Fighting For Fair and Just Courts

Americans look to our courts as a place where they can protect their rights, where giant corporate interests won't be favored as they so often are in other parts of society. Courts make sure that we are protected from businesses that market dangerously defective products, from unprincipled companies that cheat their customers, from predatory lenders that add to the misery of the already vulnerable, and from lawless employers who increase their profits by illegally paying women less.

In cases like these and so many more, individuals are often facing far more powerful individuals and companies, and they rely on a functioning court system to make sure they have justice.

That system is what is at risk when Senate Republicans routinely obstruct the judicial confirmation process. With our nation facing the worst sustained courtroom vacancy crisis in over thirty years, Americans are finding it harder and harder to have their day in court.

Politico reports that Senate Democrats are planning on ramping up the pressure on the GOP later this month.

Once the Senate tries to pass the transportation bill next week, Reid will determine his next steps on judicial nominations. If a deal can be reached quickly, it's possible that a judicial fight could be averted.

Otherwise, Reid told McConnell, he would file a procedural motion to end debate on 14 judicial nominees who have been approved by wide margins by the Senate Judiciary Committee. As of earlier this week, McConnell had offered to give consent on only three of the judges, sources say.

The Senate Judiciary Committee easily approved 14 nominations last year that are still outstanding. They include nominees for federal courts in California, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington state and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Thirteen of the 14 were approved unanimously. ...

Democrats say Obama's nominees have been forced to wait five times longer than Bush's judicial nominees were after receiving Judiciary Committee approval. Of the 20 nominees awaiting Senate action, 11 would fill vacancies considered "emergencies" by the judiciary.

While Politico elsewhere in the article frames this as part of what it dismissively calls "the culture war," what's at stake is the fundamental idea that we can all get a fair hearing in a court of law. All the rights in the world mean little if we don't have an effectively functioning judicial branch to enforce them.

PFAW