WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved 14 of 15 judicial nominees, including several who have been denied confirmation votes on the Senate floor for months due to an unprecedented campaign of obstruction.
Four nominees with strong support from the civil right community – Edward Milton Chen for the District of Northern California, Goodwin Liu for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Louis B. Butler, Jr. for the District of Western Wisconsin, and John J. McConnell, Jr. for the District of Rhode Island – were among those reported out of committee. The committee had previously recommended all four nominees but they were forced to go through the process again when the full Senate failed to act on their nominations before Congress began its last recess in August.
"It's unfortunate that these nominees have been forced to go through such a gauntlet simply to serve their country," said Marge Baker, executive vice president of the People For the American Way.
Because of the delaying tactics, only 41 of President Obama's 85 judicial nominees have been confirmed – just 48 percent. The percentage and number of confirmations is the lowest for any president at this point in their term in at least 36 years. The inability of the Senate to overcome the obstruction has contributed to a growing vacancy crisis in the district and circuit courts. Of the 103 current vacancies, nearly half have been declared "judicial emergencies" by the U.S. Judicial Conference, primarily because the courts don't have enough judges to handle all the cases.
There are 24 currently nominations awaiting confirmation votes on the Senate floor.
The Judiciary Committee lost a quorum and was unable to vote Thursday on Robert N. Chatigny, a judge for the District of Connecticut who has been nominated to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Chatigny's nomination was accompanied by 17 letters of recommendation from former federal prosecutors in Connecticut who either worked with him or appeared before him. In addition, three prominent Republicans from Connecticut support his nomination.