The nominee for the last vacate seat on the Sixth Circuit — now the longest-pending appeals court hopeful — will have to wait a little longer. Jane Branstetter Stranch was nominated in August 2009 and approved by the Judiciary Committee in November 2009 (on a 15-4 vote). Senator Patrick Leahy tried to schedule debate and a vote on Tuesday, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected that some Republicans needed more time on the nomination — even though both Republican Tennessee senators support the nomination. Senator Leahy responded with a press release noting the average circuit court confirmation time after committee approval has lengthened considerably in the past ten years.
Though Senator Leahy has a point, things have been far worse for the Sixth Circuit. Judge Kethledge’s seat was empty from 2000 to 2008, and Judge Griffin was confirmed in 2005 to a seat that had sat empty since 1995. Many other seats were empty during those years, leaving the Sixth Circuit famously shorthanded. As Judge Gilman has announced his intention to take senior status in November, we can hope that the Senate will act before then.