Federal Courts and Nominations

Colorado’s chief federal judge says vacancies on bench are impeding judicial process


Chief U.S. District Judge Wiley Y. Daniel has 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 the two to put aside partisanship and allow a vote on the nomination of Denver lawyer William Martinez.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the court, and the public it serves, that the judicial nomination and appointment process proceed at a reasonable pace designed to yield qualified judges within a reasonable period of time,” Daniel wrote. “Reasonableness to me means that the two of you agree, without further delay to set a date certain for a vote on Mr. Martinez’s pending nomination.”

The letter, sent in May, did not work, as Martinez’s nomination has not been acted upon. Daniels’ letter was disclosed on the Senate floor Thursday by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado.

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.

“Judicial understaffing has a real effect on residents and business,” Udall said. “It continues to become extremely difficult to schedule a trial as these backlogs go longer and longer.”

Nearly 100 federal judgeships across the country remain unfilled, and experts who study the judicial nomination process agree the Senate’s pace of confirmations is at its slowest in recent history.

Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said 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.

Only two of Obama’s judicial nominees were confirmed within 100 days, and they were for Vermont and Alabama, Kendall said. Those are the home states for ranking Judiciary Committee members Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sessions denied there is a delay regarding Obama’s nominees and said the president’s candidates are moving faster toward confirmation than Bush’s nominees.

“If we ask for parity and consistency and fairness based on what was done to President Bush’s nominees, they would be held considerably longer,” he said, “and a lot of nominees would never get a hearing and would wait for years.”

Read the original article here.


More from Federal Courts and Nominations

Federal Courts and Nominations
January 17, 2024

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Sign-On Letter Prioritizing Diverse Judges

Dear Senator, On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the...
Federal Courts and Nominations
July 31, 2023

Liberal justices earn praise for ‘independence’ on Supreme Court, but Thomas truly stands alone, expert says

Fox News
Some democrats compare Justice Clarence Thomas to ‘Uncle Tom’ and house slave in ‘Django Unchained’
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, By Brianna Herlihy
Federal Courts and Nominations
July 7, 2023

In Her First Term, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ‘Came to Play’

The New York Times
From her first week on the Supreme Court bench in October to the final day...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, by Adam Liptak
Federal Courts and Nominations
July 8, 2023

The Supreme Court’s continuing march to the right

Major legal rulings that dismantled the use of race in college admissions, undermined protections for...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, by Tierney Sneed
Federal Courts and Nominations
June 25, 2023

Federal judge defends Clarence Thomas in new book, rejects ‘pot shots’ at Supreme Court

A federal appeals court judge previously on short lists for the Supreme Court is taking the rare...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra
Federal Courts and Nominations
May 1, 2023

Supreme Court, done with arguments, turns to decisions

Roll Call
The justices have released opinions at a slow rate this term, and many of the...
By: Brianne J. Gorod, By Michael Macagnone