Since 2005, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina has had an open seat, the product of partisan bickering in the Senate. George W. Bush nominated attorney Thomas Farr for the seat in 2006, but Senate Democrats failed to process the nomination. Barack Obama subsequently nominated two different women to the seat during his presidency, but both nominations were blocked by Senate Republicans. Now Donald Trump has come full circle, re-nominating Farr for the same seat. And despite deep opposition by Democrats, Farr’s nomination advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on a straight party-line vote.
It’s unclear who benefits from this partisan rancor, but it is very clear who loses: the courts and the public. For a dozen years since Judge John Malcolm took senior status, the Eastern District has been down an active district judge. Given that the district is only authorized to have four active judges, the court has been operating at only three-quarters capacity for more than a decade — and through no fault of its own.
I have no opinion on whether Mr. Farr is the right man for the job. But the public should reject as outlandish that the seat was not filled by someone long ago.
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