04.20.05

Burr Speaks Out on Judicial Nominations

Senator Richard Burr today took to the Senate floor to speak out on judicial nominations. Burr's remarks, below, followed a letter he wrote with six of his Senate Freshmen colleagues (Senators Coburn, DeMint, Isakson, Martinez, Thune and Vitter) to Senate Majority Leader Frist and Senate Minority Leader Reid. The letter seeks to refine the confirmation process and end any impasse so that judicial nominees supported by a majority of Senators may receive an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Please contact Senators Burr's office for a copy of the letter.


Remarks by Senator Richard Burr
United States Senate Floor
April 20, 2005

Mr. President,

I rise today to urge our leadership and the rest of my colleagues in the United States Senate to preserve the significance of our responsibility, enumerated in the Constitution, and to work together to address the judicial crisis that threatens to severely damage our system.

As members of the Senate, we each bring our own unique background and experience to this institution. And our progress as a body often requires us to make difficult decisions

as individuals. While our individual positions on various issues will certainly differ, we must stand together to repair the judicial confirmation process.

Several judicial vacancies have been lingering in our courts for years, causing many jurisdictions, including one in my home state of North Carolina, to be declared "judicial emergencies." It is our responsibility, as United States Senators, to respond to these judicial emergencies with action and determination.

It is inexcusable that we allow judicial vacancies to linger for six years or, in some cases, longer. Such is the case for the people of my state in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The North Carolina Eastern District post is the longest district court vacancy in the nation-- a seat vacant since 1997. In 1999, the Administrative Office of the Courts declared the district a "judicial emergency" and it has been categorized this way for the last 6 years.

For my state, we face challenges on the appellate level as well. There are 15 circuit court judgeships in the 4th Circuit but only one of these is occupied by a North Carolina judge. North Carolina is significantly underrepresented at the circuit court level. A great deal of this can, of course, be attributed to the political nature of the debate surrounding nominations to the 4th Circuit. But I believe all North Carolinians deserve another voice on the 4th Circuit.

Judge Boyle, currently serving as a District Court Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, was nominated in May, 2001, by the President to serve on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Bar Association has unanimously rated Judge Boyle as "well-qualified," and has stated he would make an outstanding appellate judge.

The act of merely considering Judge Boyle's nomination should not be a political issue for this distinguished body. Unfortunately over the past few years it has become one. Before the 108th Congress, when Judge Boyle was first nominated, no judicial nomination which had a clear majority of Senators supporting the nomination was ever prevented from receiving an up-or-down vote. This current judicial confirmation situation is unprecedented.

We should put aside the grievances that have prevented the consideration of judges through the past three Presidential administrations and work together to find a solution. As Senators we must face this crisis with optimism and confidence. Working together we must address this situation directly because I believe that our constituents do not hope for, nor do they expect, inaction from us on such an important part of our system of government. Partisan bickering or avoidance of our procedural challenges is not a responsible course of action.

Let me be clear--I believe if one of my colleagues objects to a particular judicial nominee it is certainly appropriate and fair for my colleague to vote against that nominee on the Senate floor. But denying these patriotic Americans, of both parties, who seek to serve this country an up-or-down vote is simply not fair, and it certainly was not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.

As our country plants the seeds of democracy across the world, we have the essential obligation to continue to operate as the model. The integrity of the judicial system is vital and will certainly suffer as a result of inaction. Maintaining our nation's long-standing distinction requires that its legislature act to ensure harmony and balance among its citizens and its branches of government.

We need to fix this broken process. We need to end the judicial crisis. And we need to vote on our judges.

Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.