[JURIST] US President George Bush on Monday criticized [recorded video; transcript] the Senate's judicial nominee confirmation process and defended his appointment of judges [WH materials] who he says strictly interpret the US Constitution. Bush made his remarks at an event sponsored by the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs [academic website] and the Federalist Society [advocacy website], and emphasized the important role that federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have recently played in the governance of the country. He rejected the concept of an evolving, "living" Constitution, saying that judges should exercise restraint when interpreting it, and commended his recent Supreme Court appointees Samuel Alito and John Roberts [WH profiles] for implementing this philosophy. Bush described the Senate's blocking of other federal judicial nominees as an abuse of its power to provide [US Constitution Article 2 text] "advice and consent" on the nominations. Using the treatment of abortive nominee Miguel Estrada [firm profile], as an example, Bush said:
When [he] was nominated for a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court, he received a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. Yet for more than two years he awaited a simple up or down vote in the United States Senate. He never got one. For the first time in history, the Senate used a filibuster to block a nominee to the Court of Appeals. This fine American endured years of delay; he had his character unfairly attacked, and ultimately withdrew his name from consideration -- all because a minority of senators thought they would not like his rulings on the bench and worried that a President might one day elevate him to the Supreme Court...The Washington Post has more.
... Unfortunately, Miguel Estrada's experience is not an isolated one. Many other well-qualified nominees have endured uncertainty and withering attacks on their character simply because they've accepted the call to public service. Those waiting in limbo include: Peter Keisler for the D.C. Circuit, Rod Rosenstein for the Fourth Circuit, and dozens of other nominees to district and circuit courts across this country.
Some of these nominees waiting for a simple up or down vote would fill court vacancies that have been designated "judicial emergencies." While these vacancies remain unfulfilled -- unfilled -- legal disputes are left unresolved, the backlog of cases grows larger, and the rule of law is delayed for millions of Americans...
... It is clear we need to improve the process for confirming qualified judicial nominees. This process will always be somewhat contentious. But there are a few things that the American people expect us to agree on. First, the American people expect nominees and their families to be treated with dignity. Nominees should not have to wait years for the up or down vote that the Senate owes them.
In July, members of the US Senate Republican Conference [official website] called [JURIST report] for an end to delays in considering federal district and circuit court judges nominated by Bush, saying the delays have lead to chronic under-staffing of federal courts and that some courts have only three quarters of their positions filled, leading to case backlogs and the extensive use of visiting judges. Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] has said that such delays are common practice in election years and that federal court vacancies have actually decreased during president Bush's term [press releases].