Does President Obama’s selection of three nominees for vacant seats on a highly influential appeals court constitute “court packing?” A USA Today editorial offers a resounding “no.” In reply, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch calls for filling other judicial vacancies first.
The USA Today editorial board calls the “court packing” argument of several leading Republican senators an “Orwellian word-twisting” and “ludicrous.” Filling empty, authorized seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is the kind of job that presidents are supposed to do, it says.
Some Republicans contend there is not the workload to justify filling the three seats. “That’s disingenuous because the unusually complex cases the D.C. Circuit hears give it one of the most challenging and time-consuming dockets of any circuit court,” the editorial contends. It also notes that Democrats advanced the same workload argument when a Republican president was seeking to fill empty seats on the same court.
The editorial concludes with an appeal for an end to the “partisan tit-for-tat.” It states, “Continuing warfare over judicial nominees will undermine the courts and drive Congress’ abysmal ratings even lower.” Read more
The president’s recent announcement of three nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (see Gavel Grab) is getting attention and commentary in the nation’s capital and outside it.
A (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate editorial called for “less politics on judgeships,” commended Obama for recently stating that both parties have engaged in partisan maneuvering on judges, and urged the Senate to act on his picks. “Neither party has a perfect track record here, but the Senate should start to mend its record on judicial nominations this year,” the editorial said.
At the Daytona (Fla.) Times, George Curry of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service wrote, “The next major showdown in Washington may not be over how best to reduce the deficit or involve another Obama cabinet appointment. Look for sparks to fly over the president’s Read more
It’s “backwards” when critics contend President Obama is trying to further his policy goals by nominating judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, argues in a USA Today op-ed.
In fact, Kendall writes, “Dating back to President Reagan, Republican presidents have filled 15 of the last 19 vacancies on the D.C. Circuit and nine of these nominees remain in service as active or senior judges. These conservative presidents have used this important court as a training ground for Supreme Court nominees — Roberts, along with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Ginsburg were elevated from the D.C. Circuit — and as a home for committed opponents of health, labor and environmental safeguards. Because the D.C. Circuit has the exclusive power to hear many types of cases involving these safeguards, these judges have the power, on any given day, to issue rulings that send Obama’s agenda into a tailspin.”
Given this history, Obama “simply needs judges who will uphold validly enacted laws and reasonable regulations,” Kendall contends. He says Obama has done his job by choosing nominees for vacancies on the influential appeals court, and now it is time for the Senate to do its job. Read more
Amid plenty of rhetoric in Washington over filling three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, the Washington Post Fact Checker analyzes and takes issue with Sen. Charles Grassley’s statement that the court has a low workload compared to others.
Grassley, R-Iowa, is pushing a bill to reduce the court’s 11 authorized judges to eight. In support, he has said, “No matter how you slice it, the D.C. Circuit ranks last or almost last in nearly every category that measures workload.” President Obama nominated this week two lawyers and a judge to fill the vacancies (see Gavel Grab).
The Fact-Checker column by Glenn Kessler gives Grassley “two Pinocchios” for his bottom-line statement after examining various kinds of workload data and noting that the court, formally named the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, leads all others for administrative appeals terminated on their merits and for percent of published opinions. Here is Kessler’s conclusion:
“Just as judges can sometimes rely on certain precedents to write their opinions, the voluminous and detailed statistics on the appeals courts allows each side to pick and choose the stats that supports their position. The White House’s reliance on pending appeals is a bit tortured, given that other metrics come up with less favorable results. But the certainty in Grassley’s argument is particularly misplaced, given the unusual nature of the D.C. Circuit. Read more
In the run-up to President Obama’s announcement of key judicial nominations soon, two national newspaper editorials dismissed arguments advanced by some Senate Republicans against filling the three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has proposed legislation to shrink the nation’s second most influential appeals court by three judgeships, saying its workload doesn’t justify the judgeships. A New York Times editorial disagreed sharply and pointing to kinds of complex and time-consuming regulatory cases the court often hears. The editorial concluded:
“In April, the Judicial Conference of the United States, which Chief Justice [John] Roberts leads, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that ‘based on our current caseload needs,’ the D.C. Circuit should continue to have 11 judgeships. The Democrats should do everything they can to fill all open seats on the court. Senator Grassley’s blatantly obstructionist ‘efficiency’ plan is an Read more
“The Senate should be doing the people’s business, not blocking it,” a Portland (Me.) Press Herald editorial declared in urging Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and fellow Republicans not to filibuster three appeals court nominees likely to be announced soon by President Obama.
