Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Michael Shea to the District Court of Connecticut. He had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and thus ready for a vote before the full Senate on April 26, 2012 – over seven months ago. So for seven months, the people of Connecticut have been contending with an overburdened federal court system while a minority of the Senate refused to allow a vote on now-Judge Shea’s nomination.
As an article in the Hartford Courant detailed, “Two of Connecticut’s eight federal judgeships are vacant and some of a half-dozen or so semi-retired senior judges – two of whom are 88 years old – carry substantial caseloads.” The article went on to note that “The shortage in Connecticut has not been classified an emergency. But federal litigants in the state now depend on jurists from states such as Arkansas, South Dakota and Montana to preside over scores of their civil trials.”
Last week, Senate leadership agreed to schedule a vote on Judge Shea’s nomination, and the vote was held Wednesday. And yesterday, the Senate confirmed by voice vote two other district court nominees, Mark Walker and Terrence Berg, who had been waiting six and five months, respectively.
Although this is a help for the courts in these three states now that these judges are confirmed, it’s hard to see why it took so many months to do so. And, certainly, it is just as hard to see why the Senate could not imminently schedule votes on the rest of the 20 pending nominees, most of whom have been waiting since at least August.