Federal Court Advocates Deliver 92 Empty Chairs to Sen. Rob Portman To Symbolize Record-Setting Obstructionism over Federal Court Vacancies
For Immediate Release: Oct. 4, 2016
CINCINNATI – Senate Republicans have now blocked confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination for 202 days, marking the first time in American history that a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court has spanned two terms, legal experts told a news conference.
“When courts don’t have their full complement of justices, they can’t do the job they’re supposed to do: protecting our rights and freedoms,’’ said Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer Bill Gallagher. “This is a real crisis and Republican partisanship in the U.S. Senate is to blame.’’
Gallagher was joined by Clement L. Tsao, a labor and employment lawyer, who also blamed U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and his fellow Republicans for refusing to even hold hearings on Garland’s nomination to fill the vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate leaders insist the vacancy should be filled by the next President.
“There are too many empty chairs on our federal courts,’’ Tsao said. “President Obama did his job by nominating a highly qualified jurist to the Supreme Court. We are here today to urge the Senate to do its job and hold hearings, followed by an up or down vote.’’
Today, there 92 federal court vacancies across the country, including 1 in Ohio, 2 In Kentucky and 2 in Indiana, said Sandy Theis, ProgressOhio Executive Director and chair of the Why Courts Matter Ohio coalition.
“The Supreme Court vacancy gets most of the headlines but the growing number of lower-court vacancies has increased workloads and delayed trials in federal courts across the country,’’ Theis said.
To call attention to the vacancies, they delivered a tray of 92 small chairs to Portman’s Cincinnati office, and legal experts in five other states planned deliveries to their U.S. Senators who also support the obstructionism. The events are part of a national day of action timed to coincide with the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new term and call attention to the dozens of federal courts vacancies.
As local advocates took action, hundreds of demonstrators at the US Supreme Court held a tandem protest to highlight the unconscionable delay on Garland’s nomination.