Blame Jesse Helms

Sen. Elizabeth Dole takes to the pages of the Charlotte Observer to complain about the opposition to the nomination of Terrence Boyle, whom she calls “a fine North Carolinian, distinguished jurist and dedicated public servant.”

That may or may not be the case, but Dole might want to do a little research before complaining that

Our federal courts currently have 47 open seats, 21 of which have been declared ‘judicial emergencies’ — including the seat to which Judge Boyle has been nominated. Vacant since July 1994, this seat is the longest federal judicial vacancy in the country, by nearly six years!

Boyle was nominated to fill the seat vacated by J. Dickson Phillips.  But it just so happens that, prior to Boyle, President Clinton made two different nominations to that seat – James Beaty in 1995 and James Wynn in 1999.

At the times of their nominations there were, respectively, 53 and 69 federal court vacancies, but that didn’t seem to much matter to then-Senator Jesse Helms

Starting in 1995, President Clinton submitted several African-American nominees to that court from North Carolina, including James Beaty and James Wynn. Reportedly as a result of Helms’ failure to return either of his blue slips, however, neither of these nominees even received a hearing from the Judiciary Committee. Not until President Clinton’s 2000 recess appointment of Roger Gregory, whose nomination also failed to receive a hearing, has an African-American ever served on the Fourth Circuit.

So that seat has indeed been vacant for quite some time – and for that, Sen. Dole can thank the man whose position in the Senate she now holds.