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NY Judicial Nomination Commission Recommends Diverse Candidates

Seven people recommended by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination for a Court of Appeals seat  represent the most diverse group of high court nominees yet, as well as a group of exceptionally qualified candidates, reports The New York Law Journal.

According to a Thomson Reuters News and Insight article, a record 75 people applied for Ciparick’s seat, including a record number of both women and minorities. Of the 75 applicants, 35 were women and 24 were of minority populations.

The nominees include First Department Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam; First Department Justice Rolando Acosta; Fourth Department Justice Eugene Fahey; Kathy Chin of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; David Schulz of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz; CUNY School of Law Professor Jenny Rivera and Grand Street Settlement Executive Director Margarita Rosa.

If nominated, both Abdus-Salaam and Chin would be firsts for the court; Abdus-Salaam would be the court’s first African-American woman, Chin the first Asian-American. Acosta, Rivera, or Rosa would be only the second Hispanic to serve on the court if chosen. The nominees were recommended to fill a seat being vacated by retirement of Judge Carmen Ciparick.

“I think this is a distinguished list of candidates and I am sure the governor will make an outstanding choice,” said Victor Kovenor, former chairman of the Fund for Modern Courts. “We have been blessed in this state with the merit selection system for choosing judges of the Court of Appeals and this is just another occasion where we can feel confident we will have an outstanding new member of our highest court.”

The names of the six people whom Gov. Andrew Cuomo passes by for Ciparick’s seat will be considered for the vacancy left by the death of Judge Theodore Jones.

Justice at Stake believes that a diverse legal system is the first step in improving the quality of justice and building community confidence in American courts. To learn more about the importance of diversity, click here.

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Is Senate Breaking Block On Judicial Nominations?

With Thursday’s approval of two more district court judges, it appears the Senate may be moving towards breaking a stall on federal judicial nominations, reports Todd Ruger at The Blog of Legal Times.

Four district court judges have been approved this week alone. The nominations of Mark Walker for a seat in the Northern District of Florida and Terrence Berg for the Eastern District of Michigan were confirmed unanimously on Thursday after a five-month waiting period. Earlier this week, the Senate confirmed Paul Grimm for a seat in the District of Maryland and Michael Shea to fill a vacancy in the District of Connecticut.

The recent confirmation votes, along with Thursday’s announcement of Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s plans to leave Congress in January, may signal good news for some nominees still awaiting confirmation, reports another Blog of Legal Times piece by Zoe Tillman. According to Tillman, DeMint announced in March his plans to reject any nominee sent by the White House in protest of President Obama’s winter recess appointments. Read more

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Facebook Helped Michigan Professor Win Supreme Court Race

Newly elected Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack says that Facebook ads purchased by her campaign may have won her the election, reports an Ad Age blog.

McCormack received the highest number of votes among seven candidates running for two seats. At 1.53 million votes, she received 30,000 more votes than incumbent Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman. Since he received the second-most votes, Markman will keep his seat.

Jon Hoadley, McCormack’s campaign manager, says McCormack’s victory is especially impressive in light of the negative campaign ad run by the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Crisis Network (see Gavel Grab) accusing McCormack of helping free terrorists and the Michigan Republican Party ad calling McCormack “the wrong choice for Michigan families.”

Hoadley attributes McCormack’s victory to the $51,000 the campaign spent on Facebook ads in the last five days of the race to familiarize liberal voters with McCormack’s name. ”Repetition over a short period of time really did make a difference,” said Hoadley.

McCormack’s campaign says the six ads put onto Facebook, in conjunction with television ads run by the Michigan Democratic Party promoting all three Democratic candidates, gave McCormack the name recognition she needed to win the race. Read more

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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam dismissed the suggestion that appeals court judges could be elected by popular vote in 2014 while speaking to the Davidson County Republicans Tuesday, reports The Tennessean. The Tennessee Supreme Court has found the current judicial selection system constitutional twice, and Haslam says he doesn’t “think that we’re going to come up with a different process” between now and 2014, when the Tennessee Constitution could be amended.
  • Regardless of Jeffrey Boyd’s legal background, a Beaumont Enterprise op-ed finds it “unsettling to see [Gov. Rick] Perry routinely acting like a Chicago alderman doling out patronage for such an important position.” A vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court, the op-ed continues, should be treated with respect, not “brazen politics.”
  • In Florida, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tom Lee says that while it is “probably too soon to tell” whether major changes to the state’s judicial system will be attempted in the coming year, it looks unlikely, reports the Sunshine State News. “I certainly don’t have an agenda to do anything aggressive with respect to the court system, except trying to help make it more efficient,” Lee said.
    
    

 

 

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North Carolina: Republicans Say $2.3 Million Won’t Affect Fairness

Members of the North Carolina legislature are responding to the charge levied by the state chapter of the NAACP and several other groups that North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby should not be allowed to stay on the lawsuit challenging political districts of favoring Republican politicians, reports the Associated Press.

