Senators McCain And Kyl Are Back To Obstructing Judges In One Of The Most Overloaded Courts In The Country

The late Chief Judge John Roll of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Few if any courts are more handicapped by the judicial vacancy crisis than the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. After the murder of Chief Judge John Roll in the same mass shooting that targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), there are currently three vacancies on this court. And the Judicial Conference of the United States believes that eight additional judges are required to keep up with the court’s exploding caseload, where felony case filings alone nearly doubled from 3,023 in 2008 to 5,219 in 2010.

Yet, despite this pressing need, Arizona’s two senators have done little but throw roadblocks in the way of confirming new judges. Traditionally, a president will not nominate district court judges without consulting with a potential nominee’s home-state senators. Yet Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) delayed so long in sending names to President Obama that even the Republican chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals that includes Arizona was pleading with them to stop holding things up. When Obama nominated two people to fill the longest-standing vacancies on this court, court watchers hoped that this was the end of McCain and Kyl’s roadblocks — but it appears that the two senators are now back up to their old tricks:

President Obama did his part by nominating two women to fill those vacancies. One of those, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Guerin Zipps already has the green light.

But Rosemary Marquez, a defense lawyer working out of a downtown Tucson office, is being held up by Arizona’s two Senators. […]

The average judge nationwide handles 566 actions. An Arizona judge handles 854. And those numbers are constantly climbing.

Although nominees to more powerful court of appeals judgeships have previously been the subject of political warfare, conservative obstruction of district court nominees was unheard of prior the Obama presidency. District judges spend the overwhelming majority of their time on routine, non-ideological issues such as trial scheduling, sentencing hearings, and routine jury instructions. So, by blocking Marquez’ nomination to a district court, McCain and Kyl are depriving their constituents of a desperately needed public servant without even gaining much of anything ideologically in return.