NLJ on Judicial Vacancies

by Jonathan H. Adler

The National Law Journal reports on the rising tensions over federal judicial vacancies and pending Bush nominees.

Republican senators are anxious about 28 judicial nominees awaiting confirmation, the 46 total vacancies and the dwindling time left in President Bush’s term to get more of his candidates on the federal bench.

Of the 28 nominees waiting approval by the Senate, 10 are appellate court nominees and 18 are trial court selections.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in particular, is in the political crosshairs. With five of its 15 seats vacant and the current members of the court divided evenly with five Republican and five Democratic appointees, the president who fills those vacancies could shift the philosophical balance of the court.

As the article makes clear, Senate Democrats are confirming Bush’s appellate nominees at a slower rate than has been done in the past.

Bush confirmations lag behind the totals of his predecessors. He has had 298 judges confirmed so far in his two terms in office, including two Supreme Court justices, while Bill Clinton had 378 judges confirmed, which is second in history to President Ronald Reagan’s 389 judges.

The article also reports that recent deals may enable more nominees to go through. Yet for the reasons Gerard Bradley notes below, this is looking increasingly less likely.

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