July 10, 2007

The game has changed; the window is closing

Anna Palmer of the Legal Times pretty much says it all with the sub-title of her piece yesterday: "inaction from the White House and gridlock on the Hill leave four slots sitting vacant." She writes here in particular about the 4th Circuit (where there's still a crisis!), but these words describe the locked-down state of the judicial confirmation process at large. The White House has failed to set forth a sufficient number of nominees, and the Senate has failed to give many of the existing nominees a fair and expedient hearing and vote.
"After a period of relative ease in securing two U.S. Supreme Court appointments and several controversial judicial nominations after the Senate's 'Gang of 14' deal two years ago, the question remains whether the GOP will continue to make such gains in the federal judiciary during President George W. Bush's last 18 months in office.

'[Bush's] opportunity to fill vacancies is shrinking, and he probably will be unable to make the kinds of nominations that he made prior to 2006, says Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina."

A discouraging forecast. But a 'shrinking' opportunity is not yet the same as a lost opportunity; President Bush and the Senate should move quickly to ensure that the current situation does not degenerate from the former into the latter.

Last night's confirmation of the 'Michigan Three' - Janet Neff, Paul Maloney, and Robert Jonker - to three vacant seats in Michigan's Western District is an encouraging development. Curt Levey wrote in response: "Three Down, Two To Go." Two to go in Michigan - and many more vacancies in the 4th Circuit and beyond, too.

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