With no Supreme Court vacancy this year, senators are continuing the battle over the president's other federal-court appointments.
Each of the four Michigan-based vacancies on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is a "judicial emergency" because of its duration and impact on the court's caseload. One has been vacant for more than four years, another for more than eight. The 6th Circuit-which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee-is now dead last in average case-disposition time.
Yet Michigan's two U.S. senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, have used an internal Senate procedure to block hearings on nominees to all four vacancies. They demand that President Bush renominate two Clinton nominees whom the Senate refused several years ago to confirm.
Last week, over the objections of Sens. Levin and Stabenow, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) held a hearing on the first of what he calls the "Michigan 4." In a July 30 hearing on the nomination of Henry Saad, a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals since 1994, Sen. Hatch said it was "long past time for this committee to consider" the nomination. Judge Saad is no stranger to Democratic delays. The first President Bush nominated him to a lower federal court but the Senate, then under Democratic control, did not act on the nomination.
Senate Democrats already have two unprecedented filibusters against appeals-court nominees, Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit and Priscilla Owen to the 5th Circuit. Two more appellate nominees-both approved by the judiciary committee on party-line 10-9 votes-are likely filibuster targets: Carolyn Kuhl (9th Circuit) and William Pryor (11th Circuit).