Nevadans Protest Judicial Vacancies as Supreme Court Begins Term
LAS VEGAS – Progressive advocates on Tuesday placed empty toy chairs in front of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller's Las Vegas office as part of a national day of action protesting judicial vacancies.
The protest was timed to coincide with the first day of the U.S. Supreme Court's new term.
There are 92 vacancies in the federal courts, including one judge needed in Nevada.
And it's been 241 days without a hearing since President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the high court.
Annette Magnus, executive director of the advocacy group Battle Born Progress, says her group wants the Senate to act.
"We need them to stop playing politics with our justice system and actually do their job,” she stresses. “We want them to have a hearing on Merrick Garland. We want them to confirm these justices for the federal bench. We desperately need to fill these vacancies."
Heller has sided with other Republicans in the Senate who prefer to wait until after the presidential election to hold confirmation hearings.
Similar protests took place in at least six other states, and on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building.
Magnus notes that the empty seat on the highest court in the land has led to a 4-to-4 split vote, meaning no decisions on a number of high profile cases.
The most recent is the constitutionality of Obama's programs to extend work permits to some undocumented immigrants.
"If there would have been nine justices, the potential for the outcome of that could have been completely different,” Magnus points out. “This is an important case for many of the families here in Nevada."
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to give that case a re-hearing before the full court, once a ninth justice is seated. The case now returns to the lower court judge, whose prior ruling prevented the programs from going into effect.