You know Republican obstructionism has reached new heights when even Chief Justice John Roberts calls for an end to the blockade of federal judges. In his annual report on the state of the federal judiciary Roberts called on Congress and the President to find a long-term solution to the “persistent problem” of unfilled federal judgeships.
While Roberts was careful not to point fingers specifically at Senate Republicans, its hard for the criticism to land anywhere else as more President Obama has the most unconfirmed judicial nominees of any president.
In his remarks Roberts said he was “heartened” by the flurry of confirmations that took place during the final days of the last Congressional session but underscored that those confirmations should not have had to wait until the last minute and as part of larger dealmaking for confirmation. And while a total of 60 judges were confirmed, at least 19 nominees were left without a yes-or-no vote.
The ongoing partisan battle over the confirmation of federal judges has created a crisis that will not soon be remedied. Cases languish on overcrowded dockets for years at a time. Defendants face constitutional due process violations simply because of a lack of staffing to guarantee prompt initial appearances while some in custody wait years to find out if and when their case will go to trial.
And while the law and the judiciary cannot be separated entirely from the political process historically it has enjoyed a level of insulation that insured it could function in its essential role as guardian and gatekeeper for the other branches. These unfilled vacancies, along with ongoing budget decimations has left our court system on life support and our citizens without a clear path to justice and it must be remedied immediately.
photo courtesy of mrbill via Flickr