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Obama Overtakes Bush for Judicial Nominations

President Obama has moved ahead of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, for nominations made to the federal bench at this point in his presidency, but Obama lags for judges who have been confirmed.

That news from the Alliance for Progress was mentioned in a Washington Post blog that also looked ahead at the difficulty some of Obama’s nominees may face in winning confirmation before the Congress goes home for its December holiday this year.

Obama has submitted 271 judicial nominations compared to 240 for Bush in a corresponding time period. The Senate has confirmed 76 percent of the Democrat’s nominees, putting 203 judges on the bench, compared to 90 percent and 215 judges for his Republican predecessor during a corresponding period.

Last year, Obama lagged behind Bush for judicial nominations (for background, see a Gavel Grab post from January 2012). Read more

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Obama, Emphasizing Diversity, Steps up Judicial Nominations

President Barack Obama, working to bring far greater diversity to the federal bench, has stepped up dramatically his pace for picking judicial nominees. Since January, he has announced three dozen court candidates, the Washington Post reports.

At the same time, Senate Republicans present a significant obstacle. There are some conservatives who say a push to diversify the judiciary further smacks of an affirmative action scheme that is not warranted.

The Post’s lengthy, front-page article included these Obama achievements in pressing for a more diverse group of federal judges:

  • Female judges sit on appeals courts for the first time in four states.
  • African-American judges sit on appeals courts for the first time in five states, and Hispanic judges in two. Read more
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Obama Still Falls Behind Bush in Judicial Nominations

President Barack Obama has stepped up the pace of federal court nominations but still has made fewer in his first three years in office than did President George W. Bush in a corresponding period, according to a Blog of Legal Times post.

The blog reported on Russell Wheeler’s paper, “Judicial Nominations and Confirmations after Three Years — Where Do Things Stand?” The president has made 133 district court and 37 appellate nominations, compared to Bush’s 165 and 49 nominations, respectively.

The Brookings paper presented these trends for Obama’s first three years:

  • While the pace of nominations and confirmations rose, district court vacancies have increased. The number of retirements has been atypically high. Read more
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Some Judicial Nominations Returned to Obama

The political clock is ticking for confirmation votes this year on a number of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

The Senate, now on recess, has sent back to the White House five of the more contentious nominations including that of federal appeals nominee Goodwin Liu. The nomination of Liu, a Berkeley law professor, may be the most controversial of Obama’s judicial appointments, according to a NPR report.

You can learn more about Liu from Gavel Grab; Republicans have blocked his nomination for months. Assuming the nomination is re-submitted by the White House when the Senate returns in September, its future is quite uncertain. Overall, about 100 federal judgeships are waiting to be filled.

In a separate NPR piece, Ron Elving examines recent national issues of great importance and divisiveness that have simmered over in federal courtrooms, including gay marriage and immigration law, and he suggests that for now, at least, some federal judges have risen into the spotlight from their more typically obscure benches. This may also bear on the partisanship in the Senate on judicial nominations, he says: Read more

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Essay: Republicans Still Obstructing Judicial Nominees

United_States_Capitol_dome_daylightAlthough the Senate has stepped up its pace for confirming judges (see Gavel Grab), judicial nominees of President Obama’s still have to wait longer for confirmation than was the case under Obama’s three predecessors.

Jonathan Bernstein writes at Bloomberg View of this phenomenon, relying on information from a Twitter-based data collector.

Bernstein faults Senate Republicans for obstructionism and says that since Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year, Republicans “have imposed the maximum delay on every single judicial nominee.” He also expresses a worry that if Republicans capture the Senate in November, “they may simply shut down all nominations for two full years.”

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Is Gridlock on Other Senate Work Speeding Judicial Confirmations?

CapitolflagWhat’s the real reason that the U.S. Senate has accelerated its pace for confirming President Obama’s judges (see Gavel Grab) in recent months?

At Bloomberg View, columnist Jonathan Bernstein suggests that it has more to do with Democratic senators or Obama making a higher priority of filling judicial vacancies, than with a Senate rules change last year that makes it more difficult for opponents to filibuster most judicial nominations.

Bernstein adds, “There are several possibilities to explain why judges became a higher priority, including the limited time remaining in the presidency, the lack of competing demands for the Senate floor in a time of gridlock, and (perhaps) increased agitation from Democratic activists and party-aligned interest groups.”

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For Dozens of Judicial Vacancies, No Nominees Awaiting Action

Judicial-VacanciesAlthough the Senate recently has confirmed dozens of judicial nominees (see Gavel Grab), the vacancies that remain include 38 for which there are no nominees, Huffington Post reports. The blames goes to home-state senators who aren’t recommending candidates to the White House, Jennifer Bendery writes.

“The concentration of vacancies without nominees in certain states clearly shows that some senators are refusing to perform their constitutional duty at the expense of our courts and the citizens trying to access them,” said Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society.

Twenty-one of the 38 vacancies are found in states with two Republican senators, 12 are located in states represented by a single Republican senator. The remaining four are in states represented by two Democrats in the Senate. Read more

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'Liberal Revolt' in Senate on Two Judicial Nominations

Capitol_domeIn a turnaround from the usual partisan politics on judicial nominations, two of President Obama’s judicial picks are facing a “liberal revolt” in the Senate this week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They are law professor David Barron of Harvard, a former Justice Department official, for the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, a former state legislator, for the U.S. District Court.  Women’s groups and some leading African American politicians have been critical of Boggs over stands he took as a legislator; Barron is supported by a coalition of civil rights groups but has come under questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union and some senators over the legal justification he provided for the killing of an American citizen overseas with a drone strike. Read more

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Recapping Obama's Impact on the Courts in Year Six

<> on June 4, 2013 in Washington, DC.The analyses of President Obama’s impact on the courts keep rolling in, especially as journalists wonder whether November’s mid-term elections will turn control of the Senate over to Republicans.

Now a Bloomberg News article sizes up his record to date with the good news/bad news headline, “Obama Irks Allies in Judge Picks as Diversity Hits Record.” It touches on news mentioned in earlier Gavel Grab posts about diversity (click here) and about some nominations that rankle Obama allies (click here).

The article reports that Obama has surpassed his predecessor, President George W. Bush, for the number of judges confirmed to the bench at a corresponding point in his two terms. Forty-four appeals court and 189 district court nominees picked by Obama have been confirmed by the Senate, compared to 43 appeals court and 187 district court nominees chosen by Bush.

Regarding diversity, the article reports these Obama milestones:

  • Women make up 42 percent of Obama’s confirmed judges, versus 22 percent during the Bush administration and 29 percent during President Bill Clinton’s;
  • Racial and ethnic minorities are 36 percent of Obama’s confirmed picks, versus 19 percent under Bush and 25 percent under Clinton;
  • Eight of Obama’s confirmed judges are openly gay, versus zero under Bush and one under Clinton.


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Pennsylvania Group Launches Campaign Against Judicial Nominee

Progressives in Pennsylvania are unhappy with what they say is a back room deal between the White House and its senators surrounding several judicial nominees.

According to the Huffington Post, Keystone Progress, a statewide progressive advocacy group, launched a campaign urging Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) to abandon any plan to recommend corporate lawyer David J. Porter to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

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