A ‘Starving’ Federal Judiciary is Riddled With Vacancies

A ‘STARVING JUDICIARY’: Thanks to Senate obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees,  “he will likely be the first executive in nearly two decades to leave office with federal district courts less staffed than when he was sworn in,” The District Sentinel reported.

Right now there are 75 district court vacancies, up from 41 when Obama moved into the White House, or an 83 percent increase. The District Sentinel headlined its article, “Congressional Report Details A Starving Judiciary.” You can see a Congressional Research Service report on district court vacancies by clicking here and on appeals court vacancies by clicking here; they were released by the Federation of American Scientists.

DIMMING PROSPECTS FOR GARLAND CONFIRMATION?: At Bloomberg, law professor Noah Feldman of Harvard suggested that if Hillary Clinton defeats Donald Trump in November, chances for the Senate confirming Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in a lame-duck session don’t look great. Feldman drew a distinction between GOP ideology and partisanship. “The upshot is that Garland’s chances for confirmation now seem smaller than they did a few months ago. … Republicans might have to sacrifice a more liberal court to protect their individual political interests. But for elected politicians, that’s an easy trade to make,” he wrote.

ALLEGATIONS OF BANKROLLING A TOP JUDGE: “A federal racketeering lawsuit involving State Farm and allegations of funneling money into the election of a state judge has been granted class-action status, potentially benefiting more than 4 million policyholders,” The Chicago Tribune reported.

The allegations involve an Illinois Supreme Court election won by Lloyd Karmeier in 2004 and his voting later with a court majority to overturn a $1 billion award against the company. Karmeier, who has just been elected the court’s next chief justice, is not named as a defendant in the RICO lawsuit, Bloomberg said. There are years of twists and turns in the litigating that led to this point, and questions raised about “dark money” in judicial elections; you can learn more from earlier Gavel Grab posts.