The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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Reform Groups Urge White House, Senate to Reduce Judicial Backlogs

Faster Nominations, End to Holds, Up-or-Down Vote on Kagan Are Sought; Justice at Stake Also Poses Confirmation Questions for High-Court Pick


Three national legal reform groups have called on the White House and
Senate leaders of both parties to work together to reduce a growing
backlog of judicial nominations, saying that "the process of nominating
and confirming federal judges has been politicized by both parties,
damaging the integrity of our justice system."

In a June 22 letter, the Justice at Stake Campaign, the Brennan Center
for Justice and the American Judicature Society urged the White House to
pick up the pace of judicial nominations, and urged the Senate to end
the practice of anonymous holds, by which individual senators covertly
block judicial nominations. The groups also urged the Senate to give
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan an up-or-down vote, without threat of a

Noting that 103 Article III federal judgeships were vacant as of June
15, and that 40 of those vacancies are deemed "emergencies" by the
Federal Courts, the groups said:

"We believe that every administration should make the nomination of
judges to the federal bench a top priority, and should make every
attempt to fill judicial vacancies expeditiously. We further believe
that the Senate has the responsibility to act to confirm judicial
nominees expeditiously and without needless delays."

The letter was addressed to President Obama; Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.);
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee;
and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking minority member of the
Judiciary Committee. For the full text of the letter, click

Justice at Stake also sent a separate letter on its own to the Senate
Judiciary Committee, recommending that 10 questions be posed to Kagan
during her nomination hearings, which begin June 28. Justice at Stake
said the questions "will help Americans to understand Solicitor General
Kagan's perspective on the significance of a fair and impartial
judiciary. We encourage you to bring these pertinent issues to the
public's attention."

Among the questions:

  1. In 1995, you indicated that nominees could and should be
    expected to answer questions about their views on "privacy rights, free
    speech, race and gender discrimination, and so forth." Do you still
    adhere to this view? If not, what has changed your perspective on this
  2. In Caperton v. Massey, the Court held that the Due
    Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment may require judges to recuse
    themselves in cases where they have received a significant amount of
    campaign support from a party in a pending case. ... What other sorts of
    circumstances may warrant a Justice's recusal in a particular case?
  3. In a 2007 speech at West Point, you were highly critical of the
    views on executive power held by lawyers in the Bush administration. Yet
    as Solicitor General, you argued in favor of dismissing lawsuits on the
    basis of the state secrets privilege, argued against a ruling that
    granted habeas corpus rights to detainees in Afghanistan, and took an
    expansive view of the executive branch's authority to use military
    authority. Can you elaborate on your views on executive authority, and
    the role of the courts and congress in serving as a check on executive
    branch power?

Other topics among the questions include the Supreme Court's Citizens
ruling, the degree of deference courts should give to
elected leaders, the potential impact of having three women on the
Supreme Court, and when it is appropriate to impeach a judge.

To see all 10 questions suggested for Kagan's nomination hearings, click here.

We're a nationwide, nonpartisan partnership of more than forty-five judicial, legal and citizen organizations. We've come together because across America, your right to fair and impartial justice is at stake. Judges and citizens are deeply concerned about the growing impact of money and politics on fair and impartial courts. Our mission is to educate the public and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom--so judges can do their job protecting the Constitution, individual rights and the rule of law.