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Chief Justice Urges Solution to Persistent Problem of Blocked Judicial Vacancies

Posted Jan 3, 2011 6:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. urged Democrats and Republicans on Friday to find a way to stop persistent foot-dragging on judicial nominations.

In his annual report (PDF posted by The BLT) on the federal judiciary, Roberts highlighted two problems: judicial vacancies in “critically overworked districts” and the economic downturn that has “imposed budgetary constraints throughout government.”

Roberts pledged that the courts would do their part to address the second problem. He cited initiatives to control costs through more efficient use of office space, information technology and support personnel. The Supreme Court itself is also watching the budget, and will cut its appropriations request for fiscal 2012 to less than the amount sought for fiscal 2011.

Roberts asked the political branches to address the first problem. “Each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes,” he wrote.

He is “heartened” that the Senate recently approved several judicial nominations, but sees an “urgent need” for a long-term solution. In the last two years, the Senate approved 60 judicial nominations but did not act on another 19 nominees, according to stories on the report by The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times and the Associated Press.

The New York Times notes that Roberts did not seek a pay raise for judges, “a topic that has been a major theme in earlier reports.”

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