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U.S. Senate Republican Delays in Confirming Judges Deny Justice

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Joins Advocates in Calling for Action to Fill U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Judicial Vacancies

MADISON, Wis. — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined Michele Jawando, Vice President of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress, and One Wisconsin Institute Research Director and attorney Jenni Dye today highlighting the partisan obstruction of the Republican U.S. Senate, including Sen. Ron Johnson, on federal judicial nominees. It has now been an unprecedented six months that President Obama’s nominee for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court Judge Merrick Garland has been denied a confirmation hearing and vote. Meanwhile, a slot on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that includes Wisconsin that is the nation’s longest at over 2,500 days since the opening was announced.

“The American people deserve full and functioning courts, from the Supreme Court to our district courts. Wisconsin’s 7th Circuit vacancy is the longest-standing federal circuit court vacancy in the country – over six years,” said Senator Baldwin. “The 7th Circuit Court has taken up a number of Wisconsin issues without a Wisconsin seat on the court, including 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 judgements are made. This Washington obstruction needs to end.”

Previously, a Supreme Court nominee has never had to wait longer than 125 days for a confirmation vote. Since the 1980s, every person appointed to the Supreme Court has been given a prompt hearing and vote within 100 days. In fact, 17 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during an election year, including current Justice Kennedy, a nominee of President Reagan, who was confirmed by a Democratic Senate in 1988, a presidential election year.

As the Senate enters the final days of their scheduled session before adjourning in advance of the November election, there are roughly 100 vacant federal judicial seats. But Republican leader Mitch McConnell, with the unquestioning support of Sen. Johnson, has refused to act on nominees by scheduling and taking confirmation votes. The result of the GOP Senate to do its job is resulting in backlogs in the federal courts and imperils the Supreme Court to act on critical issues.

“Courts matter, and the American people deserve better than the unprecedented unwillingness to make any progress on judicial nominees they’re getting from Senators McConnell and Johnson,” commented Michele Jawando, Vice President at Legal Progress. “Something is wrong with the way legislators are operating when capable, qualified, fair-minded and thoughtful people who should be jurists are nominated and they can’t even get a fair hearing.”

For example, Sen. Ron Johnson has been a central figure in blocking action on not only Judge Garland’s Supreme Court nomination but also that of Donald Schott, President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, traditionally considered to be the “Wisconsin seat.” That vacancy is the longest in the nation, at over 2,500 days since the opening was announced.

Dye concluded, “By not doing their jobs and giving fair hearings and timely votes to confirm federal judges, Sen.Ron Johnson and his colleagues are preventing our courts from doing their job. Their delays mean justice is being denied.

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One Wisconsin Institute is a non-partisan, progressive research and education organization dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.

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