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Sen. Hutchison Struggles With Facts About Judicial Nominations

Earlier this month U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison got into a back-and-forth debate via letters to the editor (LTE) in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram with Glenn Sugameli (Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife) regarding the issue of judicial nominations. It appears from the back-and-forth that Sen. Hutchison either doesn't understand the issue of judicial nominations and vacancies or is purposefully ignoring the facts of the situation. 

It began when Sugameli's called out inaccuracies stated by Sen. Hutchison in a LTE published on May 2nd:

On Thursday, when the U.S. Senate finally confirmed David Guaderrama and Gregg Costa as Texas federal district judges, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison stated, "As I understand it, we have confirmed the same -- roughly the same -- number of district judges as President George Bush and President Clinton did in their first terms. To my knowledge, we are not holding up nominations at all."

Neither her understanding nor her knowledge even approaches reality. As of April 26, in their first terms, the Senate had confirmed 151 Clinton district judges, 142 of President Bush's but only 113 of President Obama's. Senate Republicans continue to block floor votes on 19 committee-approved nominations. These include nominees whom Texas Sen. John Cornyn and other Judiciary Committee Republicans supported to fill vacancies that the U.S. courts have designated as "judicial emergencies." Seven other nominees cannot even have hearings because GOP senators have not returned the required home-state senator "blue slips."

Once Hutchison is aware of these facts, she could help confirm judges to overburdened courts so justice delayed will not continue to be justice denied.

-- Glenn Sugameli, Staff Attorney, Judging the Environment, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, D.C.

Sugameli clearly points out two lies by Sen. Hutchison.

Lie #1: "We have confirmed the same -- roughly the same -- number of district judges as President George Bush and President Clinton did in their first terms."

Reality: The Senate confirmed 151 Clinton district judges, 142 of President Bush's but only 113 of President Obama's nominees - 113 is not "roughly" the same as 151 and 142.

Lie #2: "To my knowledge, we are not holding up nominations at all."

Reality: Senate Republicans continue to block floor votes on 19 committee-approved nominations.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison responded to Sugameli's with a LTE of her own May 5th

Regarding Glenn Sugameli's erroneous claim that U.S. Senate confirmations of President Barack Obama's federal district court nominees are being delayed, as of the end of March, Obama had had more district court nominees confirmed by the Senate (129) than during the last four years of the Bush presidency (120). (See: "Delayed judicial nominees," Wednesday letters) The average time from nomination to confirmation during the Bush administration is within one week of the average time for Obama administration nominees.

Obama has submitted fewer district court nominations to the Senate than President George W. Bush did during his first term (173 v. 215). Some nominations (at least two in Texas) have been delayed at the White House when the administration's preferred candidates were eliminated during standard FBI background investigations.

The Senate is continuing to carry out its constitutional responsibilities. Last week, the Senate confirmed two new judges from Texas, David Guaderrama and Gregg Costa. Sen. John Cornyn and I were proud to recommend them to the White House after their qualifications had been reviewed thoroughly by our Federal Judicial Advisory Group. Next week, the Senate will take action on three more district court nominees from Arkansas, Illinois and California.

-- U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Unfortunately for Sen. Hutchison, her response just like her original statement was filled with inaccuracies. 

Sugameli responded again on May 11th:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's May 5 letter (See: "U.S. Senate is carrying out constitutional responsibility on judicial nominations") compounds the errors I described from her April 26 floor speech, while falsely labeling as "erroneous" my "claim" that the Senate is delaying federal district court nominees. (See also: "Delayed judicial nominees," May 2 letters).

Her speech's stated understanding that "we have confirmed ... roughly the same number of district judges as President George Bush and President Clinton did in their first terms," is contradicted by the numbers I cited: Clinton (151), Bush (142) and Obama (113).

Her letter's claim of Obama "district court nominees confirmed by the Senate (129)" as of the end of March includes all committee-approved nominees through April 26, more than a dozen of whom are still delayed by Senate Republicans.

She also incorrectly claims the Senate will act on three, rather than two, district court nominees (the third is for a circuit court).

-- Glenn Sugameli, staff attorney, Judging the Environment, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington, D.C.

What does it say that one of our Senators who is responsible to fill our vacancies don't understand the issue of judicial nominations?