The National Law Journal by Todd Ruger - May 15, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Barack Obama stands to become the first president in at least 30 years to have more openings on the federal bench at the end of his first term than when he started. The administration and Senate Democrats have called this a "judicial emergency" for the short-handed U.S. courts. During the last few months, Democrats have held conference calls and hosted activists from around the country to say the reason fewer federal judges have been confirmed during the last three years is clear: Republicans in the Senate have used their powers to stall most of the president's nominees, even the noncontroversial ones. But as a window appears to be closing at least temporarily to send any new judicial nominees to Capitol Hill, law professors and advocacy groups say Obama could have had more judges confirmed to the bench had he simply made more nominations over his first three-plus years in office. Since Obama took office, he's had a chance to make nominations for 241 federal judgeships. Some of them—55—were vacant slots held over from the Bush administration. Obama has nominated 188 judges, and the Senate has approved 147 of them. That leaves a current total of 94 vacancies—77 vacant slots and 17 held by judges who have said they plan to retire. (The president can nominate a new judge before the position becomes vacant.) Obama has had 25 vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the four district courts in New York. He has succeeded in winning approval for 17 judges, a brisker pace than for the nation as a whole.