On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced an agreement
for the Senate to vote on 10 judicial nominees in the next few weeks. These 10 are among the 27 nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee, but have fallen victim to Republican obstruction.
Consider, for example, Marina Garcia Marmolejo, the president's nominee to the Southern District of Texas. She was nominated on July 28, 2010. The seat she's been nominated for has been deemed a "judicial emergency" by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Despite having the strong support of both John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and easy approval in Judiciary, when she finally gets a vote in the Senate, Marmolejo will have been waiting 433 days; almost 62 weeks.
Mamolejo's case is sadly typical. Take a look at this map of federal judiciary emergencies around the country, where there are either district or circuit courts (or both) facing emergencies because of vacancies.
That's from a report by the Center for American Progress. What all this means?
More than 200 million Americans—fully two-thirds of the nation’s population—today are living in a jurisdiction that has been declared a judicial emergency* meaning that in courtrooms across the country there aren’t enough judges to hear the cases that are piling up. The map . . . depicts the areas of the country where there are federal district courts and circuit courts of appeal with judicial emergencies. In practical terms, it shows where judges are overworked and where justice is being significantly delayed for the American public. The nation’s federal courts—where Social Security appeals are heard, employment cases decided, immigration issues settled, and where Americans vindicate their constitutional rights—are in a crisis because there simply aren’t enough judges on the bench.
In south Texas, where Marmolejo will finally be seated in the next few weeks, "a federal trial judge’s criminal caseload can be nearly six times the normal caseload. As Texas federal Judge W. Royal Furgeson explains, this means that judges are often only able to devote as much time to major trials as judges in 'night traffic court' have time to devote to small fines for minor driving offenses."
Just last month, the White House sounded the alarm
on its stymied nominees and the judicial crisis and the unprecedented delays
created by the Republicans in the Senate.
The administration also has a hand in this, with President Obama nominating judges at a slower rate than the rate they're retiring at. But there are still at least another 10 nominees waiting confirmation after these 10 are considered by the Senate.