BECAUSE IT IS an emergency of sorts -- and because President-elect Reagan may welcome an immediate, important opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the local government system in the District -- we point today to a city predicament that keen GOP attention could resolve right away. Involved are two vacancies on the District of Columbia's local bench that may seem to -- but do not -- involve the traditional partisan political appointment system. But they do need Senate action to be filled, and therein lies the matter of urgency. Congress is on the verge of adjourning, and nominations for these two seats will go unconfirmed without bipartisan cooperation.
The situation is this: under the nonpartisan judicial system approved by Congress and President Nixon as part of the D.C. home rule charter, a special commission submits to the White House a list of nominees for any vacant local court judgeship. The president makes the formal nominations from these lists, and they are subject to Senate confirmation. From such lists, President Carter nominated two people to the city's trial court: Ricardo M. Urbina, a Howard University law professor, and Dorothy Sellers, a local attorney in private practice.
Both nominees enjoy widespread respect in legal and community circles, and there have been on objections or questions from Capitol Hill about their qualifications. But because President-elect Reagan and the GOP majority in the Senate will control the nomination/confirmation for federal judgeships in the next Congress, the two local nominations have so far not come to the Senate floor for consideration.
That is where Mr. Reagan and Majority Leader-to-be Howard Baker can help. A signal to the GOP senators that these judgeships are not partisan matters -- and that confirmation would help the city address an increasing caseload in the local courts -- could make the difference. Prominent local Republicans, including the lone GOP councilman, at-large member Jerry Moore, and the chief judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, Theodore R. Newman Jr., support the nominations, as does Mayor Barry. And the nominations have cleared the governmental affairs subcommittee on the District as well as the full committee. We strongly urge a bipartisan effort to complete this process and assist the city.