November 18, 2022
The Senate reconvened on Monday, and we are all in on urging Senators to confirm 30 judicial nominees before the end of the year. We all know why courts matter:
- Courts impact every single policy issue, from reproductive rights to voting rights, from labor to housing to healthcare.
- The recent election cycle again put courts on the frontline of protecting democracy as spurious lawsuits were filed with the aim of throwing out ballots believed to be cast by Black voters or democratic voters broadly.
- And we have the continuous reminder of the devastating impact that courts can have as we continue to live in a post-Roe world.
We also know the Senate can confirm 30 judicial nominees before the end of the year. They’ve already confirmed 85 judicial nominees since President Biden’s inauguration, and that’s after only confirming 11 since the end of July. That said, confirming 30 more this year does mean making a concerted effort to prioritize confirmations. And unfortunately, we saw the opposite in this first week of the lame duck. The Senate confirmed only one judicial nominee this week. Needless to say, that will not cut it.
There are 116 current and known future vacancies on the federal courts. On top of those, there are over 175 judges currently eligible or will become eligible to take senior status over the next two years. The Senate needs to get ahead of this now by confirming 30 more judges this year, which would represent just over half of the current backlog.
Right now, 56 judicial nominees are pending before the Senate. This includes 12 circuit court nominees and 44 district court nominees. Twenty-four are awaiting floor votes, with four of these needing discharge petitions from the Judiciary Committee. An additional 18 are waiting to be voted out from the Judiciary Committee, and another 14 are awaiting confirmation hearings before that same committee.
The Senate should not confirm another one or two, declare victory at having exceeded the number of judges confirmed during Trump’s first two years and call it a day. They already underutilized the past three months when they only confirmed two judges in August, eight in September, and zero in October. Now, the Senate will again be dropping the ball if it does not seize upon this lame duck session as a vital opportunity to confirm 30 nominees and help clear the decks for more nominees in 2023.
Ultimately, a failure to maximize this lame duck could reduce the overall number of confirmations possible in President Biden’s first term and reduce the resulting impact in diversifying the federal courts and achieving a judiciary that more reflects the public it serves.
We know the Senate can confirm 30 judicial nominees between now and the end of the year. The question is: will they?
Access to Justice, Democracy and Voting, Importance of the Courts, Judging (and Judicial Nominations), Judicial Campaigns and Elections, Judicial Diversity, Judicial Independence, Judicial Nominations, Judicial Nominations, Judicial selection, Judicial Selection, Supreme Court