CA federal courts jammed: Little relief in sight unless Senate votes on nominees

Jesus Bernal, one of the nominees.
Jesus Bernal, one of the nominees.
Courtesy Jesus Bernal

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This week is likely to be the US Senate’s last work week for a while. It could leave some unfinished business: nominees to the federal bench awaiting confirmation. Chances are slim that senators will confirm nearly half a dozen California nominees before Congress adjourns for the November election.

The five California nominees have already cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. But to avoid the threat of a filibuster, Senate leaders agreed to vote on only one or two nominees a week. Seventeen are in the line; the two from Southern California, magistrate judge Fernando Olguinand, public defender Jesus Bernal, aren’t near the top of the list.

Carl Tobias, who teaches law at the University of Richmond, says the Senate could confirm the nominees in a lame duck session, but he adds that it's "just not clear at all exactly what will happen when they come back, depending on both the new composition of the Senate as well as the Presidential elections." Republicans would prefer that a President Romney have the opportunity to nominate his own judges. More Republicans in the Senate would make it easier to block judicial votes from President Obama; more Democrats would make it easier to get the 60 votes he'd need to overcome a filibuster.

California nominees are considered “emergency” appointments because federal cases are backlogged in the state. Tobias says that might help move their nominations to the Senate floor.