The American Bar Association, expressing “grave concern” over a judicial vacancy crisis in the federal courts, has urged Senate leaders to set floor votes on three appellate nominees before July and on a batch of district court nominees on a weekly basis after that.
ABA President Wm. T. Robinson III alluded in the letter to the “Thurmond Rule.” It is “a loosely defined Senate tradition that suggests the Senate refrain from voting on nominees to federal appellate courts in the second half of a presidential election year,” according to a Blog of Legal Times article about the ABA letter. Between 1980 and 2008, the date when this has occurred has not been observed consistently, he wrote.
“Amid concerns that the judicial confirmation process is about to fall victim to presidential election year politics through the invocation of the ‘Thurmond Rule,’ I am writing on behalf of the American Bar Association to reiterate our grave concern for the longstanding number of judicial vacancies on Article III courts and to urge you to schedule floor votes on three pending, noncontroversial circuit court nominees before July and on district court nominees who have strong bipartisan support on a weekly basis thereafter,” the letter said.
Robinson urged work to advance district court nominees “lest the vacancy crisis worsens in the waning months of the 112th Congress. With five new vacancies arising this month and an additional five announced for next month, this is not just a possibility; it is a certainty, absent your continued commitment to the federal judiciary and steady action on nominees.”
In May, Justice at Stake and 28 other national organizations called for prompt Senate votes on judicial nominations. The groups’ statement said leaders of both political parties must end a chronic gridlock that is thwarting the delivery of justice (see Gavel Grab).