Long before Republicans were the “party of no” in terms of obstructing any of President Obama’s agenda goals, the GOP had solidified themselves as a party bent on undermining the functioning of the federal courts by blocking, often without reason, judicial nominees. For years lawyers and judges of all political stripes warned that if judicial vacancies remained unfilled this country would face a judicial crisis, the likes of which we have never seen. Despite these warnings, Republicans still refused to move any presidential nominee along.
Now a group of seven Republican-appointed federal judges have decided to try and petition Republican Senators directly. The judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sent Republican Senators a letter saying bluntly that “[c]ourts cannot do their work if authorized judicial positions remain vacant.”
The letter is respectfully written but carries with it a clear message: the federal court system is at the point of judicial emergency for no reason other than short-sighted political gain by the Republicans.
Federal court judges (with the exception of a few, including Justices Alito and Scalia) are known for a reserved manner in addressing colleagues and disagreements. In fact, federal court judges (again with the exception of Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) rarely wade into political waters at all, and when they do, their statements carry specific weight. For example in 1997 when Chief Justice William Rehnquist spoke out against GOP obstructionism of President Clinton’s nominees the Senate was stunned into action and judicial confirmations increased from 36 in 1997 to 65 in 1998.
It would be wonderful if this batch of GOP Senators felt similarly moved by the weight of the federal bench declaring a judicial emergency as a result of juvenile games going on in Congress, but given the current state of the GOP leadership, this seems highly unlikely. Instead this country will be forced to face the hard reality that there are simply not enough judges to hear the cases currently in the court system. That means that at best justice in this country is delayed, and at worst, it is denied.
photo courtesy of mrbill via Flickr