The White House is ramping up its information campaign on President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, ahead of a possible push this fall to confirm more judges.
In a post on its official blog late on Thursday, the White House criticized the Senate for not voting on 20 pending nominees before leaving Washington for its August recess. It also highlights recent statements by Stephen Zack, then the president of the American Bar Association, and the editorial board of The Washington Post, both calling for a faster confirmation process for nominees.
“Creating a judicial pool for the 21st Century, one with intellect, fair-mindedness and integrity that resembles the nation that it serves, is a top priority for President Obama and his administration,” the blog post says.
Some administration allies have complained that judges have not been a top priority for Obama, especially compared with the emphasis that President George W. Bush placed on the issue. Obama lags behind Bush and President Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies on the number of judges confirmed — something that is at least partly a reflection of Obama’s large legislative agenda. Obama himself rarely talks about judges.
Accompanying the White House’s blog post is a graphic about the president’s nominees and the delays they’ve faced. It notes that Obama’s nominees have generally waited months between a successful committee vote and a final vote, and it highlights some of the costs of judicial vacancies, such as longer waits for civil trials.
Republicans argue that they have treated Obama’s nominees fairly, and they note that most nominees, unlike some of Bush’s, have had little trouble getting a committee hearing or committee vote. They say Obama has been slow in nominating judges, and they criticize the qualifications of some nominees.
“As I’ve stated more than once, the Senate must not place quantity confirmed over quality confirmed. These lifetime appointments are too important to the federal judiciary and the American people to simply rubber-stamp them,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at a committee meeting last month.
Of the nominees who have been confirmed, Obama has succeeded in his goal of diversifying the federal judiciary. As The National Law Journal has reported, Obama’s appointees to the bench make up the most diverse group ever along racial, ethnic and gender lines.
Obama’s supporters see this fall as a key opportunity to confirm more judges before the Senate’s pace slows further during the 2012 election year.