Judicial Vacancies Leading to “Justice Denied,” States American Bar Association
The U.S. Senate, on opening day of the ABA Annual Meeting, confirmed Elena Kagan as an U.S. Supreme Court associate justice. Still, approximately 100 federal bench vacancies remain open.
In a letter sent Thursday to the White House and leading senators on both sides of the aisle, ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm wrote that in many jurisdictions, “Persistent vacancies make it impossible for the remaining judges on the court to give each case the time it deserves.” If the nomination and confirmation process does not speed up significantly, Lamm continued, confirmations will not even keep pace with the rate of attrition. Lamm noted that the problem is “fast approaching crisis proportion.”
The letter, addressed to President Obama and Sens. Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy, Mitch McConnell and Jeff Sessions, outlines several steps be taken:
- The president and the Senate should make prompt filling of federal judicial vacancies a priority, with each party devoting time and resources to the effort in a spirit of mutual respect and bipartisanship.
- The administration should make a concerted effort to shorten the time between vacancy and nomination and submit a nomination to the Senate for every outstanding Article III judicial vacancy, with special due diligence in appointing judges to the 42 currently vacant seats the Administrative Office of the Courts has classified as “judicial emergencies.”
- The Senate should give every nominee an up-or-down vote within a reasonable time after the nomination is reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Currently, there are 21 nominees awaiting a floor vote and 12 of those nominees were approved by the committee unanimously. Nearly two thirds of the 21 nominees had little or no committee opposition.
The ABA emphasized that the delaying tactics ensnaring many nominees “waste the time of the Senate and increase the time a nominee is in limbo. Worst of all, they needlessly deprive the federal courts of judges they sorely need. Senate leaders should … discourage and dissuade their colleagues from using the judicial confirmation process to advance or defeat other legislative objectives.”
Lamm argues that “justice delayed is justice denied.” While there may be disagreements with individual decisions rendered by the federal courts, few would dispute their essential role.