Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category
Only one federal judge has been confirmed by a Senate vote in 2014, and there are 96 vacant judgeships. In this situation, some analysts and advocates are asking whether the Senate’s reform of its rules last year went far enough.
The reform eliminated filibusters of executive branch and judicial nominees except those appointed to the Supreme Court. But partisan politics continues to play out in the Senate. Republican senators have refused to give the consent needed to vote on judicial nominations without extensive time delays, or in some cases have declined to let the Senate Judiciary Committee hold hearings on nominees, despite home-state senators’ having endorsed them earlier.
“In the meantime, the federal judiciary is at a breaking point,” Jennifer Bendery wrote in a Huffington Post piece. In The Hill, a news article said the reform has done little to ease Senate gridlock and that a coalition of liberal and labor groups has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make further changes to Senate rules.
In addition Rep. Martha Fudge, D-Ohio and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has urged the Senate to end a tradition called the “blue-slip” privilege whereby home-state senators must give consent before the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a judicial nominee.
Thirty-eight of the judicial vacancies are deemed “judicial emergencies,” according to People for the American Way.
After White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett met this week with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss concerns about diversity in nominations to the federal bench (see Gavel Grab), there were differing reactions from lawmakers.
“The CBC continues to applaud the Administration’s record in appointing more African American judges to the bench than any president in U.S. history,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia said. “The meeting afforded us an opportunity for a candid exchange on judicial nominees, including detailing our specific concerns and offering suggestions for working more closely with the CBC to ensure both the nomination and the confirmation of more African American judges.”
Rep. David Scott, a Georgia Democrat who has voiced sharp concerns about the records of two nominees to the federal bench in his state, spoke of disappointment. “This is a terrible mistake, history will record it as such,” he said, according to The Hill. “And it breaks my heart that it’s a black president” who made the nominations. Scott has asked for a chance to testify against several of Obama’s judicial nominees (see Gavel Grab). Read more
In the wake of President Obama’s nominating four individuals for federal judgeships in Florida (see Gavel Grab), a Miami Herald editorial rebuked partisan obstruction of nominees in the Senate and urged the chamber to confirm the judges without delay.
The editorial noted that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with a fellow Republican senator had held up the confirmation of a federal judge in Florida who waited almost two years to gain approval. It continued:
“President Obama is hardly the first Oval Office occupant to see his federal judicial nominations languish in the Senate. But really, senators, almost two years to confirm a single judicial appointment?
“The delays are driven, almost entirely, by crass partisanship. The result is U.S. District Court vacancies that go unfilled, literally, for years. That’s justice delayed, justice denied. And it’s entirely the fault of the U.S. Senate.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles (photo) would become the first openly gay African American man to serve on the federal courts, if he were confirmed by the Senate, according to a Legal Times article.
Also nominated were Circuit Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza and Paul G. Byron for the Middle District of Florida; Circuit Judge Beth Bloom for the Southern District of Florida; and Cheryl Ann Krause, a former federal prosecutor, for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to a CNN blog, the White House published a new graphic display online about the diversity of Obama’s nominees for judgeships, saying, “This is the first time our judicial pool has been this diverse.”
Controversy continues over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to shape a more conservative state Supreme Court, and this time a national group is evaluating Christie’s record.
A new report by the Center for American Progress finds the Republican governor’s efforts without parallel in state history. “Christie is engaged in an unprecedented effort to augment the governor’s influence over the fiercely independent New Jersey Supreme Court,” it says.
The CAP piece by Billy Corriher and Alex Brown portrays Christie’s efforts as an ultimate response to court rulings decades ago involving low-income residents’ rights to adequate housing and public education. You can read in Gavel Grab about Christie’s criticisms of the judiciary and about his nominations to the Supreme Court.
The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP has asked U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (photo) to lift a block he has imposed on the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to a federal district court seat in Burr’s home state of North Carolina.
May-Parker, if confirmed, would be the first African-American judge to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, according to an article in The Voter Update, published by the North Carolina Center for Voter Education.
The judgeship has not had an occupant since 2005 and now claims the longest-running vacancy in the nation. Burr has declined to say why he has refused to consent to the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeding to hold a hearing on the nomination of May-Parker, whom he once endorsed (see Gavel Grab). Read more
A Congressional Black Caucus letter urging President Obama to name African Americans for two federal district court judgeships in Alabama (see Gavel Grab) is getting more news media coverage.
The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser carried an article about the letter that quoted Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala. and a member of the Black Caucus, voicing a sharply critical view. “Our record of black judicial appointments in Alabama is particularly appalling, given that African-Americans make up 26 percent of the population,” Sewell said.
The CBC letter said, “Sixty-four judges have served on Alabama’s district court bench since districts were first established in 1824. Of this number, only three have been African-American.” If Obama nominated African Americans for the two current vacancies, 21.4 percent of the court’s judges would be African American, the letter said. Read more
Six nominees for the federal district court in Arizona were the subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing this week. Although one of them was nominated more than two years ago, and the judgeships for which they were nominated have been deemed “judicial emergencies” due to high caseload levels, the hearing was short and uneventful.
“I’m just glad the Senate is getting around to doing something,” said A. Bates Butler, a former U.S. attorney, according to Cronkite News Service. “Congratulations, Senate, but you shouldn’t have taken so long.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., stressed the importance of proceeding deliberately. “These are lifetime appointments … and we want to be thorough with this process and I believe that we were,” Flake said.
Partisan politics in the Senate played a role in the delays. According to KJZZ, “The judicial emergency was partially triggered by holds placed on the nominees by the state’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.” The senators more recently consented to the hearing. Read more
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Koch will retire in July to serve as dean of the Nashville School of Law, and Gov. Bill Haslam’s Commission on Judicial Appointments is accepting applications from candidates interested in filling the vacancy.
In early March, the screening panel plans to interview qualified applicants. It will then recommend three finalists to Haslam for the post, according to the Associated Press.
The Congressional Black Caucus has written a letter to President Obama about judicial nominations, both commending him in part and voicing criticism in part over a lack of diversity in some regions. Obtained by The Daily Beast, the letter states:
“We recognize your commitment to diversity on the federal judiciary and congratulate you on the recent confirmation of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Robert Wilkins. Judge Wilkins’ nomination is evidence of your desire to correct history’s disregard for the unique qualifications of diverse judicial nominees. However, in a number of jurisdictions, there still remains an inexcusable and unjustifiable lack of racial diversity that must be addressed.”
The letter urges Obama to name African-American judges for two federal district court vacancies in Alabama, noting that only one African American was appointed to the federal bench there (by Obama) in the past 33 years, while 26 judicial appointments were made. ”In light of the controversy over the recent Georgia slate of six nominations, it is our hope that we avoid Read more