Gavel Grab

NY Times Decries ‘Astonishingly High’ Judicial Vacancy Level

The nation is facing “political paralysis” in the Senate over judicial confirmations, and the impact is so severe that it is time to consider bolder options to resolve the stalemate, a New York Times editorial declared. It characterized the existing situation this way:

“The number of vacancies on the nation’s federal courts has reached an astonishingly high level, creating a serious shortage of judges and undermining the ability of the nation’s court system to bestow justice.”

Eighty-five out of 856 district and appeals court seats are vacant, and the leading factor is the desire of Senate Republicans to block as many of President Obama’s judicial nominees as possible, the editorial said. As a prime example of partisan obstructionism, it pointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, with four seats vacant out of 11 — and none yet filled by Obama.

The editorial identified options worth considering that include another look by Democrats at filibuster reform and also having Obama name four nominees to the D.C.-based appeals court at once.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the highly influential appeals court (see Gavel Grab). Because another Obama pick for the court withdrew earlier after Senate Republicans had filibustered her twice, and due to the court’s high profile, Srinivasan’s nomination is drawing extensive attention.

Regarding it, a McClatchy Newspapers article was headlined, “Will another Obama judicial nominee face GOP roadblocks? Recent history says ‘yes.’”

Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would consider deploying what is called the “nuclear option”  if Republicans don’t lend a hand to confirming judges, Huffington Post reported.

“Nuclear option” is a term used by opponents for employing a simple majority vote to revise filibuster rules, rather than the 67-vote majority typically required under Senate rules for such a change.

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