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 Home > News & Policies > May 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 9, 2002

Fact Sheet: Judicial Vacancy Crisis
A Delay of 365 Days is Harming America’s Judicial System


  • President Bush met with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge the Senate to hold hearings and votes on the circuit court nominees who were announced on May 9, 2001. Of these first 11 nominees, only 3 have even received hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the 8 remaining nominees have now waited a full year for hearings.


  • The 8 nominees from May 9, 2001, who have not received hearings are highly qualified individuals.
  • Each of the nominees is known for character, experience, intellect, and reputation for following the law.
  • Each shares the Presidents philosophy that judges should follow the law, and not make the law.
  • Each of the nominees has strong bipartisan support.
  • Each has been rated qualified or well-qualified by the American Bar Association, which Democrats have called the "Gold Standard".
  • At a White House ceremony on May 9, 2001, Senator Leahy acknowledged the strength of the Presidents nominees saying, "Had I not been encouraged, I would not have been here today".

  • 365 days is too long to wait.
  • The remaining eight nominees from May 9, 2001, have now waited 365 days without a hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • President Clinton's first 11 circuit court nominees were confirmed in an average of 112 days, with none waiting more than 202 days; President Bushs first 11 averaged 88 days to confirmation and President Reagans first 11 averaged 39 days to confirmation.

  • The Senates delay on these and many other nominees is hurting the Americas judicial system and contributing to Americas judicial vacancy crisis, most noticeably in the circuit courts.
  • President Bush has nominated 100 highly qualified individuals to serve in both the district and circuit courts.
  • Despite this action to address the vacancy crisis, there are more vacancies today than when the President took office.
  • President Bush has nominated 30 individuals to serve on circuit courts, but only 9 have been confirmed for a confirmation rate of only 30%.
  • At this point, President Clinton had 61% of his circuit court nominees confirmed, President Bush over 70%, and President Reagan 92%.

  • The Senate Democrats are not keeping up with the pace of past Senates.
  • The Senate Democrats are setting a pace that is far below the confirmation rate of circuit court nominees during the first two years of recent past administrations.
  • The Senate must confirm at least 26 of the Presidents 30 circuit court nominees to reach a confirmation rate that is comparable with that of past administrations:
  • In his first two years, President Clinton had 86% of his circuit court judges confirmed. In his first two years, former President Bush had 95% of his circuit court judges confirmed.
  • In his first two years, President Reagan had 95% of his circuit court nominees confirmed.

  • Senate Democrats have not done enough.
  • Its time to restore dignity and fairness to the judicial confirmation process and to address the vacancy crisis, particularly in the circuit courts.
  • Senate Democrats should begin by holding hearings and votes on the 8 nominees who as of today have waited a full year for hearings.