Politics create a court crisis

The news right now is pretty much presidential politics — all day, every day. But there are a few other things occurring, including a simmering dispute between Colorado’s two senators over the appointment of federal judges.

Sens. Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard should stop holding up the nomination of two qualified people to the federal bench and allow all three nominations to proceed.

The federal court for the district that includes Colorado has several vacancies right now and the Bush administration has nominated three people, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Salazar and Allard agree on two of the nominees and are supporting their confirmation — Christine Arguello and Gregory Goldberg.

But Salazar has declined to back the third nominee, Philip Brimmer, because he wasn’t recommended by a special committee Salazar put together to review potential judicial nominees.

It’s not as if Brimmer is some partisan hack supported only by Bush and hard-core Republicans. He has won praise from Colorado Democrats such as Gov. Bill Ritter and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

Nor is it the case that Brimmer lacks qualifications. In fact, of the three nominees, Brimmer received the highest rating — “well qualified” — from the American Bar Association.

But, instead of supporting Brimmer, Salazar endorsed his own candidate, who was not nominated by Bush.

And, as a result, Brimmer has been unable to receive a confirmation vote in the Senate.

Even though Allard recommended all three judicial nominees, he has held up the hearing process for Arguello, apparently in retaliation for Salazar’s lack of support for Brimmer.

If no action is taken when the Senate returns to work this month, it could be at least a year before new judges are confirmed for this district. With only four available judges in the federal district now, that will mean more delays in the federal courts.

The two men elected by Coloradans to represent them in the U.S. Senate ought to put aside their differences and act quickly to ensure that the three qualified nominees not only get a Senate vote, but are confirmed.


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