Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Historic Judicial Pick Made; No Let-up in Georgia Controversy

Leslie Abrams, a federal prosecutor, would become the first African-American female to serve on a federal court in Georgia if the Senate confirms a nomination announced this week by President Obama.

While the nomination drew praise from Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, he did not back down on his high-profile criticism of another Obama nominee for the federal court in Georgia, Michael Boggs, and neither did the NARAL Pro-Choice America group, the Huffington Post reported. To learn more about controversy over the Boggs nomination, see Gavel Grab.

Meanwhile, Staci Michelle Yandle, nominated for the U.S. District Court in Illinois, “sailed through her confirmation hearing” before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, according to the Washington Blade.  Yandle would become the first African-American lesbian federal judge in two decades if confirmed.

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Protestors Urge Reappointment of New Jersey Chief Justice

Protestors called this week for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to reappoint New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, and they questioned his handling of nominations for the state Supreme Court and other judgeships.

Christie has vowed to reshape the Supreme Court and has declined to reappoint two veteran justices. Critics have contended his actions and statements threaten the independence of the judiciary, and the New Jersey State Bar Association raised that issue recently in urging the Chief Justice’s reappointment (see Gavel Grab).

Outside a court hearing on Tuesday regarding the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, protesters called for reappointment of the judge, who has been publicly criticized by the governor over court rulings. “The court should not bow to the whims of anyone in the administration, they shouldn’t be afraid of political pressure,” said Ann Vardeman of Citizen Action, according to The (Bergen) Record. Read more

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U.S. Senate Confirms Five Federal Court Judges

CapitolflagThe U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to confirm Utah Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Carolyn McHugh to sit on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, making her the first Utah female to sit on that appeals court, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate confirmed the following judges for U.S. District Court seats in Michigan: Matthew Leitman, Judith Ellen Levy, Laurie J. Michelson and Linda Vivienne Parker. All except Parker were unanimously confirmed.

Meanwhile, a Roll Call blog post was headlined, “Next Nasty Nomination Fight for Obama: Michael Boggs on the Hot Seat.” To learn background about opposition by some groups and political leaders more typically allied with President Obama, who are critical of the judicial nomination of Boggs, click here for Gavel Grab.

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Florida Court-Packing Proposal Advances in State Senate

A court-packing proposal that would permit Florida’s next governor to choose a majority of the state Supreme Court (see Gavel Grab) won approval in a state Senate committee, and it faces a hearing in a second committee later.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow an outgoing governor to make prospective appointments of judges. At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, panel chairman and bill sponsor Sen. Tom Lee, a Republican, said the measure was intended to clarify muddled existing law and avoid the possibility of a constitutional crisis when one governor is leaving office, a successor is taking office, and a justice’s term expires on inauguration day.

According to a Miami Herald blog, however, the proposal allows court-packing, and Democrats opposed it:

“[B]ecause of a coincidence of timing, the terms of three of the seven sitting justices are expected to expire at the same time as the term of the next governor. As a result, the proposed amendment effectively allows the governor elected in 2014 to stack the court as one Read more

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Alaska Judicial Screening Panel Overhaul Labeled ‘Court-Packing’

There is crossfire over a legislative proposal to revamp membership of the Alaska Judicial Council by doubling the number of its members who are named by the governor.

The Senate’s Democratic Leader called it a “court-packing” plan, an attorney speaking on behalf of the state Supreme Court opposed the measure, and the House Judiciary Committee chairman, a Republican, said he was “appalled” by the Supreme Court’s taking a stance.

The council serves dual roles, as both a judicial nominating commission and a judicial performance evaluation board. It has three lawyer members appointed by the Alaska State Bar Association, three non-attorney members appointed by the governor, and the Chief Justice as chair. The measure Read more

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Another Court-Packing Plan Weighed in Florida Legislature

A proposed constitutional amendment in Florida puts another court-packing scheme before the  legislature. It would allow an outgoing governor to make prospective appointments of judges, and if passed would permit the next governor to choose a majority of the state Supreme Court, the Miami Herald reports.

If the measure were adopted, the next governor would be able to appoint not only the successor to a justice who retires in January 2017 but also successors to three justices who are scheduled to retire in January 2019, the newspaper said. There are seven justices on the court. The latter three make up the court’s liberal wing; the bill sponsor is a Republican.

The measure specifically allows the governor who is stepping down to make appointments to the bench for vacancies that occur on inauguration day, in order to clarify uncertainty in existing law as to whether such appointments are made by the arriving, or departing, governor.

There is “commotion” in the legal community about giving such Read more

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41 Votes to Filibuster a Judge, Then He’s Confirmed 98-0

CapitolflagWhat doesn’t make sense here? A Talking Points Memo blog reports that the Senate confirmed Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez of Puerto Rico for a federal district court judgeship by a 98-0 vote on Wednesday — the same day that 41 Republicans had voted earlier to filibuster his nomination by blocking an up-or-down vote.

The vote totals suggest that Republicans who sought at one point in the day to block the judicial nomination  did a turnabout when it came to a final vote on confirming the nominee. Talking Points Memo blogger Sahil Kapur remarked only, “The post-nuclear Senate is a strange place.”

Other analysts have written recently (see Gavel Grab) that Senate Republicans are using a variety of procedural tools to try to obstruct judicial nominees, now that Senate Democrats have changed the rules to make filibusters of most judicial nominees much harder or even impossible. The rules change was so controversial it was dubbed the “nuclear option.” Read more

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Screening Panel Recommends Three for Tennessee High Court

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s screening commission for judicial candidates has recommended three finalists for an opening on the state Supreme Court.

The finalists are Appeals Judge Jeffrey Bivins, attorney Linda Knight and Shelby County Juvenile Court Administrative Officer Larry K. Scroggs, according to the Associated Press.

It was announced earlier that Supreme Court Justice William Koch will retire in July to serve as dean of the Nashville School of Law (see Gavel Grab). The appointment to the high court will be the second made by Haslam. The high court has five members.

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‘Everyone Loses’ if N.J. Chief Justice is Not Reappointed: Column

With his refusal in recent years to reappoint two veteran state Supreme Court justices, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has raised real concerns about whether he values judicial independence, or whether he’s simply set on overhauling the court, George Amick writes in a column for The Trenton Times.

This year, Christie faces a decision whether to reappoint Chief Justice Stuart Rabner for a new, and tenured, term. He has called Justice Rabner “activist” and “arrogant” when he disagreed with his opinion on affordable housing. And that, Amick suggests, “unwittingly certified Rabner’s great value to the public as a jurist who refuses to allow his judgment on court matters to be compromised by fear of the governor’s displeasure.”

If Christie forces Justice Rabner off the court, the bench would be harmed and also might face operating with three vacancies out of seven seats. The New Jersey State Bar has urged reappointment of Justice Rabner, saying it would be “an unprecedented intrusion of politics into the judiciary” to do otherwise. Amick agrees. “The governor should heed the advice,” he says. “If he doesn’t, everyone loses.”

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Commentary: Senate Must Fill Judicial Vacancies in Florida

senatelogoDecrying “unprecedented obstruction and delays” in the U.S. Senate over confirming judges, a progressive advocate in Florida says four new nominees for federal district courts in the state must be approved swiftly.

“It shouldn’t be a years-long process to appoint a federal judge. We should expect our senators to fill all the vacancies on Florida’s [U.S.] district courts quickly now that we have extremely qualified nominees,” writes Mark Ferrulo, director of Progress Florida, in a Florida Today op-ed. Sens. Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat, “are the only ones who can make that happen,” he adds.

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