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Judicial Nominations

CAC reviews the records of federal judicial nominees and, when appropriate, takes a position in support of or in opposition to Senate confirmation.

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Judicial Vacancies and the D.C. Circuit

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is generally considered to be the Nation’s second most important court, after the Supreme Court.  This is because the D.C. Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over disputes involving numerous federal laws and regulations, and is responsible for resolving critically important cases involving national security, environmental protection, employment discrimination, food and drug safety, separation of powers, and the decisions of a wide array of administrative agencies.  Congress has authorized 11 judgeships for this court; currently, however, three of those 11 judicial seats are vacant. (READ MORE.)

Think Tank

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is generally considered to be the Nation’s second most important court, after the Supreme Court.  This is because the D.C. Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over disputes involving numerous federal laws and regulations, and is responsible for resolving critically important cases involving national security, environmental protection, employment discrimination, food and drug safety, separation of powers, and the decisions of a wide array of administrative agencies.  

This Supreme Court Term marks the first Term since the end of World War II in which the Court will be without a full complement of nine Justices for almost half the Term. The eight Justices now on the Court have said little about the effects of the prolonged vacancy on the Court following the death of Justice Scalia in February, other than stating that their work will go forward and “[f]or the most part” would not change.1 In fact, the Court decides most of its cases with three or fewer dissenting votes, and work on such cases can proceed without disruption. In the years since World War II, however, an increasing number of important legal controversies have closely divided the Supreme Court and have been resolved by 5-4 rulings. When, as is currently the case, only eight Justices sit on the Court, it is possible for the Court to deadlock. Such 4-4 ties leave the lower court decision in place, but set no national precedent. Already since Justice Scalia’s death, as discussed below, two important legal controversies have resulted in 4-4 votes, and in one of those cases, the result is that different legal rules apply to different people and businesses in states literally right next to each other. The absence of a full complement of nine Justices, as explained below, also has other harmful consequences.

Produced by Constitutional Accountability Center and People for the American Way Foundation.

CAC’s latest Issue Brief, released on August 4, 2011, (and updated periodically there after) focuses on the unprecedented, slow pace of judicial confirmations in the Senate. At a time when caseloads in our federal courts are at a record high, the Senate’s confirmation process for judicial nominees has failed to keep pace with new judicial vacancies. This has stretched the federal judiciary, already overextended, close to its breaking point. While the number of judicial vacancies typically increases at the beginning of a new presidency, a rapid decline usually follows. The Obama Presidency has seen that trend broken. Never before has the number of vacancies risen so sharply and remained so high for so long during a President’s term. For 763 straight days there have been more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench, and there is no end in sight.