After kicking off its post-Labor Day work period by confirming Jane Stranch to the Sixth Circuit, the Senate left town on Wednesday night without confirming any more federal judges. Even though 23 nominees, including 17 who were reported unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and 11 who, like Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu, have been nominated to fill seats designated “judicial emergencies,” were teed up and ready for a vote, that vote didn’t happen.
There’s been no dearth of commentary recently about the glacial pace of judicial confirmations. The President added his voice to the fray on Thursday, stating in a letter to Senate Leadership that “Despite the urgent and pressing need to fill these important posts, a minority of Senators has systematically and irresponsibly used procedural maneuvers to block or delay confirmation votes on judicial nominees — including nominees that have strong bipartisan support and the most distinguished records. The minority has even been blocking non-controversial nominees — a dramatic shift from past practice that could cause a crisis in the judiciary.”
That crisis is already happening. When we say that the 104 vacancies in the federal judiciary seriously impede the administration of justice, it’s not hyperbole: when the courts aren’t working at full capacity, litigants — be they laid-off workers who believe they were subjected to illegal discrimination or families struggling to survive financially who decide to file for bankruptcy — must wait longer for a fair hearing. And many of them can’t afford the wait.
There’s a lot of unfinished business for the Senate to tackle when it comes back in November, but justice can’t wait any longer. We urge the Senate to confirm Goodwin Liu, and the 22 other judicial nominees, during the lame duck.