Volume 73, Number 5

November 1998

Advice, Consent, and Senate Inaction—Is Judicial Resolution Possible?

Lee Renzin

Part I of this Note explores the problem of judicial vacancies. By demonstrating the extent to which such vacancies are effecting the federal judiciary, Part I seeks to show why judicial intervention is warranted. This Part also discusses the remedies that would be available to a federal court should an action be brought. In Part II, this Note analyzes possible theories under which a claim may be brought. It first looks at the history and meaning of the Advice and Consent Clause of the Constitution, arguing that the Senate’s failure to fulfill its advice and consent role is a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers. Part II then explores the possibility that the Senate’s confirmation role should be judicially enforced under a theory of legislative due process. Finally, Part II shows that Senate inaction may rise to the level of a de facto repeal of legislation establishing the size of the federal court system, thus violating the constitutional requirements of bicameralism and presentment. Part III discusses several procedural obstacles that such an action would face, and suggests the theory of “underenforcement” as an alternative should a judicial remedy not be feasible. More specifically, Part Ill argues that the standing requirement, the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, and the political question doctrine should not preclude judicial action in this situation.