Federal Courts and Nominations

Editorial: Fill judicial vacancies

Even before Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule to ease the confirmation of judicial and executive branch nominees, Pennsylvania’s two senators had managed to find common ground.


Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey established a process to vet nominees, which enabled them to present a very helpful united front to the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. One result is that they have been able to end the “judicial emergency” of vacancies that long had plagued the Scranton-based U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania.


Yet vacancies remain in the state’s two other federal court districts that diminish the public’s ready access to justice.


According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Philadelphia-based Eastern District has seven judicial vacancies. Mr. Casey and Mr. Toomey agreed in August on two nominees – attorney Gerald McHugh and Judge Edward Smith – but the confirmation process has stalled and there has been no movement toward nominations for the other five seats.


The Western District, Pittsburgh, has three vacancies, for which 40 lawyers and judges had applied before the deadline nearly a year ago, but no names have been forwarded to the White House.


The change in the filibuster rule should produce more confirmations to help get the courts up to speed. Nationwide there are 88 vacancies and 20 announced retirements. It’s more important that Mr. Casey and Mr. Toomey continue their good work, in public, to get qualified candidates into the process.




This piece appeared in at least the following additional outlets:


*  The Wilkes Barre (PA) Citizens Voice (online)

*  The Towanda (PA) Daily Review (online)

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