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America needs your help. Each year, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court issues a report titled, “Report on the Federal Judiciary.” Most Americans have never heard of it, let alone read it. That is understandable. While the Chief Justice is an honorable, wise, and consistent defender of the constitution, the report is usually pretty dry. This year, however, citizens who care about the constitution should take a close look at the Rehnquist report.
The Chief Justice warns of “an alarming number of judicial vacancies” and adds that because of the brutal confirmation process, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified people willing to serve as federal judges. He makes a simple, straightforward plea: “The Senate ought to act with reasonable promptness and to vote each nominee up or down. The Senate is not, of course, obliged to confirm any particular nominee. But it ought to act on each nominee and to do so within a reasonable time. I recognize that the Senate has been faced with many challenges this year, but I urge prompt attention to the challenge of bringing the federal judicial branch closer to full staffing.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is having none of it. He has a deliberate, clandestine strategy to keep as many judicial vacancies open as possible. Why? Because under the Constitution of the United States, the president nominates judges to the federal bench and Tom Daschle and the liberal special interests don’t want this particular president to get his nominees appointed.
There are now 90 vacancies on the court. That is more than when President Bush took office. The president has fulfilled his responsibility by nominating judges at a record pace. But, 23 appeals court nominees, one level below the Supreme Court, await action by either the Judiciary Committee or the full Senate.
The lack of action is totally indefensible, but Sen. Daschle is counting on the fact that the American people aren’t looking. Senator Daschle appears unconcerned that the Chief Justice of the Supreme finds the situation wholly irresponsible. President Bush’s expressions of frustration do not move Daschle either. Daschle told President Bush in the White House to his face that there would be no votes on judicial nominees because "you have no leverage." As long as the American people don’t put pressure on the Senate, then the crisis in the federal judiciary will continue.
One real problem is that the trial lawyers want this crisis. And trial lawyers are huge backers of the Democratic Party. Excessive vacancies on the federal bench means federal courts work less efficiently. Cases take longer to come to trial. The result: one more opportunity for the trial lawyers to keep their cases out of federal court, where tougher standards make lawsuit abuse more difficult.
President Bush’s nominees who remain in Sen. Daschle’s version of the “lock box” have a record of respecting the Constitution and have even been called, heaven forbid, “pro-free enterprise.” That really scares trial lawyers. What could be worse for a trial lawyer than a fully staffed federal bench with judges who respect the law as written? A primary goal of CSE’s efforts to enact federal tort reform is to make it easier to bring more cases to the federal bench. Federal rules and, generally speaking federal laws, have a greater respect for how the free enterprise system functions than many state courts. In layman’s terms, this means, in general, trial lawyers get bigger verdicts in state court than they do in federal court.
Trial lawyers can help block the drive for federal tort reform by increasing the backlog of cases in federal courts, thereby creating the argument that we shouldn’t add to the burden of the federal judiciary by making it easier to bring cases in federal courts.
To date, American business, who are big proponents of federal tort reform are cautious about getting involved in this fight. If they wanted, the voice, resources and influence of business could make a big difference, but their voice remains silent. Much of the rhetoric on both sides of the fight over the judiciary involves social issues like partial birth abortion or school prayer and that make corporations uncomfortable.
But make no mistake about it. The free enterprise system is very much the issue and Senate Democrats have taken the side of trial lawyers over consumers, small businesses and citizens who respect the Constitution.
CSE stands for less government, lower taxes and more freedom. A functioning judicial branch filled with judges who respect the law is a prerequisite to achieving limited government. We have a responsibility to take up this fight. Politics is one thing, but when the politicians begin tampering with the functioning of our judiciary, our constitutional rights are put at risk. When a political party has an explicit strategy to block judges that respect the Framer’s view of the constitution, than the legacy of the Founding fathers is diminished.
CSE believes this is a fight worth joining, and I ask for your help. Let’s send a message that citizens care about our constitution and we are watching.