James Oliphant of the LA Times has a disturbing piece highlighting the slow pace the Obama administration has gone about filling vacancies in the federal judiciary. Republican obstructionism has further slowed the pace of administration nominees reaching the bench. Combined, President Obama has had only minimal impact on the shape of the federal bench and time is running out for that to change, as midterm elections look only likely to decrease the President’s ability to put liberal judges on the courts.
The judiciary is an area where we absolutely needed our 44th President to make a huge stride forward. The Bush administration had tremendous success adding young, ultra-conservative jurists to the federal bench. Only strong efforts by this administration to appoint young, liberal judges can counteract Bush’s move to change the makeup of the federal courts, which according to the LA Times is now made of 60% Republican appointments (seven of the nine the Supreme Court justices are Republican appointees). A failure for the Obama administration to aggressively try to balance out the makeup of the judiciary will have impact on what America looks like over the next thirty to forty years.
We need President Obama to dramatically move the ball down the field. The lack of progress is truly disheartening, as this is an area where I’d assumed a constitutional law professor would easily see the importance of aggressive action. Instead we see the same lack of willingness to fight – to spend political capital – on ensuring his picks are confirmed as we see elsewhere on labor reform, the rule of law, and key pieces of health care reform.