The U.S. District Courts, including Colorado's, are in dire straits. With 99 empty seats nationwide, court cases are beginning to pile up. For example, the situation on the District Court of Colorado is now considered a "judicial emergency." Five judges in Colorado have been handling the work of seven for nearly two years, and it has been over three years since the court had a full roster.
The problem is not a lack of qualified nominees. Last year, Senator Bennet and I recommended William Martinez to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge after a thorough application and selection process conducted by a bipartisan panel of lawyers and former judges. By all accounts, Mr. Martinez is an outstanding candidate, whose broad legal background, professionalism and intellect would make him an excellent judge. President Obama nominated him in February, and he was approved by the Senate's Judiciary Committee in April.
But, months later, Mr. Martinez remains in procedural limbo because of partisan squabbles in the Senate. And our courts are suffering as a result.
That's why last week I took to the Senate floor with a number of my colleagues to demand a vote on the nomination of Mr. Martinez and other qualified nominees. I urged the Senate to look beyond partisan politics. Yet the nominations are still being blocked.
This was my latest attempt to highlight the problems that these vacancies are creating for our justice system. I have also written to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders and the Chairman and ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee asking them to move forward with Mr. Martinez's nomination as well as others. In addition to judicial short staffing, Colorado has been without a permanent U.S. Attorney for nearly 19 months. Fortunately, last Thursday, Denver lawyer John Walsh was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to be confirmed as the U.S. Attorney for Colorado. It is my sincere hope that the Senate will move more quickly on Mr. Walsh's nomination.
I'm not giving up. I will continue to work across the aisle to convince my colleagues that the time to fill these vacancies in our judicial system is now.
Senator Mark Udall