Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Senate Confirms Batch of Judges Before Taking Recess

Capitol_domeThe Senate confirmed a batch of federal district court nominees before it began a Thanksgiving recess, and news reports said several of them bring greater diversity to the bench.

Bankruptcy Judge Pamela Pepper will become the first woman to sit on the Eastern District of Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin Law Journal. Veteran federal prosecutor Brenda K. Sannes will become the second woman to serve as a U.S. district judge in Syracuse, N.Y., Syracuse.com reported. Both received unanimous votes.

On voice votes, the Senate confirmed U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo of Newark to the  district court in New Jersey and attorney Wendy Beetlestone to sit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  There was news coverage from NorthJersey.com and Philly.com. Read more

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Senator Links ‘Amnesty,’ Possible Retaliation on Judicial Nominations

> on May 16, 2013 in Washington, DC.“If the president announces executive amnesty,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas declared in a Politico Magazine essay, “the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee—executive or judicial—outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists.”

The warning shot by Cruz was fired shortly before President Barack Obama was scheduled to address the nation on TV on Thursday evening and announce an executive action on immigration. There was rancorous debate in advance of the announcement, the New York Times said.

On another front relating to filibustering judicial nominees, a Wall Street Journal opinion was headlined, “Republicans and the Filibuster: The Senate GOP shouldn’t create a double standard for nominees.” It is available through Google.

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Some Judicial Nominees Face Stalling Tactics in Senate

Senate Republicans are using delaying tactics to stall or block a number of President Obama’s judicial nominees in the current lame-duck session, even though some nominees supported by Republicans also are getting sidelined, Huffington Post reports:

“Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed Senate Judiciary Committee action by a week on nine judicial nominees for no evident reason. That group includes three Texas nominees with strong support from Texas Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R). Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is refusing to submit his so-called ‘blue slip’ to advance a Utah judicial nominee he’s previously praised as ‘well known and highly regarded.’ And Republicans are forcing four Georgia judicial nominees with strong support from Georgia’s GOP senators to each wait an extra day before they can get confirmed.” Read more

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Commentary: Obama’s ‘Remarkable’ Success in Naming Judges

Despite criticism from foes and usual allies, President Obama “has actually enjoyed remarkable success in nominating and confirming very qualified mainstream candidates while shattering all records for diversity vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and sexual preference,” writes a law professor who tracks the nominations.

At a blog for The Hill, Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond points out that there are only seven federal appellate court vacancies, the fewest since 1990, as well as 54 district court openings. And Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, has stated that “60 vacancies is full employment” for the bench, according to Tobias.

Urging GOP cooperation in filling judicial vacancies in the Senate’s lame-duck session, Tobias writes, “Now that Republicans have captured a majority in the next Senate, members who value a smoothly functioning judiciary, should remember that President Obama filled the many vacancies with well qualified moderate jurists who have improved the quality of federal justice.”

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N.Y. High Court Will Be Short One Judge, Due to Senate Delay

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest pick for the Court of Appeals would give the state’s highest court a Democratic majority for the first time since 2000. The state Senate appears unlikely to take up the nomination in the required 30-day period but still can take action later.

Cuomo nominated Justice Leslie E. Stein in mid-October to take the place of Judge Victoria A. Graffeo, a Republican whom he decided not to reappoint, according to the New York Times. Cuomo is a Democrat.

Cuomo’s nominee “is likely to face some questions from the Senate G.O.P., who will be fully in charge of the chamber come January,” reported North Country Public Radio. The governor delayed his choice earlier, and now the Senate’s delay means that in December, the court will be one judge short of its full complement.

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Commentary: Senate Should Confirm Judges in Lame-Duck Session

Capitol_domeAfter Republicans campaigned on the notion of ending gridlock in Washington, it would be wise for Senate Republicans to help confirm judicial nominees — and expand diversity on the bench — in the lame-duck session, an advocate contends.

“The Senate should move quickly to diversify North Carolina’s all-white district court bench and confirm the first black women to Georgia’s federal bench. African-American nominees to district courts in California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas should be confirmed by the end of the session,” Leslie Proll urged in a commentary at The Root.

Proll is director of the Washington, D.C., office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Meanwhile the Associated Press reported, “Democrats’ hopes to confirm Obama nominees limited.”

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TN Governor Sets up Council for Judicial Appointments

Using an executive order, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has created an  11-member Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments. His action came in the same week that voters approved a constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are chosen (see Gavel Grab).

The governor will appoint members of the Council, according to a Tennessean article. The Council will screen candidates for appellate judgeships and recommend three candidates to the governor for a vacancy, with the governor choosing one from the list or requiring the Council to submit another list of three names.

After the governor appoints a judge, his or her nomination will be subject to legislative confirmation, as a result of the new constitutional amendment. The amendment writes into the state constitution an appointive-and-retention election process for choosing appellate judges.

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Senate Urged to Confirm Judges in Lame-Duck Session

CapitolflagWith Republicans preparing to control the Senate next year, there is new attention paid to the issue of confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees.

At Huffington Post, Paul Gordon advocates action in the upcoming lame-duck Senate session to confirm two dozen nominees for federal judgeships:

“It is not a controversial or partisan position to state that our courts should be staffed. And it should not be a controversial or partisan position to say that the Senate should be allowed to vote by year’s end on whether to confirm the two dozen judicial nominees whose time would be better spent hearing cases rather than waiting out partisan senators.”

Gordon is senior legislative counsel for People for the American Way. At Bloomberg View, Noah Feldman writes “What Republican Senate Means for Supreme Court.” At National Review Online, Ed Whelan writes, “Don’t Bring Back the Judicial Filibuster: Why Republicans have to leave the process — which comports with tradition — alone.”

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Time of Uncertainty for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The sudden retirement this week of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who was dragged down by a pornographic email scandal, and the upcoming age-required retirement of Chief Justice Ronald Castille will create two openings on the court to be filled temporarily by gubernatorial appointment.

All told, three open seats on the seven-member court will be up for election next year and a “stampede” of high court candidates is expected to run, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, Justice McCaffery’s retirement may leave the state Supreme Court without a tie-breaking vote for the rest of 2014.

There have been numerous calls for a switch to merit selection of top judges in the wake of the recent scandal (see Gavel Grab). In one of the latest, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial declared, “Where’s the merit? Another bad justice leaves the state’s top court/And it’s time to say good riddance to the system of electing judges in Pennsylvania.”

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More Commentary Seeks Rejection of Amendment 3 in Florida

Published opinion in Florida continues to pound away at a proposed constitutional amendment to allow an outgoing governor certain prospective appointments of judges.

“Floridians must reject the Legislature’s proposal to strip the power to appoint judges from the newly elected governor and give that power to an unaccountable lame-duck governor,” Howard L. Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, writes in a Tallahassee Democrat op-ed.

An Ocala Star Banner editorial says, “The constitution is clear about when appointments should occur and who should make them,” and it urges voters to reject Amendment 3 on Election Day. To learn more about the debate over Amendment 3, see Gavel Grab.

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