Today there remain too many vacancies throughout our federal district and appellate courts, and many of these vacancies have become “judicial emergencies” – lasting longer than 18 months and having more than 500 judicial filings per panel.
But some Senators are playing political games, blocking votes on nominees from their home states, and forcing their fellow Americans to be judged by courts that are badly overwhelmed. Iowa is currently in a judicial emergency, with three nominees waiting to be confirmed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Justice David R. Stras for U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota)
- Justice Stras is a Current Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, serving since 2010.
- Stras has been recommended by three U.S. Representatives: Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer, and Jason Lewis.
- Stras clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
- Stras was nominated on May 8, 2017 for a seat that has been vacant since November 29, 2015.
- He has not received a hearing because Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are blocking his nomination by refusing to return a “blue slip” form to the Judiciary Committee indicating whether they approve or disapprove of the nominee.
Other Circuit Courts are also classified as judicial emergencies:
Justice Allison H. Eid for U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming)
- Eid is an accomplished judge who currently serves as an Associate Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, having been elevated to the seat in 2006.
- Prior to Eid’s elevation, she served as the Solicitor General of the State of Colorado.
- Justice Eid clerked for Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas.
- Since 1998, Eid has also served as an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Colorado’s Law School, an occupation that has continued through her tenure as an Associate Justice.
- Eid was nominated on June 7, 2017, to fill the seat vacated by newly minted Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Neil M. Gorsuch on April 4, 2017.
- No hearing has been scheduled because Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is holding up her nomination.
Justice Michael B. Brennan for U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin)
- Brennan, a Milwaukee resident, has proven himself a dedicated public servant of Wisconsinites, serving for 9 years as a Judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, presiding over civil cases.
- Additionally, Brennan has served as the Assistant District Attorney for Milwaukee County.
- Brennan has previous experience with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, having clerked for Daniel Manion in the Court early in his career.
- Judge Brennan was nominated on August 3, 2017, for a seat that has been vacant since January 7, 2010.
- No hearing has yet been scheduled because Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is holding up his nomination.
Senators opposing a nomination, or seeking to delay confirmation for a nominee from their home state, will often fail to return their “blue slip” of approval or disapproval, obstructing the Judiciary Committee. The blue slip process has been used since 1917, but under several different interpretations, which have been up to the committee chair. Under certain chairmen, a failure to return a blue slip in a reasonable amount of time amounted to a disapproval vote, effectively giving veto power to home state senators. Under other committee chairmen, an unreturned slip would be weighed in the nomination process, but would not necessarily halt the progression of the nomination. Finally, a third interpretation involves giving more weight to an unreturned blue slip for district court nominees than to nominees for circuit courts that cover multiple states.
The blue slip rule is being abused, but the Senate Judiciary Committee can still move forward on the nominees. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley can move forward to fill those seats.
Tell Senator Grassley not to let partisan politics trump our Constitutional rights to a fully functioning court system.
Call Chuck Grassley at (515) 288-1145.