A lot of attention is currently focused on the Supreme Court vacancy that resulted from the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
In Texas, 11 of our federal court seats don't have a judge, far more than any other state in the country. Nine of those vacancies qualify as "emergency vacancies" - which means the delays are of extraordinary length and creating a back-up in the courts.
Several of the court seats have been vacant for years. When the length of all the vacancies are added together, Texas has had 6,862 days without judges on the courts. That's almost 19 years of judicial vacancies, just for Texas!
As we've written many times before, our courts matter:
Texas' federal courts make rulings on almost every issue important to our state. While so much attention is given to the Supreme Court, it's critical to remember that dozens of federal judges in Texas have lifetime appointments to serve on lower federal courts, where they hear hundreds if not thousands of times the number of cases the Supreme Court hears.
The Supreme Court is considering landmark cases on abortion, climate change, immigration, affirmative action, workers’ rights, and redistricting. Half of those cases - abortion, affirmative action, and immigration - have come through Texas courts.
The Supreme Court vacancy is critically important, but the staggering delay in filling Texas' federal court seats may actually be more important for those Texans seeking their day in court.
|CIRCUIT/DISTRICT||EMERGENCY||LENGTH OF VACANCY||NOMINEE|
|5th Circuit Court of Appeals||Yes||1,296 days||None|
|5th Circuit Court of Appeals||Yes||779 days||None|
|Southern District||Yes||1,723 days||None|
|Southern District||Yes||639 days||None|
|Northern Disrict||Yes||960 days||None|
|Northern District||No||414 days||None|
|Northern District||No||15 days||None|
|Western District||Yes||370 days||None|
|Eastern District||Yes||345 days||None|
|Eastern District||Yes||279 days||None|
|Eastern District||Yes||42 days||None|