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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 7, 2004
4:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I just met with six of my judicial nominees from the state of Michigan. I knew these were decent people, capable people, when I nominated them. My meeting with them today confirmed that. These are good people.
Four of the nominees are waiting to join the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. David McKeague was confirmed unanimously by the Senate 12 years ago to serve as a federal judge for the Western District of Michigan. Susan Neilson is an outstanding judge with more than a decade of experience on the bench. Henry Saad is a state appeals court judge. Richard Griffin has had 16 years of experience as a state judge. These experienced and dedicated individuals are needed, vitally needed, on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. I'll tell you why. Congress has authorized 16 judges for this court; yet four seats are vacant. All four of these vacancies have been designated judicial emergencies by the Judicial Conference of the United States. It is irresponsible for the United States Senate to deny an appeals court 25 percent of the judges it needs.
My nominees for the district courts in Michigan have also waited far too long. Tom Ludington, a respected state judge for nearly 10 years, has waited more than 21 months without a vote. Dan Ryan, a jurist with a decade of experience on the state bench, is held up for more than a year. I believe this treatment is unfair. I believe it's disrespectful. It is a disservice to the people of this state.
My Michigan nominees are not only the ones -- are not the only ones being blocked by a Senate minority. Since I took office, more appeals court nominees have been forced to wait over a year just for a hearing than in the past 50 years combined. Six of my appeal court nominees have earned enough support to be confirmed by a vote on the floor of the Senate, yet have been filibustered. It's an unprecedented step against appeals court nominees.
I believe this is unfair treatment. I believe that some senators are doing this because they don't appreciate the fact that I named judges who will faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. They apparently want activist judges who will rewrite the law from the bench. I believe if laws need to be written, they need to be written by the legislature, by the legislative body.
Some members are undermining the quality of justice in America by playing politics with these nominees. You see, vacancies on the bench leave sitting judges overworked. They cause needless delays in the provision of justice.
Now, I am pleased that the Senate recently voted on 25 of my judicial nominees; that was a welcome step. Yet it's not enough. These six from Michigan have waited far too long. The Senate must hear that there is an emergency. The time -- the time for giving these men and women a fair hearing is now. They deserve an up or down vote. I proposed a way to fix this system, and that is for judges to provide a one-year advance notice on retirement or departure. Upon that notice, the President would select a nominee within 180 days. And then the Senate would hold both a hearing and an up or down vote within 180 days of the nomination. This seems fair to me. It would treat these people who are willing to serve fairly.
I met with the six members, six nominees, because I wanted to assure them I was not going to abandon their nomination, no matter what the politics was like in the U.S. Senate, and I wanted to thank them for their patience. It's not easy to be nominated and then have your hearing held up for political purposes.
These are good, decent people. I asked them to thank their families. And now I'm calling upon the senators from this state, and the minority of senators who were refusing to move my nominees along, to be fair and just give them a vote. They can express their opinions about whether or not they think these judges are qualified -- obviously, I think they are. They can argue about their judicial temperament, and that's a fine debate. But for fairness sake, give them a vote, up or down.
The people of Michigan must know that six good, decent Michiganders who are capable people are not being allowed to serve their state on the federal benches because of politics being played in Washington, D.C.
Thank you for giving me a chance to come by and discuss this very important issue. I appreciate it.
END 4:57 P.M. EDT