The Administrative Office of United States Courts today announced that a vacancy in Michigan's Eastern District has been formally designated a judicial emergency. It's a good reminder that while Republicans refuse to provide the unanimous consent needed to schedule confirmation votes for any judicial nominees, the vacancy crisis throughout the United States is getting worse. That is hardly a surprise: Not replacing departing judges is bound to hurt our nation's judicial system.
It's been more than three months since Republicans consented to confirm a judge. In December, Democrats scheduled seven confirmation votes, each one of which required the filing of a cloture petition to break the GOP filibuster. And last month, again over Republican obstruction, they held a confirmation vote for Robert Wilkins for the D.C. Circuit.
That refusal to agree to confirmation votes even for nominees that no one opposes is why we have so many nominees (32) pending on the Senate floor.
Four of those stalled nominees would fill vacancies in Michigan's Eastern District, two of which have now been designated as judicial emergencies. All four were nominated way back in July and had committee hearings in October. All four were scheduled for committee votes in November so they'd be able to get confirmed by year's end. Unfortunately, Republicans found various ways over the next three months to prevent that vote from happening. Finally, the committee was allowed to vote on January 16, and all four Michigan nominees were approved with overwhelming bipartisan support (three of them unanimously).
In the three months since the GOP stopped consenting to judicial nominations, five vacancies have been newly designated as judicial emergencies, two of them in Michigan. Across the country, the number of judicial emergencies has reached 39.
Are Republicans proud as they bend over backwards to prevent America's judicial system from working effectively?