With the recent Senate Republican filibuster of judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, it wouldn’t be a surprise if President Barack Obama has become a bit gun-shy about making new judicial appointments.
However, his failure to nominate a replacement for soon-to-be-retired Judge Kermit Lipez of the First Circuit Court of Appeals has gotten critics grumbling about a potential “blow to Maine’s legal prestige and delayed justice in a key federal court.”
Judge Lipez, who announced that he will step aside from full-time duties at the beginning of the new year, occupies Maine's only seat on the First Circuit. Given the upcoming, no doubt-heated election year, even a nomination made in the next few months could take a while to get through the confirmation process. It has taken the typical circuit court nominee approximately 10 months to get through the Senate, according to MaineToday.
Couple that with increased tensions over judicial nominations caused by the Halligan filibuster, and it doesn't look good for Maine's representation on the Court of Appeals.
Any nominee would already have big shoes to fill in replacing Judge Lipez, who has sat on the First Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998. We recently gave you a short list rundown about Judge Lipez, the intrepid reporter and First Amendment fan.
The 70-year-old workhorse has said he will carry a full caseload as a senior status judge until September 2012, but even that may not be enough time to find and confirm his replacement, a prospect that concerns Judge Lipez.
"If my successor is not in place by the time I reduce my caseload, there will be a significant effect on the work of the court," Lipez told MaineToday. "Any prolonged vacancy affects the ability of the court to process its cases expeditiously."
Two names were reportedly sent to President Obama in May - Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Jon Levy and Pierce Atwood partner William Kayatta Jr - but no word has come from from Washington regarding a nomination thus far.
- Current Judicial Vacancies (United States Courts)
- Senate Confirms Evan Wallach for Federal Circuit (FindLaw's Federal Circuit blog)
- Is the GOP or Obama to Blame for Slow Pace of Judicial Nominations? (FindLaw's Courtside)