Lower Federal Courts

Diversifying the Federal Bench

GOP obstruction means having a federal judiciary that looks less like America.
PFAW

Judicial Obstruction - Not Just a "Little Disagreement" Over Scheduling

Sen. Lamar Alexander has gravely mischaracterized his party's three-year massive resistance to processing judicial nominations.
PFAW

Exponential Escalation of Judicial Obstruction

For the last three years, Republicans have completely transformed what was once the low-key, bipartisan act of filling district court vacancies.
PFAW

GOP Seeks to Distract from their Judicial Obstruction

The GOP tries to link their 3 years of obstruction to a protest against President Obama's January recess appointments.
PFAW

Three Montana Legislators Support Disgraced Federal Judge

Efforts to reframe Cebull as a victim of oppression show a lack of basic understanding about the American justice system.
PFAW Foundation

Another Empty Courtroom

Yet another district court vacancy has opened up in California. The Senate ought to vote today on a long-pending nominee to the same district.
PFAW

Empty Courtrooms, Empty Gestures

With 20 judicial nominees waiting for a vote, Republicans allowing votes on a mere two of them today is inexcusable.
PFAW

Court Official - "I Just Don't See an End to Our Backlog"

Tennessee's case backlog is so bad it is now "borrowing" federal judges from Michigan.
PFAW

Fighting For Fair and Just Courts

We may see increased pressure this month to end the obstruction that is keeping so many Americans from having their day in court.
PFAW

Senate GOP - "Ignore What We Said Before"

Senate Republicans used to demand quick confirmation votes for any judicial nominee clearing the Judiciary Committee. Not anymore.
PFAW

Sen. Coons to Senate GOP: Rethink Your Strategy of Obstruction

The Delaware Senator notes that it should not take so long to confirm consensus lower court nominees.
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Ben Cardin Urges a Vote on a Maryland Judicial Nominee

Among the 19 judicial nominees who Republicans are blocking from a floor vote is an experienced Maryland state judge with bipartisan support.
PFAW

The Judicial Vacancy Crisis in Illinois

Sen. Durbin discusses how the chief judge of the Northern District of Illinois has asked the Senate to fill two vacancies as quickly as possible.
PFAW

Federal Courts - A PAC-Free Zone

Federal courts are where the 99% and the 1% stand as equals before the law.
PFAW

Hundreds of Lilly Ledbetters

Yes, the Supreme Court is important, but so are the lower federal courts.
PFAW

Courts Matter: The Impact on Real People

February 21, 2012

Courts play a critical role for our nation and our communities.

  • All Americans count on being able to “get their day in court.”
  • Court delays damage small businesses, whether they are seeking to vindicate their rights as plaintiffs or to put a lawsuit behind them.
  • Courts – the infrastructure of justice – are just as important to the rule of law as roads and bridges are to transportation.  Without enough judges, that infrastructure is crumbling.
  • Making our courts fully functional is an issue of good government.

Federal judges are required to give priority to criminal cases over civil ones.  Since the number of criminal cases has surged over the past several years – a 70% increase in the past decade – judges are forced to delay the civil cases, often for years. This means long delays for Americans seeking justice in cases involving:

  • discrimination
  • civil rights
  • predatory lending practices
  • consumer fraud
  • immigrant rights
  • environment
  • government benefits
  • business contracts
  • mergers
  • copyright infringement

Many plaintiffs are forced into inadequate settlements and small businesses are pressured to make unnecessary settlements to end the expense and uncertainty of litigation.

  • Example:  In Colorado, Amy Bullock sued a truck manufacturer in 2008, saying a faulty design had caused her husband’s death.  The judge has delayed the trial twice to handle all his criminal cases, and now her trial won’t even start until March 2012 at the earliest.

A Serious Vacancy Crisis is Damaging the Federal Court System

Nearly 160 million people live in circuits or districts with a courtroom vacancy that could have been filled last year, if the Republicans were not preventing votes.  This is the longest period of historically high vacancy rates on the federal judiciary in the last 35 years.

There are now 20 nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee who are waiting for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate:

  • 18 were approved by the Judiciary Committee with very strong bipartisan support, and 13 were approved without any opposition at all.
  • 11 have been waiting for three months or more for a vote from the full Senate.
  • 10 are nominated to fill vacancies classified as judicial emergencies.
  • 15 of the 20 are women or people of color and one is an openly gay man.

George W. Bush’s judicial nominees received floor votes very soon after committee approval, on average:

  • Circuit court nominees: 30 days (Bush at this point in his term) vs. 135 days (Obama)
  • District court nominees: 23 days (Bush at this point in his term) vs. 91 days (Obama)
  • Both combined:  24 days (Bush at this point in his term) vs. 100 days (Obama)

Harsh Light of Exposure Makes Senate GOP Crumble

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans were harshly criticized for filibustering a highly qualified Cuban American with no committee opposition nominated for a seat on the Eleventh Circuit. Yesterday, they doubled down and set their sights on an unopposed district court nominee, Jesse Furman of New York. As we noted yesterday, the absurdity of the move cannot be overstated. The Senate GOP wasn’t just moving the goalposts, they were moving the entire football field.

It appears that the barrage of deserved criticism they received for this outrageous escalation in their war against the American judiciary has had an effect: It was just announced that the cloture petition will be vitiated (i.e., withdrawn). More than five months after Furman was approved without opposition by the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will finally get his day on the Senate floor. In turn, assuming he is confirmed, more New Yorkers will get their day in court.

This is a victory for every American who wants to protect our nation’s judicial system.

PFAW

Jill Pryor Nominated to the 11th Circuit

President Obama has announced the nomination of Jill Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor would fill a vacancy that has been declared an emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Pryor's legal skills are recognized by her peers. The Best Lawyers in America recognized her from 2009-2011, and Georgia Super Lawyers selected her as one of the "Top 100 Super Lawyers" in 2010 and 2011. In addition, she has served as president of the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers, as well as on the Georgia State Bar's Board of Governors.

Her peers are not alone in recognizing Pryor's qualifications. Georgia's Republican senators have both stated that she is qualified for a lifetime judicial appointment. In a January 24 letter to President Obama, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson recommended three attorneys to fill judicial vacancies in Georgia. They recommended Pryor for one of the two vacant seats in the Northern District of Georgia, but President Obama recognized that she has the skills and experience needed to serve on the Eleventh Circuit Court.

This seat has been vacant since August of 2010. We hope that Sens. Chambliss and Isakson, who clearly recognize Pryor's qualifications and judicial temperament, quickly give their approval for the Judiciary Committee to proceed to examine the nomination.

PFAW
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