The Los Angeles Times today highlights the judicial vacancy crisis by spotlighting the senior judges who have already retired, but who are still needed to hear cases due to the lack of new judges being confirmed.
As federal courts stagger under the weight of mounting caseloads and vacant judgeships go unfilled for years, senior judges like [Betty] Fletcher have come to the rescue, especially in the 9th Circuit, where they shoulder a third of the legal load.
"It's kind of a double whammy," Fletcher said of the courts that have had no new judgeships added in 21 years and that have declining numbers of active judges because of partisan posturing in Congress. Nearly 11% of the nation's 875 lifetime positions are empty.
Senior judges, working overtime to keep the wheels of justice turning, earn the gratitude of their overwhelmed colleagues. But they do not earn a penny more for continuing to work, many of them almost full time, than they would if they were to hang up their robes and head for the golf course.
Of course, as another judge points out, the real victims of the Senate’s inaction on judicial nominees aren’t the judges themselves, but the ordinary people who need their cases to be heard.
"I feel a responsibility to the litigants," said [Judge Dorothy] Nelson, 82. "The courts are not for the judges, and they are not for the lawyers. They are for the people who have real grievances that need to be heard."
In recent weeks, the rate of confirmations in the Senate has risen slightly, but it’s still nowhere near fast enough.
Americans deserve a judicial system that works. Thanks to the obstruction and delay caused by Senate Republicans, that’s not what we’re getting.