Inaction On Judges Affecting Utah
Professor Michael McConnell spoke with Brooke Adams from the Salt Lake City Tribune in regards to the typical protocol for judicial nominations during a presidential election year and why there are exceptions for certain nominees with "unanimous support."
With its summer break fast approaching, calls are mounting for the U.S. Senate to put politics aside and act on nominees for long-empty judicial seats, including two in Utah’s federal court system.
On Thursday, American Bar Association delegates from Oklahoma asked that state’s two senators to press for a floor vote on the appointment of Judge Robert Bacharach to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also hears appeals for Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming.
While it has long been opposing party practice to stop the judicial nomination process in the spring preceding a presidential election, there is typically an exception for nominees with "an unusual degree of unanimous support," said Michael McConnell, director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and a former 10th Circuit Court judge representing Utah.
"Judge Bacharach has such strong support and such a good reputation across the spectrum that I am hoping that he will be the exception that does get confirmed, even in an election year," McConnell said Thursday. "But Washington is a pretty political and partisan place these days, so who knows?"
McConnell, however, said while that is not a good practice, "it is not a new practice." Nor is the process slow only in election years. In his own case, McConnell, nominated by President George W. Bush in September 2001, waited 19 months before the Senate approved his confirmation in November 2002.
"I do think it is unfortunate that the Senate has gotten into this habit of holding up confirmations in election years, but I don’t know that it is any different this time than it has been in the past," McConnell said. "The whole judicial confirmation process has become a mess. It takes too long and it’s become acrimonious."