PRESIDENT CLINTON URGES SENATE TO CONFIRM JUDICIAL NOMINEES
July 30, 2000
In a speech before the American Trial Lawyer's Association in Chicago, Illinois, President Clinton will urge the Senate to confirm pending judicial nominees to the federal courts. The President will note the urgent vacancy crisis confronting federal courts throughout the country, and express concern about the unconscionable Senate slowdown of judicial nominees.
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S JUDICIAL APPOINTEES ARE THE MOST DIVERSE IN HISTORY. The President has been deeply committed to appointing a federal judiciary filled with qualified, thoughtful jurists who reflect this nation's diversity. The President's record of appointing women and minority judges is unmatched by any President in history. Almost half of President Clinton's judicial appointees have been women or minorities. For example, President Clinton has appointed more African-Americans to the federal bench than any other President in history - in fact, the President has appointed more African Americans to federal judgeships (62 total) than were appointed during the last sixteen years combined (57 total). Likewise, the President has appointed as many Hispanic-Americans to the federal judiciary (23 total) as Presidents Bush and Reagan combined, and has appointed more HispanicAmericans to the federal appeals courts than Presidents Bush, Reagan, and Carter combined.
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S JUDICIAL APPOINTEES ARE THE MOST QUALIFIED IN MORE THAN FORTY YEARS. In addition to being the most diverse set of judges in history, the President's judicial appointments have also garnered the highest percentages of top American Bar Association ratings in 40 years. The President's judicial appointments have shattered the pernicious myth that diversity and quality do not go hand in hand. As the President has said, "Justice may be blind, but we all know that diversity in the courts, as in all aspects of society, sharpens our vision and makes us a stronger nation."
THE QUALITY OF JUSTICE SUFFERS WHEN QUALIFIED WOMEN AND MINORITY JUDGES ARE STALLED BY THE SENATE. The quality of justice suffers when highly qualified women and minority candidates are denied an opportunity to serve in the judiciary. During the 105th Congress, a non-partisan blue ribbon study, issued by the Citizens for Independent Courts' Task Force on Federal Judicial Selection, found that women and minority nominees took significantly longer to be considered by the Senate than did white male nominees. According to the study, it took an average of 60 days longer for non-whites than whites and 65 days longer for women than men to be considered by the Senate during the 105th Congress. The independent study also concluded that minority nominations failed at a higher rate (35%) than the nominations of whites (14%).
THE PRESIDENT CALLS FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF FIFTH CIRCUIT NOMINEE ENRIQUE MORENO. Enrique Moreno, an Hispanic American litigator from El Paso, Texas, was nominated on September 16, 1999 to fill the Texas vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Moreno was unanimously deemed well qualified by the American Bar Association. Moreno was also rated one of the top three El Paso trial attorneys in a 1997 survey of state judges, and has garnered the support of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and local law enforcement officials including El Paso's Chief of Police, Sheriff, and District Attorney.
Despite Moreno's impeccable credentials and broad bipartisan support, the Republican Senators from Texas have announced that they oppose Moreno's confirmation on the ground that he lacked sufficient experience. By suggesting that Moreno needs judicial experience before he could be appointed to the appellate bench, the Texas Senators appear to be applying a double standard. Moreno has 19 years of legal experience in private practice; five of fourteen active judges on the Fifth Circuit (36%) had fewer years of experience than Moreno when appointed. Four of nine Fifth Circuit judges (44%) appointed by Republican Presidents had fewer years of experience than Moreno at the time of their appointments, and half of the current active judges on the Fifth Circuit brought no prior judicial experience to the bench. Moreover, six of the seven judges with no prior judicial experience are Republican appointees. By blocking Moreno's confirmation, Senators Gramm and Hutchison have once again prevented a well qualified nominee from filling a vacancy that has been declared a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
THE PRESIDENT CALLS FOR THE INTEGRATION OF THE FOURTH CIRCUIT. The Fourth Circuit, which hears appeals from trial courts in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, has the largest African-American population of any circuit in this country, yet it has never had an African-American appellate judge. The President has twice nominated highly qualified African-Americans to the Fourth Circuit in North Carolina and has also nominated an African- American from Virginia to serve on the Fourth Circuit. None of these outstanding candidates has been confirmed by the Senate. There are currently two exceptional nominees for the Fourth Circuit awaiting Senate action: Judge James Wynn of North Carolina and Roger Gregory of Virginia.
Judge James Andrew Wynn, a highly respected African-American judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on August 5, 1999. The Raleigh News and Observer described Judge Wynn as a "first-rate jurist," and the Greensboro News & Record stated that Wynn has "distinguished himself as a legal thinker and writer." Nevertheless, Senator Jesse Helms has refused to allow Wynn even a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are now no North Carolinians sitting on the Fourth Circuit, even though, by statute, North Carolina is entitled to be represented by at least one circuit court judge. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has declared Judge Wynn's Fourth Circuit seat a judicial emergency.
Roger Gregory is a highly-respected Richmond litigator who has tried hundreds of cases in the Virginia courts. His seat has been declared a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. A founding member and managing partner of the law firm of Wilder & Gregory, Gregory's nomination has garnered substantial bipartisan support. After interviewing Roger Gregory, Senator Warner of Virginia wrote to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that he found Gregory "a well-qualified nominee who would serve as an excellent jurist on this circuit, which is vital to our state." Gregory has not received a Judiciary Committee hearing.
THE PRESIDENT URGES CONFIRMATION OF OTHER PENDING JUDICIAL NOMINEES. There are currently 37 pending judicial nominees, 15 of whom are nominated for seats that have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. The Senate should move on all pending judicial nominees, including:
Dolly Gee, an Asian-American labor and employment lawyer with the Los Angeles law firm of Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers, was nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on May 27, 1999. A graduate of UCLA Law School, Gee served on the Federal Service Impasse Panel (1994-1997) and was a Regional Coordinator for the Office of Election Officer (1995-1997). Despite receiving broad bipartisan support, Gee's nomination has languished in the Senate for over a year, longer than all but eight of the President's pending judicial nominees. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has declared Gee's district court seat a judicial emergency.
THE CURRENT CONFIRMATION SLOWDOWN IS UNCONSCIONABLE. Although the Senate's actions in 1996 (when only 17 judges were confirmed) suggests that the Senate may try to stop proceeding with judicial confirmations in an election year, history demonstrates that election year politics should not stall the confirmation process. In 1992, in President Bush's final year, the Senate confirmed 66 judges. In 1988, the Senate confirmed 42 judges; and in 1984, 44 judges were confirmed. So far this year, only 35 judges have been confirmed. In addition, although some have claimed that judges do not get confirmed in September and October, this is simply untrue. The Senate confirmed 12 of President Bush's nominees during the final two months of the 1992 session, and in 1988, the Senate confirmed 11 of President Reagan's nominees during September and October. In fact, between 1972 and 1999, the Senate confirmed an average of 12 nominees during the final two months of each session. The nation cannot afford to allow political considerations to empty our courts and put justice on hold. When the Senate returns from recess, it should move to confirm the President's pending judicial nominees.