by Max Brantley
President Obama has nominated Circuit Judge Susan Hickey of El Dorado to a federal judgeship left vacant when Judge Harry Barnes took judicial retirement. Hickey worked for years for Barnes as a clerk and was appointed to fill a state judicial vacancy last year by Gov. Mike Beebe, a move that was seen as shoring up her eventual nomination for the federal bench.
CORRECTION: My apologies for posting the photo of the late Judge Carol Anthony with this item originally. I took the link from the Arkansas Judiciary webpage, which labeled that photo as Judge Hickey. Sorry. (The picture was removed Thursday morning.)
This is the end of a long road that had some racial and partisan entanglements based on competing interests on who would be named to a batch of four Arkansas judicial vacancies. One opening remains on the district court bench in Arkansas. At last report, judicial scuttlebutt favored Amy Russell, the wife of Sen. Mark Pryor's former top aide Bob and a one-time political contributor to George W. Bush. If that happens, the president will have filled all four judicial openings in Arkansas with white candidates. If you're counting.
The nomination must be approved by the Senate, but Arkansas's Republican senator is supportive.
But .... things are moving slowly. Sen. Patrick Leahy commented:
"Whereas the Democratic majority in the Senate reduced vacancies from 110 to 60 in President Bush's first 2 years, judicial vacancies still number 95 over 26 months into President Obama's term. By now, judicial vacancies should have been cut in half, but we have barely kept up with attrition. ...The vacancy rate which we already had reduced from 10 percent at the end of President Clinton's term to 6 percent by this date in President Bush's third year, and ultimately to less than 4 percent in 2008, has now risen back up to nearly 11 percent. This high level of vacancies puts at serious risk the ability of all Americans to have a fair hearing in court. ... All 13 of the nominations on the Executive Calendar have the support of their home State Senators, Republicans and Democrats. ... All should have an up or down vote after being considered by the Judiciary Committee, and without weeks of needless delay. .... I would hope that we could clear the calendar of nominees before the next recess"