Next week will be an opportunity for Senator Marco Rubio to exercise some influence within his party and prevent a needless delay in considering nominees to fill four judicial vacancies in Florida’s Southern and Middle Districts that very much need to be filled as soon as possible.
How extensive is the need? Just ask the nonpartisan Administrative Office of United States Courts, which has formally designated all of the current vacancies in these two districts as judicial emergencies. Both districts saw increased caseloads in 2013 over previous years. They have the highest and second highest caseload within the entire 11th Circuit. Among all 94 districts in the entire U.S., Florida’s Middle and Southern Districts rank ninth and twelfth highest, respectively.
The situation in Florida is so dire that even if every vacancy were to be filled tomorrow, it would not be enough to take care of the courts’ growing workloads. In fact, the Judicial Conference has requested a number of new judgeships for the state, including:
- 5 new judgeships for the Middle District, plus a temporary judgeship; and
- 3 new judgeships for the Southern District, plus the conversion of a temporary judgeship to a permanent position.
So next week’s committee vote on Beth Bloom, Darrin P. Gayles, Carlos Eduardo Mendoza, and Paul G. Byron couldn’t come soon enough. All four were recommended to the White House by Senators Rubio and Bill Nelson after they were recommended to them by the senators’ Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. Yet the vote is likely to be delayed for no reason other than partisan politics. That’s because delaying the committee vote is a small but reliably constant way that Senate Republicans delay and obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees.
Committee rules let the minority have a vote “held over” until the next meeting without providing a reason. Committee Republicans have routinely held over nominees since President Obama took office, even if they are completely unopposed. The routine use of this hold, without cause and almost without exception, is unprecedented. In fact, only eleven of Obama’s judicial nominees have actually been allowed by the GOP to have their committee vote held as scheduled.
Most of these exceptions occurred in just one day just a couple of months ago, when Arizona’s Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake successfully persuaded their fellow Republicans to let a vote on six Arizona district court nominees occur on schedule. They recognized just how dire the situation was in their state, and they got their fellow Republicans not to stand in the way of a timely committee vote.
Will Rubio have a similar conversation with committee Republicans? We’ll find out on Thursday.