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The Judicial Confirmation Crisis: The Threat to Diversity

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The alarmingly high number of vacancies in the federal judiciary threatens to undermine the administration of justice. Considerable attention has been devoted to the causes and consequences of the Senate's failure to confirm judicial nominees. But remarkably little has been said about the impact of this crisis on the color of the federal bench.

For months now, vacancies on the federal courts have hovered around 100. Nearly one out of every eight federal judgeships is vacant. The toll on our judicial system is substantial. As sitting judges are overburdened with large caseloads, long delays in civil and even criminal cases have resulted. And often, justice delayed is justice denied.

There is another, equally troubling cost posed by the Senate's standstill on judges. Among the stalled nominations are highly qualified minority candidates whose confirmations would do much to promote diversity on the bench. Indeed, three of the four nominees facing the highest hurdles for Senate confirmation are racial minorities.

This is a travesty, in and of itself. Diversity on the federal bench is critically important. We should all know this intuitively. Having diverse judges promotes confidence in our justice system and can enrich the judicial decision-making process. An inclusive judiciary is also important to the integrity and legitimacy of our democracy.

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