Two days after nominating Rebecca Haywood to the Third Circuit, and one day after nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, President Obama today continued to work to make sure that our nation’s appellate vacancies are filled with qualified judges. Specifically, he has nominated Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes to the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Upon confirmation, she would become the first woman from Kentucky on the 6th Circuit.
This seat has been vacant since Judge Boyce Martin retired back in 2013. The court’s caseload is so heavy that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has officially designated the vacancy as a judicial emergency.
This nomination comes after long and extensive consultations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, the nominee’s two home state senators. In fact, press reports from more than two years ago noted that Justice Hughes was being vetted by the White House. No one can credibly claim that the president didn’t engage in adequate consultation.
For six years as Minority Leader and now as Majority Leader, McConnell has done everything he can do obstruct President Obama’s judicial nominees. Even as Minority Leader, he was able to needlessly block votes on highly qualified consensus nominees for months. As Majority Leader, it is even easier to cause needless delay in floor votes, and McConnell’s Senate confirmed only 11 judges last year, the lowest number since 1960 (when there were hundreds fewer judgeships to fill).
McConnell has already led his party to say they will refuse to consider Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, a position so absurd and so widely unpopular that several cracks have already appeared in the party’s wall of obstruction. We certainly hope that McConnell doesn’t show similar partisanship with Justice Hughes’s nomination. There is a judicial emergency that needs to be filled, and a qualified nominee stands ready to fill it.