Wichita — The semiretirement of U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum has created a vacancy on the federal bench in Kansas at a time political gridlock is stalling many judicial appointments across the country.
While this month’s opening for a lifetime tenure in the federal judiciary here has gone virtually unnoticed by the public, competition within the legal community for the powerful position — which opened up on Election Day — has been quietly taking place behind the limelight for some time.
Lungstrum said the moves to fill his position began about a year ago when he notified President Barack Obama and the state’s congressional delegation that he planned to take senior status. Such a designation allows the judge to take work part time, but still handle court cases.
Republican opposition to Obama’s judicial nominees have left unfilled myriad federal district court and appeals court vacancies. The federal judiciary’s website lists 106 vacancies with 47 nominees pending. Federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for lifetime appointments.