Groups urge Sen. Rubio to end judicial blockade

Today, the Florida Why Courts Matter coalition delivered the below letter to Sen. Marco Rubio urging him to “work to end the obstruction of federal judicial nominees, starting with a full and fair hearing and an up-or-down vote this lame duck session on Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.” The coalition also called on Rubio and the Senate to “fulfill its constitutional duty by acting on the other lingering judicial vacancies in our federal courts, including six here in Florida, and by holding up-or-down votes on the 25 lower court nominees that have been vetted and approved by the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee and their home state senators.” 

Here in Florida many critical policy battles have been ultimately decided by our federal courts. Delaying justice for Floridians is denying justice for Floridians and Sen. Rubio and his Senate colleagues’ judicial obstruction is indefensible.

The below letter was signed by eight Florida civic engagement organizations, and was delivered to Sen. Rubio as part of a National Day of Action around the need to confirm judicial nominees during the upcoming lame duck session. For more information, call Mark Ferrulo at Progress Florida at 727-289-2612

December 8, 2016

The Honorable Marco Rubio
United States Senate
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Rubio:

On behalf of The Florida Why Courts Matter coalition and other Florida civic engagement organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Floridians, we’re writing to urge you to work to end the obstruction of federal judicial nominees, starting with a full and fair hearing and an up-or-down vote this lame duck session on Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In addition the Senate should fulfill its constitutional duty by acting on the other lingering judicial vacancies in our federal courts, including six here in Florida, and by holding up-or-down votes on the 25 lower court nominees that have been vetted and approved by the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee and their home state senators. 

The Constitution gives the President the responsibility to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, and gives the Senate the responsibility to provide “advice and consent” on those nominees. President Obama nominated the eminently qualified Chief Judge Garland more than 260 days ago, but you and your colleagues in the Senate Republican leadership have refused to even consider his nomination. Since 1975, it has taken an average of 42 days after nomination for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominees, and an average of 67 days for the full Senate to vote. It has never taken more than 125 days, until now. 

This unprecedented obstruction is destructive, as it forces the Supreme Court to operate with only eight justices. During the Supreme Court term in 2015, the Court deadlocked in several important cases, such as U.S. v Texas, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo. In Zubik v Burwell, the Supreme Court did not issue a final ruling on whether employers can deny their employees birth control coverage. In other instances, the Court apparently is avoiding deadlock by not taking important cases in the first place. Allowing the vacancy to continue even further into a second term of the Court is dangerous and could leave critical issues, such as health care, immigration, and voting rights, unresolved. There is an urgent need for the Senate to do its job and convene a hearing on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination and other pending nominations.

We are also deeply troubled that the Senate has refused to act on numerous lower court vacancies. Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the start of this Congress to 38 today. In Florida there are currently six vacancies, and four of those are emergencies. The refusal of the Senate to address these vacancies threatens the stability and fairness of our justice system and delays justice for Floridians seeking their day in court. 

Floridians are counting on you to push Senate leadership to do their job and fill these long-standing court vacancies. Now that the election is behind us, we urge you to join us in calling for a hearing and confirmation vote on Chief Judge Merrick Garland and other federal court nominees during the lame duck session.

Sincerely,

Clean Water Action
Kathy Aterno, Director 

Equality Florida
Nadine Smith, Co-founder and CEO 

Florida Alliance of Retired Americans
Bill Sauers, President

Florida Consumer Action Network
Susan McGrath, Executive Director

Florida National Organization of Women (Florida NOW)
Terry Sanders, President 

National Council of Jewish Women (Florida Chapter)
Linda Geller-Schwartz, Florida State Policy Advocate 

Organize Now
Stephanie Porta, Executive Director 

Progress Florida
Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director