March 5, 2013
“President Obama’s judicial nominees have waited, on average, three to four times longer to be confirmed than those nominated by President George W. Bush.”
“If my Republican colleagues choose to filibuster [Caitlin] Halligan’s confirmation a second time, their naked partisanship will be exposed.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding Republican obstruction of qualified judicial nominees. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
William Gladstone, four-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, wrote that, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” By that measure, millions of Americans who rely on courts that are overworked and understaffed are being denied the justice they rightly deserve.
With one out of every 10 federal judgeships vacant, Americans can no longer rely on a fair and speedy trial. More than half the nation’s population lives in a part of the country that’s been declared a “judicial emergency.”
The high number of vacancies isn’t due to a lack of qualified jurists. It is due, instead, to blatant partisanship.
President Obama’s judicial nominees have waited, on average, three to four times longer to be confirmed than those nominated by President George W. Bush. Even highly-qualified nominees – nominees who are eventually confirmed unanimously or almost unanimously – routinely wait weeks or even months to be confirmed.
Tomorrow, the Senate will consider highly-qualified Caitlin Joan Halligan. Ms. Halligan has been waiting more than two years to be confirmed.
Ms. Halligan is nominated – for the second time – to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit considers complex appeals of federal regulations. And it has jurisdiction over vital national security challenges. It is also one of the many courts in crisis across this country.
A third of seats on the D.C. Circuit Court are vacant. The last appointment to the D.C. Circuit was made in 2006. And in the years since, the number of pending cases per judge has grown from 119 in 2005 to 188 today.
When Ms. Halligan was nominated to the D.C. Circuit in 2010, she was nominated to fill one of two vacancies on the court. More than two years later, Ms. Halligan’s nomination is again before the Senate. And the D.C. Circuit now has four empty seats.
The last time the Senate considered Ms. Halligan’s nomination, some of my Republican colleagues claimed the D.C. Circuit didn’t really need more judges. So they filibustered her confirmation. No one could credibly make that argument today. If my Republican colleagues choose to filibuster Ms. Halligan’s confirmation a second time, their naked partisanship will be exposed.
Patricia M. Wald, who retired after serving two decades on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said this of the confirmation process: “The constitutional system of nomination and confirmation can work only if there is good faith on the part of both the president and the Senate to move qualified nominees along, rather than withholding consent for political reasons.” A second partisan filibuster of this highly-qualified nominee by my Republican colleagues would be in very bad faith.
One qualified, consensus judicial nominee ought to be treated like another – regardless of the political party of the President that made the nomination. Yet President Obama is the only president in the 65-year history of the D.C. Circuit Court not to have a single judge confirmed during his first term.
It’s certainly not because his nominees are anything less than supremely qualified. Ms. Halligan’s colleagues have called her a “brilliant legal mind.” She has outstanding credentials and the strong support of appellate lawyers, former judges, law enforcement officials and more than 20 former Supreme Court clerks from across the political spectrum. She graduated with honors from Princeton and Georgetown University Law. She clerked for Judge Patricia Wald, who I quoted a moment ago, and for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
If a truly exceptional candidate such as Caitlin Halligan isn’t qualified to be a judge in the United States of America, I don’t know who is.