People For the American Way

The Judicial Vacancy Crisis in Illinois

Among the senators taking to the floor earlier today to condemn the GOP obstructionism harming the our nation’s judicial system was Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Sen. Durbin discussed the crisis facing Americans in the Northern District of Illinois, a crisis exacerbated by unprincipled Republican partisanship.

Last week, I received a letter from the chief judge of the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Jim Holderman. His district is one that has been declared a judicial emergency, meaning the backlog of cases is stacking up and the vacancies need to be filled. He was writing me and Senator Kirk asking that we do everything in our power to move two noncontroversial, strongly supported nominees through the Judiciary Committee.

When the district’s chief judge is writing to beg you to do everything in your power to advance two utterly noncontroversial nominees, you know the situation must be dire. But as Sen. Durbin noted:

Well, they’re moved through. These two who came through a bipartisan process are now sitting on the Senate calendar. They are John Lee and John Tharp. John Lee, my nominee; John Tharp, Senator Kirk’s nominee. A bipartisan agreement, a bipartisan committee has led to their selection. No one has questioned their ability to serve well on the federal court.

Indeed, neither nominee is controversial. Each cleared the Judiciary Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support, with only Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee voting no (presumably to continue protesting President Obama’s recent recess appointments). Each would fill a judicial emergency. Each has the support of both Democratic Sen. Durbin and Republican Sen. Kirk.

The only reason to oppose them is that they were nominated by President Obama, and that is a shameful reason.


Courts, Dick Durbin, John Tharp, John Z. Lee, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Mark Kirk, Obstruction, Obstructionism