2012 lame duck to-do list: Stop blocking, start confirming judges

Congress’ 2012 lame-duck session offers an opportunity to do something positive for the America justice system: Unclog the logjam of President Obama’s judicial appointments held up by obstructionist Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

That’s exactly what The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is calling for–the Senate to confirm as many qualified judicial nominees as possible during the upcoming 2012 lame-duck session.

According to The Leadership Conference:

A poll released in October for The Leadership Conference, People For the American Way and the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign found that 63 percent of voters said the issue of who will serve on the Supreme Court was an important consideration in their vote for president. And by a five-point margin, voters trusted President Obama over Mitt Romney to select good federal judges and Supreme Court justices.

The voters have spoken, says the Leadership Conference, which represents 200 member organizations that promote civil and human rights.

In re-electing President Obama, the American people have also cast their vote for appointing and confirming well-qualified and fair-minded judges best represented by the president’s two first-term appointments to the Supreme Court, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Voters know that one of the president’s most important jobs is to make appointments to the federal bench, from the high court to the trial courts where most judicial decisions are actually made.

The current Senate’s record of judicial obstruction is the worst in recent history. Although President Obama has appointed the same number of Circuit Court judges as Clinton (and a comparable number as did Bush) at this same point in their respective first terms, the President lags considerably when it comes to district court nominees (169 for Clinton, 164 for Bush, and 128 for Obama). Nineteen of President Obama’s nominees, already approved by the Judiciary Committee, are still awaiting a final decision on confirmation. Another six have had their confirmation hearings and could be considered during the lame duck session.

The Leadership Council notes that this deliberate slowdown of approvals is adversely affecting our national justice system.

With more than 100 trial and appellate court vacancies across the nation – including 33 categorized as judicial emergencies – the country cannot afford a continuation of the obstructionist tactics that undermined the confirmation process and caused long delays in the consideration of well-qualified nominees.

Instead of blocking the president’s nominees, it’s time for the Senate to resume its traditional role of providing ‘advise and consent’ that is free from abject partisanship. The health of our judiciary and our ability to dispense justice in a timely matter depend on it.”