Hot on the heels of a pretty spirited discussion of the Obama Administration treatment of progressive nominees, both in the blog post here at Emptywheel and yesterday on Twitter, comes the reminder by Main Justice that there are no appointed, nor confirmed, US Attorneys in all of Texas:
Career prosecutors have run the four U.S. Attorney’s offices in Texas for more than a year. Obama has made one U.S. Attorney nomination in Texas thus far: state Judge John B. Stevens Jr., who withdrew from consideration for Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney.
The Senate has confirmed 66 of Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees. There are 93 U.S. Attorney posts.
Now the framing of the report is a complaint by John Cornyn, which I have little sympathy for, and who has undoubtedly contributed somewhat to the impasse; but that said, the facts are pretty astounding.
Over a year and a half into the Obama Presidency, and still over 30% of the US Attorney positions remain unfilled or, even worse, still under the control of Bush/Cheney appointees. The percentage is only that low due to a recent surge in investitures of US Attorneys; for most of the current Administration’s term, the situation was even far worse than it is as of today.
Which led me to wonder exactly what the corresponding status was for federal judicial nominations. It is fairly bleak. There are 103 Federal judicial vacancies and, shockingly, on 48 of them even have so much as a nominee pending. 12% of the 876 total Federal judgeships are sitting vacant. In my own little nook of the world, the 9th Circuit, there are 13 total judicial seats vacant, and only three of them have even putative nominees.
The critical importance of filling judicial vacancies is explained very nicely in a current post by Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog that expands on my Progressive Nominations/Goodwin Liu post yesterday:
This matters for several reasons. One is that the current judiciary is overwhelmingly Republican-appointed and conservative (including Movement-Conservative):
Over the last three decades, Republicans have put the appointment of conservative judges at the top of their agenda. And controlling the White House 20 of the last 30 years has allowed them to carry out their plan. By the time George W. Bush left office, 60.2 percent of the judges, including two-thirds of the Supreme Court, had been appointed by Republican presidents. The younger Bush appointed nearly 40 percent of all federal judges.
Yet Obama has been cautious to the point of weird about reversing this trend. While news stories on this subject headline his lack of judicial confirmations, stories like this one also contain tales of his caution; Bloomberg:
A lot of groups are still waiting for this president to nominate someone who will really reshape the bench,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights in Washington. The group supports expanding legal protection for blacks and other minorities.
Gaius Publius is exactly right. In fact, reshaping the Federal judiciary away from the hard conservative Federalist society bent that has been installed and Read more