In a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a group of 23 advocacy organizations have urged the Senate to confirm 19 pending judicial nominees during its current lame duck session, saying that the nominations have languished while judicial emergencies are on the rise:
For nearly four years, stalling tactics and the rampant abuse of Senate procedures have resulted in a troubling backlog of judicial nominees. The obstruction begins in the Judiciary Committee, where proceedings on nominees are subject to routine delays and nominees are needlessly “held over” even when they have widespread support. When nominees reach the Senate floor, they are uniformly met with filibuster threats, anonymous “holds,” and months of needless delays in scheduling up-or-down confirmation votes. As a result, the widespread unfilled vacancies on the bench continue to hinder the important work of our judicial branch, particularly in the many areas of our nation that now face judicial emergencies. We cannot tolerate a repeat of these obstructionist practices, as they have already led to the lowest percentage of a president’s nominees being confirmed at this point in his presidency than any president in American history.
As noted in the letter, “out of 875 federal judgeships, 101 are currently vacant or soon to be vacant, with 33 of those vacancies now characterized as ‘judicial emergencies’ in which courts are being overwhelmed by filings.”
One of the courts with a judicial emergency is the federal court in Raleigh, which has had a vacancy since early 2006 — the third longest in the country. Currently the caseload for that vacant seat is being handled by three senior judges — W. Earl Britt, James C. Fox, and Malcolm J. Howard.
No nomination for that spot has yet been made. There were media reports last week that the name of soon-to-be-retired state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson was circulating in Washington as a possible nominee, but that has not been confirmed.