Earlier this week, seven Republican-appointed federal judges co-signed a letter warning of the consequences of the GOP’s systematic obstruction of President Obama’s judges. The letter from the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, which includes Republican appointees Alex Kozinski, Ralph Beistline, Vaughn Walker, Irma Gonzales, Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood, Richard Frank Cebull, Lonny Ray Suko, explains:
In order to do our work, and serve the public as Congress expects us to serve it, we need the resources to carry out our mission. While there are many areas of serious need, we write today to emphasize our desperate need for judges. Our need in that regard has been amply documented (See attached March 2009 Judicial Conference Recommendations for Additional Judgeships). Courts cannot do their work if authorized judicial positions remain vacant.
While we could certainly use more judges, and hope that Congress will soon approve the additional judgeships requested by the Judicial Conference, we would be greatly assisted if our judicial vacancies–some of which have been open for several years and declared “judicial emergencies”–were to be filled promptly. We respectfully request that the Senate act on judicial nominees without delay.
Although the letter is written in the respectful tone that judges generally adopt when speaking to their colleagues, this kind of advocacy by judges is exceptionally rare. Indeed, judges so rarely speak out about the judicial confirmation process that when conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist spoke out against GOP obstructionism of President Clinton’s nominees in 1997, the event stunned senators into action. Judicial confirmations increased from only 36 in 1997 to 65 in 1998. GOP obstructionism has become so serious that only 41 judges have been confirmed during Obama’s entire presidency.
An op-ed co-authored by retired conservative Judge Timothy Lewis provides a grim accessment of what will happen if Republicans continue their “delay for delay’s sake” tactics: “They are creating an unprecedented shortfall of judicial confirmations and, ultimately, a shortage of judges available to hear cases. For many Americans, this means justice is likely to be unnecessarily delayed — and often denied.”