The slow pace of confirmations and nominations of federal judges has angered politicians and onlookers over the past months.
According to the Alliance for Justice, as of September 15 last year Obama had nominated judges to 38% of vacant circuit court seats. President Bush had nominated judges into 68% of vacant seats by the same time in his administration.
Of course, the slow rate of nominations can be blamed on how contentious confirmations usually are. An administration doesn’t want to nominate someone who will not easily be confirmed, yet no one is easily confirmed —thus, the constant emptiness of benches. (On that note, you’ll see we note in the slides whether the nominee is or is not controversial. They may all be considered controversial by some — judges nominated by the President are always considered “controversial” on some level by some members of the party that is not in power.)
There are now 104 vacancies—out of a total 876 judgeships—on the federal bench right now, and nine pending nominees for 20 circuit court vacancies.
A small victory for those who want to see a body in the empty seats occurred this week, as nominee for 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Keenan was confirmed on Tuesday. But the vote seemingly inflamed existing frustration at the pace of confirmations.
Washington Post: “I am disappointed that Justice Keenan’s noncontroversial nomination was delayed more than four months by unnecessary filibusters that came to an end with two unanimous, bipartisan votes today,” [Senator Mark] Warner said in a statement. “I urge my colleagues in this institution, on both sides of the aisle, to step away from the politics of obstruction and delay, and work together to move our nation and our troubled economy forward.”
Position at time of nomination: Rhode Island Superior Court Judge
Controversy?: While a majority of the ABA's evaluating committee found her to be qualified, five of 15 deemed her 'not qualifed.' Reasons for the rating are kept confidential.
Interesting fact: Thompson would be the first African American to sit on the 1st Circuit.
Position at time of nomination: U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York
Controversial?: Nope. ABA deemed him 'unanimously well-qualified.'
Interesting fact: Chin is the man that sentenced Bernie Madoff to 150 years and was the first Asian-American U.S. District Court Judge appointee outside of the Ninth Circuit.
Position at time of nomination: Special Superior Court Judge for Complex Business Cases in North Carolina
Controversial?: Vote to push nomination was unanimous, but Diaz has one unlikely line on his record as a Democratic nominee: he defended Philip Morris during his lawyer days.
Interesting fact: Diaz was the first Hispanic state judge in N.C.
Position at time of nomination: North Carolina Court of Appeals
Interesting fact: He's been nominated for this position before. President Clinton nominated Wynn to be the first African American to serve on the fourth circuit, twice. The first time, Jesse Helms prevented it from going to hearing. The second time, President Bush reversed his nomination.
Position at time of nomination: Managing partner at Brandstetter, Stranch & Jennings
Controversial?: Not really. Stranch was given an ABA rating of minority well qualified, majority qualified.
Interesting fact: Stranch was among the first women admitted to the University of Virginias. She was the first nominee, and only one of the current list of pending nominees, who is not a practicing judge.
Position at time of nomination: Associate Dean and Law Professor at Boalt Hall
Controversial?: Liu has some critics. President of the Ethics and Public Policy centre Ed Whelan called him out for having a 'woeful lack of experience.' Republican Senator from Alabama Jeff Session issued a press release calling Liu 'someone far outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence.' He also testified in opposition for Justice Samuel Alito's 2006 confirmation.
Interesting fact: If confirmed, he would become the only active Asian American judge on the federal courts of appeal in the country...unless 2nd Circuit nominee Denny Chin beats him to it.
Position at time of nomination: U.S. District Court Judge for Connecticut
Controversial?: He attracted national attention in 2005 after delaying the execution of Michael Ross over speculation that Ross was mentally incompetent.
Interesting fact: Chatigny was nominated to his district court position by President Clinton in 1994 on the urging of Senators Dodd and Libermann.
Position at time of nomination: U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Interesting fact: Vanaskie graduated from Lycoming College in PA and was bestowed with the Chieftain Award, the highest student honour.
Position at time of nomination: Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah
Controversial?: Matheson's younger brother is Democratic Utah Senator Jim Matheson, who has attracted attention for voting against President Obama's healthcare proposal.
Interesting fact: The son of former Utah Governor Scott Matheson, he lost a bid for the position in 2004.
Circuit: 4th (now confirmed)
Position at time of nomination: Virginia Supreme Court Justice
Controversial?: Nope. Kennan was unanimously confirmed on March 2. Virginia Senator Mark Warner said in a statement following the vote, 'I am disappointed that Justice Keenan's noncontroversial nomination was delayed more than four months by unnecessary filibusters that came to an end with two unanimous, bipartisan votes today.''
Interesting fact: Kennan was born in Austria.
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