Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

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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Is Gridlock on Other Senate Work Speeding Judicial Confirmations?

CapitolflagWhat’s the real reason that the U.S. Senate has accelerated its pace for confirming President Obama’s judges (see Gavel Grab) in recent months?

At Bloomberg View, columnist Jonathan Bernstein suggests that it has more to do with Democratic senators or Obama making a higher priority of filling judicial vacancies, than with a Senate rules change last year that makes it more difficult for opponents to filibuster most judicial nominations.

Bernstein adds, “There are several possibilities to explain why judges became a higher priority, including the limited time remaining in the presidency, the lack of competing demands for the Senate floor in a time of gridlock, and (perhaps) increased agitation from Democratic activists and party-aligned interest groups.”

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Panel Recommends Three Finalists for Kansas High Court

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission, having completed interviews in public of 13 applicants, recommended three finalists for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The recommended candidates included Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, who had previously served as counsel to Brownback and whose nomination to the appeals court last year proved controversial; Court of Appeals Judge Karen Arnold-Burger and state District Judge Merlin Wheeler, according to the Associated Press. Read more

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Short on Judges, New Jersey County Will Suspend Some Trials

When politics collides with selecting judges, the outcome can directly affect people who use our courts. The latest evidence of this concern comes from a NJ.com article reporting the following:

“Scores of divorce and civil trials in Bergen County have been suspended indefinitely due to judicial retirements and an ongoing political battle between the governor and Democratic state senators.”

New Jersey requires Senate confirmation of the governor’s judicial nominees, similar to the federal method for picking judges, but its judges do not get lifetime appointments as federal judges do. Gov. Chris Christie is a Republican, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats. Read more

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Timeliness of Kansas High Court Questioned by Some Applicants

Kansas_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005The Supreme Court Nominating Commission began interviewing applicants for a high court vacancy in public on Monday, at a time the court continued to draw attention over its recent voiding of death sentences given two brothers.

A Topeka Capital-Journal article said some of the applicants, including Court of Appeals Chief Judge Thomas Malone, voiced criticism of the state Supreme Court over the time it took to decide the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr (see Gavel Grab). The case had been pending before the Supreme Court for 10 years, the article said.

It was the first time the interviews of high court applicants were held in public. The screening commission will recommend finalists to Gov. Sam Brownback, who will make his first appointment to the court. Read more

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Editorial: On Judges, Washington Must ‘Get the Process Rolling’

It’s critical that the U.S. Senate not get caught up in partisan politics when it comes to confirming a judge to succeed a distinguished area jurist who is taking senior status, a Buffalo (N.Y.) News editorial says.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara will shift to senior status in January 2015. If successors have not been confirmed for him and for another judge taking senior status next year, Judge William M. Skretny, both have pledged to handle a full caseload as the replacements are awaited.

If new judges are confirmed and Judges Arcara and Skretny keep handling some cases, a backlog of cases could be trimmed, the editorial says. But first, it adds, “Here’s the catch. The White House and Senate must do something they’re not accustomed to doing in such situations: Get the process rolling.”

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Gov. Christie Fires Back, Defends Judicial Nominations Record

Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who came under attack from a conservative group over his state Supreme Court nominations record, has fired back.

At a news conference in New Jersey, Christie said about criticism from the Judicial Crisis Network,  ”I have no respect for folks who are Monday morning quarterbacks — who after all the hitting and fighting are over come into give you the postmortem,” according to the Star-Ledger. ”Those are cowards, in my view.” Read more

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Vacancy Rate for U.S. Appeals Court Judgeships Declines

Vacancies on U.S. courts of appeal have declined from 16 on Jan. 1, 2013, when President Obama was beginning his second term, to eight vacancies this week, according to a Washington Post column. Not since 1990 has the vacancy rate been so low, approaching 4 percent.

On Jan. 1, 2009, shortly before Obama first moved into the White House, there were 13 appellate vacancies, columnist Al Kamen noted. Law Professor Arthur Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh told Kamen that part of the decline in vacancies is due to a change in Senate filibuster rules.

There would be fewer vacancies now had not Republican senators blocked some potential White House picks in advance of their nomination, Kamen wrote. He mentioned controversy over the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition. It is a tradition that entitles home state senators to sign off on judicial nominees (see Gavel Grab for background).

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