Why should a U.S. senator from Iowa hold up a much-needed federal judge in Sacramento? Isn't this the kind of mindless political gamesmanship that sours people on Washington?
Californians are well within their rights to ask such questions.
The Eastern District of California, centered in Sacramento, long has had one of the biggest caseloads in the country and is officially in "emergency" status. That means 7 million people more than twice the population of Iowa in 34 counties have to wait far longer than most Americans to get their cases heard.
The district needs more judges. While President Barack Obama has been slow at times in making nominations, getting qualified jurists through the U.S. Senate has been far too tedious.
It took Kimberly Mueller six months to get confirmed as a judge for the Eastern District in 2010.
Now, it's Troy L. Nunley's turn to wait.
He was raised by a single mother in Hunters Point, a tough neighborhood in San Francisco. He graduated from St. Mary's College and the University of California Hastings School of Law, became a prosecutor and was appointed to the Sacramento Superior Court in 2002.
He was nominated in June, has the blessing of the American Bar Association and breezed through a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.
Yet when his nomination came up for a vote Thursday, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the committee, put it off.
As allowed by committee rules, he didn't give a reason. The senator's office wasn't any more forthcoming Friday, but said that Nunley's nomination could be voted on as soon as next week.
Some liberal advocacy groups are dubious. They say Grassley has routinely obstructed nominations for weeks, worsening what they call a vacancy crisis in the federal courts - 83 at last count.
Two other impressive nominees for federal courts in California Jon Tigar and William Orrick III, both for the Northern District are also lingering. They both received the ABA's highest endorsement "unanimously well qualified" and were approved by the Judiciary Committee in August, but their nominations haven't been voted on by the full Senate.
There are 17 other nominees with committee approval who are waiting for Senate votes. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, called Friday on Republicans to allow votes during the lame-duck session. "This obstruction is not good for the country," he said. "It results in denying Americans the judges they need to administer justice."
He's right. If the nominees are qualified, they shouldn't be held hostage to other political concerns.