September 7, 2016
By Betsy Russell
The American Bar Association has sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders urging them to promptly schedule floor votes on the 20 district court judge nominees now pending on the Senate calendar – including Idaho Judge David Nye. Longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge announced two years ago that he would take senior status on July 3, 2015; he did so, but no replacement has yet been approved by the Senate. That means Idaho’s down to just one active federal district judge – Chief Judge Lynn Winmill.
In the meantime, Lodge, 82, who intended to reduce his caseload after taking senior status, has continued hearing cases, and Idaho also has had to bring in additional visiting judges from out of state to help handle its caseload.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, have been pushing for not only confirming Nye to replace Lodge – the two senators and the White House agreed on the choice after a long process that included considering and rejecting dozens of other possible nominees – but also for the state to get a third federal district judge, given its caseload. The federal courts have declared a “judicial emergency” in Idaho due to lack of judicial resources.
Linda A. Klein, president of the American Bar Association, wrote in a Tuesday letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, “These nominees have waited a long time for an up-or-down vote: Twelve were nominated over 300 days ago and six others were nominated over 200 days ago. The Senate Judiciary Committee found all 20 nominees to be fully qualified for lifetime appointments and reported them to the Senate for final action with overwhelming bipartisan support.”
Klein wrote that more than 10 percent of authorized federal judgeships are now vacant. “The prompt filling of vacancies is becoming a matter of increasing urgency,” she wrote. “Litigants should not have to suffer the consequences of inaction over judicial vacancies.”
If the Senate doesn’t act before the current Congress adjourns, she noted, “The president and the Senate will have to begin the entire process again to fill the same vacancies that could be filled today. These outcomes are avoidable.”