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Looks as though the difficult times have affected even the judicial system on the federal level. A recent Slate editorial reveals just how deep the cuts are. A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder, says this could prove problematic in ways many haven’t even considered. For instance, of the 850 lower court federal judgeships, there are more than 100 that are vacant. Eighty three of these vacancies are in district courts, which, as we know, are crucial for civil rights, economic issues, privacy, environmental and other important national issues. The editorial points out that many Americans aren’t aware of these shortages and if they are, they’re not aware of just how much it could affect their daily lives.

The founder says this will increase an already extended wait time, some by years. When a citizen is fighting for his job, this is devastating and will likely result in a case not ever being heard. As A. Harrison Barnes points out, “This gives new meaning to ‘justice delayed, justice denied”. Even worse, some jurisdictions have stopped hearing civil cases altogether. This is truly detrimental to the very foundations this country is built upon. This certainly cannot be what the framers had in mind.

A new report released by Alliance for Justice in September, 2010, points out that “judicial emergencies have doubled since President Obama took office nearly twenty months ago and these emergencies are in thirty states. Some retired judges have come out of their retirements in an effort to assist those courts who are brutally overwhelmed. Chief Judge Wiley Daniel, of the U.S. District Court in Denver, addressed leaders in his state and requested “urgent confirmation” and that the vacancies “impede public access to justice”.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing in. Justice William Rehnquist has twice openly spoken against the Senate and the White House as they lag in filling the “many vacancies” crucial “for the good of the nation”.

Another alarming trend A. Harrison Barnes points out is that the length of time between a judge being nominated and then confirmed continues to grow. Slate‘s editorial points out that since President Obama has taken office, that gap has more than quadrupled and that many nominees are now waiting months before being confirmed and some suggest, “it may never come”. This is turning many potential nominees off to the process and instead is resulting in them taking their knowledge elsewhere. President of the American Bar Association, Steve Zack, says “…the best nominees will be inclined to start to wonder whether it’s worth the bother. Many…nominees may not even entertain the prospect…” He says the gridlock is discouraging many from “subjecting themselves”.

New fears are that the bigger the standoff and the longer it continues, the more likely it will be that politics will become too much integrated in the process. Candidates will begin using these problems in their campaigns. This is dangerous, says Barnes. It could result in no one placing it front and center unless it’s an election year.

Time will tell if these problems can finally be worked out in a more timely manner; however, if they’re not, we are on the verge of losing so much of everything we hold dear in this country.

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