican-led obstruction of the president’s judicial selections.
Leahy noted that former President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations did not face similar obstruction.
“At this juncture in President Bush’s administration the Senate had confirmed 163 Federal circuit and district court judges, and the vacancy rate was down to five percent, with 46 vacancies,” Leahy said. “By contrast confirmations of President Obama’s Federal circuit and district court nominees total only 109, and judicial vacancies are now nearly twice as high with a vacancy rate of over 10 percent.”
During his floor remarks, Leahy also noted that Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. have all publicly expressed concern about the increasingly contentious nominations process. Leahy also cited recent letters sent to Senate leaders from American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III urging more cooperation on moving judicial nominations forward. Robinson’s letters to the Senate leaders are available here.
Tapped blogger Jamelle Bouie, citing commentary from The Washington Post’s Al Kamen about the difficulty of advancing judicial nominations during presidential election years, notes that “Republicans have a strategic interest in denying the administration’s judicial nominees, even if they are acceptable to most Republican senators. If President Obama loses his bid for re-election, then the incoming Republican president has the chance to fill additional judicial vacancies, especially if a Republican-led Senate ends the filibuster, or if Democrats choose to follow the usual playbook and cooperate with Republican leaders.”
For more information and analysis on the effort to fill federal court vacancies, visit JudicialNominations.org.