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 Home > News & Policies > April 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
April 8, 2002

Fact Sheet: the Crisis in America's Courts

Today, the Vice President will make remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse Annex and will discuss the judicial vacancy crisis.

The Crisis in America's Courts

America is facing a Judicial vacancy crisis

  • The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, recently wrote that America's present judicial vacancy crisis is "alarming."
  • There are currently 96 vacancies in the federal courts. In the past, when there were between 50 and 80 open judicial seats, Senator Leahy referred to the situation as a vacancy crisis.
  • The most egregious example is the 6th judicial circuit, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, where 8 of the 16 seats are open. (Bush has made nominations to fill 7 of the 8 vacant seats)

President Bush has acted decisively and nominated 98 individuals to serve as federal judges.

  • Despite President Bush's commitment to filling the vacancies in the federal courts, there are more vacant seats today than there were on January 20, 2001, when President Bush took office.
  • President Bush has nominated more judges and nominated them faster than any President in history, almost 100 in his first year in office.
  • President Bush has out-nominated the past four Presidents. At the same point in their administrations, President Clinton had nominated only 74 judges, former President Bush had nominated 46, and President Reagan had nominated 59 judges.

President Bush's nominees are highly qualified and highly respected

  • The White House has nominated strong jurists who respect and follow the law.
  • Of the nominees awaiting Senate action, the nominees who have been given a rating by the American Bar Association have all received "qualified" or "well qualified" ratings by the American Bar Association. The ABA rating has been called the Gold Standard by Democrats like Senator Leahy.
  • The White House has worked with both Republicans and Democrats to identify qualified and experienced individuals to serve on the bench.

The Senate has failed to do its part

  • The Senate has confirmed only 42 of the President's 98 nominees, for a confirmation rate of less than 43%. At this point in the Clinton administration, 57% of his nominees had been confirmed.
  • Most concerning, only 7 of the President's 29 nominees to the circuit courts, the courts of last resort in most cases, have been confirmed.
  • President Bush nominated his first slate of judges at the White House almost a year ago on May 9, 2001. Of those 11 circuit court nominees, only three have been confirmed today.

Nominees deserve to be treated fairly and should be considered quickly

  • President Bush has said that it is time to rise above the bitterness of the past and provide fair hearings and prompt votes to all nominees, no matter who controls the Senate and who controls the White House.
  • In the end, it is only the American people who suffer. By failing to confirm justice, the Democrats in the Senate are standing in the way of the pursuit of justice.

The American people deserve better.