Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Report: U.S. Judicial Vacancies Mean ‘No Winners, Only Losers’

why-the-judicial-vacancy-crisis-should-matterIt’s all too frequent for the U.S. news media to portray the important work of confirming judicial nominees as an epic political battle featuring winners and losers. But there are “No Winners, Only Losers, When it Comes to Judicial Vacancies,” Andrew Cohen writes in discussing a new report.

Cohen is a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. His article sums up a report written by the Brennan Center’s Alicia Bannon, entitled “The Impact of Judicial Vacancies on Federal Trial Courts.” Here’s a summary of the report:

“In this study, the Brennan Center interviewed more than 20 chief judges, court administrators, and practitioners from 10 districts which either currently or recently had judicial vacancies to get a firsthand account of how vacancies impact our trial courts. These judges reported that vacancies slowed the court’s ability to resolve motions and try cases, which drove up litigation costs, caused evidence to go stale, made it harder to settle civil cases, and in some instances, pressured clients to plead guilty. They also said vacancies created heavier caseloads, which meant judges had less time to spend on cases, and resulted in fewer administrative staff, which left courts unable to effectively manage dockets. Although some districts are able to compensate for empty seats, their stopgap solutions do not fix the problem and only underscore the need to fill those seats.” Read more

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Commentary: Avoid Further Secrecy on Judicial Applicants’ Names

It’s good for the public to have the names of applicants for the Kansas Supreme Court, a Wichita Eagle editorial page blog says. The writer, Rhonda Holman, says this transparency would be endangered if legislators change the state constitution to dump the current merit selection process for picking justices.

For a new vacancy on the high court, 14 people have applied for consideration by a judicial nominating commission, and they include four members of the state Court of Appeals. Holman notes that this kind of transparency was not in effect when Gov. Sam Brownback appointed a new judge to the Court of Appeals last year; the legislature had changed, by passing a new law, the process for selection of Court of Appeals judges (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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One Pick for U.S. Bench in Georgia Stalled, Another Advances

A nominee for a U.S. appeals court seat in Georgia appears headed for a Senate up-or-down vote next week, as another court nominee chosen in the same package deal between the White House and Georgia’s Republican senators is in limbo.

That news comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes’s nomination for the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals likely will be voted on by the Senate soon, after clearing a procedural vote on Thursday. But the troubled nomination (see Gavel Grab) of state Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs for the U.S. district court in Georgia continues in limbo, the newspaper said. Read more

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Senate Confirms Judge 17 Years After He First Was Nominated

RONNIE L. WHITEThe politics of judicial nominations was a front-and-center topic when the U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronnie White to a federal judgeship. White first was nominated for the post in 1997, and subsequently failed to win confirmation in a GOP-controlled Senate.

Voting largely along party lines, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed White to a district court judgeship by a 53-44 vote, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was for political purposes that White’s judicial record was distorted by foes more than a decade ago, said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri. In fact, at a time he was characterized as soft on law enforcement and the death penalty, he supported upholding the death penalty in almost 70 percent of the cases that came before him as a high court judge, she said.

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17 Years From His First U.S. Judicial Nomination, to Confirmation?

imrsSeventeen years after he was nominated for the federal bench by President Clinton, and his nomination was subsequently defeated, former Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White appears likely to win judicial confirmation by the Senate this week.

Last year, President Obama nominated White to serve on the federal court in Missouri’s Eastern District (see Gavel Grab). Earlier, White was the first African American to serve on Missouri’s high court; opposition to his judicial nomination by Clinton was led by then-Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, a Republican.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a procedural motion early this week that is likely to lead to an up-or-down vote on White’s nomination, a Washington Post blog reported. It said that in the late 1990s, “The African-American nominee was criticized by Republicans as being soft on criminals, and some of his supporters charged that his race played a part in his rejection by the Senate. The friction over the treatment of White has been simmering ever since.”

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Christie’s Record on Judges Criticized on National Stage

ap_Christie_ac_131105.jpg_16x9_992New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is coming in for a hammering from a conservative group over his judicial nominations, as Christie stumps in Iowa.

The Judicial Crisis Network is preparing to run $75,000 in digital ads that are critical of the Republican governor’s record on judicial appointments, Politico reported.  In one ad, the narrator lambastes the New Jersey Supreme Court as “one of the most activist courts in the nation,” assails its “liberal rulings” and says Christie promised to remake the court with “judges who respect the rule of law” and then “broke his promise” repeatedly.

Replied a senior adviser to Christie, Mike DuHaime, “They should get their facts straight.” He said Christie “has nominated multiple conservatives to the Supreme Court, but several have been blocked by the Democrat state senate. And this group has been noticeably absent from each and every judicial fight Governor Christie has had in New Jersey, showing up only to criticize after the fights are over.” Read more

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Lack of Diversity on Federal Bench in North Carolina Spotlighted

“North Carolina has one of the whitest and least diverse groups of federal district court judges in the country,” Sharon McCloskey writes at N.C. Policy Watch, noting that a new district court vacancy was created by an African-American judge’s taking senior status.

District Judge James Beaty Jr., the sole African-American judge who was sitting actively on the federal district court, recently took senior status. Now, the federal district court in North Carolina has nine men and two women — all of them white, McCloskey writes. The state’s population is 70 percent white, 22 percent African-American and eight percent Hispanic. Read more

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Fourteen Seek Nomination to Kansas Supreme Court

KansasFourteen people have applied for nomination by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. On Aug. 4 and 5, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission expects to interview the applicants and then recommend three finalists to the governor.

One of the applicants is Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, a former chief counsel to the governor whom Brownback named a judge last year under a new process adopted by the legislature for that court. It  dumped any role for a nominating commission, according to the Associated Press, and added a requirement for state Senate confirmation. Read more

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For Massachusetts High Court, a Historic Confirmation

Superior Court Justice Geraldine Hines will become the first African-American woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Governor’s Council voted 8-0 to approve her nomination, the Associated Press reported.

Justice Hines, a Mississippi native, also has worked as a law professor and as a private attorney specializing in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. She was nominated for the state’s top court by Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Looking back on my humble beginnings as a child of the segregated South and all that Jim Crow represents, a flood of emotions washes over me,” Justice Hines said after she was nominated. A recent State House News Service has more about her background and views on judging.

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What’s Behind the Senate’s Stepped-Up Judicial Confirmation Pace?

The U.S. Senate’s accelerated pace for confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees since making an important rules change in November (see Gavel Grab) has more to do with Democrats pressing for action than with the rules change, Brookings Institution expert Russell Wheeler says.

After an in-depth examination of Senate procedure and Senate vote counts on the nominees, Wheeler concludes in a Brookings blog post:

“Bottom line: The rules change likely enabled at most twelve of the 61 post-rules change confirmations, and it more likely enabled only six.

“The frenetic pace of 2014 confirmations is due mainly to Senate Democrats’ desire to secure as many as they can before the November elections and the possibility of losing control of the confirmation process.”

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