The Senate Judiciary Committee approved four more nominees for federal judgeships yesterday at its executive business meeting, bringing the total of candidates awaiting up-and-down votes from the full Senate to 38. (Robert N. Chatigny, up for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, was held over.)
The Senate hasn’t confirmed a federal judge since Sept. 13, and time is running out on the current session. On Wednesday, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) published an op-ed in the Herald Sun, calling on the Senate to confirm North Carolina Judge Albert Diaz to a seat on the 4th Circuit before his nomination expires when this session of Congress adjourns.
North Carolina is the largest and fastest-growing state in the 4th Circuit, but we have been historically underrepresented on this critical court. Since its establishment in 1891, only eight North Carolina judges have served on the court — the same number as the smallest state in the circuit, West Virginia.
One of my priorities has been to increase North Carolina’s representation on the 4th Circuit. After many months of working with the White House, it was a terrific victory for North Carolina when the president nominated Diaz and Judge Jim Wynn to the court. Wynn was confirmed in August, but Diaz still hasn’t had an up-or-down vote.
The 4th Circuit is the last stop for almost all federal cases in the region, and we need to have the court at full strength. Because of its longstanding vacancies, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts considers the 4th Circuit a “judicial emergency.” This negatively impacts appellate justice for North Carolinians. This bench provides the fewest oral arguments and published opinions in the country.
The delay for judicial nominees is unprecedented. By Dec. 8, 2002, during the Bush Administration, the Senate had confirmed 100 judicial nominees. But as of today, the Senate has confirmed just 41 judicial nominees. During the first two years of the previous administration, it took an average of 26 days for a circuit court nominee to be confirmed after being approved by the Judiciary Committee. Since President Obama took office, it has taken an average of 133 days. And Diaz has been waiting 314 days since the committee approved him 19-0. This is totally unacceptable.
Despite bipartisan support for his nomination, Republican leaders have objected to scheduling an up-or-down vote on his nomination. These objections have nothing to do with Diaz’s qualifications and everything to do with partisan gamesmanship.
Diaz’s and Eagles’ nominations will expire if the Senate does not vote on them before the 111th Congress adjourns. I will continue fighting to see that they are confirmed. North Carolina deserves better than the gridlock that has thus far prevented an up-or-down vote on these two extremely well-qualified nominees.