There has been speculation that if Obama nominates three individuals simultaneously to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Republican senators may launch a mass filibuster. The editorial zeroed in on the important role of the D.C. Circuit in deciding an array of complex regulatory disputes, and it called for filling vacancies on the court:
“A slowdown in this court slows down the whole government. You would expect that vacancies on this court would be filled promptly. But that is not the case.”
The editorial disagreed with Collins and those fellow Republicans who are supporting an effort to reduce the D.C. Circuit by three judgeships (see Gavel Grab), saying “The Republicans should not try to win with procedural maneuvering what they could not get at the polls.” It concluded Read more
If a flurry of news media reports is a sign, President Obama’s expected announcement soon of three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will put judicial confirmation politics in a rare spotlight.
Although many Americans may not be familiar with it, the court is widely considered the second most influential appeals bench in the nation and a stepping stone for the Supreme Court. Some Republican senators are pushing to reduce the 11-member D.C. Circuit court by three judgeships and are accusing Obama of “court-packing.” And if Republicans pursue a showdown with the president, such as an attempt to filibuster three nominees, Senate Democratic leaders could move to change procedural rules in response.
Gavel Grab mentioned on Tuesday a news report that Obama plans to nominate simultaneously three individuals for the vacancies. On Wednesday, a White House blog post by Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president, fired back at advocates of shrinking the D.C. Circuit. “[T]his is court packing in reverse and a cynical attempt to manipulate the third branch of government,” Pfeiffer wrote. Read more
At a time of intense political partisanship over some of President Obama’s judicial nominees, the president soon will announce three nominees for the nation’s second most influential appeals court, the New York Times reports, in a move that could cause political tensions to boil over.
Leading Republicans have warned against Obama efforts to “stack” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, while some independent analysts have debunked that idea and contended it is a president’s prerogative to fill congressionally authorized judicial vacancies (see Gavel Grab).
Times reporter Michael Shear calls Obama’s expected nomination of three jurists to the 11-member, Washington-based court “a move that is certain to unleash fierce Republican opposition and could rekindle a broader partisan struggle over Senate rules.”
The extent to which partisan politics has come to slow or obstruct judicial nominations is documented in a USA Today editorial. While neither political party has “clean hands,” Senate Republicans “have taken obstructionism [of Obama nominees] to a new level,” the editorial says. Read more
Presidents have a prerogative to fill congressionally authorized court vacancies, and for President Obama to do so on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit does not constitute “court-packing,” scholar Russell Wheeler says by way of rebutting a Wall Street Journal editorial (see Gavel Grab).
Wheeler (photo), an expert at The Brookings Institution on judicial nominations, offers his assessment in an American Constitution Society blog post. He quotes remarks in 1996 by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist to make a point that Obama has a prerogative to leave his stamp on the D.C. Circuit Court.
Some Republican senators are arguing that the 11-member court should be reduced by three judges, a proposal opposed by Justice at Stake (learn more from Gavel Grab). The court currently has a 4-3 majority of judges appointed by Republicans. An Obama nominee, Sri Srinivasan, was expected to come before the Senate on a procedural vote and perhaps a final vote today.
Justice Rehnquist said in the context of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s successful efforts to stem anti-New Deal decisions by the Supreme Court through appointments (but not through adding new seats to the court, which critics derided as “court-packing”):
“[T]he doctrine of judicial independence does not mean that the country will be forever in sway to groups of non-elected judges. When vacancies occur … on any of the federal courts, replacements are nominated by the President, who has been elected by the people of Read more
For the first time in seven years the U.S. Senate is poised to seat a new judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a highly influential court that decides many contentious regulatory issues in the nation’s capital.
The Senate is expected to vote on Thursday on President Obama’s nomination of Sri Srinivasan for the D.C. Circuit, according to a Roll Call article. If Srinivasan is confirmed, it will be a breakthrough for the Obama administration. Because the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the nomination, the Justice Department official is expected to win confirmation.
Earlier, Senate Republicans twice blocked the president’s nomination of New York attorney Caitlin Halligan to the court, and the 11-member court’s four vacancies are seen by some as symbolic of of increasing partisan warfare over judicial nominations in Washington. Read more