Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There is a political crisis here in America. Our federal courts are a mess. Politics is the reason one out of every nine seats on the federal bench is vacant. Where are the American judges and why haven’t they been appointed to vacant jobs? As a result many cases including criminal are being subject to speedy trials due to “judicial emergencies”. How can we have a thing called a judicial emergency? They used to say, “Here come the judge!” Now we say, “Where is the judge?”
Obama has been our President for about half of his term appointment and here we are with only 65 of his judicial nominees having been confirmed. In the past six weeks, one federal judge a week has retired, making the shortage even greater. Chief Justice John Roberts has warned of the crisis as well as White House counsel Bob Bauer who also warned of the crisis. The Senate listened enough to finally confirm two judges this past week. One seat was vacant for over five years.
The problem is not in finding well qualified people for the job even though there is a one year wait for confirmation. The problem is that well-qualified people are getting caught in political battles that have nothing to do with them personally, or with the judiciary. For example, there are three burning issues every political pundit and every journalist wants to know and believes that ALL the general public must know of each and every candidate:
1. Decide whether gay marriage is lawful.
2. Whether Arizona’s immigration law is unconstitutional.
3. Whether the president’s health care bill gets thrown out.
Every stinkin’ day we have to hear about this stuff from somebody. Well, the fact of the matter is that most judges don’t decide a single case on these issues in a lifetime. Even if they do, unless you’re on the Supreme Court, it’s not going to be decided.
What federal judges do, each day has much less to do with politics than with knowledge, judgment, management and discipline. Managing a criminal or civil docket is a major enterprise. Federal judges do it with the help of a couple of kids right out of law school and a few hardworking clerks. These people juggle dozens of cases, motions calendars and juries; ensuring that trial dates don’t slip and speedy trial rights aren’t compromises; making one decision after another, often with little time for reflection, that determine what evidence comes in, what arguments can be made, who gets bail, what charges will stand, what claims get dismissed, whether proper procedures were followed, what damages are justified, whether a temporary restraining order should issue. That’s done in one day for each case.
I know this because I have personally been on both sides of the bench. A police officer, police academy teacher, got my masters in business administration, business owner, attorney, administrative law judge and a convicted felon. We have grown used to hearing those three issues badgering any candidate in the market for any public occupation especially the nominees to the Supreme Court to the point that having any specific opinion is seen as disqualifying and confirmation hearings have become a farce.
Most federal judges aren’t there to do politics. They are very educated experienced thinkers who are just trying to serve this country. Help our government to function. Stop clogging the air with personal feelings that have nothing to do with the cases at hand. Move the process along and encourage the hiring of more judges in a swift manner. Much of the world is watching America now, overthrowing their Dictators of many years and seeking to achieve a governing power similar to America’s. Let’s be a good example.

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