February 18, 2002
The United States has long taken pride in its independent judiciary. The judicial branch of the federal government is responsible for the administration of justice through conducting civil and criminal trials and handling appeals and plays a critical role in interpreting our laws and deciding whether they are constitutional. Our cohesion as a nation depends in great part on our joint acceptance of the legitimacy and fairness of our judiciary. For this reason, it is essential that nominees to the federal bench receive proper scrutiny by the Senate, and that only those committed to protecting justice for all, as set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, be confirmed.
It is not only Supreme Court Justices that matter. While several thousand appeals are filed annually with the US Supreme Court, the Court typically only hears less than 100. For most cases, the final word is decided by the US Circuit Courts of Appeal. These 12 circuits covering different areas of the county each have several judges, who, as the final arbiters in the overwhelming majority of appeals, are as important as Supreme Court justices
Currently, there is a large number of vacancies on the federal bench. We urge that those vacancies be filled as expeditiously as the full, fair, and prompt evaluation of a judicial nominee will permit. These nominees for lifetime appointments to the federal bench must be evaluated very carefully. Confirmation should only come after adequate hearings and examination of a full record.
The Senate and its Judiciary Committee must assess each nominee’s qualifications for the job. The Senate should also consider a nominee’s experience, judicial temperament, judicial bias, writings and opinions, and public record on and off the bench and reject the nominee if that review raises serious and legitimate concerns that she or he will not follow and protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.