Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Obama Rebuffed on Judicial Nomination of Michael Boggs

Judge Boggs

Judge Boggs

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the New York Times that controversial judicial nominee Michael Boggs of Georgia does not have the votes to win approval by the committee. The senator later said in a statement that “his nomination should be withdrawn.”

President Obama, who nominated Court of Appeals Judge Boggs for the federal district court as part of a package deal with Georgia’s Republican senators, continues to support the nomination, a White House spokesman said, according to a Roll Call blog.

It is unusual for senators of the president’s political party to reject a judicial nominee, the Associated Press noted. In Judge Boggs’s case, there were outcries from leading Democrats and some groups supporting them — and typically, Obama — over  past positions taken by then-legislator Boggs on volatile issues including the Confederate flag, abortion rights and marriage for same-sex couples.

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Hybrid Judicial Selection Process Gets Scrutiny in New Mexico

It can be difficult for a New Mexico governor to put her or his stamp on the state judiciary given the state’s unusual hybrid process for picking judges, Thomas J. Cole writes in an Albuquerque Journal column.

There has been a burst of debate recently about this process, which combines merit selection and partisan elections for picking state judges. A notable feature of the process is gubernatorial appointment of judges following candidate screening by nominating commissions; but judges do not always Read more

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Chief Justice About High Court: ‘We’re Not Republicans or Democrats’

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. told a law audience in Nebraska that he’s concerned about a judicial confirmation process that has become increasingly partisan, and a perception that politics is in play when the court issues decisions.

“I’m worried about people having that perception, because it’s not an accurate one,” the Chief Justice said at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law, according to the Associated Press. “It’s not how we do our work, and it’s important that we make that as clear as we can to the public.”

He does not want to see that “real partisan rancor (to) spill over” into the court, Justice Roberts said, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. “That’s not the way we do business. We’re not Republicans or Democrats.”

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Potential Court-Packing Amendment is Debated in Florida

Florida-Supreme-Court-Seal-300As a proposed constitutional amendment before Florida voters gets increased attention, retired state Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead blasts it as a partisan scheme “audaciously” advanced to pack the court upon retirement of three Democrat-appointed justices who survived an ouster effort in 2012.

“[T]he current legislative majority is seeking to accelerate a partisan political power grab of Florida’s judiciary at the highest level,” Justice Anstead writes in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed that is available through Google. “They want to vest a lame-duck outgoing governor with the authority to fill three seats on the Supreme Court that become vacant after the governor’s term expires.”

He condemns the proposal as a “blatant attempt to politicize the judiciary” and says it would remove the accountability protection inherent in a sitting governor, who faces the voters at the end of his or her term, making the appointments. Read more

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With Little Time Left, Will Senate Confirm More Federal Judges?

CapitolflagWith little time remaining before the Senate recesses for the midterm elections, the chamber could have significant impact by confirming a number of President Obama’s pending judicial nominees, Raymond Lodato blogs for The Hill.

Sixty vacancies remain on trial and appeals court benches, Lodato writes, and each vacancy “delays the administration of justice for individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups seeking resolution of their claims.”

A stepped-up pace in the Senate for confirming judicial nominees has drawn media attention recently, including analysis of Obama’s reshaping the face of the appellate bench over six years (see Gavel Grab). One newspaper looking at the local impact was the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, where a headline stated, “New Orleans-based U.S. appeals court among few with mostly GOP appointees, NY Times reports.”

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In KS Governor’s Race, Opposing Views on Judicial Selection

Kansas-Flag-2As Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Democrat Paul Davis square off in the Kansas race for governor, an important issue that divides them is the best way of choosing state Supreme Court justices.

A KCUR report provides an in-depth look at the issue. Brownback has supported efforts to scrap a judicial nominating commission that vets candidates for the high court, while Davis has resisted such efforts. And Brownback recently named his former counsel, Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, to the high court, in an action that was questioned by some advocates.

A vetting commission had failed to include Stegall’s name among candidates who applied in 2012 for a seat on the Court of Appeals, but after the legislature eliminated the vetting commission, he was named to that court by Brownback. “The entire process was essentially changed just to get Justice Stegall through the system,” said Ryan Wright of Kansans for Fair Courts. This year, Read more

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News Report: Florida Governor Appoints Few Black Judges

Gov. Scott

Gov. Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is back in the media spotlight over his handling of diversity on the bench. A lengthy Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times article says Scott has appointed fewer African-American judges than did either of his two predecessors during a corresponding time period.

“What I’m focused on is making sure that the people I appoint understand that there are three branches of government and that they don’t get to legislate,” said Scott, a Republican. “They don’t get to pass laws, just like I don’t get to pass laws.”

“He has no interest in diversity,” said state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat and Legislative black caucus member. “He wants to stack the courts with people who think like him. It’s that corporate mentality that he brought to the governor’s office.” Read more

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In Six Years, President Has Reshaped Face of Appeals Courts

white-housePresident Obama has made his mark reshaping the federal circuit courts of appeals, where judges appointed by Democratic presidents now outnumber those appointed by Republicans by 95 to 77, the New York Times reports.

This represents a reversal of the majority on the appeals benches when Obama took office, and it was accelerated by the Senate’s changing its rules last year to eliminate the filibuster as a procedural weapon to fight confirmation of most judges. The article says the judicial appointments stand to affect Americans in many ways for many years, and stand out given gridlock in Congress on other fronts.

At the same time, Republicans have begun raising the issue of judicial selection as they campaign to try to wrest control of the Senate away from Democrats, the article says. Political battling over judicial nominations also caught attention in these other recent media reports: Read more

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Three Nominees for U.S. Bench in Texas Win Senators’ Praise

United_States_Capitol_dome_daylightThree of President Obama’s nominees for the federal district courts in Texas were praised at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing by the state’s two Republican senators, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The three include U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of San Antonio, who would become the state’s first openly gay federal judge if confirmed. The three individuals were selected by the White House in a deal earlier this year with the Texas senators.

Judicial vacancies in Texas have been described as at a “crisis point” (see Gavel Grab.) The nominees still must win approval by the committee and, if that occurs, from the full Senate. Read more

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Senate Unanimously Confirms Appeals Court Judge

pryorThe U.S. Senate voted 97-0 on Monday to confirm attorney Jill Pryor of Georgia for a seat on the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to The Hill. President Obama first nominated Pryor in February 2012.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Pryor’s two-and-a-half-year wait before confirmation was “longer than any other currently pending judicial nominee,” and he blamed partisan politics.

Nonetheless, Leahy said, “This year the Senate has confirmed 61 nominees to the circuit and district courts and in doing so, it has hit an historic milestone for diversity on the Federal appeals courts.  More women and people of color are serving on the federal appellate bench than ever before.”


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