Dozens of Organizations Spotlight 'Judicial Emergencies' With This Week's Senate Hearing of Stalled Nominee

Mar 03, 2011, 11:33 ET from Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values

PITTSBURGH, March 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- "Justice delayed is justice denied" is the cry of many who are urging the Senate to take action to alleviate a "judicial emergency," an unfilled seat in an overwhelmed appellate court with an ever-increasing backlog of cases. Leading the call to action in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values (PCCV), an alliance of more than 50 regional non-profit organizations.

It has been just over a year since President Obama first nominated the noted legal scholar Goodwin Liu to fill a seat on the Ninth Circuit, one of the nation's busiest appellate courts. This week the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a fourth hearing on Professor Liu, whose nomination expired at the end of the last Congress because the nominee never received a vote on the Senate floor. The lack of Senate action has resulted in an increasing backlog in the Ninth Circuit, frustrating parties on all sides of the judicial system.

"With the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, like the Middle District of Pennsylvania, deemed a judicial emergency, we know that plaintiffs who have been injured, criminal defendants seeking reviews of their convictions, and victims are waiting for justice," said Christine Stone of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), one of the member organizations of PCCV. "For these people, justice delayed is justice denied. Confirming Goodwin Liu and other qualified nominees like him would alleviate the very real harms suffered by individual Americans when our nation's courts are understaffed."

"Goodwin Liu is an exceptionally well-qualified nominee, widely regarded as one of the great legal minds of his generation," said Elena Rovner, Esq., of NCJW and co-chair of PCCV. "Liu is Associate Dean and Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, a nationally recognized expert on constitutional law and education law and policy, a distinguished graduate of Stanford, Oxford, and Yale Law School, a Rhodes Scholar and former Supreme Court clerk." Christine Stone added that Professor Liu would be an especially appropriate choice given that he would become the only active Asian-American judge on the Ninth Circuit, which has more Asian-Americans residents than in any other circuit in the country.

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) co-sponsored the legislation with Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to add the much-needed seat to the Ninth Circuit, and in the year since President Obama's nomination the situation there has become even more dire as there are now three vacancies. Ninth Circuit judges, including Judge Alex Kozinski (a Reagan appointee) have pleaded with Senators for help, calling the need for judges "desperate." Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has also called attention to the nation's worsening problem of judicial emergencies, saying in his 2010 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary that the problem of judicial emergencies "has created acute difficulties for some judicial districts. Sitting judges in those districts have been burdened with extraordinary caseloads."

How widespread is the problem of Federal judicial vacancies? According to a letter from the Alliance for Justice, "Over 100 federal judgeships are currently vacant. That's more than one in nine, with 44 of those classified as judicial emergencies." Currently, eight of those vacancies are in Pennsylvania districts with two of those considered judicial emergencies.

The Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values, along with many others, is urging citizens to contact their Senators and urge them to hold a vote on Professor Liu's nomination. "The time for the Senate to act on the nomination of Professor Liu is now. Beginning this week the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold yet another nomination hearing and vote on this nominee," Elena Rovner said. "We look forward to a vote before the full Senate. We urge our Senators them to support swift approval of Goodwin Liu's nomination."

SOURCE Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values