Scholar: U.S. Courts ‘Mired … in Political Gridlock’

A scholar who tracks federal court nominations in the U.S. has published in the British Guardian a sorry picture of partisan politics and gridlock dragging down the confirmation process in Washington, thereby undermining fair and impartial courts.

The commentary by Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, is titled, “Washington has mired courts in political gridlock – and justice is the victim/Ever since the Republicans recaptured the US Senate, the number of unfilled judicial seats has soared to crisis levels.”

Out of 846 federal judgeships, 72 are vacant, Tobias reports. In 2015, the 11 nominees confirmed by the Senate were the fewest since 1960. Tobias concludes with pessimism about the political landscape this year:

“Ever since Republicans recaptured the Senate, their leadership has pledged to restore ‘regular order’ – a term that ostensibly signifies the end of partisan gridlock.

“If the severely delayed confirmation process witnessed in the 114th Congress is what the Republican majority means by regular order, federal court litigants have reason to doubt that the party will seriously address the vacancy crisis in the Senate’s second session, which began on 11 January. The consummate irony is that Republicans recite the regular order mantra when they have so meticulously dismantled regular order in that process since 2009.”