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Words like “crisis” are in the eye of the political beholder. But it’s hard to pick a better one to describe the current state of vacancies in the federal courts.
Today, 126 positions on the U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals are vacant. In fact, we’re in the longest period of triple-digit vacancies in 25 years. But the raw numbers don’t tell the full story, so, since the partisan environment is so bitter, let’s apply some standards advocated by Democrats to put these numbers in perspective.
Vacancies - Today - Percent - Sen - Cory
Vacancies today are 52 percent higher than when Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., declared a “vacancy crisis” in July 2016. They are 88 percent higher than in September 2015, when then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., warned that “we are heading into a judicial vacancy crisis.”
In April 2014, Leahy also said it was fair to compare vacancies today with vacancies at the same point in previous administrations. Vacancies are 16 percent higher than at this point under President Barack Obama, 110 percent higher than under President George W. Bush, and 103 percent higher than under President Clinton.
Administrative - Office - US - Courts - Emergencies
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts designates as “judicial emergencies” the vacancies that have been open the longest and have the most negative effect on the caseloads of sitting judges. In March 2012, Democratic Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said that 35 judicial emergency vacancies would cause the administration of justice to suffer “at every level.” Not only are judicial emergencies 80 percent higher today, but they have been open an average of 24 percent longer than when Durbin warned about this crisis.
Approximately 45 federal judges leave their position each year, and Senate Democrats have complained when judicial confirmations do not keep up with attrition—at...
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