Chief justice encourages end to judicial vacancies

January 3, 2011
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It’s a recurring problem and one the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court would like to see end as quickly as possible: numerous judicial vacancies.

In his annual year-end report, Chief Justice John Roberts cites these vacancies as one of the immediate obstacles in preventing the judiciary from achieving the goals spelled out in the “Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary.”

The chief justice is quick to point out that the judiciary respects the nomination process, but that there is a “persistent problem” in the process of filling these vacancies.

“Each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes,” he writes. “This has created acute difficulties for some judicial districts.”

While heartened by the recent rash of confirmations by the Senate, he urges a solution between the political parties for this recurring problem.

We saw this political battling first-hand with the nomination and eventual confirmation of Judge David F. Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton, then a U.S. District Judge in the Southern District of Indiana, was nominated by President Barack Obama in February 2009, and was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2009. But Republican members used rules to hold up a vote before the full Senate for several months before he was finally confirmed Nov. 19, 2009.  

Judge Hamilton was taking over a vacancy on the 7th Circuit left when Judge Kenneth Ripple took senior status in September 2008.

This type of delay is happening in Circuit and District courts across the country. It’s nothing new. But when these political battles or standoffs happen, they affect a lot of people. Not only do they impact the judges and court staff in these courts with the vacancies, who are forced to keep up with caseloads, but it affects those who will appear in those courts.

I don’t see an end to this any time soon, do you?

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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