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GRC REPORT TO THE FBA NATIONAL COUNCIL

LARRY WESTBERG, GRC CHAIR


SEPTEMBER 25, 2010

Thank you, Mister President, and good afternoon, everyone.

As you know, the Government Relations Committee, or GRC,


advises the FBA and its leaders on issues of public policy concerning the
federal courts and the practice of law in the federal courts. It coordinates
the FBAʼs advocacy efforts with the Congress, the Executive Branch and
the Federal Judiciary.

In a nutshell, the Government Relations Committee, or GRC, is the


FBAʼs public policy and lobbying arm.

The Committee is comprised of 17 members. It meets monthly to


identify emerging issues that will help or hurt the federal courts and the
federal bar -- and how the FBA should respond.

Several members of the GRC are in attendance at this afternoonʼs


meeting, and I would like to acknowledge their presence: West Allen,
Ashley Belleau, Aaron Bulloff, Les Horowitz, Devinti Williams and Kent
Hofmeister. Additionally, Executive Director Jack Lockridge and our
counsel for government relations, Bruce Moyer assist and contribute to the
GRC's ongoing work.

I would like to report on two matters of importance this afternoon.


First, the FBA Issues Agenda. And second, the crisis in Judicial
Vacancies, and what FBA is doing about it.

First, the Issues Agenda. The Issues Agenda is the FBA's public
policy blueprint. It explains to our members, the legal community and
Washington decision-makers the legislative and policy priorities that the
FBA believes are critical to the health and vitality of the federal courts,
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federal law and the practice of the law. It is updated each year. The
National Council meeting materials included the Issues Agenda, as
approved by the Board of Directors, for the coming year. It also will be
published in the next issue of The Federal Lawyer magazine and can be
found on the FBA website.

The foremost issue of current attention by the GRC right now is the
Judicial Vacancy Crisis. Judicial vacancies remain at one of the highest
points ever, and are continuing to grow. This is because the process for
nominating and confirming federal judges is at one of its most controversial
moments in American history. The situation prevents the federal courts
from operating at their full capacity, makes litigation more costly, and
undermines the dispensing of prompt, fair justice.

Right now there are 103 Article III vacancies, with 19 vacant
judgeships in the circuit courts of appeal and 84 in the district courts.
Nearly one-half of these vacancies are officially considered by the federal
judiciary to constitute "judicial emergencies" because they have existed for
more than 18 months and involve circuit or district courts that have higher-
than-normal caseloads.

If the current rate of replacing retired, resigned and deceased judges


continues, nearly half of the 875 federal judgeships could be vacant by the
end of the decade.

The vacancy crisis is created by a continuing deadlock in the Senate


between the two parties that has prevented many judicial nominees from
receiving an up-or-down floor vote.

Sixteen federal judicial nominees – all favorably reported by the


Senate Judiciary Committee and nearly all with strong bipartisan support –
await a floor vote. The Senate is likely to recess at the end of this coming
week, and not return until after the November elections.

The prospects for Senate action to clear these 16 nominations this


coming week do not look good, due to pre-election political warfare. We
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hope that they will be cleared during the lame duck session, and help to
temper the vacancy crisis.

Over the past several months, the Federal Bar Association has
publicly called upon the Senate to properly exercise its Constitutional
responsibility to "advise and consent" on the nomination of federal
candidates. More information can be found on the FBAʼs website.

We have vigorously sought to avoid partisan politics and have


refrained from endorsing specific candidates. We have been very careful
to play it down the middle. Our message has been straightforward: all
judicial nominees named by the President deserve prompt consideration
by the Senate.

That means that the President needs to promptly nominate


candidates and that the Senate needs to promptly consider and act on
those nominations, giving them an up-or-down vote.

That mesage has been promoted not only at the national level, but
also at the district and circuit levels by our chapters who have nominees to
judgeships in their home districts and circuits.

I want to thank all chapters who have taken part in this advocacy
effort and urge all chapters with vacancies in their circuits and districts to
get involved. Our efforts on this issue will continue until the crisis over
judicial vacancies no longer exists.

After all, if FBA does not play a prominent role on this issue, who
will?

Thank you for your attention to my comments and for your support of
FBA's government relations program.