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Sportsmen's Act of 2012 Motion to Proceed-Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CASEY. Madam President, I rise tonight to speak about one subject, but a very important subject for our country and for our system of justice, and that is the confirmation of Federal district court judges. I will focus tonight on one Federal district in Pennsylvania, the Middle District. By way of background, I will review where we are in the Senate.

Earlier today Majority Leader Reid was required to ask for unanimous consent in order to proceed on Senate confirmation votes for 17 district court nominees. Of course, this is from district courts across the country. As the majority leader and many of our Senate colleagues have noted, the district court nominees on the Senate Calendar are nearly all noncontroversial and have received significant bipartisan support. The judges I will speak about tonight fit that description.

Historically the Senate has deferred to the nomination of the President and the support of home State Senators. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case today in too many instances. Of course, not in every instance but too many instances. There is an old expression in the law that many of us have heard, and it is very simple, but I think it has substantial consequences for real people. The expression is: Justice delayed is justice denied.

When we have a situation where we have two judges in the Middle District of Pennsylvania--I should say for the record and for the description of the geography in our State we have three Federal judicial districts: the Eastern District, the Middle District, and the Western District. When we have two district court nominees in Pennsylvania, or in any of the other States that have judges who are still pending, we can imagine the number of cases. It is not just hundreds but thousands of cases. In this case 17 judges could be handling these cases right now across our country. That old expression, justice delayed is justice denied, has real significance for real people out there, people who come before the district court as litigants. Whether they are individuals, corporations, or whatever the party, they come for basic justice and that gets very difficult when there is a backlog and there are not enough judges.

It is especially egregious and outrageous that they are held up here when in many cases they get out of the Judiciary Committee after a long process of getting to the Judiciary Committee. Sometimes there are many months of vetting and investigation work. Often the names are available for voting here in the Senate after not just getting through the Judiciary Committee, but part and parcel of that means in almost every instance the two Senators from that State have agreed they should come up for a vote. Yet when it lands here on the Senate floor after committee consideration, judicial nominees are held up.

The ability of the Federal courts to provide justice for the American people has indeed been threatened by the vacancy crisis and the overburdened Federal district courts. Families, communities, and small businesses are not able to get a fair hearing or have their claims resolved in a timely fashion. These Federal court vacancies need to be filled to mature a functioning democracy and a functioning judicial system.

The Pennsylvania nominees to the Senate Calendar are two individuals, Malachy Mannion and Matthew Brann. Both are to be confirmed as U.S. district judges for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

I won't go through their backgrounds and qualifications today. We have done that already. They don't need me to do that. They are through the Judiciary Committee. These men are both very well qualified to be U.S. district judges.

Both of these judges would fill judicial emergency vacancies in Pennsylvania's Middle District. Just to give my colleagues a sense of what we are talking about, the Middle District of Pennsylvania has six posts, six judicial slots, and these are two vacancies for those six. The Middle District is the largest Federal district in Pennsylvania geographically, and there are four courthouses, one of which is several hours' drive from the others. Because of the vacancies, the judges with senior status still continue to hear cases. Three of these judges are at least 86 years old. Let me say that again. Three of these senior judges who have to do extra work because of the vacancies are at least 86 years old.

Mal Mannion and Matthew Brann were both reported by voice vote out of the Judiciary Committee earlier this year, and both nominees were supported by Senator Toomey as well as me. Both of us came together through the process of introducing both of these nominees to the Judiciary Committee. They are, as I said before, through that process.

I strongly urge that we move forward and allow a vote on all of these highly qualified, noncontroversial U.S. district court nominees, two in particular in Pennsylvania.

I should mention that there was an article written--I won't summarize it here--in the Atlantic magazine just last week by Andrew Cohen that highlighted some of the impacts this crisis has on real people when they appear before district courts such as the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

I yield the floor.

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