Politics

Senate Committee Hears From Nominees For Long-Vacant Texas Federal Judgeships

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday from five nominees for Texas federal judgeships. The state has the most vacant federal judgeships in the country, and one expert says it could stay that way for some time.

University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus says partisan politics are holding up a vote on judicial nominations.
University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus says partisan politics are holding up a vote on judicial nominations.

There are currently 12 vacancies on the Texas federal bench. Ten are in district courts and 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,” says Rottinghaus. “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,” adds Rottinghaus. “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.

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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