by Nicole Flatow
Some 150 legal experts, concerned citizens and community leaders from 27 states are meeting with White House officials today about the judicial vacancy crisis on America’s federal courts. Nationwide, nearly one out of every ten federal judgeships remains vacant, and more than 250 million Americans live in a community with a courtroom vacancy.
Today marks the end of a Senate deal to schedule votes on 14 nominees. Senate leaders reached the limited agreement after an exasperated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed motions to force votes on 17 nominees.
After the White House meeting, the community leaders will visit the offices of key senators to urge them to end the delays that have plagued the Senate confirmation process since the beginning of the Obama presidency.
“The increasing influence of partisan politics on the judicial selection process harms no one more than the average American who is left waiting for her day in court,” said Alistair Elizabeth Newbern, a clinical professor at Vanderbilt University Law School who leads the American Constitution Society’s Tennessee Lawyer Chapter and is visiting the White House today. “Above all, justice must be available. Every day that a court seat remains vacant makes it less so for the people who need it most.”
A coalition of 29 national public interest groups issued a statement today emphasizing the urgency of judicial nominations.
“Regardless of where you live or what issues you care about, all Americans deserve a judiciary that works for them," the statement says. "Today’s White House briefing with community leaders, legal experts and advocates for an effective judiciary is an unequivocal statement about that priority."
The statement continues:
Recent cases demonstrate that no matter the issue – health care, immigration, marriage equality, workers’ rights, employment discrimination, environmental regulation, privacy, and ethics – the courts will continue to play an increasingly important role in the lives of hardworking Americans. But the courts can’t function without judges. Unprecedented obstruction by a minority in the Senate has left the nation with 96 current and future vacancies on the federal courts, leading to a substantial backlog of cases that undermines our system of justice and makes it impossible for most Americans to have their case heard in a timely manner.
It’s troubling to realize that, more than four months into 2012, the Senate has voted only on nominees who were pending on the Senate floor last year and eligible for a confirmation vote in 2011. Today, in fact, marks the first time this year that the Senate is scheduled to vote on nominees who were not pending in 2011.
To get updates on today's White House meeting, see the Twitter hashtag #CourtsMatter. To learn more about the judicial vacancy crisis and follow developments, visit JudicialNominations.org, and click here to get involved with the ACS Judicial Nominations Issue Group.