Archive for the 'Justice at Stake' Category
After the U.S. Senate confirmed Sri Srinivasan 97-0 to a place on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday, Justice at Stake Director of Federal Affairs and Diversity Initiatives Praveen Fernandes said the vote was a “welcome break” in the logjam of judicial nominations (see Gavel Grab).
In a Legal Newsline article, Fernandes applauds the senators for coming together “in a bipartisan manner to confirm a nominee to the D.C. Circuit, which saw its last confirmation back in 2006.”
The Senate has been criticized for its inability to act swiftly on judicial nominations, and American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson says she hopes Srinivasan’s short wait on the floor will become the “standard, not the exception, for all nominees.”
Justice at Stake said on Thursday it was encouraged by President Obama’s affirmation, in a speech on on national security and counterterrorism policy, that the Constitution’s protections define us as a nation and do not vanish in a time of war.
“For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by founding documents that defined who we are as Americans, and served as our compass through every type of changes. Matters of war and peace are no different,” Obama said.
Some highlights of Obama’s remarks as they involve the courts and judicial review are found in an earlier Gavel Grab post. Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, responded to these remarks in a statement.
JAS commended Obama’s commitment to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones. “The President acknowledged that the targeting of American citizens raises significant constitutional concerns,” Fernandes said. “Leaders from both parties and all three branches of government need to grapple seriously with what the Constitution demands in terms of due process and other protections.” Read more
The Senate voted 97-0 on Thursday to confirm Sri Srinivasan, the principal U.S. deputy solicitor general, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to USA Today. Justice at Stake applauded the bipartisan approach that resulted in a confirmation.
Srinivasan is the first Obama nominee confirmed for what is widely viewed as the nation’s second most influential appeals court. The Senate filibustered earlier and prevented an up-down vote on Obama’s nomination to the court of New York attorney Caitlin Halligan; the 11-member court still has three more vacancies.
“We applaud the fact that Senators were able to come together in a bipartisan manner to confirm a nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court, which saw its last confirmation back in 2006,” said Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, in a statement. “This is a welcome break in a confirmation logjam that has left the nation’s second most important federal appellate court understaffed for years. ” Read more
“It would be wrong to lock up judges for applying the rule of law, and legislation advancing in some states proposes to permit exactly that,” said JAS Deputy Executive Director Liz Seaton in a statement.
“Even if you disagree strongly with federal gun restrictions, slapping handcuffs on judges who do their job is dangerous overreach. Those who oppose federal gun laws can lobby to change them before Congress. Undermining the judiciary is not the answer.”
Efforts to change the way judges are selected have grown into a national trend, according to an Associated Press article about a legislative attack on merit selection in Kansas. The article quoted Justice at Stake prominently.
“It’s relevant because it represented that judicial selection was being discovered by national partisans and special interests,” he said. “Like any good fishing hole, once it’s discovered there’s no going back.”
In Kansas, some legislators are pressing to forge a compromise on changing the way state Supreme Court justices are chosen. Earlier, the Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate merit selection for both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Read more
As North Carolina’s governor and some legislators seek to dismantle the state’s pioneering program of public financing for appellate court candidates, Justice at Stake and some other national and local groups are working to preserve it, the Associated Press reported.
Defenders of the public financing program have pointed to its popularity — all eight candidates in nonpartisan appellate court races statewide last year participated — and to its importance in reducing any public perception that judges may be influenced by campaign donors.
Critics, on the other hand, contend that fiscal responsibility and limited government warrant junking the program. They also maintain that the program doesn’t provide a candidate enough funding for a serious general election campaign.
Only last week, a new law took effect in a different state — West Virginia — making permanent a pilot public financing program for Supreme Court candidates. To read more about that state’s action and Justice at Stake’s applauding it, click here for Gavel Grab.
Since the North Carolina program took effect in 2004, 80 percent of statewide judicial candidates have requested public financing, and several states (including West Virginia) have adopted similar programs. JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg underscored the North Carolina program’s overall success in an interview with the AP.