Lawyers for GOP state House Speaker Tom Tillis, Senate leader Phil Berger and others looking to keep Newby on the case argue that the money given the Newby’s campaign by Republican committees and political action committees shouldn’t cast doubt on Newby’s fairness.

Thomas Farr and Phillip Strach, attorneys working with Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office to defend the districts, argue that the recusal standards urged by those calling for Newby’s removal are “unworkable.” If implemented, they would require “each member of the court to research whether every party or attorney who appears before them had ever expended money on his or her behalf during a previous campaign or contributed money to an independent expenditure committee that did.”

In the November election, Republican affiliated groups and super PACs spent $2.3 million on television ads supporting Newby and attacking his opponent, Appeals Court Judge Sam J. Ervin IV (see Gavel Grab).

According to the Associated Press, around $1.2 million of that came from the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, which gave “direct technical assistance to the North Carolina Republicans who drafted the legislative maps at issue.”

For more on the recusal issue, see Gavel Grab.

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Monday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Despite losing the recent election, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp still considers judicial elections “a better, more open system” than an appointment system where politicians make all the decisions,” reports The Lima News. Cupp says that while elections have their shortcomings, ”if there were strictly an appointment system, there’d be an unbelievable effect politics played.”
  • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence Meyers has issued a letter of apology to the Austin Municipal Court for the four-year battle over a speeding ticket, reports the Austin-American Statesman. ”I feel that I was very foolish for extending this all this time, and I’m just glad it’s over with,” said Meyers. “From the beginning, I should have worked it out.”
  • The appointment of Jeffrey Boyd to the Texas Supreme Court is “the latest brick in a wall [Gov. Rick] Perry has been building for a dozen years,” says Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey in a New York Times op-ed. While Perry’s appointees are free to rule as they see fit once appointed, Perry’s high number of Supreme Court appointments have resulted in “a judicial panel with a decided bias in favor of business defendants,” Ramsey asserts.
  • Associate director of research for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress Billy Corriher looks at four of the “biggest beneficiaries” of the Citizens United ruling in the 2012 judicial elections in a ThinkProgress guest blog.
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Gov. Perdue Will Sidestep Judicial Nominating Commission

While North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue has announced that she will name a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson without going through the process she set up to fill such vacancies, she will likely speak to commission leaders after making her preliminary choice, reports the Associated Press.

When Timmons-Goodson announced last Wednesday that she intended to retire on December 17, the chairman of the judicial appointment commission Perdue established wrote the governor a letter stating that there was not enough time for candidates to go through the commission’s formal process before Perdue leaves office in January.

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger urged Perdue not to disregard the panel process she created. According to a Daily Reflector op-ed by Scott Mooneyham, Berger stated that Perdue “has not earned, nor does she have, the state’s trust to make this type of decision.”

Mooneyham says that North Carolina’s state Constitution grants Perdue “the power to do exactly what she wants regarding the appointment, and any governor in a similar situation would likely do the same.”

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South Carolina’s Nine New Judicial Seats Generate Controversy

In South Carolina, the creation of nine new at-large judicial seats has led to the “largest and most contested judicial election in almost two decades,” reports The State.

South Carolina is one of two states where legislators elect the judges, who in turn “interpret the laws that lawmakers pass.” According to the article, critics are speaking out against the process, pushing instead for a system where the state Senate would confirm nominees put forth by the governor.

With the state poised to pass its first major ethics reform in over two decades, many are disappointed to see a lack of discussion regarding changing South Carolina’s judicial selection system. While South Carolina Bar President Angus Macaulay asserts that the state’s current system “avoids the harsh partisan politics found in other states,” others are not so sure.

“Legislators should not be choosing the judges who interpret the laws they pass. It flies in the face of the separation of powers,” said S.C. Policy Council Executive Director Ashley Landess. “I’m not saying the bench is corrupt. I’m saying the system itself is absolutely corruptible.” Read more

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Friday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • On Tuesday, Charlie Rose interviewed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia regarding his latest book on how to properly interpret the law. The segment can be watched at The Charlie Rose website.
  • An arrest warrant has been issued for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence Meyers, reports the Austin-American Statesman. The warrant was issued over an unpaid traffic ticket.
  • In Wisconsin, Republicans tend to do significantly better in nonpartisan judicial elections, reports The Capital Times. According to the article, “liberal judicial candidates in nonpartisan contests perform significantly worse in the solidly Democratic city [Milwaukee] than candidates with the coveted ‘D’ next to their name.”
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New Jersey Governor Continues Effort To Remake Supreme Court

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knows exactly who his next two nominations to the state Supreme Court will be, reports The Political State, a North Jersey blog.

While not prepared to reveal the names of his two candidates, Christie says that over the past two months he has had “regular conversations” with Senate President Steve Sweeney regarding the potential nominees.

“He’s fully informed as to the people I’ve been considering and the direction I’d like to move,” Christie said. “I will tell you that I made up my mind.”

Christie has mentioned his desire to lead the court in a more conservative direction before (see Gavel Grab). His last two nominees, both Republicans, were rejected by the Senate in order to “maintain a partisan balance on the court,” reports the article. Read more

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