Gridlock in Congress has been the topic of many articles, blog posts, angry rants and headaches for a long time. Setting aside the many legislative issues that are hotly debated and brought to a halt for one reason or another, the confirmation process for judicial and Administration nominees has shown less movement than a pond of stagnant water. On Thursday a group of senators marched out of the Environment and Public Works committee hearing, effectively blocking the nomination of Gina McCarthy to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The McCarthy example is just that—an example. For the past several congresses under the leadership of both parties, the confirmation process for many important positions in the judicial and administrative branches of government has been unbelievably slow. There are currently 82 vacant positions for federal judges. According to a CRS report, non-controversial circuit court nominees take, on average, 227 days to be confirmed after they are nominated. Under the Reagan Administration the average wait time was 64.5 days. While the wait time has been growing steadily since 1981, the fact that almost 64% of nominees now wait for over 200 days for confirmation now, when only 5% waited that long in the ‘80s, spells out just how unreasonably slow the confirmation process has been.
Jewish tradition teaches the necessity of fair, just and impartial courts. In Exodus 18:21, for example, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, advises him to choose capable, trustworthy and law abiding members of society as judges. We are also 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). The importance of justice is, thus, a key part of Jewish tradition. When nominees to our courts and other key government positions are unreasonably held up, it can cause significant repercussions for the effectiveness of our public institutions; in truth, justice delayed is justice denied.
Image Courtesy of Times Higher Education (THE).