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Senate Committee Hears Testimony From Nominees For Texas Federal Judgeships

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Houston Public Media
University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday in Washington from five nominees for Texas federal judgeships. The state has the most vacant federal judgeships in the country, and one expert at the University of Houston says it could stay that way for a while.

“Describe what a federal judge should do and what a federal judge shouldn’t do,” Senator Ted Cruz had a chance to question the nominees for those vacant Texas judgeships. There’s a total of 12 vacancies on the Texas federal bench. Ten are in district courts, two are on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

And those vacancies have been serious enough for court administrators to declare a judicial emergency. University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus blames partisan politics.

“The length of delays, the number of delays, has gotten higher from the Clinton administration. It was exacerbated during the Bush administration and now it has exploded during the Obama administration.”

So if there’s not enough judges, what happens to the cases on the
docket?

Rottinghaus says people trying to settle legal disputes can only sit and wait, and that creates even more problems.

“You may have businesses that have to re-prioritize in the short-term. You have groups in the long-term that aren’t able to plan ahead because they don’t know the resolution of certain kinds of legal outcomes. You also have the judicial system itself which has to accommodate for a set of missing judges.”

As for when the full Senate will vote on the nominees, Rottinghaus says it appears many lawmakers are waiting to see who wins the presidential election in November.