The Senate voted 97-0 on Thursday to confirm Sri Srinivasan, the principal U.S. deputy solicitor general, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to USA Today. Justice at Stake applauded the bipartisan approach that resulted in the confirmation.
Srinivasan is the first Obama nominee confirmed for what is widely viewed as the nation’s second most influential appeals court. The Senate filibustered earlier and prevented an up-down vote on Obama’s nomination to the court of New York attorney Caitlin Halligan; the 11-member court still has three more vacancies.
“We applaud the fact that Senators were able to come together in a bipartisan manner to confirm a nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court, which saw its last confirmation back in 2006,” said Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, in a statement. “This is a welcome break in a confirmation logjam that has left the nation’s second most important federal appellate court understaffed for years. ” Read more
In North Carolina, where a pioneering program for the public financing of judicial elections is under attack, two prominent Republicans from West Virginia, one of them a former judge, extolled the strengths of their own state’s similar program.
“The model for us has worked,” former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice John McCuskey told the N.C. House Elections Committee. “We think it’s going to enhance the reputation of the judiciary in West Virginia,” he said, according to a Charlotte Observer article.
“The perception of judges being bought, rather than acting impartially created a great distrust among the populace,” he said, according to a Raleigh News & Observer report. “Everyone agreed, Democrat and Republican, that something needed to be done.”
The jurist’s son, Del. John B. McCuskey, said one way to ensure that businesses “will get a fair shake” in the courts is the public financing of judicial elections. Read more
Tags: North Carolina
On Primary Day this week, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Bob Brady was concerned that some ballots being distributed by ward leaders would cost Democratic judicial candidates. Brady called members of the City Committee to “flood” the ward in question and “to send a message,” demonstrating the might of the party’s political machine.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, all but two of the 12 candidates the party endorsed came out on top in Tuesday’s Philadelphia primary, and one of them was in a neck-and-neck contest.
Republican candidate Anne Marie Coyle, who was listed first on the ballot, was the only Republican to advance from the primary. Critics of Pennsylvania’s judicial elections who prefer a merit-based system argue that the primary shows why the elections should be scrapped. Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Millions of dollars were spent by outside groups in the 2012 election, and much of it funneled through 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations that don’t have to disclose their donors to the public. Members of Congress reintroduced a version of the Disclose Act recently that would require these groups to disclose their campaign spending, and hopefully increase transparency and accountability in politics, says a Washington Post editorial.
- The people of West Virginia should be more outraged by the actions of Don Blankenship in his attempt to buy a state supreme court decision concerning his mining company, argues a West Virginia Journal News column. Laurence Leamer, author of the new book “The Price of Justice,” asked recently over Twitter, why Blankenship had not been indicted for his company’s violations of safety standards and business practices designed to drive others into bankruptcy.
- Advocates for campaign finance reform are urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to press the Legislature for changes to state election laws. Cuomo says he will support the use of public financing in elections, but the New York Times states that some are concerned he will not push for it hard enough before the end of the legislative session in June.
Presidents have a prerogative to fill congressionally authorized court vacancies, and for President Obama to do so on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit does not constitute “court-packing,” scholar Russell Wheeler says by way of rebutting a Wall Street Journal editorial (see Gavel Grab).
Wheeler (photo), an expert at The Brookings Institution on judicial nominations, offers his assessment in an American Constitution Society blog post. He quotes remarks in 1996 by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist to make a point that Obama has a prerogative to leave his stamp on the D.C. Circuit Court.
Some Republican senators are arguing that the 11-member court should be reduced by three judges, a proposal opposed by Justice at Stake (learn more from Gavel Grab). The court currently has a 4-3 majority of judges appointed by Republicans. An Obama nominee, Sri Srinivasan, was expected to come before the Senate on a procedural vote and perhaps a final vote today.
Justice Rehnquist said in the context of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s successful efforts to stem anti-New Deal decisions by the Supreme Court through appointments (but not through adding new seats to the court, which critics derided as “court-packing”):
“[T]he doctrine of judicial independence does not mean that the country will be forever in sway to groups of non-elected judges. When vacancies occur … on any of the federal courts, replacements are nominated by the President, who has been elected by the people of Read more
Our courts need a “culture of performance-based innovation” in order to reduce public dissatisfaction, a Minnesota judge and a co-author write in a Governing magazine essay.
Hennepin County District Judge Kevin Burke and Babak Armajani, chair for the Public Strategies Group, are authors of the commentary, entitled “Creating the Courts Americans Want.” And what Americans want, they say, is courts “that are as good as their promise by being fair, efficient and effective.”
For years the judges on San Mateo County’s bench all tended to come from similar backgrounds, either that of a prosecutor or of a civil litigator. There were no former public defenders, and only one Asian American judge – Elizabeth Lee.
The San Francisco Examiner reports that a shift in this trend occurred in 2010, when two public defenders, Judge Leland Davis III and Judge Donald Ayoob (photo), were appointed to serve on the San Mateo County Superior Court.
Davis is now the lone African American judge serving in the county, and Ayoob is the sole Arab-American, the article notes. Read more
For the first time in seven years the U.S. Senate is poised to seat a new judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a highly influential court that decides many contentious regulatory issues in the nation’s capital.
The Senate is expected to vote on Thursday on President Obama’s nomination of Sri Srinivasan for the D.C. Circuit, according to a Roll Call article. If Srinivasan is confirmed, it will be a breakthrough for the Obama administration. Because the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the nomination, the Justice Department official is expected to win confirmation.
Earlier, Senate Republicans twice blocked the president’s nomination of New York attorney Caitlin Halligan to the court, and the 11-member court’s four vacancies are seen by some as symbolic of of increasing partisan warfare over judicial nominations in Washington. Read more
Political deal-making in appointing top judges and court-stacking are among the dangers posed by legislation introduced in Kansas to change the way judges are selected, a Lawrence Journal World editorial says. It warns of a likely “heated ideological battle next year about the role and significance of the state’s highest court.”
The editorial dissects three late-session proposals introduced by Republican Rep. Lance Kinzer (see Gavel Grab). The proposals would eliminate merit selection for the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court and replace it with a federal-style appointment-and-Senate-confirmation system; if that fails, reduce from 75 to 65 the mandatory retirement age for these judges; and split the Supreme Court in two, with a Court of Criminal Appeals handling criminal cases and the Supreme Court handling civil cases.
The editorial sees at play the guiding hand of politicians unhappy with court rulings, and it identifies perils of the proposals:
“It’s no secret that Gov. Sam Brownback and many state legislators are upset with the Kansas Supreme Court and its decisions on a number of issues — particularly its ruling that the state isn’t fulfilling its constitutional mandate to properly fund K-12 education. Rather than work to pass legislation or amend the constitution to deal with specific issues like school finance, however, legislators are choosing to attack the courts in ways that could potentially upset the intended balance of power among the three branches of government. Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway’s lawyer, Steve Fishman, argued Monday that she shouldn’t go to jail, despite admitting in January that she committed bank fraud. Fishman declared that Hathaway should perform community service or volunteer work instead of serving time in prison, according to the Detroit News.
- A new report released last week by New York court officials states that the process for appointing acting justices to the state’s Supreme Court has become too costly and needs to be reformed. Currently, the state’s chief administrative judge can appoint a lower court judge as an acting justice temporarily, says Thomson Reuters, but this can be costly since the acting justices are paid the difference in salaries between their own and those of Supreme Court justices.