WASHINGTON, DC — One year ago, President George W. Bush announced his first 11 nominations to the federal judiciary. Today, eight of the 11 individuals initially nominated for judgeships — Terry Boyle, Deborah Cook, Miguel Estrada, Michael McConnell, Priscilla Owen, John Roberts, Dennis Shed, and Jeffrey Sutton — still await a Senate hearing and a vote on their nominations.

“The Senate’s failure to discharge its constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on judicial nominees is simply unacceptable,” says IWF Senior Fellow for Legal Policy Jennifer C. Braceras. “If Senate Democrats want to ensure that women — and, indeed all Americans — have access to justice,” Braceras continues, “they must stop playing politics with the confirmation process and confirm or dispose of the President’s nominees at once.”

Braceras notes that the federal judiciary is currently in the midst of a vacancy crisis. Today there are close to 90 federal court vacancies. Since taking office, President Bush has named 100 men and women to the federal bench. Yet, despite the president’s record pace of nominations, there are today 48 judicial nominations pending before the United States Senate — 21 of which are nominees to the United States Courts of Appeals, the courts of last resort in most cases. Unfortunately, the Senate has chosen to hold many of these men and women hostage to partisan politics, subjecting the nominees to rigid ideological litmus tests, rather than a careful consideration of their qualifications and ethics. The IWF condemns this practice and calls upon all senators to reject the use of litmus tests as a means of judging nominees to the federal bench.

“A fully staffed, balanced, and independent judiciary is necessary for the protection of every American’s safety, freedom, and civil rights,” comments Braceras. “By failing to promptly consider the president’s judicial nominees, the Senate has increased the pressure on the already overburdened federal courts and jeopardized the independence of the judiciary.”

IWF calls upon the Senate to act with all deliberate speed to conduct hearings and schedule floor votes on all of President Bush’s judicial nominees, beginning with Terry Boyle, Deborah Cook, Miguel Estrada, Michael McConnell, Priscilla Owen, John Roberts, Dennis Shed, and Jeffrey Sutton, all of whom have waited an entire year for Senate consideration.

The Independent Women’s Forum, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.