Reform Movement Urges Swift Action by Senate on Supreme Court Vacancy

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell                   Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley
317 Russell Senate Office Building                135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510                                   Washington DC 20510

February 19, 2016

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley,

Press Release from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose over 900 congregations encompass 1.5 million Jews across North America, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents over 2,000 Reform rabbis, and Women of Reform Judaism that represents more than 65,000 women in nearly 500 women’s groups in North America and around the world, we urge you to uphold your constitutional responsibility to hold timely hearings and a vote on whoever is nominated by President Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Jewish tradition teaches that as Moses was setting up the Jewish people’s first judicial system, those appointed were to “judge the people at all seasons” (Exodus 18:22). Many of the Torah's commandments and rabbis' teachings specifically deal with the importance of a fair judicial system. The delay of justice is said to be a cause of violence, as we are taught, "The sword came into the world because of justice delayed and justice denied" (Pirke Avot 5:8). These lessons in the importance of a fully functioning judicial body inspire our belief that a delay in filling the open Supreme Court seat would inhibit the delivery of justice and undermine our nation’s judicial system overall.

Justice Antonin Scalia was a committed public servant. We mourn his loss and pray that his family finds strength at this difficult time.  Now, the Senate must not renege on its constitutional responsibilities. The process for filling a Supreme Court vacancy is constitutionally-designed to be interactive: the President puts forth a nominee and the Senate provides advice and consent by conducting a fair hearing and timely vote. This process is as old as our nation and has been a hallmark of the system of checks and balances that provides for the stability and efficacy of our government. It has been sustained even throughout times of divided government and we call on you to sustain it now as well. 

Precedent further instructs that this ought to be a swift process. Since the 1980s, every person appointed to the Supreme Court has been given a hearing and vote within approximately 100 days of their nomination. There are more than 300 days before a new president takes office and plenty of time for the nomination and confirmation process to occur.  The election campaign underway should also not inhibit this process since history shows that six Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during Presidential election years. 

Only when all branches of our government are fully functioning can they best serve the American people. We urge you to fulfill your constitutional responsibility and promptly schedule hearings and a subsequent vote on whoever is nominated to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.


Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President                               Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO
Daryl Messinger, Chair                                          Rabbi Denise Eger, President 
Union for Reform Judaism                                 Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director                         Isabel P. Dunst, Chair
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism     Commission on Social Action 
of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director                
Blair C. Marks, President
Women of Reform Judaism

cc: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee