Center for American Progress

Americans Pay a High Price for Judicial Obstruction
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Americans Pay a High Price for Judicial Obstruction

Anisha Singh and Pete Haviland-Eduah discuss why judicial vacancies are exacerbating problems in the U.S. criminal justice system.

America’s broken criminal justice system has emerged as a pressing issue in the national consciousness. There is a growing bipartisan consensus that the system needs serious reform. During his visit to America, Pope Francis visited a prison and discussed national criminal justice issues from a faith perspective. In the same week, a moving documentary featuring the first visit by a sitting president to a federal prison. And yet, with all this focus on reforming our justice system, little attention is being paid to how federal judicial vacancies — which remain unfilled due to Senate obstruction — play into our broken criminal justice system.

Today, more than 80 current and future federal judicial seats are vacant and approximately 30 of those seats are considered judicial emergencies, nearly triple the number of emergency vacancies since Republicans took control of the Senate in January. This has led to the largest backlog of federal criminal and civil cases in American history, with some 330,000 civil cases currently pending. Wait times for federal cases are at an all-time high. In Pennsylvania, a state with seven vacancies, the average felony trial takes more than a year — nearly twice the national average. Put simply, the judicial vacancy crisis means that millions of Americans are not getting their day in court.

The above excerpt was originally published in Roll Call. Click here to view the full article.

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Anisha Singh

Senior Organizing Director

Pete Haviland-Eduah