Remember that one time back in 1981 when you got sued for indecently exposing yourself to your stockbroker who just passed you an insider trading tip while you negligently amputated the wrong leg of a small child? And you know how the suit just kept dragging on and on and on, until you woke up yesterday and thought to yourself “Wait, am I still being sued? Is that still happening? Is that still a thing? What ever happened with that?” You probably just assumed that the case was taking so long because it was the most complicated indecent exposure/insider trading/negligent amputation case in history. But you would be wrong.
Actually, the reason your case has been languishing in our judicial system for the past 31 years is that there are no judges to hear it. As found in a report released this week by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the number of vacant seats on the Federal judiciary continues to increase for both district courts and circuit court appeals judges. Why? Because the Senate is being an asshole, that’s why.
The new study demonstrates that there has been a dramatic increase in the number judicial Borkings by the Senate under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. As the chart below shows, the percentage of judicial nominees who were ultimately approved by a contentious “roll call” vote in the Senate has increased dramatically in recent years, whereas back in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations virtually all nominations were approved by uncontested voice vote:
As James Fallows of The Atlantic notes, the trend initiated by Democratic Senators under Bush of forcing nearly all judicial nominations to a contested vote has continued with the current Republican Senate minority under Obama. However, judicial vacancies have actually gotten even worse in recent years:
Obama has been slower than Bush to put nominees forward, and the Senate has been even slower to consider those he does nominate. Charts here, here, and here: a substantial number of “judicial emergencies,” without district-court judges to hear cases or circuit-court judges to hear appeals, because of the deliberate bogging-down of the whole process. In some cases the nominations are being held up because of a single Senator’s objection.
Currently, district court vacancies nationwide have grown to 59, up from 42 judgeships vacant when President Obama first took office. Meanwhile, the indecent exposure/insider trading/negligent amputation cases just keep piling up.
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