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.
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 more
Growing resistance by progressive groups and African-American lawmakers to two of President Obama’s nominees for the federal district court in Georgia has become a national news story. A New York Times article about the dust-up suggests it will not be receding any time soon.
Gavel Grab has mentioned the swirling controversy over the nominations of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs and Atlanta attorney Mark Cohen. “The conflict is the latest twist in a struggle over confirmations,” the Times reports, highlighting both the limited ability of Democrats to push through judicial nominations after changing the Senate rules last year to make it easier to do so; and the ability of minority party senators to block judicial nominations through the Senate’s traditional “blue-slip” process.
Cohen has come under fire for successfully defending a Georgia voter identification law, and Judge Boggs for conservative stances when Read more
President Obama will come under public fire soon from the Congressional Black Caucus over a lack of diversity in some of his judicial nominations in the South. The African-American leaders are poised to speak out publicly despite Obama’s record for nominating more diverse judges than his predecessors.
The leaders will speak out at a press conference in Washington as early as this week, The Hill reported, quoting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia as saying the event will decry “the appalling lack of African American representation” among judicial choices, especially in the 11th Circuit, which takes in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Obama’s critics are Democrats.
While the White House did not respond to questions for the article, it earlier stated that Georgia’s Republican home-state senators senators had blocked the president’s nomination in 2011 of an African-American woman to the federal bench in Georgia. According to the White House, of Obama’s choices confirmed for the federal bench, 18 percent have been African Americans compared to eight percent under President George W. Bush and 16 percent under President Clinton.
In some quarters, President Barack Obama has won praise for increasing the diversity of the federal judiciary. That’s not the case recently in Georgia, however, where a group of Obama supporters announced opposition to a set of his nominees for the federal courts.
According to a USA Today article, the group includes Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. C.T. Vivian, the black congressional delegation from Georgia and a number of African American legal associations and civil rights groups. Obama’s six nominees to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Northern District of Georgia were criticized by the group, who contended they lack diversity. In addition, one of the nominees Read more
President Obama, at the end of his fifth year in the White House, has not yet caught up with the imprint that predecessor George W. Bush made upon the federal appeals courts during a corresponding period, according to Brookings Institution scholar Russell Wheeler (photo).
“Obama, in terms of the party of the president who appointed circuit judges in active status, has not able to put as much of an imprint on the courts of appeals as did Bush by the end of his fifth year,” according to Wheeler’s report.
“Obama had a circuit confirmation rate about the same as Bush’s, but Bush inherited an appellate judiciary split evenly between Republican and Democratic appointees, with 26 vacancies. He was able by the end of 2005 to shift that split to 59 percent Republican appoints (and 60 percent by the end of eight years). Obama inherited that 60-40 split. At the end of 2013 it slightly tilted to Democratic appointees (52% to 48%).” Read more
In the countdown to the Senate’s planned adjournment for the holidays, partisanship over judicial nominees has escalated again, and it has at least momentarily subsided too, and the nomination of Judge Robert Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals may get a vote … but not until the New Year.
Because things can change hourly in the Senate at times like these, Gavel Grab will just attempt to capture the latest headlines of activity:
- NOMINATIONS HEARING: On Wednesday, Republicans used an obscure rule to block a Senate Judiciary Commission confirmation hearing on five judicial nominees, including candidates with support from Republicans. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and the chairman, became furious and threatened to consider changing committee rules. Then, Republicans dropped their objections and the hearing was re-scheduled for Thursday morning.
- PACKAGE DEAL? If Senate Democrats secure a deal with Republicans, four nominees including Judge Brian Davis for a federal district judgeship in Florida could get up-or-down votes before the Senate heads home for the holidays. Read more
As the U.S. Senate votes on a backlog of judicial nominations, President Obama’s White House is touting the president’s record for increasing diversity on the federal bench.
“The president wants the federal courts to look like America,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz, according to a Wall Street Journal Washington Wire blog post.
The Senate had confirmed only one openly gay judge to the federal bench before Obama took office. In his administration, by contrast, the president has nominated 10 openly gay federal judges, and the Senate has confirmed seven of them.
In addition, the blog reported, 43 percent of Obama’s judicial nominees whom the Senate confirmed have been women, and that surpasses the rates of his predecessors. Last week, the Senate confirmed Patricia Millett and Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, operating under new rules that curb the minority party’s use of filibusters to block nominations.