News4 I-Team

Amid judicial vacancy ‘crisis,' Senate confirms new judges to DC Superior Court

NBC Universal, Inc.

Amid growing complaints of backlogs and burn-out at DC's Superior Court, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to ease the judicial vacancy crisis by confirming two new associate judges to the bench.

The Senate confirmed Tanya Monique Jones Bosier by a 57 to 41 vote Tuesday and Judith Pipe by a 55 to 38 vote Wednesday. A court spokesman told News4 the new judges could be sworn in as early as next week.

The move comes just weeks after the News4 I-Team revealed many D.C. residents are waiting years, in some cases, for their cases to be resolved before a judge, as well as concerns from Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring that the court is at a “breaking point” due to court vacancies.

“I get to make the assignments and I've been playing chess with the assignments to make sure we can keep the court up and running … We're running out of moves,” Josey-Herring told the I-Team last month.

Unlike every other city in America, D.C has to wait on the Senate to confirm its local judges. For months now, 13 of 62 judicial positions have sat vacant, though the White House has nominated 11 people to fill those spots. A Senate committee, meanwhile, has so far advanced six of those nominees.

Jones Bosier was first nominated by President Joe Biden in March 2023. He later nominated Pipe last summer.

“The DC Courts are grateful to the esteemed members of the United States Senate for taking some initial steps to addressing our substantial and longstanding judicial vacancy crisis,” DC Courts’ Doug Buchanan told the I-Team before mentioning the remaining Superior Court and D.C. Appeals Court vacancies.

“It is essential that the members of the United States Senate continue to focus on addressing this crisis so that the DC Courts can do all that we can to provide fair and timely justice to all of those we serve across the District of Columbia. The playing field must be leveled. It’s only fair.”

The District’s Superior Court processes everything from criminal matters to probate proceedings and civil disputes — with records indicating caseloads in these areas are showing signs of stress.

According to the court, judges in civil courts are handling 400 cases apiece — twice as many as they should. In domestic violence court last year, records show four judges averaged 1,900 cases each. Court records also show the average serious felony case is now taking nearly two years — an increase of nearly seven months from 2019.

When asked when the Senate could schedule a confirmation vote on judicial nominees in mid-May, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s staff told the I-Team they hoped to have a vote by the end of the year.

The New York Democrat’s team also issued a statement blaming the delays on Republicans and said they were “working hard to get these nominees confirmed this year.”

Just two weeks after the I-Team report aired, the vote on Jones Bosier and Pipe was placed on the calendar.

The votes weren’t the only Senate action on D.C. judicial nominees this week. On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs heard from five more Superior Court nominees to fill even more of those empty courtrooms.

Opening the hearing, Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., said the court “handles some of the highest case volumes in the country and is strained further by extended vacancies on the bench ... I urge my colleague to join me in confirming these well-qualified nominees.”

According to committee staff, a vote to advance these five out of committee is not scheduled but is expected this summer.

This story was reported by Ted Oberg, produced by Katie Leslie and edited by Derrick Cheston. NBC Washington photographer Evan Carr contributed to this report.

Contact Us