ABA President Suggests Ways to Fill More Judicial Vacancies

American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows says the judicial appointment process in Washington has become unduly politicized, and the ABA believes President Obama and the Senate could take some small steps to improve this:

  • Senators must set up-or-down votes for judicial nominees approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with little opposition, or none;
  • The confirmation process should be expedited for judicial nominees who were awaiting action when the last session of Congress adjourned;
  • Majority and minority leaders in the Senate should give top priority to those vacancies that have been deemed judicial emergencies, and reduce the waiting time between announcement of a nomination and votes;
  • The White House should appoint individuals for all open seats in the federal judiciary.

“The ABA will always insist on an independent, fully staffed judiciary,” she writes. “When judicial nominees are called to public service, they put their lives on hold and their families and professional reputations on display. Judicial candidates deserve a fair hearing, a timely up-or-down vote and civility.” About one in 10 of the judgeships in Article III courts is empty, and one out of three of the vacancies qualifies as a judicial emergency.

Bellows makes the recommendations in an ABA Journal article entitled, “Judicial emergencies worsen as partisanship stalls nominations in the Senate.”

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