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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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