Reform Leaders Speak Out About Judicial Emergencies
America is in a state of emergency. This time, I’m not talking about Hurricane Sandy, or the fiscal cliff or domestic violence. I’m talking about the state of judicial emergencies that exists in 33 places across our country and that compromises our democratic system.
This week, Reform leaders Rabbi David Saperstein and Rabbi Marla Feldman sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to hold confirmation votes for the 19 pending nominees in a swift and timely manner. The full text of their letter is below:
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 1800 Reform rabbis, and the Women of Reform Judaism which represents more than 65,000 women in nearly 500 women’s groups in North America and around the world, we write to urge you to swiftly consider pending judicial nominees, both for the duration of this Congress and in the 113th Congress.
America faces a state of judicial emergency. Out of 875 federal judgeships, 101 are currently vacant or soon to be vacant. In 33 regions across the U.S., there are not enough judges in place to hear all of the cases that come before our courts. This leaves Americans across the country with an inability to assert their rights and to participate fully in the legal process.
As you know, it is the Senate’s responsibility to “advise and consent” on judicial nominees and the Senate must fulfill this role promptly. To that end, we request that you work to guarantee that the 19 currently pending judicial nominees are considered and receive confirmation votes during the current lame duck session and that all judicial nominees are given timely consideration and votes in the 113th Congress. The need for qualified and impartial judges transcends partisanship and must be given the proper high priority to uphold the highest values of our democratic system.
Jewish tradition teaches of the necessity for fair, just and impartial courts. In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law advises him to choose capable, trustworthy, and law-abiding members of society as judges. Elsewhere we are taught of the ethical obligation to oppose unjust persons and unfair judgments; judges should neither “favor the poor nor show deference to the rich” (Leviticus 19:15). These biblical teachings continue to inspire us today and inform our concern about the state of our courts.
These values are also a cornerstone of American democracy. The preservation of the rule of law rests on the independence and fairness of our courts. Judges at all levels must be committed to defending the Constitution, protecting civil rights and civil liberties, acting within the framework of the precedents set by higher courts, and enforcing Constitutional legislation enacted by Congress when cases come before them. We urge you to swiftly consider pending nominees to ensure they meet these standards and allow confirmation votes to proceed with all due haste.
Thank you for your consideration.