Federal trial court vacancies are going up under President Obama, even as caseloads are rising. A Brookings Institution report released Friday shows that this is the first time in memory that a president three years into his first term has seen judicial vacancies rise.
The report shows that Obama has been slower to nominate trial judges, the Senate slower to confirm them, and at the same time a larger number of judges are retiring.
Authored by Russell Wheeler, the Brookings report shows that Obama was slow off the mark in his first year, making fewer nomination than his predecessors. But the amount of time needed to win confirmation once nominations have been made has also risen dramatically.
The report says that because of foot-dragging by Senate Republicans, trial court nominees waited on average seven months to win confirmation, though only nine of the 97 confirmed nominees had more than a handful of GOP votes actually cast against them.
Overall, more than a quarter of the 133 trial court nominees are still awaiting confirmation, meaning that the Obama confirmation rate for trial judges is substantially lower than for previous presidents.
On the diversity front, the report shows Obama continuing and significantly enhancing a trend toward more women and minorities.
Appointments of Asian-Americans have been particularly notable. Obama appointed fully one-third of the 24 Asian-Americans now sitting on the federal bench, and three more Asian-American nominations are pending.