WASHINGTON - Prior to adjourning for its August recess, the Senate failed to vote on the nominations of Asian Pacific American judicial nominees Judge Edward M. Chen and Professor Goodwin Liu, as well as several other judicial candidates. Their nominations have been returned to President Obama and NAPABA and AAJC strongly encourage President Obama to resubmit their nominations when the Senate returns from recess in September.
"We are seeing extensive delays affecting all nominees," said Joseph J. Centeno, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. "Highly qualified nominees such as Judge Chen and Professor Liu are entitled to a full Senate vote in a timely fashion. All Americans have an interest in having a qualified and diverse judiciary and these nominees deserve a confirmation vote."
Both Judge Chen and Professor Liu received unanimous "well qualified" ratings from the American Bar Association, the highest rating possible. Delays in the Senate are disproportionately affecting minority nominees--five of the six longest-pending judicial candidates are minorities, and the sixth is a woman.
Judge Chen was first nominated Aug. 6, 2009 and has been waiting longer than any other nominee for a confirmation vote. He was favorably voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2009 but the full Senate did not take up his confirmation before the legislative session ended, which automatically returned his name to the president. President Obama immediately re-nominated him and the Judiciary Committee approved him again in February 2010.
"The Senate's failure to hold full confirmation votes on judicial nominees is hurting our judicial system's efficiency and accessibility," said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. "These extensive delays and inaction are a critical issue when more than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant and our courts are overburdened."
Of 876 federal judgeships, 100 are vacant and 46 are considered "judicial emergencies." In the Northern District of California, the seat that Judge Chen awaits confirmation for has been vacant for more than 860 days. Moreover, each judge in the district handles more than 600 cases per year-more than 1.5 times the national average.
"A qualified jurist such as Judge Chen should not wait more than a year for a confirmation vote," Narasaki said. "Time is running out and he should be voted on immediately. We urge all Asian Pacific Americans to contact their senators and tell them to move for cloture on Judge Chen's nomination as soon as they receive it."
NAPABA and AAJC thank California Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her efforts in trying to move Judge Chen's and Professor Liu's nominations forward.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of over 40,000 attorneys and 62 local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members represent solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal service and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes professional development of minorities in the legal profession.
The Asian American Justice Center (www.advancingequality.org), a member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, works closely with its sister organizations – the Asian American Institute in Chicago (www.aaichicago.org), the Asian Law Caucus (www.asianlawcaucus.org) in San Francisco and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (www.apalc.org) in Los Angeles – to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities.