Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- iCivics, the nonprofit civics education organization run by Justice at Stake Honorary Chair Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, will convene a national Teachers Council in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2014, according to Tribune Interactive. The Tribune report notes that an Alabama middle school teacher is among those selected for the Council.
- WDDE reports that Delaware’s Judicial Nomination Commission has officially submitted four candidates to Gov. Jack Markell to consider for Delaware’s next Supreme Court Chief Justice. The four candidates are Delaware Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Berger, Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, Court of Chancery Chancellor Leo Strine Jr. and Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. One of these candidates will replace Myron Steele, who stepped down from the position last month. Gov. Markell is expected to make his nomination and submit it to the senate in January when the General Assembly returns to work.
Now that the Senate filibuster rules have changed, many are wondering if that means the three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will be quickly confirmed.
According to The Hill blog, the nominees most likely will be confirmed, but as one former senior administration official said, “…with some blood on the wall.”
Justice at Stake Director of Federal Affairs and Diversity Initiatives Praveen Fernandes says the change offers the potential for profound benefits for a federal judiciary plagued with a 10 percent vacancy rate. (Video: Fernandes discusses rule change implications)
Political fallout over judicial nominations is already being seen across the country.
The Washington Times reports that, “Conservative groups are looking to make the Capitol Hill battle over President Obama’s judicial nominees an issue in Senate elections in 2014 by arguing that red-state Democrats are ‘rubber-stamping’ liberal judges.”
The Judicial Crisis Network has already announced a round of ads attacking Sen. Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana for supporting all of Mr. Obama’s judicial picks. The group warns that she and other Democrats will have to be careful going forward about which judges they approve.
Others believe the judicial fight likely won’t be a big issue in the 2014 elections.
“Unless the nominee is extremely controversial, which none of Obama’s have been, it’s a real stretch,” said Mark McKinnon, a GOP strategist. “Otherwise, it is expected that representatives vote for their party nominees. Generally, it’s just way off voters’ radar screens.”
A Billings Gazette editorial, reflecting on obstructionist politics that have delayed confirmation of two non-controversial judges for the federal trial bench in Montana, expresses hope that a recent U.S. Senate rules change will lead to confirmation of the pair.
Two of Montana’s three federal trial court seats are vacant, and they are deemed “judicial emergencies,” the editorial says, adding, “With too few judges, justice is delayed. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The nominees are Yellowstone County District Court Judge Susan Watters and Montana Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris. ”It is time for the Senate to do its job: Allow the president to fulfill his constitutional duty to appoint U.S. judges so the judicial branch can do its job,” the editorial adds.
Recent Senate action to eliminate filibusters of most nominees for federal judgeships is continuing to generate intense debate. The issue’s high profile is reflected in numerous media pieces, including a veteran legal journalist’s strong critique of an earlier commentary by a prominent federal appeals judge.
In The Atlantic online, Andrew Cohen takes issue with the opinion of Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose Washington Post op-ed said the rules change would leave a harmful and severe impact on the federal judiciary (see Gavel Grab). Judge Wilkinson’s views were summed up by the op-ed headline, “Bipartisan approval lends a sense of balance to the judiciary.”
According to Cohen, Judge Wilkinson’s essay “is a polemic against what Senate Democrats accomplished last week. It frets about the possibility of future partisanship while ignoring the devastating impact recent Senate partisanship has had upon the nation’s judges. Worse, it omits the judge’s own role in a version of this fight that unfolded at the end of the Clinton administration. Judge Wilkinson, it turns out, isn’t exactly an impartial witness in this dispute.” Read more
The North Carolina legislature was misguided when it changed the law regarding the filling of vacant District Court judgeships, and now it’s time for the governor to set politics aside in filling a new vacancy, a Greensboro News & Record editorial says.
The legislature voted to give the governor more authority and let him appoint whomever he chooses for District Court judgeships, eliminating a requirement that such vacancies must be filled from lists of candidates chosen by the local bar (see Gavel Grab).
Regarding the filling of an upcoming Guilford County District Court vacancy, the editorial says, Gov. Pat McCrory and staff “might attend diligently to this task, choosing a well-qualified new judge to serve until the next election. He can accept one of the candidates recommended by the bar. We hope he would.”
Justice at Stake discussed the need to fill vacant federal judgeships, the importance of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and other topics in an appearance on Sirius satellite radio’s Left Jab talk show.
Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, appeared on the show shortly after the U.S. Senate voted last week to change its rules in order to eliminate filibusters of most nominees, except for justices on the Supreme Court. Fernandes elaborated on Justice at Stake’s views this way:
“Justice at Stake had no formal position on filibuster reform. What we had was a formal position on the fact that our judiciary can’t be the institution it needs to be, can’t deliver justice if it’s continuing to occupy a position where 10 percent of its seats sit vacant. And so what we needed to have is this obstruction end. And so this is one means of doing it, and frankly we’re a little sad that it came to that.
“When this happened we were incredibly happy about the prospect of at least breaking the log jam of federal nominations.”
Senate Democrats laid the groundwork for a controversial procedure to change the rules after Republicans had blocked three of President Obama’s for the D.C. Circuit Court, by filibustering and refusing to allow an up-or-down vote. With that delaying tool eliminated, it is expected that action to confirm the trio of nominees will begin after the Senate completes its holiday recess.
The D.C. court is considered the “second most important appellate court in the country because it is the court of jurisdiction for a variety of different [critical] cases,” Fernandes said. He also discussed numerous other issues of concern to Justice at Stake and other defenders of fair and impartial courts in the talk radio show segment.
A harmful, severe impact on the federal judiciary will result from a Senate rules change eliminating filibusters of most nominees for judgeships (see Gavel Grab), a prominent federal appeals court judge says.
J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who was among finalists considered by President George W. Bush for elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court, gives his opinion in a Washington Post op-ed entitled, “Bipartisan approval lends a sense of balance to the judiciary.”
Wilkinson writes that the rules change eliminated a balancing impact of the prior requirement for bipartisan support in order for a lower-court or appeals court judge to be confirmed: “Given that the ballot box is an imperfect guarantor of the bent or character of judicial appointments, any incentive to place jurists of moderate persuasion on the courts must come from the need to attract Senate support across the aisle. Last week, that need was much diminished.” Read more
As analysts and pundits sorted out the impact of a Senate rules change to eliminate filibusters of most nominees, the ABA Journal cited Justice at Stake for its view that the shift could result in up-or-down votes on more judicial nominees soon.
“While we are dismayed that it had to come to this, today’s developments leave the fair-courts movement hopeful that the Senate might move forward to expeditiously schedule and hold up-or-down votes on judicial nominees,” said Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives.
The Washington Post reported that three nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, who were stalled by Senate GOP obstructionism, are likely to win up-or-down approval from the Senate. Republicans’ filibustering of these nominees in recent weeks triggered the landmark vote on Thursday, orchestrated by Democrats, to change the filibuster rules (see Gavel Grab).
The Senate voted on Thursday to part with precedent and change its rules to eliminate filibusters of cabinet nominees and federal judges other than Supreme Court justices. The historic 52-48 vote, largely along party lines, will mean in practical terms that these nominees will require only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than an effective supermajority of 60 votes, for confirmation.
Justice at Stake’s Praveen Fernandes, director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, said in a statement, “While we are dismayed that it had to come to this, today’s developments leave the fair-courts movement hopeful that the Senate might move forward to expeditiously schedule and hold up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.”
“[T]his judicial vacancy crisis is a justice crisis,” Fernandes added. He said, “We hope that the judicial nominations and confirmations impasse has ended and that up-or-down votes will proceed without further delay. We also hope that senators across the political spectrum will pledge to protect the strength and vibrancy of our courts. People across this country deserve nothing less.”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering, in the wake of Senate Republicans’ recent derailment of three of President Obama’s nominees for a highly influential appeals court, calling for a vote that could make it harder for the minority party to filibuster a president’s nominees.
If Reid seeks the vote and it is successful, the shift in rules likely would apply to federal judges and executive branch appointees such as cabinet members, but not Supreme Court justices, the New York Times reported.
Critics have called such a vote the “nuclear option” because it would upend Senate tradition and is highly controversial. The term refers to employing a simple majority vote to revise filibuster rules, rather than the 67-vote majority typically required under Senate rules for such a change.
To learn about Senate Republicans blocking three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit along largely partisan lines, see Gavel Grab. On PBS, meanwhile, a Newshour segment focused on the impact of blocked judicial nominations. It included an exchange of views between Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network.