Despite the urgent need to fill judicial vacancies among Florida’s federal courts, Sen. Rubio has engaged in a pattern of judicial obstruction that is wreaking havoc on our overburdened, understaffed courts while denying and delaying justice for Floridians.
After stonewalling her nomination for more than 15 months, Sen. Marco Rubio announced that he will block Mary Barzee Flores from a confirmation hearing for the vacant seat in The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida – despite having initially supported her nomination. This Southern District Court opening has remained empty for more than two years, and is classified a ‘judicial emergency’ by the Judicial Conference of the U.S.
Statement from Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo:
“Despite the urgent need to fill judicial vacancies among Florida’s federal courts, Sen. Rubio has engaged in a pattern of judicial obstruction that is wreaking havoc on our overburdened, understaffed courts while denying and delaying justice for Floridians.
“In the case of the lingering vacancy in the Southern District, Sen. Rubio has offered no specific explanation for blocking Mary Barzee Flores’ nomination. Sen. Rubio’s obstruction has contributed to slowing confirmations to a snail’s pace, with the Senate on track to confirm the fewest number of judges since 1960.
“The Florida federal courts currently have three declared judicial emergencies. Delaying justice for Floridians is denying justice for Floridians and Sen. Rubio’s judicial obstruction is indefensible.”
The Florida Why Courts Matter coalition is focused on ensuring that the federal judiciary is representative of America’s diverse population and ending the judicial vacancy crisis so that every American can have his or her day in court. For more information visit www.whycourtsmatter.org.
Florida Snapshot – June 2016: The State of our Federal Courts
While Republican Senators including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are refusing to hold hearings and votes necessary to have a fully functioning U.S Supreme Court, it’s important to remember that unnecessary judicial vacancies in Florida’s federal courts have been a longstanding problem. Florida’s federal courts are suffering from four judicial vacancies – and three of the vacancies are in courts with caseloads so high that the Judicial Conference of the U.S. has designated them as judicial emergencies. In the Southern District, one judicial vacancy has lingered for more than two years, delaying and denying justice for Floridians.
Sen. Marco Rubio not only opposes hearings on a new U.S. Supreme Court Judge, he has also declared that he will block a hearing on the nomination of Mary Barzee Flores to the Florida Southern District Court. This is the second time Rubio has blocked a judicial nominee that he originally supported.
Sen. Bill Nelson submitted his blue slip (which allows a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nominee to take place) on Feb. 26, 2015, the day of the nomination, which was jointly recommended by both Florida senators based on recommendations from the bipartisan Florida Judicial Nominating Commission.
Current federal court vacancies in Florida
US District Court for the Southern District of Florida:
(Emergency) Robin S. Rosenbaum vacated 5/12/2014, Mary Barzee Flores nominated 2/26/2015 (vacant 756 days as of 6/6/2016)
US District Court for the Middle District of Florida:
(Emergency) John E. Steele vacated 6/3/2015, Patricia D. Barksdale nominated 4/28/2016 (vacant 369 days as of 6/6/2016)
(Emergency) Anne C. Conway vacated 8/1/2015, William F. Jung nominated 4/28/2016 (vacant 310 days as of 6/6/2016)
US District Court for the Northern District of Florida:
Richard Smoak vacated 12/31/2015, Philip R. Lammens nominated 4/28/2016
In addition there is another looming vacancy in the US District Court for the Northern District, where Robert L. Hinkle is scheduled to vacate 11/7/2016.
Pick any issue that profoundly impacts your quality of life, any issue you care about – and you can be sure our federal courts will have an important role in determining how that issue is addressed in society. Especially here in Florida, where so many policy battles, either moving Florida backwards or progressively forward, have been ultimately decided by our courts.
Floridians deserve fair and fully functioning federal courts to rule on a host of critical issues including: marriage equality, voting rights, environmental protection, health care, immigration, criminal justice, abortion access and more.