Yesterday, approximately 150 lawyers and other legal leaders traveled to Washington DC to speak on the need to fill judicial vacancies. Some Arizona lawyers participated in the event on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

As the BLT Blog reported:

The groups—such as the Alliance For Justice, the National Bar Association and People for the American Way—blame obstructionism in the Senate for the reason why there are so many vacancies. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights organized the effort.

“This vacancy crisis, which has left 250 million Americans living in communities with unstaffed federal courtrooms, must end, and the confirmation process must not be allowed to be slowed even further by election-year politics,” according to a written statement from the coalition. “We believe that every nominee submitted by the President this year deserves a yes-or-no vote confirmation vote.”

Not surprisingly, this is a contentious issue. The Republican opposition takes issue with the situation’s characterization as an emergency:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a floor statement that blame for the judicial vacancies is misplaced, because President Barack Obama has not nominated anyone for many judgeships in districts determined to be “judicial emergencies.”

 “Most of those seats have been vacant for more than a year,” Grassley said. “Once again, if the White House is serious about judicial vacancies, it holds the key to nominations for those vacancies. It has failed in too many instances to use that key.”

BLT’s complete story is here.

And here is a release we received regarding the local attorneys and their trip East:

Arizona Community Leaders, Legal Experts and Advocates to Meet with White House On Judicial Vacancy Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – Four Arizona community leaders, advocates and legal experts will travel to the nation’s capital on Monday, May 7, to meet with White House officials about the vacancy crisis in America’s federal courts. Nationwide, one in nine federal judgeships are vacant. Nearly one out of every ten federal judgeships remains vacant, and 250 million Americans live in a community with a courtroom vacancy.

Patty Ferguson

Arizona’s courts are reeling from two judicial emergencies while Senators McCain and Kyl refuse to allow a hearing on nominee Rosemary Márquez, a former Pima County Public Defender and former assistant federal public defender.

Even worse, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which serves the entire West, has three nominees who have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are waiting for a floor vote – Paul Watford, Andrew David Hurwitz, and Jacqueline Nguyen.

Local invitees to the White House meeting include:

  • Lou Hollingsworth, Partner, Hollingsworth Kelly
  • Stan Lubin, Member, American Constitution Society Judicial Nominations Task Force
  • Nick Enoch, Member, American Constitution Society Judicial Nominations Task Force
  • Patty Ferguson, National President, National Native American Bar Association

They will join approximately 150 individuals from 27 states in a day of discussions with White House staff. A deal between Senate Republicans and Democrats to allow judicial nominations to proceed in the Senate expires May 7th, and the advocates are urging the Senate to hold final up-or-down votes on all pending nominees.

After the White House meeting, participants will visit the offices of Senators McCain and Kyl to urge them to work to end the delays that have plagued the Senate confirmation process since the beginning of the Obama presidency.