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Direckshun 12-26-2012 01:47 PM

Judiciary under Obama (and the Senate GOP): historical lows in district appts.
The GOP has been surprisingly mild with their blocking of judicial nominees, except for district judges, where the GOP's blocking of nominees........

wait for it record setting.

I feel like we've done this dance a few times, but it's worth having out there.

Obama’s impact on federal judiciary
Robert Barnes

It takes a calculator and perhaps the rigor of Sherlock Holmes to cut through the partisan rhetoric about President Obama’s first-term record on judicial nominations. But the bottom line is clear enough.

There are more vacancies on the federal courts now than when Obama took office nearly four years ago. And he is the first president in generations to fail to put a nominee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most influential court in the land and traditionally a training ground for Supreme Court justices.

Obama has, of course, left his mark on the high court by nominating Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Their confirmations leave those two seats for decades in liberal hands, and marked a historic diversification of the court.

But, depending on what the Senate does in these final days,Obama’s record on the rest of the federal judiciary will show one more opening on the nation’s powerful 13 courts of appeal than when he took office, and more than a dozen additional vacant district court judgeships.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) blames Senate Republicans for foot-dragging on nominees that he says are utterly uncontroversial.

“These delays mean that the Senate will, again, be needlessly forced to devote the first several months of next year confirming judges who could and should have been confirmed the previous year,” Leahy said earlier this month.

He added that the increase in vacancies “is bad for our federal courts and for the American people who depend on them for justice.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, responds that the Senate has confirmed at least as many as were approved during President George W. Bush’s first term. “The continued complaints we hear about how unfairly this president has been treated are unfounded,” he said.

Russell Wheeler, a judicial scholar at the Brookings Institution, has taken a more detached look at the process. “There is so much propaganda out there,” Wheeler says. “It’s almost as if they are speaking different languages.”

Wheeler’s conclusion: “The contentiousness that affected President William Clinton’s and President George W. Bush’s efforts to appoint judges to the courts of appeals did not appear to worsen during Obama’s first term, but battles have heated up over district nominations.”

Drastically increased delays in confirming district court judges are part of the reason for the higher vacancy rates, Wheeler said, but the Obama administration is responsible for sending up fewer nominees and taking longer to do it.

District judges are at the first tier of the federal judiciary; they decide individual cases and their decisions do not create precedent for other judges. In the past, confirmation of district judges was seen as somewhat routine.

But that has changed, Wheeler said, with longer wait times and more contested votes. The average time from nomination to confirmation for a Clinton district judge was about three months. That grew to 154 days for a Bush nominee, Wheeler said, compared to 223 days for Obama’s choices.

Direckshun 12-26-2012 01:47 PM

Here's the study:

Direckshun 12-26-2012 01:49 PM

The study's summary:


To Summarize
• Clinton and Bush saw decreases in district vacancies of ten percent and 57 percent respectively, while district vacancies under Obama have increased by 40 percent, even though he had about the same number of district vacancies to fill in his first term as did Bush, and fewer than did Clinton.
• Obama submitted fewer district nominees and took longer to submit them, especially for vacancies in states with two Republican senators.
• For circuit nominees, the vacancy-to-nomination data are more jumbled.
• Obama’s district nominees saw longer nomination-to-confirmation times and lower confirmation rates. Even with confirmation rates similar to Clinton or Bush, Obama would not have had as many appointees as they did, because of fewer nominees.
• Obama’s circuit confirmation rates were within the range of his immediate predecessors, and the confirmations came sooner than did Bush’s.
• Obama appointees got Judiciary Committee hearings sooner than did Bush’s but waited much longer for floor action.
• Confirmations by voice vote or unanimous consent have declined, and roll call votes with negative votes have increased.
• There appears to be a relationship, albeit a weak one, between longer hearing-to-confirmation times for Obama district judges and increased negative votes.
• ABA ratings appear to have a relationship, albeit tenuous, to confirmations.
• The Obama administration and the Senate have continued the demographic and vocational background diversification of the federal district and appellate courts.
• Obama’s circuit nominees are on average older than those of his two predecessors.
• Senators’ use of vetting committees had little apparent impact on district court nominations, appointments, or key demographic or vocational backgrounds.
• Obama has reshaped the courts of appeals as to the proportion of judges appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents and may reshape them significantly in his second term.

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