Court system isn’t place to play politics

The American people deserve a federal court system that is fully staffed with judges. A federal judiciary riddled with vacancies negates the ability to provide justice for all.

Today, nearly one out of every 11 federal judgeships sits vacant for no good reason. Judicial vacancies are close to three times more numerous than they were at this point in President George W. Bush’s first term.

Many of those vacancies can be blamed on Republicans in the Senate, who have held many of President Barack Obama’s nominations hostage through filibusters.

There are 19 nominees pending in the Senate during this lame-duck session. Fourteen of those judicial nominations went virtually unopposed in the Senate Judiciary Committee, so it is politics – not judicial qualifications – that is to blame for the alarming number of vacancies.

Ten of the 19 would fill judicial emergencies – situations where delays in the court system have been declared an emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Now that the 2012 presidential election is over, Republicans can no longer hold out for a new slate of nominees from a new president. They have a responsibility to the American people to fill the judgeships so justice can be served.

During Obama’s first term, federal judge vacancies have climbed 51 percent. By comparison, vacancies declined by 34 percent during George W. Bush’s first term and 65 percent during Bill Clinton’s first term.

It’s time to stop playing politics with the federal judge appointments. The courts simply can’t function in the best interests of the American people with this many vacancies.