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This Week in Judicial Selection

Following on the confirmation of Brian Wimes to the Eastern and Western District Court of Missouri on Monday, further action to fill judicial vacancies in U.S. District Courts this week included the White House making four district court nominations, the Senate Judiciary Committee reporting out three nominees to the Senate floor, and the full Senate confirming two district court nominees.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 97-2 to confirm Gregg Costa to a seat in the Southern District of Texas, with Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Mike Lee (R-UT) voting no in their continuing efforts to scold President Obama for using his recess appointment authority to make Executive Branch appointments. David Guaderrama was confirmed on a voice vote to a seat in the Western District of Texas.

It took 232 days from the time of Costa’s nomination for him to be confirmed, with 148 of those days spent on the Senate floor awaiting a final vote. Guaderrama's consensus confirmation by voice vote was also delayed for 148 days in the Senate. Both seats had been declared "judicial emergencies" by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.

During the debate, Senator Kay Hutchinson (R-TX) erroneously claimed “we have confirmed the same—roughly the same number of district judges as President George Bush and President Clinton did in their first terms, and to my knowledge, we’re not holding up nominations at all.”  In fact, with the confirmations of Costa and Guaderrama, 113 Obama district judges have been confirmed compared to 142 for President Bush and 151 for President Clinton at comparable dates in their terms.

Earlier on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out:
  • Michael Shea, nominated to the District of Utah. Shea was reported on a vote of 15-3 with Senators Lee, John Cornyn (R-TX), and Tom Coburn (R-OK) voting no.
  • Robert Shelby, nominated to the District of Connecticut on a voice vote with Sen. Lee opposing.
  • Gonzalo Curiel, nominated to the Southern District of California, on a voice vote with Sen. Lee opposing.
Senator Lee has vowed to oppose every single one of President Obama's nominees, regardless of merit or circumstance. He will even vote against nominees -- like Shelby -- who would fill vacancies in his home state and who he has claimed to support.

On Wednesday, President Obama nominated four district court judges:
  • Terrence Berg to fill an emergency vacancy in the Eastern District of Michigan
  • Jesus Bernal to fill an emergency vacancy in the Central District of California
  • Shelly Deckert Dick to fill a vacancy in the Middle District of Louisiana
  • Lorna G. Schofield to fill a vacancy in the Southern District of New York

If confirmed, Schofield will be the first person of Filipino descent to serve as an Article III judge in American history.

At the end of the week, there are 96 current and future judicial vacancies, with 22 nominees awaiting votes by the full Senate. With 1 in 9 seats on the federal bench vacant, the Senate should make a priority of voting on these nominees and filling our courtrooms so that people turning to our court system for justice can find it.

For the most comprehensive, up-to-date information on judicial nominations, visit the Judicial Selection Project website.