A nonpartisan group of Texas lawyers, law professors and other legal advocates today called on the U.S. Senate to quickly fill judicial vacancies that are slowing down the justice system in Texas and nationwide.
While applauding the Oct. 3 confirmation of U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo to the Southern District Court in Houston, the group said at a press conference today that the Senate has much more work to do.I'd hoped earlier this year when Chief Justice John Roberts highlighted the issue in his State of the Judiciary speech that GOP senators - especially Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who's a key leader among judicial obstructionists - would ease up and allow more nominees through, particularly in Texas' Southern and Western Districts which have been so overwhelmed with immigration cases that they barely prosecute other types of offenses anymore. But at this point I'd be surprised if Texas sees any more federal judges approved before the 2012 election.
In Texas, there are seven federal judicial vacancies — one on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and six on U.S. district trial courts. The legal advocates said that unfilled judicial positions lead to unmanageable workloads for presiding judges, lengthy delays and, ultimately, in some districts, judicial emergencies, as defined by Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The national picture looks even grimmer, with 89 judicial vacancies. Some 32 of those vacancies have led to judicial emergencies, said Margaret Justus, spokeswoman for the legal group.
The high rate of vacancies across the country is particularly frustrating, the group said, because 52 judicial nominations — four of those in Texas — are pending in the Senate.