“Campaign reform is creating a web of deterrents to try to keep cash out of the courtroom and public financing has its place,” Brandenburg said. “But it can’t be expected to do the whole job by itself.” Read more
Justice at Stake saluted West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday for supporting a bill passed by the legislature to make permanent the public financing of state Supreme Court candidates. His acceptance allowed the bill to become law on May 1.
“This is a big step for West Virginia and for the cause of fair courts,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement.
“Governor Tomblin has shown real leadership in ensuring that public financing for Supreme Court elections is here to stay in West Virginia. The Governor and the legislature have ensured that judges don’t have to raise money from parties who appear before them, and reassured West Virginians that judges can stay accountable to the law, not to special interests.”
The legislation was approved by the Senate on a 30-4 vote and by the House on a 70-29 vote. These actions came on the heels of a pilot public financing program that was considered successful in the 2012 state Supreme Court election. Read more
Two former North Carolina governors’ bipartisan support for saving the state’s public financing program for judicial elections is capturing media coverage.
The North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections and Justice at Stake announced this week a collaborative effort to keep state courts free of political and special-interest pressure. Former Govs. Jim Holshouser, a Republican, and Jim Hunt, a Democrat, appear in an on-line video as part of that launch (see Gavel Grab).
In the News & Observer, an article was headlined, “Hunt, Holshouser say don’t mess with judicial elections.” Legislators have proposed eliminating the public financing program, and Gov. Pat McCrory has called for defunding it, but the ex-governors have discussed its success and stated in a letter to the editor:
“It frees judges from the endless money chase and prevents the appearance that justice is for sale.”
At a Charleston School of Law symposium on Monday, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke on how difficult it is for courts to decide cases concerning issues of church and state.
According to the Associated Press, O’Connor said that “religious pluralism lies at the very heart of the American political tradition and I think it remains a major concern as our country becomes ever more the home of larger and larger communities of people from widely different ethnic and religious backgrounds.”
O’Connor discussed the lack of a unified theory for courts to answer these tough questions. She said the Supreme Court has on occasion made contradictory decisions.
“It’s going to remain one of the most difficult areas of the law and grand theories are always going to be eroded by tests of time and experience. The role of the judge is to do the best she can and do the right thing in the case that’s before us – and to try to explain what we’re doing in a way that teaches something for the case that is going to come next,” she said.
The article also noted that O’Connor was named as Honorary Chair of Justice at Stake’s board of directors on Monday (see Gavel Grab).
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a leading voice for fair and impartial courts, is joining Justice at Stake as its first Honorary Chair, JAS Board Chairman Mark Harrison announced on Monday.
“Justice O’Connor has served our country with distinction on the U.S. Supreme Court and also as an elected Arizona legislator, an elected county judge and an appointed state appeals court judge. She knows the courts from all sides, and she brings a unique perspective to our Justice at Stake partnership,” Harrison said in a press release.
“The greatest threat to judicial independence in our country today is the flood of money coming into the courtrooms by increasingly expensive and volatile campaigns,” Justice O’Connor said. “Justice at Stake is a nonpartisan partnership that has done groundbreaking work. I’ve worked with Justice at Stake in the past. I’m happy now to help raise its profile in protecting fair courts around the country.”
JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said, “We’re thrilled that America’s foremost champion for fair courts is joining Justice at Stake’s mission to help educate Americans about the threats to impartial justice.” He added, “When this eminently respected judge warns about campaign politics eroding trust in the courts, people listen.”
Justice O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006. Since stepping down from the court she has sounded a warning about the growth of special-interest money in judicial elections. She has urged states to consider selecting judges not through elections but by merit-based selection, as her home state of Arizona and nearly two dozen other states do. She also has spearheaded a public-minded civics education campaign through iCivics, which she founded in 2009.