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Opinion >  Editorial

Judicial tussles can’t find audience

Word got out Wednesday that AMC Theaters was considering allowing texting in some venues, and the backlash was fierce. By Friday, the idea was dead.

The theater announced on Twitter: “Won’t happen. You spoke. We listened. Quickly, that idea has been sent to the cutting room floor …”

If the public were this passionate about government, it might move as quickly. But politicians know much of what they do is only of interest to C-SPAN watchers. Both of them.

It’s too bad, because the consequences of politics are far greater, even if making a compelling trailer out of, say, judicial nominations would tax even the greatest script writers.

“In a world where 5-4 votes can change lives forever, one man is nominated to alter the course of history … only to be ignored.”

This flick stars Merrick Garland, the judge President Barack Obama nominated to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. But this tale has many key supporting actors and, sadly, it is a mere sequel to the many confirmation battles that have preceded it.

One subplot involves Idaho Judge David Nye, whose name emerged from a secretive, 19-month process as the nominee to replace U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge. Concerns arose immediately that Nye’s confirmation could get caught in the politics of the Garland fight.

Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, worked with the White House to find Lodge’s replacement. Crapo tried to quell concerns that the Garland stalemate would hurt Nye’s chances for a speedy confirmation.

Speaking of Nye, he said: “The White House is strongly in support of their nomination, and Sen. Risch and I are strongly in support on the president’s nomination. There hasn’t been that consensus developed yet on the Supreme Court” nomination.

Well, consensus is impossible to achieve when the Senate majority leader declares the Supreme Court process to be shut down before anyone is nominated. That tends to cause hard feelings. Will the Obama administration exact revenge? Hopefully not, because filling that position is far more important than tit-for-tat.

Last July, the feds declared a “judicial emergency” in Idaho because U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill was the lone full-time federal court judge. Judge Lodge had moved to senior status since announcing his retirement, which means a lighter caseload.

Nevertheless, the confirmation process plodded along.

Forty-nine of Obama’s nominees for federal judgeships were awaiting votes as of Thursday, according to McClatchy. Presumably, Nye’s name is at the end of this queue. The process is not built for speed, because Senate rules allow a lone senator to put a secret hold on home-state nominees.

These confirmation battles aren’t new, and both parties have been guilty of holding up the process. But vacancies affect individuals and businesses with genuine concerns that need legal resolutions.

If only the public considered this as outrageous as theater texting.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”

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