Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category
The serious business of confirming qualified federal judges has hit a procedural roadblock in the case of prosecutor nominated to fill an eight-year-old judicial vacancy, the nation’s longest-running, in North Carolina.
President Obama announced in June his plans to nominate Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the job. She received a “unanimously qualified” rating from an American Bar Association screening panel. Obama’s intention to nominate an African-American woman for the post was praised by civil rights advocates advocating for greater diversity on the bench.
However, under Senate tradition, both home-state senators must signal their consent by giving “blue slips” before the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on a judicial nominee, and Republican Sen. Richard Burr has not done so. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has returned her “blue slip.” Because of Burr’s inaction, May-Parker has received no hearing before the Judiciary Committee, according to the Wilmington Star-News. Read more
Republican senators and other critics of President Obama’s efforts to fill three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have used the fear-inducing term “court-packing” to deride the president. While wrong, they are effectively advocating “court-shrinking,” a similar political manipulation of the courts, Jeff Shesol writes in a Reuters blog post.
Shesol is author of a book about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Supreme Court, which Roosevelt unsuccessfully attempted to expand in the 1930s, drawing critiques that he was engaging in “court-packing.”
Actually, Shesol writes, “court-shrinking and court-packing are two sides of the same coin: Both manipulate the size of the judiciary to force a shift in its direction.” To back up his analysis, he writes a brief history of efforts in Washington to shrink existing courts, then draws a parallel with current efforts of Senate Republicans whether through legislation or obstruction. Read more
From the Patricia Millet confirmation hearing to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Are More Judges Always the Answer?” many questions revolve around the D.C. Circuit Court. The problem is – are the questions the right ones?
According to a Brookings blog, a major question at the hearing was “whether Congress should enact Senator Charles Grassley’s bill (with 17 cosponsors, all Republican) to transfer two vacancies to other circuits and eliminate the third.”
The piece goes on to state that Grassley is right that Congress needs “smart ways to reallocate our judicial resources” but wrong about what those “smart ways” are.
“If Congress is serious about finding ways to reallocate appellate judgeships, it should ask the Judicial Conference, with the Center’s assistance, to try to develop an empirically based, conceptually grounded system for comparing appellate court workload that is more precise than the slightly adjusted raw filings now used as a guideline to inform the Conference’s assessment of appellate court judgeship needs.”
Accusations of “court packing” and calls to reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals highlight the intense and political divide the court faces.
The D.C. Circuit is widely regarded as the second most important federal appellate court. That’s one reason a Roll Call blog claims, “…that President Barack Obama is now trying to push three new judges onto the court and tilt it decisively in his favor.”
That argument is met with a simple response. “When President Barack Obama nominates judges to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he isn’t packing the court – he’s doing his job,” the Houston Chronicle states.
Another argument surrounding the D.C. Circuit Court is the number of justices it requires to do its complex job. A Republican- sponsored bill seeks to eliminate three seats on the court, permanently reducing the number of judges from 11 to eight.
A Republican filibuster means the nomination of a judge who has received praise for her qualifications from both sides of the aisle will not come up for a vote.
Patricia Millett, President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Washington, D.C., Circuit failed to clear a procedural hurdle after Republicans voted against bringing her nomination to a vote.
According to The Atlantic, “The Republicans in the Senate just filibustered the nomination of a highly-talented lawyer and hard-working woman of faith who is married to a member of our armed forces. In doing so, by defeating today’s cloture vote, they prevented this nominee from re-joining the federal government even though Millett received enough votes to pass a straight-majority vote for her post.”
A Washington Post blog post said Republicans opposed Millett’s nomination because they feared it would tip the balance of power on the D.C. Circuit court, which is generally thought to be the second most important court in the country, behind the Supreme Court. The GOP also argued that the circuit court’s small caseload didn’t require a swift confirmation.
The battle between Democrats and Republicans over judicial nominations heats up as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Republican charges that President Obama is trying to ideologically stack the court “ridiculous.”
According to Politico.com, Reid plans to move forward on the nomination of Patricia Millett to the court this week. He believes there are enough members of the GOP to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Politico reports that Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pushing a bill that would eliminate three seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and reallocate two of them to other circuit courts. The bill has 16 Republican co-sponsors after Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rob Portman of Ohio signed on this week.
Tuesday, Justice at Stake sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee concerning the hearing titled “Are More Judges Always the Answer?” The letter restates JAS’ opposition to the bill. In the letter, JAS responds to calls to eliminate seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“…we are concerned about a reduction of seats on a court that is widely regarded as the second most important federal appellate court. The D.C. Circuit, as you know, routinely considers cases that implicate some of the most technical issues of administrative and national security law.”
According to The New York Times, “Unless one party backs down, the battle could escalate into a reprisal of the partisan strife that paralyzed the Senate for several weeks over the summer. But this time the long-term implications could be far greater, both for the Senate as an institution and for the ability of any president to shape the ideological bent of the federal bench.”
Senate democrats are expected to call a vote for the president’s nominee, Patricia Ann Millett, a Washington lawyer with bipartisan credentials.
“If it is successfully filibustered, I think that the pressure on changing the rules would be almost insurmountable,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee told The New York Times. Speaking to Ms. Millett’s qualifications, he said, “If we were dealing with logic and honesty and what’s best for the court, we’d have 100 votes.” Read more
Renewed partisan battling in the Senate over judicial nominations is expected soon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to force a Senate vote this week on the nomination of veteran attorney Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Some Republicans have voiced opposition to Millett and two other recent nominees of President Obama’s for the D.C. Circuit Court, as it is called, yet is not yet clear whether the Republicans will wage an all-out fight, the Blog of Legal Times reported.
That’s not all. In the Republican-controlled House, the Judiciary Committee was planning a hearing today on the following topic: “Are More Judges Always the Answer?” The House does not have any role in the judicial confirmation process. To learn about Read more
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has rejected lawyers recommended by the Florida Bar for commissions that screen judicial nominees on 16 different occasions. “This is a pretty blatant example of politicizing the court, and citizens should be concerned,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
A Tampa Bay Times article said Scott (photo) has been “seeking to bring the court system more in line with his conservative outlook.” But the chief counsel for Scott said the governor “wants people with humility, and he wants judges who will follow the law and not make it up as they go along.”
No nominees recommended by the Florida Bar to service on judicial nominating commissions were rejected by Scott’s two predecessors, the newspaper said. The nine-member commissions currently include five members chosen outright by the governor and four chosen by the governor from lists provided by the Bar’s board of governors. Read more
Former Florida state Sen. Alex Villalobos, president of Democracy at Stake, says the U.S. Senate must stop playing games with federal courts and confirm qualified judicial nominees. Villalobos also is a member of Justice at Stake’s board of directors.
In the past year more than 195 million Americans have resided in a place with a federal courtroom vacancy, Villalobos writes in a Tampa Tribune commentary, and the resulting backlog of cases “makes it difficult for most Americans to have their cases heard in a timely manner.”
Villalobos, a former state Senate Majority Leader, says political obstructionism is at fault:
“Part of the American ideal of fairness is the right to have ‘your day in court.’ Every person in our country should have timely access to courts staffed with qualified judges to hear their disputes. But today, record numbers of judicial seats are empty because of unprecedented obstruction in Washington, placing the American right to a speedy trial in peril. This kind of gamesmanship belongs on a basketball court but certainly not in our federal courts.” Read more