LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – This morning, a panel of local and national legal leaders gathered at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law to highlight the growing judicial vacancy crisis that has deeply impacted Nevada and the nation but has largely escaped the public eye. The panel was composed of Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, American Constitution Society board member Robert Raben, criminal defense attorney Jonathan MacArthur, and Professor Sylvia Lazos of the Boyd School of Law.
In Nevada, two nominees, Miranda Du and Elissa Cadish, are waiting to be confirmed for vacancies that have been declared “judicial emergencies.” Members of the U.S. Senate have repeatedly blocked judicial nominees regardless of bipartisan support and undisputed qualifications. As a result, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has declared “judicial emergencies” in 32 of the open seats. Some seats have been vacant for years, causing historic case backlogs, overloading judges, and creating long delays.
The panel discussed the political causes and implications of the vacancy crisis, and the hardships caused by long delayed justice. Even non-controversial, well-qualified nominees appointed to fill “judicial emergency” vacancies have faced long filibusters and other political delay tactics.
“Our courts are crucial to bringing criminals to justice and allowing people and businesses to settle disputes. With the high number of vacancies on our courts, including seven vacancies on federal courts that serve Nevada, the process slows to a crawl. And we know that justice delayed is justice denied,” said Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
“A small group of senators set on playing politics has exploited Senate rules to obstruct judicial nominees. They admit it has nothing to do with the nominees’ qualifications or bipartisan support. Senator Harry Reid is working to break through their obstructionism, but he needs to continue to hear that the judiciary is a priority to the legal community and all who rely on our courts. If we make our voices heard, this crisis can be solved, but until then, the federal courts will grind closer to a halt,” said Robert Raben, a board member of the American Constitution Society.
“The Constitution guarantees us all the right to a speedy trial, yet for those awaiting their day in federal court, the only thing guaranteed is a long, long wait. In my career as a defense attorney I have seen the hardship caused by long delayed justice. It’s time for the Senate to make confirming judges a priority, and all concerned Nevadans have the power to make this happen,” said criminal defense attorney Jonathan MacArthur.
“A diverse and fully staffed bench is the guarantee for justice. Continued delays in filling court vacancies, especially in places like Nevada that are designated judicial emergencies, undermines the promise of justice for all,” said Sylvia Lazos, Justice Myron Leavitt Professor of Law at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law.
To date, there are 103 federal court vacancies, 42 of which have nominees pending in the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved 20 nominees who are still waiting for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Ten of those 20 nominees would fill “judicial emergency” vacancies once confirmed.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.