Federal Courts Need More Judges. Here’s How the ‘Judicial Crisis’ Traces Back to Texas.

There are nine unfilled judicial seats at the federal level. Does justice delayed mean justice denied? 

By Alain StephensDecember 1, 2015 10:32 am,

The nation is currently in a judicial crisis – and Texas is right in the middle of it.

For many years now, Carl Tobias has been sounding an alarm over unfilled seats on the federal bench, but the University of Richmond law professor now says the epicenter of the problem is the Lone Star State. Texas has far more vacancies than any other state in the country, he notes.

“There are nine vacancies, seven of which are emergencies because of the length of time they’ve been open, or the crushing caseloads,” Tobias says. “None of them has a nominee. So the judges in Texas are working overtime. The only thing that keeps the system afloat is the dedication of the senior judges, who are supposed to be taking a half-load.”

The other problem, Tobias says, is that it creates a problem of “justice delayed and justice denied.”

Some Republican senators are being urged by media outlets and others to block circuit court nominees so that more vacancies remain for the next president to fill.

“That’s the problem,” Tobias says. “They need to cure that deficiency and to discharge their constitutional duty to give advice and consent – whether it’s a Republican president or Democratic president nominating – the opposition party has this duty under our constitution.”

What can be done to fill these vacancies? Tobias says judges are already sounding the alarm.

“If you talk to judges in Texas, and other jurisdictions where there are these crushing caseloads without sufficient resources, they will tell you that they just need to move people through the system,” he says.

More specifically, the home state senators – John Cornyn and Ted Cruz – need to be moving their recommendations to the White House swiftly, Tobias says. “That’s been a real problem really throughout the time the senators have been in the senate and the president has been in the White House,” he says.

More and more judges are speaking out, however, Tobias says – especially the Texas judges.

“I’m hopeful – cautiously optimistic… but the process is so politicized and partisan that it’s very difficult,” Tobias says. “But I think judges can be persuasive, and a number have been and probably will continue to be.”