Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Appointment to Kansas Court of Former Aide Sparks Criticism

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s pick of former chief counsel Caleb Stegall for a state Supreme Court opening (see Gavel Grab) met with criticism in some quarters. Judge Stegall has served on the Kansas Court of Appeals since January.

“By skipping over two highly qualified nominees and selecting someone with so little experience, Governor Brownback has once again shown that rewarding a political ally is far more important than doing what’s best for the people of Kansas,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

“Once again, Sam Brownback put his own political agenda before the best interests of Kansans,” said House Minority Leader  Paul Davis. “Instead of choosing a judge with more than 20 years on the bench, he chose his

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Brownback Names Former Counsel to Kansas Supreme Court

Judge Stegall

Judge Stegall

Gov. Sam Brownback made his first appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday, choosing Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, who had served as Brownback’s chief counsel before becoming a judge in January.

Brownback made his selection in choosing among three finalists recommended by a nominating commission. He previously had said that Judge Stegall had no inside track for the job. Judge Stegall’s elevation also means the governor will have a vacancy to fill on the Court of Appeals.

The other two finalists were Court of Appeals Judge Karen Arnold-Burger, who sat on that court since 2011, and Judge Merlin Wheeler, chief judge of the 5th Judicial District of Lyon and Chase counties, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.  Read more

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Commission Advances Court Nomination of Stanford Law Professor



Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Mexican immigrant to the United States, to the California Supreme Court was confirmed unanimously on Thursday by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments. The nomination next will appear before voters on the ballot in November.

Cuéllar received a rating of exceptionally well qualified from a state bar evaluating commission, according to a Los Angeles Times article. When the nomination first was announced, it sparked attention for the statement it made about diversity on the bench (see Gavel Grab).

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Essay: Republicans Still Obstructing Judicial Nominees

United_States_Capitol_dome_daylightAlthough the Senate has stepped up its pace for confirming judges (see Gavel Grab), judicial nominees of President Obama’s still have to wait longer for confirmation than was the case under Obama’s three predecessors.

Jonathan Bernstein writes at Bloomberg View of this phenomenon, relying on information from a Twitter-based data collector.

Bernstein faults Senate Republicans for obstructionism and says that since Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year, Republicans “have imposed the maximum delay on every single judicial nominee.” He also expresses a worry that if Republicans capture the Senate in November, “they may simply shut down all nominations for two full years.”

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Are Confirmed Judges ‘The Legacy of This Congress’?

Unlike last year, a polarized and barely-legislating U.S. Senate has recently made a big mark with its confirmation of dozens of judicial nominees, according to a Politico article. The shift comes after a major change to Senate filibuster rules.

Senate Democrats exercised what has been called the “nuclear option” last year, eliminating the filibuster of all Cabinet nominees and all judicial nominees except those for the Supreme Court. Politico reported, “Over a roughly equivalent period during the 113th Congress, the Senate confirmed 36 district and circuit court judges before the rules change and 68 after.”

President Obama is getting closer to matching the judicial confirmation records of presidents who preceded him, while making an imprint on the courts. “The legacy of this Congress has been the impact that the president and the Senate have made with judicial vacancies,” said Marge Baker, a vice president of People for the American Way. Read more

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Governor Elevates Judge to North Carolina Supreme Court

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed Judge R.N. “Bob” Hunter of the state Court of Appeals to the state Supreme Court. Judge Hunter also is seeking election to a full term on the high court in a race with Judge Sam Ervin IV.

Judge Hunter told WECT that he hopes the appointment, which takes effect Sept. 6, will give him an advantage. “I hope it’s an advantage. I hope it’s not a disadvantage,” he said. “But I don’t really look at that so much as I look at doing the work and trying to make sure everybody understands that I’m going to be straight down the middle and fair to everybody.”

Judge Hunter will fill the remainder of Justice Mark Martin’s term. Earlier this week McCrory named Justice Martin as Chief Justice, to succeed Chief Justice Sarah Parker when she retires Aug. 31, according to the Associated Press.

Judge Hunter is a Republican, the (Raleigh) News & Observer noted. Judge Ervin is a Democrat. Gov. McCrory is a Republican. Soon five of the high court’s seven seats will be held by Republicans, the newspaper said. The Supreme Court election is non-partisan.


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Kansas Governor: No Inside Track to Court for His Ex-Aide

There will be no personal favorites when he chooses his first nominee to the Kansas Supreme Court, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said.

One of three finalists recommended by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission is Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall (see Gavel Grab), who had served as chief counsel to Brownback before the governor appointed him to the Superior Court last year.

The qualities that he will look for, Brownback said, are “Competency. Judicial temperament. Good, solid intellect. Experience. And somebody who would make a good long-term judge.” He made the remarks to reporters, according to the Wichita Eagle.

State Rep. Jim Ward, an attorney and a Democrat, told the newspaper he believed Judge Stegall will be Brownback’s pick for the state’s highest court, and the appointment would in turn give Brownback another appointment to the state Court of Appeals.

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President Obama Prepares for Possible Supreme Court Vacancy

President Barack Obama spoke to a group of donors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and expressed his goal of holding a democratic majority in the Senate in order to fill potential vacancies in the Supreme Court, Time reported.

“…I need a Democratic Senate. Not to mention the fact that we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments, and there are going to be a whole host of issues that many people here care about that are going to be determined by whether or not Democrats retain the Senate,” he said.

According to the piece, it was the first time President Obama suggested a Supreme Court vacancy in his final years of office.

“The President’s comments were meant to convey the important role the Senate would play in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy,” a White House spokesperson said. “They were not in reference to a specific vacancy.”

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Appointed Judge Challenges NM Democratic Party’s Judicial Nomination

District Judge Gina Manfredi sued the state Democratic Party Tuesday morning over New Mexico’s judicial nomination practice, reports the Albuquerque Journal.

“The conflict created between these two selection procedures further politicizes the judicial selection process, dilutes the New Mexico Constitution, and shifts the focus of the judicial nomination from merit to political support garnered at the state central committee meeting,” the lawsuit says.

Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Manfredi to the 13th Judicial District last month after the deadline to run in the June primary election. Under the constitutional amendment creating the judicial nominating commission process in 1988, judges appointed by the governor are subject to both partisan and nonpartisan elections later in order to remain on the bench. Read more

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Editorial: ‘Stop Playing Politics’ With N.J. Judge Nominations

When the top judge in Bergen County, N.J. recently suspended longer family and civil court trials due to judicial vacancies (see Gavel Grab), he sent a message to politicians to “stop playing politics,” says an editorial in The Record.

This “drastic step” is likely to “inconvenience many people,” the editorial says, yet it was a “bold, but necessary, decision.”

The editorial says Republican Gov. Chris Christie has shown “impressive leadership” on some fronts involving judicial matters, such as bail reform and a new approach to handling non-violent drug users.

Democrats control the state Senate, which must confirm judicial nominees. The editorial concludes, “We need that same type of leadership from the governor and legislators in regard to filling judicial vacancies. Running a court system is one of government’s most traditional functions. It’s irresponsible for court services to be curtailed because of inaction in Trenton.”

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