Chris Elliott, a shareholder in Austin’s Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, will be among four Texas lawyers and 150 others from 27 states descending on the nation’s capital on May 7 to participate in what organizers are calling “a day of discussions,” about unfilled judicial vacancies, according to a statement the group released May 3. The lawyers have scheduled stops at the White House and the Senate.
From Texas, the group includes: Matt Glazer, executive director of the non-profit Progress Texas; Celeste Villarreal, associate judge for the City of Austin; and Jeanne Cezanne “Cezy” Collins, president of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations and partner in El Paso’s Kemp Smith.
According to the release, the Texans plan to urge the Senate hold final up-and-down votes on all pending federal judicial nominations and encouraging the president to keep nominating until all the vacancies in the state are filled.
In an email, Elliott writes: “I see the primary source of the delays as the hyper-partisan tone that the judicial nominations process has taken on during the past few administrations. However, the current Senate has taken this to new levels. The bi-partisan “Gang of Four” agreement from 2005 (only filibuster judicial nominations under extraordinary circumstances) has been completely abandoned by the current Senate minority. The filibuster, or threat of filibuster, of judicial nominations by the minority party in the Senate has become routine. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get anything done.”
Asked how his group expects to accomplish its goal, given how rarely judicial nominations have been confirmed this close to a presidential election, Elliott adds: “Part of what we hope to accomplish in our visit to Washington next week is to highlight the effect that this hyper-partisan approach to judicial nominations is having across the country — record numbers of judicial vacancies and over 30 ‘judicial emergencies’ across the country (not enough judges on the bench to hear the backlog of cases) — so that perhaps both sides will realize and appreciate that filling judicial vacancies should not be held hostage to the desire to score political points. So many times in past administrations we’ve heard the mantra ‘these nominations deserve a simple up or down vote.’ That’s our message next week, backed up by strong evidence that our federal justice system is suffering because of the current almost complete lack of up-or-down votes. We are hopeful that this message, and the message of untold numbers of other citizens who are speaking up on this issue, will resonate. If it does, the hope is that votes on nominees in the pipeline will proceed without reference to the upcoming election.”
-- Miriam Rozen