Now that the Senate filibuster rules have changed, many are wondering if that means the three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will be quickly confirmed.
According to The Hill blog, the nominees most likely will be confirmed, but as one former senior administration official said, “…with some blood on the wall.”
Justice at Stake Director of Federal Affairs and Diversity Initiatives Praveen Fernandes says the change offers the potential for profound benefits for a federal judiciary plagued with a 10 percent vacancy rate. (Video: Fernandes discusses rule change implications)
Political fallout over judicial nominations is already being seen across the country.
The Washington Times reports that, “Conservative groups are looking to make the Capitol Hill battle over President Obama’s judicial nominees an issue in Senate elections in 2014 by arguing that red-state Democrats are ‘rubber-stamping’ liberal judges.”
The Judicial Crisis Network has already announced a round of ads attacking Sen. Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana for supporting all of Mr. Obama’s judicial picks. The group warns that she and other Democrats will have to be careful going forward about which judges they approve.
Others believe the judicial fight likely won’t be a big issue in the 2014 elections.
“Unless the nominee is extremely controversial, which none of Obama’s have been, it’s a real stretch,” said Mark McKinnon, a GOP strategist. “Otherwise, it is expected that representatives vote for their party nominees. Generally, it’s just way off voters’ radar screens.”
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Patricia Wald, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was among honorees presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week. “Rising to Chief Judge of the Court, (Wald) always strove to better understand the law and fairly apply it,” President Obama said, according to the Middletown Press.
- A CentralJersey.com editorial about New Jersey Gov. Chris Chris Christie and state Senate Democrats battling over judicial nominations was headlined, “One down, miles to go in filling high court.”
- A (Cumberlink) Sentinel editorial called bipartisan legislation for merit-based selection of top Pennsylvania judges “a step in the right direction.” Read more about the bill in Gavel Grab.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering, in the wake of Senate Republicans’ recent derailment of three of President Obama’s nominees for a highly influential appeals court, calling for a vote that could make it harder for the minority party to filibuster a president’s nominees.
If Reid seeks the vote and it is successful, the shift in rules likely would apply to federal judges and executive branch appointees such as cabinet members, but not Supreme Court justices, the New York Times reported.
Critics have called such a vote the “nuclear option” because it would upend Senate tradition and is highly controversial. The term refers to employing a simple majority vote to revise filibuster rules, rather than the 67-vote majority typically required under Senate rules for such a change.
To learn about Senate Republicans blocking three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit along largely partisan lines, see Gavel Grab. On PBS, meanwhile, a Newshour segment focused on the impact of blocked judicial nominations. It included an exchange of views between Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network.
Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz, nominated by President Obama for a seat on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was well-received at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing recently and could ultimately win Senate confirmation, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
While Senate Republicans have resisted some of Obama’s judicial nominations, Justice Moritz has support from Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican. That may help advance her nomination, law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond told the Kansas newspaper. Moran made a favorable statement about Justice Moritz in introducing her to the Senate panel, according to a Moran press release.
If the Senate confirms Justice Moritz, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback would have his first opportunity to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. Brownback and allies have advocated dismantling an existing merit selection system for choosing state Supreme Court justices, similar to action taken by the legislature this year to scrap merit selection for Kansas Court of Appeals judges.
The serious business of confirming qualified federal judges has hit a procedural roadblock in the case of prosecutor nominated to fill an eight-year-old judicial vacancy, the nation’s longest-running, in North Carolina.
President Obama announced in June his plans to nominate Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the job. She received a “unanimously qualified” rating from an American Bar Association screening panel. Obama’s intention to nominate an African-American woman for the post was praised by civil rights advocates advocating for greater diversity on the bench.
However, under Senate tradition, both home-state senators must signal their consent by giving “blue slips” before the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on a judicial nominee, and Republican Sen. Richard Burr has not done so. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has returned her “blue slip.” Because of Burr’s inaction, May-Parker has received no hearing before the Judiciary Committee, according to the Wilmington Star-News. Read more
A Republican filibuster means the nomination of a judge who has received praise for her qualifications from both sides of the aisle will not come up for a vote.
Patricia Millett, President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Washington, D.C., Circuit failed to clear a procedural hurdle after Republicans voted against bringing her nomination to a vote.
According to The Atlantic, “The Republicans in the Senate just filibustered the nomination of a highly-talented lawyer and hard-working woman of faith who is married to a member of our armed forces. In doing so, by defeating today’s cloture vote, they prevented this nominee from re-joining the federal government even though Millett received enough votes to pass a straight-majority vote for her post.”
A Washington Post blog post said Republicans opposed Millett’s nomination because they feared it would tip the balance of power on the D.C. Circuit court, which is generally thought to be the second most important court in the country, behind the Supreme Court. The GOP also argued that the circuit court’s small caseload didn’t require a swift confirmation.
The battle between Democrats and Republicans over judicial nominations heats up as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Republican charges that President Obama is trying to ideologically stack the court “ridiculous.”
According to Politico.com, Reid plans to move forward on the nomination of Patricia Millett to the court this week. He believes there are enough members of the GOP to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Politico reports that Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pushing a bill that would eliminate three seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and reallocate two of them to other circuit courts. The bill has 16 Republican co-sponsors after Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rob Portman of Ohio signed on this week.
Tuesday, Justice at Stake sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee concerning the hearing titled “Are More Judges Always the Answer?” The letter restates JAS’ opposition to the bill. In the letter, JAS responds to calls to eliminate seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“…we are concerned about a reduction of seats on a court that is widely regarded as the second most important federal appellate court. The D.C. Circuit, as you know, routinely considers cases that implicate some of the most technical issues of administrative and national security law.”
Renewed partisan battling in the Senate over judicial nominations is expected soon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to force a Senate vote this week on the nomination of veteran attorney Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Some Republicans have voiced opposition to Millett and two other recent nominees of President Obama’s for the D.C. Circuit Court, as it is called, yet is not yet clear whether the Republicans will wage an all-out fight, the Blog of Legal Times reported.
That’s not all. In the Republican-controlled House, the Judiciary Committee was planning a hearing today on the following topic: “Are More Judges Always the Answer?” The House does not have any role in the judicial confirmation process. To learn about Read more
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.
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- The Billings Gazette published an opinion piece calling for the U.S. Senate to confirm two Montana judicial nominations. District Judge Susan Watters and Montana Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris are praised for their “sterling records and readiness for the posts awaiting them.” Their nominations were submitted by President Obama in May and after an endorsement from the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, both will be headed to the U.S. Senate for a confirmation vote.
- A piece from Law Week Colorado discusses Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her visit to Colorado University on Constitution Day last week. O’Connor gave the third annual John Paul Stevens Lecture while also meeting with the O’Connor Judicial Selection Project.