The Washington Post reports today that the slow progress of judicial confirmations in the Senate has combined with the rapid departure of judges from the federal bench to achieve a judicial crisis of unprecedented proportion. Nearly 1/8 of federal judgeships are now empty, and though the pace of confirmations has picked up slightly, it is still not nearly rapid enough to compete with the rate of retirement.
What this means is that judges are overworked, and the accused are not getting their day in court in the time frame that is considered acceptable. As Senate rules and Republican obstructionism continue to block the path from nomination to confirmation for Obama’s judges, the crisis deepens. Meanwhile, many female and minority candidates are not being approved, and the demographics of our court system move farther from the demographics of the country as a whole. Obama needs to push hard to get more judges onto the bench. It’s the right thing for the judges who are already serving, it’s the right thing for the nominees, it’s the right thing for the defendants awaiting trial, and it’s the right thing for the victims and litigants served by the courts. As election season approaches, the time for real progress diminishes. Real progress on judicial vacancies requires immediate action on judicial nominees.