The slowing confirmation rate for federal judges means litigants aren't getting their cases heard in a timely way and fewer people are willing to be nominated, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said today.
Lamberth, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, added his voice to those calling for the Senate and the White House to find a long-term solution to the delays in the confirmation process. He joins Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who in his year-end statement two months ago blamed both major political parties for adding to the delays.
“I say to both Republicans and Democrats: You’re injuring the federal judiciary,” Lamberth said. “Our country needs a fair and impartial federal judiciary.” He spoke during a panel discussion on the confirmation process at the Brookings Institution.
Lamberth reiterated comments he’s made before that judicial vacancies, when combined with the caseload from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are keeping his court from holding civil trials. “We plan to try very few civil cases this spring and summer,” he said.
Though he didn’t mention any names, Lamberth said the delays have a “powerful and negative impact on persuading the best and the brightest to undertake the process to become a federal judge.”
There are three vacancies on the district court in Washington — although two nominees, James Boasberg and Amy Berman Jackson, face no public opposition and are awaiting votes by the full Senate. Lamberth said he hoped the two would receive votes this week, but instead the Senate is expected to vote on two nominees for the Northern District of Georgia.
Lamberth said that, due to the confirmation backlog, he encourages judges on his court to take senior status as soon as they’re eligible. That way, their successors can be confirmed even as they continue to hear cases. “From my point of view, the sooner they take it the better, because then we can have some extra labor,” Lamberth said.
Last month, White House Counsel Robert Bauer urged senators to end their battles over judicial nominees, but Lamberth said today that Bauer’s speech “fell short.”
“Nobody wants to do the part that [fellow panelist Benjamin Wittes] mentioned in admitting they did wrong,” Lamberth said.