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Legal limbo: Canada, US behind on judicial appointments

A gavel in a court room.

A gavel in a court room.

REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
A court in Canada has ordered the Trudeau government to appoint more judges. The move comes after the Supreme Court warned the Liberals last year that vacancies were affecting the course of justice. Justice Henry Brown, a federal court judge, said the government has “failed all those who rely on them for the timely exercise of their powers in relation to filling these vacancies.”

There are currently 75 vacancies. Justice Minister Arif Virani took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to defend his government’s appointment record, arguing the Liberals have made judicial appointments “at the fastest pace in history” – a feat, he noted, the Conservatives have never managed to achieve.

The US has its own judicial vacancy issues, with 51 positions waiting to be filled for US district courts – with 18 nominees pending. Those vacancies account for all but four empty seats on federal courts throughout the country. The US Court of Appeals is light three, and the Court of Federal Claims is short one.

Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Joe Biden is rushing to fill seats – and to shape the judiciary to the extent that Donald Trump did. The process has been slowed by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s illness, which hampered the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Republican efforts to slow appointments.

Meanwhile, state-level court appointments, or a lack thereof, are slowing down proceedings throughout the country, contributing to a crisis in the justice system.

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