Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

N.J.: Search for Fix Amid ‘Political Football’ Over Court

seal of the supreme court of njTwo former New Jersey Supreme Court justices who were appointed by Republican governors support a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee tenure for state judges unless they are found unfit for the bench, a Wall Street Journal article says.

The newspaper takes an in-depth look at the new proposal. On Friday the New Jersey Bar Association adopted a resolution calling for the measure (see Gavel Grab), and the idea behind it first was put forth by former Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Thomas Kean. Justice Stein recently called for an end “to the diminishment and demoralization of the judicial branch of our state government.”

Also in support is former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, who was nominated by Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. ”An amendment would memorialize the system and make it stronger and less fragile,” she said. Read more

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Would GOP Senate Bring Blockade of High Court Nominees?

CapitolflagIf Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate in November, would the new Senate majority impose an all-out blockade of any nominee picked by President Obama for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015-2016? At Bloomberg View, political scientist Jonathan Bernstein handicaps the prospects of such a sweeping political maneuver.

Bernstein’s opinion piece is entitled “Republicans Should Resist Urge to Blockade Supreme Court.” He explains why it would be harmful if one party were to engage in such a baldly partisan blockade of any Supreme Court nominee selected by a president:

“This is all about blockading a seat on the Supreme Court, by refusing to confirm any potential nomination by President Barack Obama. I don’t know that I’d call that a constitutional crisis, but it would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. On the other hand, opposing a particular nominee is perfectly proper. The number of Democratic senators should determine how easy it is for Obama and the Democrats to be able to seat who they want, just as Republicans should be increasingly able to limit Obama as their own Senate conference gets larger. Read more

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Editorial: When Judgeships are Vacant, Court Users Suffer

Judicial-VacanciesAmericans who use the federal courts to resolve their cases are the people who are hurt the most by dozens of vacancies on the federal bench, caused in large part by political maneuvering, says an editorial in the (Bryan, Texas) Eagle.

The editorial points to 10 unoccupied federal judgeships in Texas, vacant for an average of almost two years, and says the situation is outright “unacceptable.”

While President Obama hasn’t made nearly as many judicial appointments in Texas as his predecessor, President George W. Bush, other factors are in play too, the editorial notes: “For their part, Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are doing their best to delay confirmation of judicial appointments as long as possible, perhaps hoping for a Republican presidential victory in 2016. We can’t wait that long.” Read more

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N.J. Bar: Guarantee Tenure for Judges, Unless They’re Unfit

Bar President Lamparello

Bar President Lamparello

It’s time to consider rewriting the New Jersey Constitution to guarantee tenure for state judges unless they are found unfit for the bench, the New Jersey State Bar Association says. Its plea follows Gov. Chris Christie’s refusal in recent years, breaking from tradition, to reappoint two state Supreme Court justices.

According to a Star-Ledger article, the bar group wants legislators to weigh putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.

“The amendment would formalize the original intent” of the state constitution, bar President Ralph Lamparello said. “To assure the independence of judges, the framers made clear that denial of reappointment was only for those found to be unfit.” Read more

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Judicial Nomination Caught up in Latest Senate Squabble

CapitolflagApparently exasperated with the slow progress of federal judicial nominations and other Senate business, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday announced the Senate would not recess this week until a confirmation vote had been held for a Ninth Circuit nominee.  ”We’re not punting,” Reid replied in response to questions about whether the vote would be delayed until after a two-week recess, according to a report in CQ Roll Call.

It was the latest in a series of showdowns and confrontations over judicial nominations, which have become political footballs in recent months.  A change in Senate rules earlier this year did not result in much of the hoped-for progress in filling vacancies (see Gavel Grab).

In the case of Michelle T. Friedland’s nomination, the Senate had voted to invoke cloture earlier in the week, thereby allowing it to go forward for an up-down vote.  But GOP Senators were unwilling to forego 30 hours of post-cloture debate time allowed under Senate rules.  In response, according to a report in Politico, Reid dug in on Thursday, and a tense confrontation ensued before a deal was struck allowing Senators to depart for recess – and delaying Friedland’s confirmation until after the Easter break.

 

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Senator Leahy Staunchly Defends Blue Slips

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy wrote an opinion piece in the Rutland Herald responding to the call from the New York Times to end the blue slip process that it called an “archaic Senate tradition.”

Leahy vehemently defends the importance of the process.

“The judicial confirmation process in the Senate has grown increasingly difficult. If a president does not consult with home-state senators to seek their advice on nominees, it is far less likely the nominee will have their support and be confirmed. The blue slip is just a piece of paper and could be eliminated today, but that would not change the importance of home-state senators’ support for confirming judicial nominees to the states they represent,” he wrote.

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Critics Continue to Cite Blue Slip Abuse

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy continues to receive criticism that the blue slip process is delaying judicial nominations.

According to USA Today, the arcane Senate tradition that entitles home state senators to sign off on judicial nominees is under fire from critics, including the White House.

“However, problems arise when senators abuse the blue slip system — either by vetoing nominees and potential candidates without explanation, or by refusing to engage in our efforts at consultation in a timely manner,” Eric Schultz, White House deputy press secretary said in a statement. “This abuse is a significant constraint on the president’s selection of potential nominees and on his ability to quickly nominate individuals to fill long-standing vacancies.”

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Judicial Nominations Process Remains Mired in Politics

Judicial-VacanciesFederal judicial vacancies remain at high levels, as nominations continue to be embroiled in political fights. In Texas, The Dallas Morning News’ Dallas News  website reports that finger-pointing between the White House and the state’s two U.S. Senators continues, as federal courts that handle Texas cases operate with 10 vacant judgeships.  Highlighting the controversy, the article cites a report by the Center for American Progress claiming that “The blame for this judicial vacancy crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of Texas’s two U.S. senators.”  Senator John Cornyn’s office fired back, claiming that ”the senators have sent at least three potential nominees to the White House for consideration,” according to the Dallas News piece.

Meanwhile, a federal judicial nominee in Nevada advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee despite last-minute  “surprise opposition,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.   Richard Boulware’s hearing in the committee was uneventful, the paper reported, so a Thursday rollcall vote, in which every Republican committee member except one voted against him, was unexpected.  Critics questioned why those voting against Boulware had not raised objections during his hearing.  Boulware’s nomination advanced after the committee’s Democratic majority voted to move it forward.

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Public Interest Lawyers Face Tough Path to Federal Bench

The need for professional diversity on the federal bench led Justice at Stake to cosign a letter with 31 other groups urging senators to recommend judicial nominees with experience advocating for the public interest.

According to an article by Think Progress, the problem runs deep.

“But the truth is that public interest lawyers who wish to become judges face a much deeper structural problem than Senate procedure or the attitudes of particular elected officials — and it’s not at all clear that this structural problem has a solution.”

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Ninth Circuit Court Vacancy Filled After Nine Years

John_Owens_2013The longest vacancy on any federal circuit court was filled Monday after the Senate confirmed Los Angeles attorney John Owens to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The delay in filling the vacancy had more to do with a fight between two states than the usual partisan bickering that’s held up previous judicial seats. SFGate reports that Appeals court judgeships are informally apportioned among states in each circuit. Senators from both Idaho and California laid claim to the seat.

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