February 10, 2013

Our View: Slow action on judicial appointments hurts process

We wonder what the 12 Maine lawyers assembled to review candidates for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court plan to say to the applicants about their chances. Will they tell them about William Kayatta, who is still waiting to be confirmed a year after he was nominated to the shorthanded 1st Circuit Court of Appeals?

The good news about Kayatta is that he just received a strong vote of approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bad news is that the committee supported him last year too, but his nomination got caught in partisan dysfunction in the Senate. It's important to remember that Kayatta is in no way a controversial nominee. Although nominated by a Democratic president, he has the backing of Republican Sen. Susan Collins and was also supported by former Sen. Olympia Snowe. That didn't matter to other Senate Republicans, who put all judicial appointments on hold, waiting to see if a Republican might be elected president.

Being nominated for a job on the federal bench now comes with a large amount of personal risk. Nominees have to put their lives and careers on hold while senators sort out political differences that have nothing to do with the courts. If not fixed, this problem makes recruiting the best for these positions a much harder job.

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