Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.) on Tuesday voted against ending debate on President Obama’s nomination of Cornelia Pillard to the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court, saying that supporting an up-or-down vote would be “premature” until the Senate considers a proposal by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) to move judges “to where they are needed most.”
“I voted against ending debate on President Obama’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit because I think such a vote would be premature,” Senator Alexander said. “I’ll not vote to end debate on the president’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit until the Senate does in 2013 what Democratic senators suggested and the Senate did in 2007: move judges from where they are not needed to where they are needed most.”
Senator Alexander has cosponsored Senator Grassley’s legislation – which is similar to a proposal Democrats made under President George W. Bush – to address three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit by removing one judgeship and moving two others to the Second and Eleventh Circuits. The senator cited legislation in 2003, 2005 and 2007 by Senators Grassley and Jeff Sessions (R-Al.) to reduce the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit, at a time when Republican President Bush was making judicial appointments.
In 2006, Senate Democrats, including Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Il.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) joined in calling for a reduction in the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit, Senator Alexander said. Ultimately the Senate and President Bush opted to lessen the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit by one seat, moving it to the Ninth Circuit.
Senator Alexander also cited data showing that the national average is 344 cases per authorized judgeship this year, and that with eight authorized judgeships the D.C. Circuit’s average would be 149 cases. He also noted that the number of written decisions by an active judge on the D.C. Circuit has dropped 27 percent since 2005. The current slate of eight judges, Senator Alexander said, should be more than enough even with complex cases the D.C. Circuit sometimes hears.