Judicial nominations are one area where President Obama has made good on his claim to change the “tone in Washington.” There haven’t been many donnybrooks or confrontations over Obama’s picks, and he hasn’t put any starkly polarizing figures on the bench. This wasn’t an accident, Obama’s aides recently told The New York Times: Obama wanted to find more centrist nominees with widely acceptable credentials.
But while this explanation puts a positive spin on the large number of judicial vacancies — near the end of Obama’s term, there are, for instance, three openings on the important District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and one on the Boston-based 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, among others — it doesn’t fully account for his slowness in naming judges. Obama was on the right track in choosing less controversial figures, but he should have picked up the pace. It is well within the vetting capability of the White House to create a pipeline of highly qualified potential nominees and fill vacancies more quickly.