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Senate should act to fill court seats


February 19. 2013 1:30PM
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ON THE political spectrum, Pennsylvania's two U.S. senators appear miles apart – not unlike much of today's deeply divided Congress.


Yet Pat Toomey, a Republican with tea party tendencies, and Bob Casey, the Democrat from Scranton, bridged the gap recently on at least one matter with serious implications for state residents: choosing two, mutually agreeable nominees to serve as federal judges. Considering the senators' bipartisan blessing of the duo, you would think full Senate confirmation should be a snap, right? After all, there's no apparent controversy, no cries that judicial activism would certainly result.


For unknown reasons, however, Senate leaders have given the green light this year to dozens of other confirmations but not the pair waiting to serve the Middle District of Pennsylvania that covers a large swath of the state including Luzerne County. Left in limbo until after Election Day, or perhaps longer, are Magistrate Judge Malachy Mannion, of Scranton, and Matthew Brann, an attorney from Canton.


Concerned this delay could further disrupt court operations, Toomey recently drafted a letter to Senate leaders urging them to schedule a vote on the nominations for November. The two vacancies in the Middle District of Pennsylvania are of particular concern, he wrote, since the Williamsport courthouse is without a sitting judge and the district has been in a state of judicial emergency since 2009.


If needed, the Senate should separate consideration of Mannion, Brann and other less controversial choices from the pool of more partisan ones. That solution doesn't even require immediate compromise, only some common sense.


Here's a chance for elected officials in Washington to distance themselves from the do-nothing label stuck on them by a disapproving public. By contrast, failing to act on matters as seemingly innocuous and routine as judicial appointments only solidifies this group's rock-bottom reputation.


For the sake of public confidence – and, more important, for the efficiency of our courts – the Senate needs to make these uncontested confirmations a priority.




Here's a chance for elected officials in Washington to distance


themselves from the do-nothing label stuck on them by a


disapproving


public.






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