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Can a Flood of Nominees Plug the Holes in the D.C. Circuit?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 10, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Politico proclaims that there’s a “showdown on the D.C. Circuit.” The Washington Post editorial board calls it the “Republicans’ D.C. Circuit barricade.”

After four years of unfilled vacancies on the nation’s so-called second-highest court, the media is finally giving this confirmation crisis the Pay-Per-View boxing-worthy buzz it deserves.

In case you don’t follow the federal judicial vacancies like we do, there are four spots to be filled on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. One of those spots — Chief Justice John Roberts former seat — has been empty since 2005. That’s what we obsessive-court-watchers refer to as “not good.”

What's worse is that it's been years since the Senate last confirmed a judge for the D.C. Circuit bench. The Senate has yet to confirm one of President Obama's nominees for the court. Last month, after lingering more than two years in nomination limbo, New York attorney Caitlin Halligan asked the president to withdraw her nomination to the court.

But, like the Rebel Alliance, the appellate court may have a new hope. Deputy Solicitor General and D.C. Circuit nominee Sri Srinivasan actually got a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. And, considering that liberals and conservatives alike praise Srinivasan, he could eventually win the honor of being Obama's first confirmed nominee to the circuit.

That, of course, still leaves us with three vacancies.

UC Irvine Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky writes with Yale Law student Sam Kleiner at Politico:

After the hearings, Obama needs to make nominations for the remaining three vacancies. Bush was successful with his nominations because he put forward a number of judges at once and actively pressed for their confirmation. He might not get all of them confirmed but Obama shouldn't start with nominations for only half of the vacancies on the court.

Maybe that's the solution: Flood the Senate with options and hope that some of the nominees trickle through confirmation to plug the holes in the court.

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