Politics

White House, Texas Senate Delegation Cooperate On Filling Federal Judgeships

The Republican-led Senate is quietly working with President Obama to fill district court vacancies, even as it refuses to consider his Supreme Court pick.

The day before he nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the high court, President Obama named six men and women to U.S. district court judgeships. Five of them were to fill vacancies in Texas. Senator John Cornyn announced his support for the nominees in a conference call with reporters.

“These are added to the six that have already been confirmed earlier this year,” Cornyn said, “and they come following my recommendations to the White House after the work of the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee that’s appointed, a bipartisan committee appointed by Senator (Ted) Cruz and myself.”

Texas is supposed to have roughly 80 judges covering its four federal district courts. A vacancy rate of just over 10 percent, as Texas had at the beginning of the year, is not abnormally large, but it’s large enough to create problems.

“When you have a number of vacancies on the federal bench, obviously it may increase the workload for particular judges,” says Joe Kendall, who served as a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Texas from 1992 to 2002, “and it certainly slows down access to the courts by the public, and that’s never a good thing.”

Kendall says Cornyn’s support for the nominees means they’re likely to be confirmed.

Editor’s Correction:  Obama announced justice nominations on March 15 – Tuesday – not March 16 as said in a previous version.

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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