Archive for the 'Diversity on the Bench' Category
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles (photo) would become the first openly gay African American man to serve on the federal courts, if he were confirmed by the Senate, according to a Legal Times article.
Also nominated were Circuit Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza and Paul G. Byron for the Middle District of Florida; Circuit Judge Beth Bloom for the Southern District of Florida; and Cheryl Ann Krause, a former federal prosecutor, for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to a CNN blog, the White House published a new graphic display online about the diversity of Obama’s nominees for judgeships, saying, “This is the first time our judicial pool has been this diverse.”
White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett was set to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus today to address concerns about diversity in nominations to the federal bench, according to The Hill. The CBC has spoken out in recent weeks about a lack of ethnic diversity in President Obama’s nominations in several southern states (see Gavel Grab). In addition, black lawmakers maintain that the nomination of an African-American judicial candidate in North Carolina is being unduly delayed, and that two nominees in Georgia have spotty records on civil rights issues.
The lawmakers claim that President Obama has ceded too much ground to southern Republican senators in an attempt to choose nominees with a greater chance of being confirmed, and plan to air their concerns in the meeting with Jarrett. “Win or lose, we’d feel better if there’s a fight,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.
The White House outreach comes one day after House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, came out in support of the CBC’s position on nominees. “I certainly share the CBC’s concerns,” Hoyer said, according to Politico and The Hill. The influential Democrat suggested the Senate should reject some of the nominations on grounds cited by the CBC.
Judge Laura Liu of Cook County Circuit Court was to make history today when she assumes a seat on the Illinois first appellate court district, thereby becoming the first Asian American to sit on state appellate court.
Judge Liu is a former president of the Illinois Judges’ Association and a former president of the Chinese American Bar Association, according to Huffington Post.
“I know that I have a lot to learn and that this will be a new challenge,” Judge Liu said. “Having the support of experienced mentors that I respect and admire made all the difference in shaping my idea of how I wanted to serve in the courtroom.” Read more
The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP has asked U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (photo) to lift a block he has imposed on the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to a federal district court seat in Burr’s home state of North Carolina.
May-Parker, if confirmed, would be the first African-American judge to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, according to an article in The Voter Update, published by the North Carolina Center for Voter Education.
The judgeship has not had an occupant since 2005 and now claims the longest-running vacancy in the nation. Burr has declined to say why he has refused to consent to the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeding to hold a hearing on the nomination of May-Parker, whom he once endorsed (see Gavel Grab). Read more
A Congressional Black Caucus letter urging President Obama to name African Americans for two federal district court judgeships in Alabama (see Gavel Grab) is getting more news media coverage.
The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser carried an article about the letter that quoted Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala. and a member of the Black Caucus, voicing a sharply critical view. “Our record of black judicial appointments in Alabama is particularly appalling, given that African-Americans make up 26 percent of the population,” Sewell said.
The CBC letter said, “Sixty-four judges have served on Alabama’s district court bench since districts were first established in 1824. Of this number, only three have been African-American.” If Obama nominated African Americans for the two current vacancies, 21.4 percent of the court’s judges would be African American, the letter said. Read more
Six nominees for the federal district court in Arizona were the subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing this week. Although one of them was nominated more than two years ago, and the judgeships for which they were nominated have been deemed “judicial emergencies” due to high caseload levels, the hearing was short and uneventful.
“I’m just glad the Senate is getting around to doing something,” said A. Bates Butler, a former U.S. attorney, according to Cronkite News Service. “Congratulations, Senate, but you shouldn’t have taken so long.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., stressed the importance of proceeding deliberately. “These are lifetime appointments … and we want to be thorough with this process and I believe that we were,” Flake said.
Partisan politics in the Senate played a role in the delays. According to KJZZ, “The judicial emergency was partially triggered by holds placed on the nominees by the state’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.” The senators more recently consented to the hearing. Read more
The Congressional Black Caucus has written a letter to President Obama about judicial nominations, both commending him in part and voicing criticism in part over a lack of diversity in some regions. Obtained by The Daily Beast, the letter states:
“We recognize your commitment to diversity on the federal judiciary and congratulate you on the recent confirmation of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Robert Wilkins. Judge Wilkins’ nomination is evidence of your desire to correct history’s disregard for the unique qualifications of diverse judicial nominees. However, in a number of jurisdictions, there still remains an inexcusable and unjustifiable lack of racial diversity that must be addressed.”
The letter urges Obama to name African-American judges for two federal district court vacancies in Alabama, noting that only one African American was appointed to the federal bench there (by Obama) in the past 33 years, while 26 judicial appointments were made. ”In light of the controversy over the recent Georgia slate of six nominations, it is our hope that we avoid Read more
President Obama will come under public fire soon from the Congressional Black Caucus over a lack of diversity in some of his judicial nominations in the South. The African-American leaders are poised to speak out publicly despite Obama’s record for nominating more diverse judges than his predecessors.
The leaders will speak out at a press conference in Washington as early as this week, The Hill reported, quoting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia as saying the event will decry “the appalling lack of African American representation” among judicial choices, especially in the 11th Circuit, which takes in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Obama’s critics are Democrats.
While the White House did not respond to questions for the article, it earlier stated that Georgia’s Republican home-state senators senators had blocked the president’s nomination in 2011 of an African-American woman to the federal bench in Georgia. According to the White House, of Obama’s choices confirmed for the federal bench, 18 percent have been African Americans compared to eight percent under President George W. Bush and 16 percent under President Clinton.
President Obama’s latest nominees for the federal district court include Staci Michelle Yandle, who would become the first African American lesbian federal judge in two decades if confirmed, and two other groundbreaking nominees.
Attorney Yandle (photo) was nominated this week for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Other nominees included Superior Court Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., who would become the first Hispanic to sit on the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, and Richard Franklin Boulware II, a public defender, who would become the first African American man to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.
According to Politico, the White House is hopeful that a recent change to Senate rules will help speed up the confirmation process for the newest nominees. The Senate barred filibusters of most presidential nominees and of all judges except those for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent to the full Senate the nominations of five appeals court and 24 district court judges. The meeting “could prove a bellwether for how confirmations proceed this year for nominees still awaiting votes,” the Blog of Legal Times reported.
Only one African American has been appointed among 26 federal judges in Alabama in the past 33 years, retired U.S. magistrate judge Vanzetta Penn McPherson of the Middle District of Alabama writes in a Montgomery Advertiser op-ed.
As a result, the number of black federal judges in Alabama today stands at two, the same as in 1980, Judge McPherson (photo) says. She calls it a “remarkably curious — and indefensible — outcome” and continues in her essay to focus on the recommendations for judgeships made by five male U.S. senators from Alabama over more than two decades; they recommended no African Americans.
The one African American who was appointed during the period in question was recommended by by a screening panel established by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala. In urging greater diversity on the bench, Judge McPherson concludes:
“This is the 21st century. We cannot ignore the ignominy of excluding African-Americans from 25 judicial appointments over as many years. And one or two new black judges — especially if they merely replace other black judges — are not enough.” Read more