Today marks Day #293 of Senator Richard Burr’s silent, one-man filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District, federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker. Now, today, there is a new and fascinating explanation from one of the nation’s leading judiciary watchers as to what’s really up with Burr’s blockade and those of his fellow conservative senators: secession.
As Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic explains in “How to secede from the union one judicial vacancy at a time,” it really boils down to a matter of extreme, cynical, hardball politics:
“Secession can come in many forms—just ask anyone in Texas who cares to discuss the issue with you. One particularly effective strain currently wending its way through America has been largely ignored by reporters, political analysts, and legal scholars, even though it’s a bipartisan problem within the federal government itself that undermines the rule of law and hinders the lives of millions of citizens.
Call it secession by attrition. Some Republican senators and a few Democrats as well are starving the federal courts of the trial judges they need to serve the basic legal needs of the litigants who come to court each year seeking redress of their grievances. One federal-trial seat in Texas has been vacant for 1,951 days, to give just one example. The absence of these judges, in one district after another around the country, has created a continuing vacuum of federal authority that is a kind of secession, because federal law without judges to impose it in a timely way is no federal law at all.
The absence of these judges means that cases of all types cannot be resolved in a timely fashion. It means a form of lawlessness. A recent study from the Center for American Progress identified a backlog of more than 12,000 federal cases exists in Texas alone because the two current senators there, both conservative Republicans and ardent foes of the Obama Administration’s legal views, have slow-walked trial judge nominations.”
After walking us through some of the amazing numbers surrounding the issue, Cohen concludes this way:
The reason this important story isn’t covered well on television is because there are no dramatic images attached to it. The reason the White House doesn’t highlight the problem more often is because it still needs to work with these intransigent senators on future nominations. But I can think of few functions more basic to the legislative and executive branches than ensuring that the judicial branch has enough judges to meet the needs of the people. This Senate today is failing that elemental task. It’s secession from within. And it’s working.
Read Cohen’s entire article by clicking here.