Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Brownback Makes Second Court Appointment Under New Law

urlKansas Gov. Sam Brownback has announced his nomination of Kathryn Gardner to the state Court of Appeals. She has served as a longtime law clerk to a federal judge, as an assistant attorney general and as a lawyer in private practice.

It was the second time Brownback has nominated a Court of Appeals judge under a new law that eliminated a judicial nominating commission screening process, called merit selection. Before the Republican-dominated legislature dumped that process, Gardner applied for two different openings on the appeals court, the Associated Press reported.  She was not recommended by the commission as a finalist either time.

Brownback called the nominee thoughtful and intelligent. He noted that she writes cowboy poetry and called her a “renaissance woman.” Her nomination must be confirmed by the state Senate. Read more

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Will Senate Eliminate Filibusters of High Court Nominees?

When Senate Democrats changed the rules in 2013 to gut the filibuster of executive branch nominees and most judges, Supreme Court justices were excluded. Now some Senate Republicans are proposing to gut the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees too.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told Politico, “What we would like to do is adopt by rule the way the Senate has always operated.” He added, “The history of the Senate has been up-or-down votes, as I call them, at 51.”

A Wall Street Journal blog said that if successful, the move “would heighten the stakes for one party to control both the Senate and the White House after the 2016 elections, enabling the winner to far more easily confirm the lifetime appointments to the high court.”

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Obama Surpasses Predecessors for Getting Judges Confirmed

CapitolflagPresident Obama has completed six years in the White House with a success rate in winning confirmation of judges that exceeds that of his predecessors at a corresponding point.

Obama’s judicial confirmation rate is 92 percent, compared to 89 percent for President Clinton and 84 percent for President Bush, according to scholar Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution.

The Senate confirmed 89 judges this year, and many analysts have been quick to assign that success rate to the chamber’s changing its filibuster rules in November 2013. The change has meant that most judicial nominees require only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than an effective supermajority of 60 votes, for confirmation. Wheeler has been less willing than many to accept this reasoning. He explains: Read more

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Kruger Easily Confirmed for California Supreme Court

Although California Supreme Court nominee Leondra Kruger, 38, had encountered some criticism earlier (see Gavel Grab), the Commission on Judicial Appointments voted unanimously on Monday to confirm her.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee will become the first African-American justice to sit on the state’s highest court in almost a decade, the Sacramento Bee said.

Kruger, a California native, is a deputy assistant U.S. attorney general. She will join the court next month.

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Scholar: Obama Has Diversified the Bench in a Historic Way

white-house-job-1The scope of President Obama’s imprint on the nation’s federal courts is coming into focus. A longtime expert on judicial nominations says Obama’s legacy on shaping a more diverse bench is sweeping and historic.

“What Obama has done within terms of his judicial legacy is what no other president has ever done before and it’s doubtful that any future president is going to match it,” Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told TIME. “Obama has diversified the bench in terms of gender, ethnicity, nationality to an extent never, ever, ever done before.”

The TIME report also mentions that according to an academic study, Obama is “on track to be the first president in U.S. history to have a majority of his judicial nominees be either women or persons of color.” In President Reagan’s administration, by contrast, white men made up 85% of appointed judges. Read more

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Brown Brushes Off Criticism of his High Court Nominee

Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Leondra Kruger, a 38-year-old U.S. Department of Justice employee, for the California Supreme Court is getting some heat.

Ric Sims, a retired appellate judge, questioned her lack of judicial experience and working knowledge of California law, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. 

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown said about Kruger, who would become the sole African American justice on the state’s highest court, “Were there no qualified African Americans in California?” Read more

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Though Senate Confirms Many Judges, Some Nominees Left in Limbo

The Senate adjourned this week after having confirmed the most federal judges in a two-year Congress since 1980, the Washington Post reported. At the same time, opposition left some judicial nominees in limbo.

One was Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, according to RH Reality Check. He had encountered outcries from leading Democrats and some groups supporting them over  past positions taken by then-legislator Boggs on volatile issues including the Confederate flag, abortion rights and marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab).

Another was Jennifer May-Parker, nominated for the Eastern District of North Carolina, according to the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record. Her nomination became stalled after Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., blocked it through an arcane Senate procedure called the “blue slip” (see Gavel Grab), without publicly explaining his reason. Read more

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Senate Confirms 12 Judges in its Final Act

The Senate voted to confirm 12 district court judges on Tuesday night, including Loretta Biggs, who will become the first African American woman to serve as a district judge in North Carolina, and Robert Pitman of Texas, who will become the first openly gay judge to serve in the Fifth Circuit.

The rush of confirmations came as the Senate was wrapping up business in its lame-duck session. A Huffington Post article about the confirmations was headlined, “The Senate Just Cemented Obama’s Judicial Legacy,” and it reported that 89 district and circuit court judges were confirmed this year. (See Gavel Grab for mention of an earlier Associated Press article about the statistics of judicial confirmations this year.)

“These confirmations mean that, for Americans across the country, justice will no longer be delayed,” Michelle Schwartz of Alliance For Justice said. “They also mean that taxpayer money will be saved by avoiding needlessly duplicative paperwork and Read more

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Earlier Public Comment Allowed on Prospective R.I. Judges

Rhode Island’s Judicial Nominating Commission has revised its rules to permit public comment on candidates for judgeships before the commission interviews them in public as part of its vetting process.

According to a Providence Journal article about the new rule, “The intent is to give the panel an opportunity to explore concerns or issues raised by the public — and for contenders to have the chance to respond to any criticisms raised.”

In 1994, Rhode Island adopted by constitutional amendment a merit-based selection system for choosing judges. That followed a series of scandals involving state Supreme Court justices.

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Will Senate Wrap Up Work By Confirming 12 More Judges?

CapitolflagIn the final days of its lame-duck session, the Senate could confirm as many as 12 judicial nominees, the Associated Press said. If that happens, President Obama will have won confirmation of 88 judge nominees this year, more than any president since 1994.

“He’s changed the face of the judiciary,” said scholar Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution. “Whether or not that will have a long-term impact, I think, is another question.”

In November 2013 the Democrat-led Senate voted to change its rules to eliminate filibusters of cabinet nominees and federal judges other than Supreme Court justices. The change has meant that these nominees require only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than an effective supermajority of 60 votes, for confirmation. Since the rules change, the Senate’s confirmation of judges has accelerated. Read more

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