Obama's Judicial Vacancies

Slate's Doug Kendall passes on some disturbing numbers:

By February 2002, President George W. Bush had nominated 89 judges to the lower federal courts. This week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy prodded President Obama, who has nominated just 42 federal judges to date, to "get up names as quickly as possible." President Obama promised to make this "a priority." He'd better.

There are currently 102 vacancies on the federal bench. Of these, 31 constitute "judicial emergencies"—vacancies that have severely threatened a court's ability to handle its workload. Before the end of the year, there will be dozens of additional openings on the lower courts (20 have already been announced) and, in all likelihood, one and perhaps even two Supreme Court vacancies to fill. With an energized Republican Party, the loss of a filibuster-proof majority, and a scary-looking midterm election in November, Obama faces a difficult task in filling these vacancies this year. But this is it—when is he likely to have a better opportunity?

The numbers on judicial nominations are getting better -- but not at a tremendously fast rate. Back in September I pointed to numbers showing that Barack Obama had nominated more than two-thirds fewer jurists than George W. Bush had at a similar point in his Presidency. By November that deficit had fallen to 60 percent. Today, according to these nubmers from Kendall, President Obama's deficit in judicial nominations relative to George W. Bush -- who, remember, was facing a Senate in opposition Democratic hands by this time in his first term -- is down closer to 50 percent.

But with a real crisis in the judiciary in the form of dozens of vacancies, one has to wonder why this President has nominated fewer than half of the judges nominated by his predecessor. 

Tags: Barack Obama, Judiciary, Judicial Nominations (all tags)



No time?

Or maybe too pensive on the matter?

Clearly, a man of Obama's intelligence realizes the importance of judicial nominees. One theory is that he's being too careful. We've seen that trait before.

But what else did George W. have to do in his Presidency? It's not like he was tied up trying to save the economy from the brink of a depression. Or mending all of our international relations. Or trying to pass the single greatest legislative feat in a generation. Or every other problem Obama seems to be burdened with that his predecessors escaped.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-10 12:58AM | 0 recs
RE: No time?

Could part of it be that Obama had a Supreme Court nomination in his first year whereas Bush did not?  I would think the same office handles both federal bench and Supreme Court appointments and that may have slowed the pace...

by Mr DC 2010-02-11 06:10PM | 0 recs
No farm team

The right wing has a long term plan to develop right wing judges, and an infrastructure in place to do it.

by lynfidel 2010-02-10 07:38AM | 1 recs
Just another case of Obama Malaise

This is another case of an very unorganized administration. Its Obama's role to get these jobs filled. He doesn't have a clue.....

by hddun2008 2010-02-10 09:32AM | 1 recs
For 10 months and counting

Important government and judicial seats have remained vacant. Only now at this late hour does the President "threaten" recess appointments for government posts. I had no idea about the dysfunction in the judicial posts. This is just bizarre, which just drives home all the reports about the insulated nature of this WH that are coming out. If this administration thinks that they can win votes by putting political gimmicry like bipartisanship summits over actual governance, we have a lot cold nightmare facing us. The democratic base is not made up by the likes of old farts like David Broder. At this rate, they might win the Broders of this world but lose the activists.

by tarheel74 2010-02-10 10:27AM | 1 recs
Fewer Vacancies

Actually, Obama has far fewer vacancies than Bush did.  This is primarily because the Republicans spent the Clinton Administration seeking every excuse they could find to not confirm his judges, while the Democrats in the Senate actually worked with Bush (and to Bush's credit, he actually appointed a shockingly high number of Democrats to the District Courts, especially in his last two years).  Because Republicans wouldn't confirm Clinton appointees, he left office with a lot more vacancies than Bush did.

by bannana873 2010-02-10 12:51PM | 0 recs
Good point

Jonathan, can give you give actual vacancy numbers instead of percentages?

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-10 01:09PM | 0 recs
RE: Fewer Vacancies

Still doesn't matter.  There are currently 102 vacancies plus another 24 to come, I believe.  Obama has only made nominations in a distinct minority of those.

by TheUnknown285 2010-02-10 01:51PM | 0 recs


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