Yesterday the U.S. Senate triggered the so-called “nuclear option”, changing its rules to prevent filibusters of presidential nominees. This includes nominations of all federal judges, except for Supreme Court justices. Obama has nominated candidates to fill 51 of the current 93 judicial vacancies, and this move should clear the way for these nominees to be confirmed.
Perhaps more important, however, are the 42 other judicial vacancies, because now Obama should not be concerned with placating Republican senators in choosing his nominees. He now has an opportunity to reverse the trend of corporatist courts – and no excuse not to.
According to statistics from the Alliance for Justice, just one of Obama’s 55 nominees to the federal Courts of Appeals – and only four of his 220 nominees to the federal District Courts – have experience as a non-governmental public interest attorney. The vast majority have experience in private practice, mostly on behalf of corporations. (The remainder come from government or academic backgrounds.)
This needs to change.
The courts need more diversity of experience and expertise, and more people who have experience representing the most vulnerable in our society, not the most powerful.