by Nicole Flatow
A bipartisan duo of law professors emphasized the urgent need for judicial nominations reform in The New York Times this week.
In a proposal featured in The Times’ “Sunday Dialogue,” the University of Minnesota’s Richard Painter and the University of North Carolina’s Michael Gerhardt lament the “judicial vacancy crisis on our federal courts,” and summarize the reform proposal laid out in their American Constitution Society Issue Brief, “Extraordinary Circumstances: The Legacy of the Gang of 14 and a Proposal for Judicial Nominations Reform.”
“President Obama has had a lower percentage of his judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate than any other recent president at this point in his term,” they write in The Times. "Filibusters, which have historically been used to block legislation and can be sustained by as few as 41 senators, are part of the problem."
Gerhardt and Painter point out that Obama, recognizing the severity of the obstruction problem, recently offered his own proposal for nominations reform: require up-or-down votes on all nominees within 90 days (this proposal was immediately endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid).
If the Senate adopted this proposal, it would necessarily eliminate much of the long-term obstruction contributing to the vacancy crisis. But, in the event that the Senate is looking for reform with a bit more wiggle room, Gerhardt and Painter have another option for the body to consider: