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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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Will Senate Leaders Break the Logjam on Judicial Nominations?

CapitolflagAt the Huffington Post, two separate commentaries address partisan politics in the stalling of judicial confirmations in the U.S. Senate and a model to cool the partisan political heat.

Judith E. Schaeffer of the Constitutional Accountability Center has the piece about partisan politics, headlined “Senate Leaders on Target to Break Obstruction Record.”

In the other piece, Peg Perl of Colorado Ethics Watch describes a bipartisan screening process used jointly several years ago by Colorado’s two senators for identifying potential judicial nominees for vacancies. But now, the state’s two senators have different screening committees, one of them is made up completely of Republicans, and things do not appear to be flowing as smoothly, Perl writes.

To learn about the record of the Republican-controlled Senate this year in confirming judicial nominees of the Democratic president, Barack Obama, see Gavel Grab.

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Scholar: Judicial Vacancies to Increase, Nominations to Decline

CapitolflagA respected tracker of judicial nominations in Washington, Russell Wheeler of Brookings, reports that that vacancies likely will climb in the final two years of President Obama’s administration and nominations will decline.

When the Senate recently began its summer recess, it had confirmed five federal judges in 2015 compared to 26 at a corresponding time in President Bush’s seventh year in the White House and 11 in President Clinton’s, Wheeler says in an analysis at the Brookings FixGov blog. 

“The 2015-16 Senate will likely not match its 1990-2000 and 2007-08 records. President Obama will probably appoint fewer circuit judges than did Clinton or Bush, and fewer district judges than Clinton. More important, unlike in those early periods, vacancies will likely increase,” he forecasts. He mentions, “Some Senate Republicans are apparently using the Senate’s ‘blue slip’ tradition to thwart confirmations by preventing nominations.”

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Confrontation Erupts Over Judicial Nominations

Confirmation Hearings For Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor ContinueSen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are sparring over the pace of judicial confirmations, reported Politico. The confrontation unfolded on Thursday after Grassley blocked the confirmation of three judicial nominees that, according to The Hill, Schumer wanted confirmed.

The New York Democrat complained about the judicial vacancy rate in the U.S. that is at 10%, and the 28 districts that are in a state of “judicial emergency,” mentions Politico. He also called it a “disgrace” that the new Republican-led Senate has only confirmed five federal judges so far, comparing that pace to the confirmation rate of the Democratic-led Senate under President George W. Bush, which at the same point in President Bush’s second term had confirmed 25 judges.

Grassley shot back that the statistics are misleading, arguing that “we’d be roughly at the same pace we were for judicial confirmations this year compared to 2007,″ if 11 judicial confirmations that took place during last year’s lame duck session had been scheduled for this year instead.

GOP leaders will not hold scheduled votes on judicial nominees until at least September, he said.

Meanwhile, President Obama has nominated four Pennsylvania judges to fill federal bench vacancies, reported Legal Intelligencer.

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‘Judicial Emergency’ Declared in Federal Courts in New Jersey

The federal district courts in New Jersey are overloaded with cases, and the Judicial Conference of the United States has declared a “judicial emergency” exists there, reported, while pointing to inaction on several judicial nominations in the U.S. Senate.

Three nominees are awaiting confirmation, and one of New Jersey’s two Democratic senators, Robert Menendez, has accused Senate Republicans of “slow-walking” the appointments. Senate Republicans have rejected this kind of criticism, saying they are giving fair treatment to President Obama’s nominees.

Since the start of 2015, four district judges have retired or taken part-time status, out of 17 U.S. district judges in New Jersey. State residents face frustrations and a logjam in using the federal courts, much as they have until recently found delays in state courts too, the article said: “Until recently, attempts to fill vacancies on the bench within the state’s own system of courts were stymied as Governor Christie battled with Democratic legislators over the fate of nominees.”

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New U.S. Senate Takes its Time on Obama’s Judicial Nominees

CapitolflagSince Republicans took control in January, the U.S. Senate hasn’t confirmed a single judicial nominee of President Obama’s, Huffington Post reported.

Sixteen judicial nominees await action, and eight of them would fill judgeships on courts deemed to be facing “judicial emergencies” due to heavy caseloads.

“It hasn’t always been the case that divided government means judicial nominations come to a halt,” the article said, pointing to Senate action on judicial nominees when President George W. Bush faced a Democrat-controlled Senate.

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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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