Traditionally, a president will not nominate district court judges without consulting with a potential nominee’s home-state senators. Yet Arizona Senators John McCain (R) and John Kyl (R) appear to be absent from this process — despite a GOP-appointed chief judge literally begging them to step up:
The Arizona Republic reported that at the time of [Chief Judge] Roll’s death, Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, both Republicans, had yet to submit any names to the White House. Four months later, there are few public signs of progress.
“The latest I know is there has been no nomination,” said [Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex] Kozinski, a Reagan appointee. “This is very disconcerting. I have the impression it took a very long time to get names to the White House. […] We’ve pleaded with senators to hurry up the process, and I’m sure they’re doing [the] best they can.”
McCain and Kyl’s failure to engage leaves thousands of their constituents without meaningful access to justice. The U.S. district court in Arizona is among the most overburdened in the country. Felony filings doubled in just two years, and the court is currently operating eight judges short of what it needs to adequately handle its caseload — a vacancy crisis that was exacerbated after its chief judge was murdered while waiting to speak to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) about how to solve this problem.
Moreover, Kyl and McCain’s foot-dragging is just one part of the Senate GOP’s widespread obstruction of Obama’s judicial nominees. As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, GOP obstruction of Obama’s judges was so widespread during the president’s first two years in office that the Senate confirmed a smaller percentage of Obama’s judges than it did during the first two years of any previous presidency.
Indeed, this obstructionism has produced such a severe vacancy crisis that Kozinski is just one of many GOP judges begging Senate Republicans to stop playing partisan games. Eleventh Circuit Chief Judge Joel Dubina recently complained that “I don’t know what it’s going to take to break this logjam. But something needs to be done.” Republican former appeals court Judge Timothy Lewis described Senate obstructionism as “outrageous” and “shameful.” Even George W. Bush-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts used his annual report last January to speak out against the vacancy crisis.
Sadly, at least in Arizona, their pleas appear to be falling on deaf ears.