Nearly 100 federal judgeships across the country remain unfilled, and experts who study the judicial nomination process agree that the Senate’s pace of confirmations is at its slowest in recent history.
The Constitutional Accountability Center reports that the Senate has confirmed only 36 of President Barack Obama’s nominees. At this same point in his tenure, 61 of President George W. Bush’s nominees had been confirmed.
In an unusual move, Chief U.S. District Judge Wiley Y. Daniel asked the U.S. Senate to expedite a vote on filling a Colorado federal court vacancy, saying a shortage of judges is impeding the public’s access to justice. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Daniel cited an 18-month history of trouble in the court keeping up with caseloads. He asked that the two put aside partisanship and allow a vote on the nomination of Denver lawyer William Martinez.
The letter was sent in May but just disclosed on the Senate floor Thursday by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado. Since the nomination still has not received a vote, the letter was not effective as a private request.
There are five active judges on the federal court in Denver, where seven active judges should be serving. The Judicial Conference of the United States has suggested the court needs an additional judge, which would bring the vacancy count to three.
The Administrative Office of the Courts has designated the court a "judicial emergency court" because the two vacancies have existed more than 18 months and judges carry 593 cases each. Any District Court exceeding 430 cases per judge is considered in need of emergency judgeship assistance.