As the President nears the end of his first term in office, he will at best, be happy about laying the groundwork for addressing issues that were put on the backburner owing to the small business about returning to the White House again.
However, one thing he surely will not be happy about is his inability to lessen the federal judicial vacancies.
As of now, there are 83 district and circuit court judge seats waiting for an occupant, considering that there were around 55 seats that needed to be filled, the day he was sworn in it will be a situation of which he is not likely to feel proud.
To add to his woes and to impress the urgency of filling the vacancies, 33 of the 83 seats are regarded as “judicial emergencies.” This is because it increases the workload on the existing judges. Experts say that the number of cases per panel of judges is more than 700. In district courts, a single judge may have to handle any number of cases between 430 and 600 for more than a year and a half. Moreover, it also means that court cases are delayed as the process takes time and the dearth of judges makes it that much slower.
The reason that most analyst give, for this, seemingly lackluster approach, to filling judicial vacancies, is that the Senate is always bickering and just will not allow any names to be cleared. Analysts also say that the President is also not so forthcoming in putting forward nominees and is rather slow in this regards compared to his predecessors. At this juncture in their presidencies, Clinton and Bush had nominated 247 and 231 judicial nominees, respectively. In comparison the President has put up only 215.
Of course this does not mean that if the President does put up his nominees the Republicans would immediately grant their consent. Piqued at the recent defeat, they will ensure that nothing goes through without a fight and want to make things as difficult as possible for the Democrats.
A White House said that it is a misconception that the sluggish rate of dispensing justice is owing to the dearth of judges. Increasing the number of judges will not make a difference,” the vacancy rate doesn’t change at all. The bottleneck is the Senate,” he said.
So far the prevalent pattern is that judicial nominees are not accepted and uncontroversial judicial nominees, meaning those who are acceptable to both side, are cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee, without having to face the Senate floor. After months of being at variance and dithering, when the backlog becomes embarrassing large, they agree on the names, so much so that nominees who had faced vociferous opposition a few months ago, sail through virtually unopposed.
Traditionally it is seen senators sitting in the opposition hindered and blocked judicial nominees that is the nature of politics. But the palpable difference since President Obama took office is that the degree of opposition has increased significantly. Of Bill Clinton’s nominees, 81 percent managed to clear the Senate floor while Bush managed an even higher percentage at 88.7. In contrast Obama has seen only 75 percent of his nominees managing to clear the Senate hurdle.
Proof enough, that the President is not having it easy, seeking his judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate. 43 of his judicial nominees are awaiting a vote either in the Senate Judiciary Committee or on the floor of the Senate.
Ironically, two months ago when the Senate went into recess, it failed to take action on 19 judicial nominees, most of whom were acceptable to both the Republicans and the Democrats.
With the year still a few weeks away from being relegated to the pages of history, Democrats are hoping that action can be taken on these 19 stalled nominees that would lessen the vacancy deficit by 25 percent and fill 13 judicial emergencies.