The President has an opportunity to affect the makeup of the federal judicial branch through his power of appointment, yet he may not be using that power to the fullest. There are 874 federal judicial slots which are filled upon appointment by the President and confirmation by the Senate. That number includes all the judges who serve at the district trial court level, the circuit courts of appeal, the Court of International Trade and the nine members of the United States Supreme Court. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, there are currently 75 judicial vacancies, which is about 10% of the total federal district and appellate court positions. The President has nominated people for 32 of those available slots, and they are awaiting Senate confirmation. However, 43 of the slots are open. 27 of the existing judicial vacancies have presented what has been described as “judicial emergencies.”
Chief Justice John Roberts has expressed concern about the consequences of long term reductions in funding for the judiciary. In the Chief Justice’s annual report to the President and Congress, he cautioned that the courts need vital resources, including an adequate number of judges, to keep up with pending cases. He warned that a delay or denial of justice could occur if the court does not have sufficient judges and staff to do its work.
Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio. She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.