Post submitted by McCleary Law Fellow, Shana Emile

Yesterday, Senate Democrats, former Judicial Clerks of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, legal scholars and advocates came to together on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States to demand the Senate progress on Supreme Court and lower court vacancies.

It has been an unprecedented 180 days since President Obama nominated Judge Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat, 55 days past the previous record.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority Senate continue to refuse to even hold a hearing. At the event, Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) called it “an unacceptable, willful, obstruction of the functioning of the United States Government.” The Senate must #DoYourJob.   

 Judge Garland, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, former Justice Brennan clerk, and former leader in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, is an exceptionally qualified nominee.  The Senate’s refusal to do their job is actively hindering the entire justice system.

 Additionally, there are currently 96 vacancies in federal courts around the countryIndiana University Professor of Law Roxanna Bell spoke of President Obama’s Seventh Circuit court nominee, Mayra Selby, who has waited 239 days and counting since her nomination for a hearing.

The Senate’s failure to act leaves many legal issues that affect Americans daily in a legal limbo. As Marion County Bar Association Board Member Noell Allen stated at the event, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” 

Following the event, Senate Democrats took their demands to the Senate floor, calling for unanimous consent that the Senate immediately vote on all 20 nominees currently pending on the Senate calendar.  Sen. McConnell objected, instead proposing a “bipartisan package” of four nominees that skipped over some of the longest pending nominations.

“What is being suggested right now is that we come up with a bargain to skip over the two longest waiting district court judges who happen to be the only two African Americans on the list of the next 15,” Booker said on the Senate floor. “That to me is unacceptable.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) reiterated that the Senate’s failure to confirm nominees has led to a state of judicial emergency in several jurisdictions as well as unprecedented vacancies. Sen. Baldwin highlighted the vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, an unprecedented vacancy of 2,435 days and counting. “During this long vacancy, the Seventh Circuit has been considering issues that face people of [Wisconsin] as well as our country,” Baldwin stated. “These issues include women's health, labor rights, campaign finance, marriage equality, and, most recently, voting rights. These are important issues, and the people of Wisconsin deserve better than an empty seat when judgments are being made on such consequential issues.”

HRC is committed to ending the obstruction of the judicial confirmation process. Earlier this year, HRC joined dozens of progressive advocacy organizations around the country for the #DoYourJob National Day of Action to urge Senate Republicans to fulfill their constitutional obligation and hold confirmation hearings for Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In addition, HRC hosted a call for LGBTQ and allied organizations to provide an update on the status of Garland’s nomination, what's at stake for the LGBTQ community and ways that groups can help advance the nomination. 

Sign HRC’s petition calling on Senator Mitch McConnell to stop playing politics and to fulfill his constitutional obligation here.

Filed under: SCOTUS, Federal Advocacy

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