Our Views: Less politics on judgeships

If he has something of a reputation for academic arrogance, then surely this sort-of apology from President Barack Obama is surely worthy of note.

Talking about political obstruction — there is no politer phrase — of his nominees for federal judgeships, the president conceded this much: “I recognize that neither party has a perfect track record here.”

His admission speaks volumes about the failure of both parties on Capitol Hill to be reasonable about judicial nominations. Lifetime appointments to federal courts cannot be approved by the Senate without care and deliberation, but in today’s hyper-political world they have become almost pure political prizes.

This does a disservice to the courts, to the nation and also to the nominees. Many have to wait more than a year for even a hearing before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, and some don’t even get that courtesy.

In Louisiana, there are lawyers prominent in the profession who are walking around as plain Mr. instead of The Hon. in front of their names — not because they weren’t qualified to be judges, but because of political machinations by Democrats or Republicans.

As when George W. Bush was president, we sympathize with presidential prerogatives being flouted by the Senate. The slow-walking of judicial nominations is unacceptable.

In Obama’s case, there is perhaps a bit of whining involved, calling some of the Republicans’ tactics “unprecedented.” Perhaps, but the effects are the same: stalled nominations.

Obama has selected three apparently qualified nominees for the District of Columbia appeals court. We have no doubt they are liberals; if Mitt Romney were president, they would be conservatives. One of Obama’s nominees is a sitting judge, and one of them served in the Bush administration; overall, there are no surprises here.

The three are qualified and deserve a quick and respectful hearing in Judiciary, and then an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Neither party has a perfect track record here, but the Senate should start to mend its record on judicial nominations this year.