Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Senate Must Move Quickly on Federal Judge Nominations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Senate Must Move Quickly on Federal Judge Nominations

Article excerpt

When the US Senate returned from its Fourth of July recess, it finally turned its attention to an important piece of business that had been left undone for too long. It began voting on some of the 23 nominees for appointment to the federal bench. The names of 17 of those nominees had been pending before the Senate since May 16, when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the last of that group and sent their names to the floor. The Senate had confirmed no nominees since Jan. 2, when it confirmed three judges.

Upon the Senate's return, it agreed to vote on one nominee a day. By last week, it had voted on nine nominees altogether, but none for any of the regional courts of appeals. Because the Senate's agreement may break down, particularly when it considers nominees to the appellate courts, it should vote as soon as possible on the 14 nominees who were awaiting confirmation last week.

Why is it so important that the Senate act quickly? First, a number of the nominees are to fill judicial seats that have remained vacant for a considerable period, some as long as a year. In most courts, the appointment of new judges could help reduce backlogs of civil cases and expedite the resolution of criminal cases, which the Speedy Trial Act requires. Attorney General Janet Reno recently said, "Vacancies cause delays and - as victims, prosecutors, defendants, and civil litigants will all confirm - justice delayed is justice denied." Confirmation of the 14 nominees would fill one-quarter of the current vacancies in the federal judiciary.

Second, many of the nominees have been under consideration for a lengthy period of time, which can disrupt their professional careers and personal lives. Those lawyers who are willing to undergo the public scrutiny that attends nomination to the federal bench are entitled to a decision about their candidacies within a reasonable time. If we want the finest possible attorneys serving as federal judges, we must treat the nominees fairly and respectfully, lest other excellent candidates be discouraged from considering public service as federal judges.

When President Bush was running for re-election in 1992, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed more than 60 nominees, fully one-third of Bush's appointments and more than in any year of his term. In fairness, however, the Senate did not act on some 50 names Bush had submitted, and the president failed to nominate lawyers for all of the vacancies that existed.

DONALD MOLLOY, a highly respected practicing lawyer from Billings, Mont., confirmed last week by the Senate, is illustrative of the 14 attorneys awaiting a floor vote. I use Mr. Molloy as an example because I am familiar with his professional and personal qualifications and with the Montana Federal District Court, to which he has now been appointed. …

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