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Almost 10 Percent of Federal District Judgeships Vacant

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As of last week, almost 10 percent of federal court judgeships were vacant, including one created when U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren of Fayetteville took senior status on Dec. 31.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright Carter of Little Rock has also announced her plan to take senior status — a sort of semi-retirement with reduced caseload — in August. That would create another slot for someone to take a lifetime appointment once nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

In March, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., suggested four names for each judgeship: Timothy L. Brooks, Jon B. Comstock, Niki T. Cung or Mark T. Fryauf for Hendren’s bench in the Western District, and Justin T. Allen, Jane W. Duke, James “Jay” Moody Jr. or Derrick W. Smith for the upcoming vacancy in the Eastern District. An alliance of African-American organizations has complained that only one of the eight — Smith — is black, but Pryor’s spokesman, Michael Teague, said last week that the senator had made no change in his recommendations.

The president has not formally nominated anyone for either judgeship in Arkansas. But, the federal court system’s website, USCourt.gov, indicates that’s not unusual. Nominees are pending in only 19 of the 65 vacancies.

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