Federal Judicial Vacancy Crisis and GOP Obstruction Highlighted By Action at U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s Office

Activists Deliver 92 Chairs as 92 Federal Court Seats Sit Open Because of Unprecedented GOP Refusal to Do Their Jobs

MILWAUKEE — As part of a national day of action, Wisconsin members of the Why Courts Matter coalition visited Sen. Ron Johnson’s Milwaukee office to deliver 92 miniature chairs. The chairs symbolize the 92 federal judicial seats, including a U.S. Supreme Court seat and a spot on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that covers Wisconsin, currently open due to the unprecedented obstructionism and refusal of Senate Republicans, including Sen. Johnson, to do their jobs.

“There are way too many empty chairs on our federal courts,” commented One Wisconsin Institute Program Director Analiese Eicher. “When courts don’t have their full complement of justices, they can’t do the job they’re supposed to do, protecting our rights and freedoms. And by Sen. Johnson refusing to do his job and act to fill vacant federal judgeships, we’re being denied justice.”

The group of Why Courts Matter coalition members delivered their message that federal judicial seats have been vacant too long and called on Senator Johnson to take action to fill the empty seats, including the Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit vacancies. A Johnson staffer accepting the chair delivery indicated the message would be delivered to the senator.

This week marks the beginning of a new term for the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a disturbing historic first, will see a single nomination span two court terms. Today marks the 202nd day since President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Johnson has stood with his partisan Republican leadership in Washington D.C. in denying Judge Garland a fair hearing and confirmation vote.

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.

Johnson has also 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.

Eicher concluded, “We want Sen. Johnson and Republicans in the Senate to stop playing politics with the courts. We care about civil liberties, clean air, privacy, reproductive rights, social justice, corporate accountability, equality, and fairness. That’s why we were here to try meet with Sen. Johnson and let him know that we depend on the courts to protect our Constitutional rights, and his obstructionism hurts all of us.”

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