The Senate last night voted overwhelmingly to confirm Cathy Bissoon as a United States District Court Judge in Pennsylvania, leaving 26 judicial nominees awaiting votes from the full Senate. All but one of these nominees was approved with strong bipartisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee, 23 unanimously and two others with only one vote in opposition. Pennsylvania’s bipartisan Senate delegation has urged the prompt confirmation of two additional nominees from the state, one of whom would fill a seat designated as a judicial emergency. Bissoon and both remaining Pennsylvania nominees were picked by President Obama in January and confirmed by the Judiciary Committee in July without any opposition.
Last week, American Bar Association president William T. Robinson III wrote to Senate leaders to express his concern about the slow pace of judicial confirmations. “Nothing less than a sustained, concerted, and cooperative effort will be sufficient to make discernible progress in reducing the longstanding and dangerously high vacancy rate on the federal courts,” Robinson wrote. “And, as important, nothing less will assure litigants – businesses and aggrieved individuals alike – that our federal courts have sufficient judges to hear their cases in a timely and thorough fashion.”
Marge Baker of People For the American Way issued the following statement:
“The current Senate minority has gummed up the works of our judicial confirmation system to an unprecedented degree. Highly qualified nominees with broad-based bipartisan support have languished on the Senate calendar for months as the functioning of our justice system falls victim to partisan gridlock.
“Yesterday’s confirmation of Cathy Bissoon will provide urgent relief to Pennsylvania’s backlogged courts. The Senate should now promptly consider the remaining nominees on its calendar and help to fill the dozens of vacancies in federal courts around the country. The Senate has a duty to ensure the proper functioning of the American justice system; by confirming Bissoon, it has taken a small step toward fulfilling that duty.”