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Published: Friday, 11/23/2012

Out of order

Nominations to fill the federal bench — and not just the U.S. Supreme Court — are highly politicized Both parties play this game, but Republicans, in their general spirit of non-compromise of the past few years and their particular fear of seating liberal activist judges, have played a greater role in gumming up the machinery of justice.

Americans may not know the extent of this obstruction of justice. The proof is in the figures.

According to the Alliance of Justice, a left-leaning national association of more than 100 organizations, President Obama will finish his first term with more vacancies in lower federal courts than when he was inaugurated — and far fewer confirmations than his two predecessors at the same point of their presidencies.

In a new report, the alliance places the blame for this state of affairs squarely on “the cumulative effects of Republican senators’ ceaseless obstruction of judicial nominees.”

The details are shocking: During Mr. Obama’s first term, judicial vacancies have risen by 51 percent. Yet in the first term of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, vacancies declined by 65 percent and 34 percent, respectively. Nearly one out of 11 federal judgeships is now vacant.

The report calls for the Senate, during its lame-duck session, to confirm all 19 judicial nominees pending on the chamber’s floor. It says 14 of the nominees faced no substantive opposition in the Judiciary Committee.

Ten would fill judicial emergencies — situations where vacancies have caused a severe backlog of cases. According to the report: “Republicans blocked these nominees solely for political reasons — to keep the seats open for a potential Republican president to fill.”

Now that voters have spoken, that has to change. Filling judicial vacancies is crucial to keep the legal system running efficiently for the good of the nation.

Add judicial vacancies in lower federal courts to the long list of subjects where compromise must prevail and the public’s business must be done.



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