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.No comments
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
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
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 moreNo comments
According to Crain’s Chicago Business, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (left) of Illinois claims it is his fault if federal judicial nominees from his state lack diversity. The report states that Durbin made the claim in addressing a recent report by Crain’s that had noted that “President Barack Obama has not named one black man to the federal courts here during his seven years in office—and only three African-American women.”
“Don’t blame Obama. Blame me,” Durbin reportedly said, adding, “Presidents act on recommendations sent to them (by U.S. senators from the affected states).” He went on to say he is “troubled” by the lack of diversity on the bench, while observing that a federal judgeship pays far less than the income a successful attorney can command, which could discourage qualified applicants.
Justice at Stake advocates for diversity on the bench as an essential component of fair and impartial courts. JAS has collaborated on a guidebook, The Path to the Federal Bench, designed to encourage members of underrepresented communities to plan a career on the bench.
President Obama nominated Mary Barzee Flores for a U.S. district court judgeship in Florida in February after her name was forwarded to the White House by Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican. However, Rubio now faces criticism over holding up action on her nomination, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
Her nomination isn’t on the agenda for the final scheduled meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee this year, and Rubio has not submitted the “blue slip” that would permit her nomination to come up for consideration there. His office says the senator is awaiting completion of the committee’s own vetting procedures. Read more
The Obama administration’s federal judicial nominations are moving at such a glacial pace through the Senate, it’s “like pulling teeth” to advance them, according to a Democratic Senate aide quoted in Mother Jones.
The piece notes that the GOP-led Senate has confirmed only nine judges nominated by President Obama so far this year. According to the article, that is the slowest pace of such confirmations in more than 50 years.
The struggle over the pace of nominations has erupted into confrontations between Congressional Republicans and Democrats in recent months, and has led to repeated warnings of a judicial vacancy crisis (see Gavel Grab).
“It’s not unusual for a president to get fewer nominations through the Senate as the end of a White House term nears and the opposition party begins to dream of winning the next presidential election and tapping the judges it prefers,” the report notes. “But the current rate is far off from the historical norm.”
The Senate voted 69-21 to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Dale Drozd as a judge for the Eastern District of California. The judgeship has been vacant for 1,069 days, according to Huffington Post, and was deemed a “judicial emergency.”
It was the seventh confirmation of a judicial nominee this year. The Huffington Post article repeated a criticism that Republicans in control of the Senate are slow-walking judicial nominees for partisan gain. Republicans say that overall, the president is getting his nominees confirmed at a regular pace. Read more
“Shame on us all” for not paying enough attention to our courts, columnist Lori Sturdevant of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes in criticizing Senate foot-dragging on President Obama’s judicial nominations this year.
Sturdevant takes Republican senators to task for not moving quickly enough to confirm Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright to the federal district court, and in the case of other nominees as well. And there can be a big price to pay for partisan delays over these nominations, she adds, saying it’s important even for journalists to take responsibility: Read more
The Huffington Post addresses the U.S. Senate’s delayed action on judicial confirmations across the states in a column headlined, “Congratulations, GOP. You’re Confirming Judges At The Slowest Rate In 60 Years”.
According to the article, an analysis by Alliance for Justice found that “six confirmations is the slowest single-year pace since the Senate confirmed a total of nine judges in 1953.” It adds that the number of judicial emergencies has increased by 158 percent. Currently, there are 32 other judicial nominees whose confirmations are pending in the U.S. Senate as vacancies continue to rise, according to the piece.
Meanwhile, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reports that an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Wilhelmina Wright, was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to become a federal district judge in Minnesota. But “whether she will be confirmed by the gridlocked Senate this year remains a question mark,” the Star Tribune notes.
And in Florida, where several judicial emergencies exist, First Judicial Circuit Judge Jan Shackelford is one of three finalists selected to be a federal judge in the state’s North District, according to the Pensacola News Journal. Once the president announces a nominee, the confirmation will await the Senate’s vote, which could take a significant amount of time. Floridian Mary Barzee Flores was nominated for a position on the federal bench for the Southern District in Florida six months ago and is still awaiting confirmation. See Gavel Grab.