Justice at Stake said on Thursday it was encouraged by President Obama’s affirmation, in a speech on on national security and counterterrorism policy, that the Constitution’s protections define us as a nation and do not vanish in a time of war.
“For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by founding documents that defined who we are as Americans, and served as our compass through every type of changes. Matters of war and peace are no different,” Obama said.
Some highlights of Obama’s remarks as they involve the courts and judicial review are found in an earlier Gavel Grab post. Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, responded to these remarks in a statement.
JAS commended Obama’s commitment to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones. “The President acknowledged that the targeting of American citizens raises significant constitutional concerns,” Fernandes said. “Leaders from both parties and all three branches of government need to grapple seriously with what the Constitution demands in terms of due process and other protections.” Read more
In a key speech on counterterrorism policies and drone strikes, President Obama invited Congress on Thursday to consider ways for “increased oversight” of lethal action outside warzones, including creation of a secret court or an executive branch panel. He said each option “poses difficulties in practice.”
Here are Obama’s specific remarks on the topic, taken from a text of his speech as prepared for delivery:
“Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial Read more
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
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 a 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 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.
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
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