49 Federal Judge Slots Aren’t Getting the SCOTUS-Style Limelight. They Should.
President Trump’s selection of his second Supreme Court appointment, the Hon. Brett Kavanaugh, is heralded as a Republican victory. The media and both parties are singularly focused on the confirmation of Kavanaugh’s appointment. But with all the focus on this nomination, the Senate itself is ignoring equally important nominations: judges for the lower courts. The Senate is still waiting on the confirmation of 49 nominated federal judges, according to a chart provided by Michael Quinn Sullivan in his article, “No Time for Victory Laps.”
These judges have been waiting for their confirmation since the beginning of 2018: 13 since January, six since February, four each in March and in April, nine since May, and thirteen since June. Yet, the Senate’s focus remains only on Kavanaugh’s recent appointment.
Separation of powers has been integral in the United States’ government. In the Judiciary branch, this includes a separation between the Supreme Court and the lower courts.
With the final verdict in law resting in its hands, the Supreme Court stands as a pillar in the triumvirate of Executive, Congressional, and Judicial branches of the government. However, the lower courts handle the majority of cases and decisions. Excitement over the Supreme Court is genuine, but should be tempered by the fact that 49 other federal judge slots are still waiting to be filled.
The Senate’s attention on the Supreme Court correlates to an increasing turn to the Supreme Court for judicial decisions in the late 20thcentury and onward.
As Michael Sullivan points out, citing supremecourt.gov, the caseload for the Supreme Court has nearly doubled since the 1975 Term, and increased over eight times since 1950. Per term, the Supreme Court is now presented with 7,000 to 8,000 new cases. However, the Supreme Court grants plenary reviews, on average, only to 80 of these cases. Statistically, the lower courts rule on the vast majority federal cases. Yet, they are more frequently turning to the higher judicial power for approval in decisions. This, however, is necessary if the Senate is holding out on judicial approvals for the lower courts. With increasing vacancies and overwhelming caseloads, it is reasonable for the lower courts to pass off some responsibility to another judge.
Yet, cases can only proceed to the Supreme Court if there are lower courts passing them on. The Senate is bottlenecking this process by ignoring lower court appointments. Without these judges, American citizens are increasingly forced to face adjournment instead of a court room. The Senate, thus, cannot keep ignoring the 49 empty seats as they clamor to fill only one.
The liberal agenda has dominated the American political system through Supreme Court appointments. Although Kavanaugh’s appointment could mark a greater turn toward conservative rulings, now is not the time to try to focus only on the Supreme Court. Instead of relying on nine men and women to remove 80 years of Liberal agenda, conservatives should turn to the lower courts to bring a return to traditional American values. The pressure needs to be put on the Senate to stop beating around the bush and fill these empty judicial seats.