Today, federal magistrate Patty Shwartz was confirmed 64 to 34 by the Senate to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Her confirmation is long overdue; she was nominated in October 2011 and was originally voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2012.
Judge Shwartz’s nomination typifies how President Obama’s nominees have languished compared to his predecessor’s. According to a recent New York Times article, the average wait time on the Senate floor (after being voted out of committee) for an Obama circuit court appointee has been 148 days, compared with 35 days for President George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees. For Obama’s district court nominees, the average wait has been 102 days, compared with 35 days for Bush’s district court choices.
The delay of Judge Shwartz also illustrates how obstructionist the nominations process has become. She received the highest rating from the American Bar Association – unanimously “well qualified.” In addition to her outstanding legal qualifications, Judge Shwartz had strong bipartisan support from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As a result, the fact that a yes-or-no vote on her nomination was delayed for over a year is simply shameful.
In addition to bringing a highly qualified jurist to serve, Judge Shwartz’s confirmation will add sorely-needed diversity to the federal bench. Currently, of 13 active Third Circuit judges, only two are women. Thus, Judge Schwartz will raise the percent of sitting female judges on the Circuit from 15% to 21% (three of 14 judges).
So congratulations to Judge Shwartz on her confirmation and congratulations to the people of New Jersey and the other Third Circuit states for finally getting another judge to hear their cases. But let’s all remember that the harm that the unconscionable delays in her nomination getting a floor vote caused isn’t moot just because of Judge Shwartz’s confirmation. And sadly, we’re probably going to see it again soon.