In the lazy days of late summer, when Congress is off campaigning and Washington more or less grinds to a halt, it?s easy to forget those poor judges that President Bush nominated to various federal judgeships -- seemingly ages ago.
Other than the fact that the American Bar Association gave many of them its highest rating -- ?well-qualified? -- what does the U.S. Senate know about the people President Bush nominated? Some have yet to receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, let alone a vote.
Why care now, especially with the Republican convention in full swing? The media coverage will be wall to wall, just as it was with the Democratic convention last month. Besides, elections come and go. Congresses come and go.
But the march of justice goes on. It can be slowed -- and has been by a vacancy rate of district judges that approaches 8 percent and of appellate judges that now exceeds 15 percent. But it can?t be stopped. We Americans continue to look to our courts for civil justice and to put and keep the criminals among us behind bars.
This unwarranted stonewalling of judges is getting out of hand. Democrats in the Senate, who now find themselves in the minority, have resorted to filibustering to prevent judges from receiving their hearings. Because of Senate rules, rather than gather up 50 votes to approve a nominee, supporters or members of the administration must get 60 senators on board.
The use of filibusters by one party to up the ante for judges from 50 votes to 60 is unprecedented. The only other time a filibuster was used to thwart a presidential nominee to the bench came in the late 1960s, when President Johnson attempted to elevate his good friend, Abe Fortas, who already was on the Supreme Court, to chief justice. And it was a bipartisan filibuster.
The process is meant to weed out extremists, hacks appointed through political patronage or those with backgrounds unworthy of the bench. It?s not meant to serve as a political litmus test for nominees. The ABA says all of the more than 100 judges President Bush has appointed are either ?qualified? or ?well-qualified,? its two highest ratings. What prevents them sitting on the federal bench today is a desire by President Bush?s enemies to deal him personal political defeats and to thwart his influence on the federal judiciary.
The problem is, America elected President Bush. That means they chose to have his influence on the federal judiciary. Provided the judges are qualified -- and the ABA says they are -- they deserve to serve.