President Obama has followed through on his vow to stop the rightward shift of the federal courts under President Bush and to add more diversity to the bench, reports USA Today. He is setting records for the number of women and minorities nominated–nearly half of his 73 judicial candidates have been women, 25% African Americans, 10% Hispanics and 11% Asian Americans. Yet he faces a deeply polarized confirmation process in the Senate. With little notice during his first 18 months in office, his administration has been thwarted by unprecedented delays.
Obama’s trial-court nominees have been stalled more than such nominees of past presidents. Experts attribute the slow pace of confirmations to an increasingly polarized Washington, rather than any targeting of minorities. Even liberal advocates who follow judicial politics say the holdups are more the result of partisanship than of issues related to race or gender. Even so, the toll falls heavily on women and minorities because of the non-traditional selection of Obama’s nominees. In some respects, they have become bystanders in an ever more combative system of appointments to the nation’s courts.