The secret hold is a parliamentary procedure in the Senate that empowers a single Senator to anonymously stall a vote indefinitely by notifying his or her party’s leadership of his or her desire to place a hold on the vote. Secret holds have been used to delay judicial confirmations before, leading to 103 open seats in federal district and appellate courts. The vacancy rate in these courts is currently 10 percent.
Some openings have been vacant so long that the federal judiciary has placed them on a list of judicial emergencies, with 15 of them in federal district courts in DC, Maryland and Virginia. If the seats on the bench remain unfilled, it could delay civil trial dockets and qualified candidates discouraged from joining the federal judiciary.
Wilkins is one of 23 nominees currently awaiting a full Senate vote.