As noted yesterday, the number of judicial emergencies is skyrocketing. This week, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts formally re-classified seven current vacancies as judicial emergencies, meaning that there are so many cases and so few judges, that the courts are no longer able to get their work done in an acceptable amount of time. With 39 such emergencies, this is putting an unacceptable strain on an already stressed court system.
That means that of the 21 nominees being held up on the floor because Republicans will not allow a timely vote, twelve are for judicial emergencies, an increase from nine at the start of the week.
This should be a wake-up call to Senate Republicans.
In Ohio, Jeffrey Helmick has been waiting since March 8 for a confirmation vote. When the two parties reached an agreement on a schedule of confirmation votes last month, Republicans would not allow Helmick to have a vote before May 7, the end of the agreement period. With his seat newly recognized as an emergency, the time to hold a vote is now, not next month or two months from now.
In Arkansas, Kristine Baker has been waiting even longer, since February 16. Her nomination was part of the agreement, but she is unlikely to be allowed a vote until the final day, May 7. Perhaps their fellow Republican, Sen. John Boozman, will impress upon his party leaders the importance of resolving the emergency in his state. At Baker’s confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, he testified that "her extensive experience and her impressive background unanimously qualify her for the position of district [court] judge."
Michigan’s Gershwin Drain is the third pending nominee for a seat reclassified as an emergency. He was approved by the Judiciary Committee on March 29. If Republicans allowed prompt votes on district court nominations soon after committee approval as they did under President Bush, Drain would have been confirmed by now.
Because of Republicans’ partisan obstruction of highly qualified judicial nominees, more and more Americans are learning first hand that justice delayed is justice denied.