October 20, 2022

The Senate Must Confirm 30 Judicial Nominees during the Lame Duck

Russ Feingold President


The Biden-Harris administration has done an outstanding job prioritizing the federal courts, with 142 Article III candidates already nominated for the federal bench. The Senate has been doing relatively well for its part – but it could be doing better. We were disappointed to see the Senate vacate Washington, DC in August and in October, which could have been used to confirm more judicial nominees. Those were lost opportunities and now put enormous importance on the lame duck session that begins when the Senate returns to DC in November after the midterms.

ACS has a singular message for the Senate: Prioritize judges during the lame duck. That means confirming 30 judicial nominees before the 117th Congress concludes at the end of the year.

Is 30 ambitious? Yes. Is it doable? Absolutely.

As of today, the Senate has confirmed 84 nominees since President Biden took the oath of office. Awaiting the Senate when it returns in November are:

  • 21 nominees awaiting floor votes
  • 4 nominees awaiting discharge papers from the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • 12 nominees awaiting votes in the SJC
  • 20 nominees awaiting confirmation hearings before SJC

Every week brings further evidence of the enormous impact that judges are having in shaping the legal landscape of our lives. From the disastrous management of the Mar-a-Lago case by Judge Cannon, to the vindication of abortion rights by judges who have at least temporarily halted draconian state abortion bans. What this dichotomy underscores is the imperative of having diverse, qualified judges on the federal bench who will uphold the rule of law, safeguard democracy, and vindicate our civil rights. That’s whom President Biden has nominated, and whom the Senate must confirm.

Here is what cannot happen. The Senate cannot return to DC, confirm a handful of judicial nominees, just enough to surpass Trump’s record of 85 confirmations in his first two years, and go home. That is not enough. That is not prioritizing courts, no matter what the Senate has done until now. We need a concerted effort during the lame duck that is not about making the record books, it’s about filling vacancies with champions of civil rights who will make an impact.

We don’t know how the midterms will turn out or which party will control the Senate come January. But we know the votes will be there in November and December to confirm diverse, qualified judicial nominees. We will keep saying it. The Senate must prioritize judges, and to prioritize judges during the 2022 lame duck session, the Senate must confirm 30 judicial nominees.

Access to Justice, Democracy and Elections, Democracy and Voting, Hearings, Importance of the Courts, Judging (and Judicial Nominations), Judicial selection, Voting Rights