Tags: Rehnquist: | Judiciary | Hurt | Slow | Confirmations | Low | Pay

Rehnquist: Judiciary Hurt By Slow Confirmations, Low Pay

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 12:00 AM

Rehnquist said that those two factors have dampened enthusiasm among private sector attorneys for becoming federal judges. He warned that a lack of judges with experience outside of government service will skew the American system of justice and replicate a flawed European model.

"We have never had, and should not want, a judiciary composed only of those persons who are already in public service," Rehnquist said. "We must not drastically shrink the number of judicial nominees who have had substantial experience in private practice."

Public prosecutors and defenders, federal magistrates, bankruptcy judges and state judges do not face a similar disincentive, said Rehnquist, because "for them the pay is a modest improvement and the confirmation process at least does not damage their current income."

Even though many European countries draw large numbers of judges from the public sector, Rehnquist warned that it is not a system for America to emulate.

"Reasonable people, not merely here but in Europe," have concluded that the European system of judges as career civil servants "simply [does] not command the respect and enjoy the independence of ours," said Rehnquist.

Rehnquist criticized the Senate for allowing nominations to languish without making a definitive decision one way or the other.

"The Senate is not, of course, obliged to confirm any particular nominee," said Rehnquist. "But it ought to act on each nominee and to do so within a reasonable time." It's a criticizm Renquist has in previous years leveled against the Republican-controlled Senate that did not expedite former President Clinton's nominees.

When the Senate adjourned on Dec. 20, 23 appeals court and 14 district court nominations were still pending before the Senate.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, defended his committee's efforts at expediting the confirmation process for judicial nominees.

"The vacancy rate had risen past the one hundred mark under our Republican predecessors, through their refusal to vote on so many of President Clinton's nominees," said Leahy. "We have finally begun moving those numbers in the right direction.

"In the short time since the Democratic majority took charge this summer," Leahy continued, "we have confirmed more judicial nominees than were confirmed in the entire first years of each of the last two presidents."

Leahy said that most of President Bush's nominees were conservative Republicans, yet "virtually all" have been approved unanimously by both parties in the Senate because lawmakers believed the nominees for lifetime judgeships would "put justice and the law ahead of rigid ideology.

"When the Senate reconvenes, we will continue to seek consensus and to move forward to fill remaining vacancies," Leahy promised. "The President can help by choosing more nominees primarily for their fairness and their abilities instead of for their ideology," Leahy added.

Leahy had in mid-December criticized the president for his decision to end the practice of vetting nominees with the American Bar Association prior to submitting a candidate to the Senate. That decision was largely responsible for six or eight weeks delays in holding confirmation hearings while the Senate awaits the ABA review. "It also eliminates a crucial 'early warning system' for the White House and for us," Leahy said at the time.

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Rehnquist said that those two factors have dampened enthusiasm among private sector attorneys for becoming federal judges. He warned that a lack of judges with experience outside of government service will skew the American system of justice and replicate a flawed European...
Rehnquist:,Judiciary,Hurt,Slow,Confirmations,,Low,Pay
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2002-00-02
Wednesday, 02 January 2002 12:00 AM
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