Confirm the 19 Judicial Nominations Pending on the Senate Floor Before Year End
Advocacy Letter - 11/27/12
Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: The Honorable Harry Reid and The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
The undersigned organizations, which represent the interests of everyday Americans, strongly urge you to work to ensure that all 19 of the currently pending judicial nominees are given confirmation votes in the Senate during the current lame duck session, and that all judicial nominees are given timely confirmation votes in the 113th Congress.
For nearly four years, stalling tactics and the rampant abuse of Senate procedures have resulted in a troubling backlog of judicial nominees. The obstruction begins in the Judiciary Committee, where proceedings on nominees are subject to routine delays and nominees are needlessly “held over” even when they have widespread support. When nominees reach the Senate floor, they are uniformly met with filibuster threats, anonymous “holds,” and months of needless delays in scheduling up-or-down confirmation votes. As a result, the widespread unfilled vacancies on the bench continue to hinder the important work of our judicial branch, particularly in the many areas of our nation that now face judicial emergencies. We cannot tolerate a repeat of these obstructionist practices, as they have already led to the lowest percentage of a president’s nominees being confirmed at this point in his presidency than any president in American history.
Since taking office, President Obama has worked with home state Senators on a bipartisan basis to select extraordinarily well-qualified judicial nominees who could easily be confirmed by wide margins and begin serving the public, if only their nominations were brought to a vote before the full Senate. Yet a troubling number of these nominees, many of whom were cleared by the Committee on the Judiciary with little or no opposition, have been blocked from up-or-down confirmation votes for reasons that defy explanation.
Indeed, many of President Obama’s judicial nominees have languished for many months on the Senate floor, only to be confirmed with overwhelming or even unanimous support, raising significant doubts about the legitimacy of the delays in the first place. It is not the way nominations have been treated by prior Congresses. Now that the 2012 election is behind us, and the prospect of last-minute “court packing” by an outgoing President is no longer even a theoretical concern, a continued widespread blockade of judicial confirmations – in the current lame duck session or beyond – would be completely illegitimate.
Due to the abuse of floor procedures that allow a single member to impede the important business of the Senate, our judicial branch has reached a state of crisis. Out of 875 federal judgeships, 101 are currently vacant or soon to be vacant, with 33 of those vacancies now characterized as “judicial emergencies” in which courts are being overwhelmed by filings. As a result, a growing number of Americans, from all walks of life and across all economic strata, are finding it increasingly more difficult to assert their legal rights and to have their fair day in court.
Individuals and businesses across America rely on the judicial system and the rule of law to protect their rights. The Senate plays a vital role in keeping that system working. Indeed, that is one of the Senate’s primary responsibilities, one that distinguishes it from the other chamber.
Both before and after the election, we have seen a blizzard of carefully constructed statistics regarding judicial nominations. But one fact is plain: Even nominees with overwhelming bipartisan support and the backing of both home-state senators are being forced to wait months longer for their confirmation votes than under previous presidents.
We write to you at a time when our nation faces numerous challenges that cry out for bipartisan cooperation, including major economic challenges and continued international threats. We strongly believe that the continued obstruction of nominations would further poison the political atmosphere, needlessly heighten partisan tensions, and make it far more difficult for the federal government to serve the public interest.
For these reasons, as the 112th Congress winds down and the 113th Congress approaches, we strongly urge you to work together in a bipartisan fashion to proceed with prompt confirmation votes on judicial nominees who have been resoundingly approved by the Committee on the Judiciary. Floor votes should be taken on nominees shortly after they have been reported out of committee, so that the process can once again work in a regular manner. Please contact Leadership Conference Senior Counsel Rob Randhava at (202) 466-6058 or Leadership Conference Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin at (202) 263-2880 if you would like to discuss the above issues.
Thank you for your consideration.
Alliance for Justice
American Association for Justice
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Asian American Justice Center, member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Compassion & Choices
Defenders of Wildlife
Human Rights Campaign
Justice at Stake
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
National Council of Jewish Women
National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
People For the American Way