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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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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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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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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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