Gavel Grab

After Two Years, Arizona Still Considered a “Judicial Emergency”

In 2010, U.S. District Judge John Roll sought to have Arizona designated as a “judicial emergency” due to the extended period of time over which it had had a shortage of judges. In a letter to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he described “a tsunami of federal felony cases far beyond the management capacity of the four active district judges in the Tucson division.”

Judge John Roll

Mere months later, on January 8, 2011, Roll was killed in the tragic shooting that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. His death exacerbated the state’s shortage of judges and in the view of some analysts, should have made the confirmation of more judges to the state’s bench a priority.

Yet according to an Arizona Republic editorial, today five of the thirteen federal district judgeships in Arizona remain vacant. And two years after she was nominated to the federal bench with the support of home-state Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Rosemary Marquez has yet to have a confirmation hearing.

Despite an urgent need to fill the empty judgeships, the reality remains that judicial nominations are seen as a tool for partisan political maneuvers, the editorial contends.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts warned of this in 2010, saying “each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes.” This, he said, has become a “persistent problem” for the federal judiciary.

The editorial urges that the Senate respond to the judicial emergency in Arizona, and that it begin by voting on the nomination of Marquez.

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