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The federal court in Raleigh enters 2013 still in a state of judicial emergency, as this article by Patrick Gannon of the Wilmington StarNews reminds us.

That court now has the dubious distinction of having the oldest U.S. District Court judicial vacancy in the country.  The seat, opened up on Dec. 31, 2005 when Judge Malcolm J. Howard took senior status, has been unfilled for more than 2500 days. 

At one point over these last seven years, it looked like we might have some movement towards a nominee:

Nearly four years ago, in July 2009, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., recommended three candidates for the seat in a letter to the president. According to a news release issued at the time, they were: Allen Cobb Jr., senior resident Superior Court judge for Hanover and Pender counties; Jennifer May-Parker, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District handling criminal appellate cases; and Quentin Sumner, senior resident Superior Court judge in Nash County.

David Ward, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the Republican senator also submitted recommendations to the White House in July 2009 that were “substantially similar” to Hagan’s. He declined to give names. Burr still awaits word from the White House on a nomination, Ward said.

But since then, mum’s the word.

In the meantime, the caseload of the absent but to-be-named federal judge is being shared by three senior district judges who have put in more than their fair share of time on the bench:  Hon. James C. Fox, 84, a Reagan appointee who went on senior status in 2001; Hon. W. Earl Britt, 80, a Carter appointee who went on senior status in 1997; and Hon. Malcolm J. Howard, 73, a Reagan appointee who went on senior status, as noted above, in 2005.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be taking a closer look at why that’s the case and what can be done before this emergency moves to catastrophe.