The American Bar Association sent a letter to Senate leaders yesterday expressing a "grave concern" for the high number of longstanding federal judicial vacancies. The group urged floor votes on three noncontroversial appellate court nominees this month.
Alluding to reports that Republicans plan to block all U.S. circuit court nominees for the rest of the election year, ABA President William Robinson III also urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to work together on district court judges "lest the vacancy crisis worsens in the waning months of the 112th Congress."
"With five new vacancies arising this month and an additional five announced for next month, this is not just a possibility; it is a certainty, absent your continued commitment to the federal judiciary and steady action on nominees," Robinson wrote.
Three of the four circuit court nominees pending on the Senate floor are consensus nominees who received overwhelming approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Robinson said.
William Kayatta, Jr., nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Robert Bacharach, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, have the staunch support of their Republican senators, Robinson noted. And Richard Taranto, nominated to the Federal Circuit, "enjoys strong bipartisan support, including the endorsement of noted conservative legal scholars."
"All three nominees also have stellar professional qualifications and each has been rated unanimously 'well-qualified' by the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary," Robinson’s letter states.
This month, Democrats in the Senate have criticized Republicans for announcing the implementation of the "Thurmond Rule,” a loosely defined Senate tradition that suggests the Senate refrain from voting on nominees to federal appellate courts in the second half of a presidential election year.
Robinson’s letter notes that there has been no consistently observed date at which this has occurred during presidential election years from 1980 to 2008.