Judicial Vacancies Increase While Senate Republicans Slow Walk Nominees

Leahy: “Senate Republicans have virtually shut down the judicial confirmation process since they took over the Senate”

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, September 8, 2015) – Senate Republicans are closing in on one of the worst years for confirming judicial nominees in decades, severely undermining the Third Branch and leaving courts throughout the country understaffed.

The Republican-controlled Senate has allowed confirmation votes on just 6 judicial nominees, compared to 26 judicial nominees in 2007 when Democrats controlled the majority and President Bush was in office.

Republican obstruction of non-controversial, consensus judicial nominees is leading to an uptick in the vacancy rate.  By the end of last year, while Democrats still controlled the Senate, there were just 43 vacancies on our Federal courts.  Less than one year later, and as a result of Republicans’ slow pace confirming nominees, vacancies have risen to 67.

In a floor statement Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) warned that if Republicans do not start prioritizing judicial nominees, “we are headed to a judicial vacancy crisis.”

“Senate Republicans campaigned last year on the promise that they would govern responsibly if they won the majority.  Unfortunately, rather than solving problems, the current Republican leadership has instead prioritized divisive issues that play only to their political base,” Leahy said.


Leahy noted that of the 67 current vacancies that exist, 48 of them – or more than 70 percent – are in states with at least one Republican Senator.  Those states include Texas, where there are nine judicial vacancies including seven that are emergency vacancies; Pennsylvania, which has six current vacancies; and Alabama, which has five current vacancies.


The Senate is poised on Tuesday to confirm the nomination of Roseann Ketchmark to serve as a district court judge in Missouri.  However, the confirmation vote comes only after the nomination has languished on the Senate floor for more than four months and despite having bipartisan support from both home state Senators and unanimous support in the Judiciary Committee.  Like Ketchmark, every single judicial nominee currently pending on the Senate floor has broad support and was voice voted by the Judiciary Committee.


“Senate Republicans have virtually shut down the judicial confirmation process since they took over the Senate, which is harming our justice system in the short and long term.  This has to end,” Leahy said.  “I urge Senate Republicans to reverse course and realize that their short-term partisan decisions are undermining the ability of the judicial system to serve our communities.”


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