MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Institute, a member of the national Why Courts Matter coalition, unveiled a new website today featuring the latest news and information about the importance of our federal courts and the crisis they are facing. The website, WICourtsMatter.org, includes information about current court vacancies on the Federal Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court, issues at stake in the courts and other court related news and advocacy work.
“Functioning federal courts are fundamental to our democracy. They are where we turn to ensure all Americans are treated equally regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. We count on them to protect our right to vote and participate in the political process,” said One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross. “But today our courts are in crisis. Politically motivated obstructionism is leaving our courts without judges and unable to do their job.”
The Federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has been without a full complement of judges since 2010, the longest vacancy in nation standing at over 2,400 days. Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson has been at central figure in the vacancy, first obstructing the nominating process and then delaying consideration of nominees. His intransigence and the resulting court vacancy has meant decisions in critical federal cases, like on Wisconsin’s voter ID law, were left deadlocked.
The President’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court is another example. Washington D.C. Republicans, including Sen. Johnson, have taken the unprecedented step of refusing to do their jobs and allow a fair hearing and timely vote on the nomination. 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.
Ross noted that if obstructionist Senators get their way, the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court could sit vacant for more than a year and span two Supreme Court terms, damaging the Court and its ability to effectively rule on key issues. It would also be the first time this has happened in modern history.
He concluded, “We’re all paying the price when Congressional Republicans refuse to do their jobs and leave our federal courts in crisis. Our website provides a one-stop shop for people to find out what’s at stake and ways to make their voices heard.”