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Judges slowly selected, quickly heard under Obama

Much has been said about the slow pace of federal judicial nominations under President Obama, and a new report by the Brookings Institute takes a harder look.

Comparing judicial nominations during Obama’s first nine months in office to those made during the same time period under President Bush, the report found that Obama is making far fewer nominations, but those nominees are getting much faster hearings.

While Bush made 60 judicial picks in his first nine months – representing about 73 percent of judicial vacancies, Obama has made 22 nominations, covering 41 percent of the vacancies.

“Had the Obama administration nominated judges at the same rate as the Bush administration, it would have filled all the vacancies it inherited,” the report states.

The slow pace of nominations could be caused by a number of factors, according to the study, including the fact that Obama had a Supreme Court vacancy occur during his first nine months, while Bush did not.

“Obviously, filling the vacancy created by Justice David Souter’s May 1 retirement announcement consumed energy that might otherwise have gone toward searching for lower court nominees (not to mention dealing with two wars, an economic meltdown, and an ambitious legislative agenda),” the report says.

While Obama is slower to nominate, there is good news for those who are chosen. Obama’s federal trial judge picks wait an average of 54 days to get hearing compared with 70 days for Bush nominees. For Circuit Court nominees, Obama’s picks went before the Senate in 43 days on average, compared with 116 days for Bush picks.

But the quick hearings don’t ensure a quick road to confirmation. Only 9 percent of Obama’s picks have been confirmed, compared to 13 percent of Bush’s picks.

The full report, Judicial Nominations in the Bush and Obama Administrations’ First Nine Months, can be found on the Brookings Institute’s website.

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