In his year-end report on the state of the judiciary, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. called for a long-term solution to filling judicial vacancies, reigniting debate on how to move beyond congressional gridlock on the selection of federal judges. Many say the judicial nominations and confirmations process is in crisis: of the 856 district and circuit judgeships, more than a 100 are currently unfilled as of mid-February, with almost half of those vacancies classified by the judiciary as “judicial emergencies.”
Vacancies have increased more under the current administration than under prior ones, especially on the district courts, but problems in the nomination and confirmation process have been developing over several decades. These trends raise a difficult question: What can and should be done to break the judicial appointments and confirmations logjam?
On February 28, the Brookings Institution and the Federal Bar Association hosted a Judicial Issues Forum on the judicial nominations and confirmations process and the prospects for its improvement. The first panel examined nomination and confirmation trends, as well as assess the impact of judicial vacancies on the courts. The second panel focused on prospects for change in this session of Congress and beyond, including the impact of recent changes to the Senate’s rules.
After the program, panelists took audience questions.