Attorney General Eric Holder on the Slow Pace of Judicial Confirmations

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has a really good piece in The Washington Post on obstruction in the Senate that is keeping well-qualified and completely uncontroversial nominees  from being confirmed to the federal courts.

Too often – and to the detriment of people’s understanding of what our courts actually do – judicial nominations is covered almost exclusively in partisan terms.  Not so in Holder’s piece, which does a great job of explaining what happens to our court system when there are not enough judges:

Last year, 259,000 civil cases and 75,000 criminal cases were filed in the federal courts, enough to tax the abilities of the judiciary even when it is fully staffed. But today there are 103 judicial vacancies — nearly one in eight seats on the bench. Men and women who need their day in court must stand in longer and longer lines.

The problem is about to get worse. Because of projected retirements and other demographic changes, the number of annual new vacancies in the next decade will be 33 percent greater than in the past three decades. If the historic pace of Senate confirmations continues, one third of the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020. If we stay on the pace that the Senate has set in the past two years — the slowest pace of confirmations in history — fully half the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020.