Claims by the administration and its allies that there is a vacancy crisis in the federal judiciary don’t stand up to scrutiny. More than 120 Bush nominees have been confirmed by the Senate. There are currently 45 vacancies on the federal bench, less than half as many as when Bush took office. As Sen. Patrick Leahy has noted, the vacancy rate on the federal judiciary is lower than the unemployment rate for the first time in years.
Harry Austin explained in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 20, 2003, “Republicans’ claims that a judicial crisis is at hand, or that Democrats are undermining the judiciary in unique and awful ways, is mere hyperbole… If Democrats were seeking vengeance, they would have blocked many more of President Bush’s nominees. But they haven’t. They have blocked just two. The number of vacancies in the federal judiciary is at the lowest level in 13 years. There’s clearly no judicial crisis at hand, nor anything remotely as bad as that engineered for so long by Republicans against Mr. Clinton’s nominees.”
The Buffalo News reached the same conclusion, on May 18, 2003: “But the Senate also recently confirmed the 124th of 129 judicial nominations made by this president, dropping the number of bench vacancies from the 110 that existed when he took office to just 48 today.”