BLOCKING JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS

ABSTRACT: Senate Republicans have delayed and filibustered President Obama’s nominees to fill vacant judgeships nationwide, resulting in 87 vacancies for federal judges, 10% of the total judgeships. Even when President Obama goes out of his way to nominate what would seem to be uncontroversial choices with bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have blocked and delayed confirmation. Many words can be used to describe this: one would be obstructionist; others would be undemocratic and unpatriotic.

I encourage you to contact your Senators to express support for ending the blocking of judicial appointments. Our justice system needs these judgeships filled so it can function effectively and provide justice for all!

FULL POST: Senate Republicans have delayed and filibustered [1] President Obama’s nominees to fill vacant judgeships nationwide, resulting in 87 vacancies for federal judges, 10% of the total judgeships. A third of these vacancies are considered “judicial emergencies” because of their impact on the administration of justice. [2]

For example, four of eleven judgeships on the D.C. federal appeals court, considered one of the most important courts in the country, were vacant when Obama took office in 2009. In May, 2013, after five years of trying, one judge was confirmed on a 97 to 0 vote. The nominee had worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations and had been a clerk for former Supreme Court Justice O’Connor, who was appointed by President Reagan. So despite being a bipartisan and apparently uncontroversial nominee, it took five years to get Republicans to allow his confirmation.[3]

A second nominee for this court was filibustered for a second time this spring [4] (or the fourth time depending on how you count). The nomination was originally made in September, 2010, and Obama renominated her four times after the Senate failed to act on or filibustered her nomination. [5] President Obama then withdrew this nomination and recently nominated three others, all current judges, to fill the remaining vacancies. He challenged Senate Republicans to stop their obstructionism and at least allow a yes or no vote on these nominees. [6]

Even when President Obama goes out of his way to nominate what would seem to be uncontroversial choices with bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have blocked and delayed confirmation. These seem to be clear cases of wanting to score political points by making life difficult for Obama and slowing down the work of his administration.

As I wrote in my last post, the examples above are not isolated incidents but part of a concerted strategy of extreme partisanship and/or rigid ideology by some Republicans to prevent government from functioning, to undermine President Obama, and to bog down the Senate and the Obama administration in political fights that prevent important issues facing our country from being addressed. Many words can be used to describe this: one would be obstructionist; others would be undemocratic and unpatriotic.

I encourage you to contact your Senators to express support for ending the blocking of judicial appointments. Our justice system needs these judgeships filled so it can function effectively and provide justice for all!


[1]       A filibuster occurs when one or more Senators refuse to end debate on a piece of legislation or other matter. It requires a super-majority of 60 out of 100 votes to close off debate (cloture) and allow a vote on the bill or other matter.

[2]       Viser, M., 5/10/13, “As Obama, Senate collide, courts caught short,” The Boston Globe

[3]       Jackson, H. C., 5/24/13, “After 5 years, Senate OK’s key judicial appointment,” Associated Press in The Boston Globe

[4]       Associated Press, 3/7/13, “GOP senators block court nominee for a second time,” Political Notebook in The Boston Globe

[5]       Viser, M., 5/10/13, see above

[6]       Pickler, N., 6/5/13, “Obama pushes 3 judges for court; Challenges GOP on ‘obstruction’,” The Boston Globe

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