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Liberals Launch Campaign To Restock Florida's Federal Bench

Florida has a critical shortage of federal trial judges. The state is four short now, according to the Center for American Progress, and the total will be six by the end of the year.

The left-leaning center's Andrew Blotky led a presentation to activists and lawyers in Miami last night, with the message that too few judges will threaten the work of the federal judiciary and even leave some important cases undecided. That's why he's traveling from state to state to tell voters they have the power to persuade the president to name judicial candidates quickly and the senate to confirm them.

"Conservatives are really good at making a political priority of the courts, getting judges on the bench and using judges to get outcomes they want but cant get through the ballot box. Progressives historically haven't been as good at that so we’re trying to change that."

Liberals in Florida and elsewhere generally agree that the federal court system is their only protection from conservative efforts to weaken voting rights, limit immigration and rewrite abortion rules.

The man who broke the Florida Supreme Court color bar in 1975 says he has an idea for bringing diversity to the federal bench.

Speaking to activists and lawyers last night at a seminar in Miami, black former Justice Joseph Hatchett said a diverse judiciary presents fairness and the Appearance of fairness in a way that preserves public confidence in the judicial system.

According to Hatchett, most of the new federal judges come from careers that began in courthouses. He said the best way for a young lawyer to prepare for a possible appointment is to apply for jobs as assistant U-S Attorneys or public defenders.

"If we know that there are now entry level jobs leading to the federal district court bench, we need to get people who are minorities into those pipeline jobs."

Hatchett says he should know, because it's how he started. Hatchett left the state Supreme Court to become a federal appeals court judge and later retired as Chief Judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.