Judicial Issues Forum Recap

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On February 28, the Federal Bar Association and the Brookings Institution hosted a Judicial Issues Forum in Washington, D.C. on the the growing crisis over vacant judgeships in the federal courts.

The program, titled “Breaking the Judicial Nominations and Confirmations Logjam,” focused on how the federal judicial nominations and confirmations process has devolved over recent decades and its impact on the work of the federal courts, along with the prospects for improvement.

Of the 856 federal district and circuit judgeships, 100 judgeships are unfilled (as of February 14), with almost half of those vacancies classified by the judiciary as “judicial emergencies.” The nominations of forty-seven judicial nominees are pending in the Senate. Vacancies have increased more under the current administration than under prior ones, especially on the district courts, but problems in the Senate confirmation process have been developing over the last several decades. In his year-end report on the “State of the Judiciary,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. called for a long-term solution to filling judicial vacancies, reigniting debate on how to move beyond gridlock over the selection of federal judges. 

The FBA-Brookings program examined what can and should be done to break the judicial appointments and confirmations logjam. FBA leaders, federal judges, former Congressional and Department of Justice officials, and Brookings scholars participated in the program, consisting of two program panels. The first panel examined nomination and confirmation trends, as well as assess the impact of judicial vacancies on the courts. The second panel focused on the prospects for change in the 112th Senate and beyond, including the impact of recent changes to the Senate’s rules.

The FBA's involvement in this program was made possible by the generous support of the Foundation of the Federal Bar Association.

For those unable to attend, a transcript and video clips are available at the Brookings Institution's website.


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