Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Court advocates protest Marco Rubio over federal judicial vacancies

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge rubioprotest2.jpg

While U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has been grilling pork chops and hitting small children in the face with footballs on his presidential campaign across the country, court advocates have accused him of inaction when filling federal emergency judicial vacancies in Florida.

As you may remember from a distant high school class, the president nominates federal judges and the Senate confirms them. During the process, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary sends the home state senators “blue slips,” which are letters printed on light blue paper seeking their approval of the nominee for their state. When senators don’t want to confirm the nominee, they can send their disapproval or withhold the slip, and this simple blue paper can bring the whole process to a grinding halt.

A research memo released by Why Courts Matter coalition found that federal judges are being confirmed by the Republican-led Committee at the slowest rate since 1953. The group accuses senators of playing politics by blocking President Barack Obama’s nominees. Under Obama, 82 nominees have been filibustered, compared to 86 nominees blocked under all the other presidents combined.

And here’s where Rubio enters. In Florida, there are currently three judicial vacancies, two in the Middle District, and one in the Southern District. The spot in the Southern District has been empty since May 2014, despite Obama nominating former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mary Barzee Flores, according to the Daily Business Review. Barzee Flores has been waiting six months for a Senate confirmation hearing, which can only occur after U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rubio both return their blue slips. Nelson returned his slip, but Rubio has not, leading to an overburdened court with an overload in cases, the group says.

On Tuesday, members and supporters of the Florida coalition protested in front of Rubio’s Orlando office. Rebecca Guerra and Nicole Varma, who was dressed as an injured Lady Justice with a knee brace and several bandages, were there early with multiple signs.

“We have called, and we have emailed his office multiple times,” Guerra says. “We just keep getting the same answer.”

click to enlarge rubioprotest.jpg

Three staff members from Marco Rubio’s office, who declined to give their names, came outside and told protesters that Rubio is waiting for the Senate Committee to finish the investigation on the nominees and release its findings. Staff members also offered to set up a time with protesters to meet the office’s regional director.

Salandra Benton says the group scheduled a meeting, but she’s frustrated because she’s met with Rubio’s staff multiple times and always gets the same excuse.

“We need him as a senator,” she says. “He needs to tell the Committee to speed the process up because we have a judicial emergency. I don’t want another meeting. I want action.” 

Tags: , , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


© 2022 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation