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The judicial nomination process can be an intimidating topic, but it is vital to upholding reproductive freedom. Judges’ decisions can impact reproductive rights for generations because federal judicial nominations are lifetime appointments.
The federal court system is divided into three levels: the district courts on the lowest tier, followed by circuit courts, and the Supreme Court at the top tier. There are 677 authorized judgeships on the 94 district courts, 179 on the thirteen courts of appeals, and nine on the Supreme Court. Traditionally, the nomination process begins with U.S. Senators making recommendations to the president. From there, the president makes the nomination. Once nominated, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing to question the nominee, and then votes to move the nominee to the Senate floor for debate and confirmation.
However, over the last four years, the current administration has broken 213 years of process and precedent. This administration has appointed over 200 judges—a record number of appointments. The Senate lowered the hearing time limit from 15 hours to two, allowing them to complete the process seven times faster than ever before. The Senate is also following the Trump administration's lead by prioritizing recommendations from conservative think tanks rather than senators, and selecting young conservative judges with little to no bench experience to lifetime appointments.
On top of all of this, we are living through a global pandemic. Amid the chaos of COVID-19, we’ve seen a complete breakdown of communication between federal and state governments. Instead of prioritizing the public health crisis, the Senate is actively holding hearings to confirm anti-health judges for vacancies that won’t be open for months.
Our Senators have a say in who gets appointed. They have the ability to vote in line with the values of their constituents—for judges who will uphold precedent on reproductive freedom and set the tone for accessible health care at a time when it is most needed.
The power that federal judges hold has implications for generations to come. That is why it is imperative that we elect champions who stand up for our values, our safety, and our health. Planned Parenthood is here with you, closely monitoring these vacancies, opposing anti-health judges, and here to defend the movement we are creating together.
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