21 Jun, 2012

The American Bar Association has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell expressing concerns that the judicial-confirmation process is about to fall victim to presidential election-year politics because of the “Thurmond Rule,” in which the Senate ceases to vote on nominees to the federal circuit court of appeals. There has been no consistent date in which this has occurred, but the ABA letter noted that during the past three election years, the last circuit-court nominees were confirmed in June during 2004 and 2008 and in July during 2000.    


In the letter, President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson (pictured) expressed “grave concern” for the longstanding number of judicial vacancies on Article III courts, known as such because they were established under Article III of the Constitution. Robinson urged the Senate to schedule action on three pending, noncontroversial circuit-court nominees before July. William Kayatta Jr. of Maine, nominated to the 1st Circuit; Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma, nominated to the 10th Circuit; and Richard Taranto, nominated to the Federal Circuit, have stellar professional qualifications, and each has been rated unanimously “well qualified” by the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, Robinson said.


The letter also urged the Senate to schedule weekly confirmation floor votes throughout the rest of the session for district-court nominees who have strong bipartisan support, lest the vacancy crisis worsens in the waning months of the 112th Congress. With five new vacancies arising this month and an additional five announced for July, Robinson said, this is a certainty, absent the Senate’s commitment to the federal judiciary and steady action on nominees.

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