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
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan, said a successor for Justice Antonin Scalia should be named by President Obama.
O’Connor is Justice at Stake’s First Honorary Chair. She was making her remarks to a Phoenix-based TV station as an individual and former justice, not in her JAS role. According to CNN, she disagreed with those Republicans who say a nomination should be made by Obama’s successor, not the president in his eighth and final year.
“I don’t agree (with Republicans),” O’Connor said. “We need somebody in there to do the job and just get on with it.” She mentioned that it’s unusual when a vacancy on the nation’s highest court exists in an election year, and its closeness to the presidential contest “creates too much talk around the thing that isn’t necessary.” Read more
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.
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.”
Judith E. Schaeffer of the Constitutional Accountability Center has the piece about partisan politics, headlined “Senate Leaders on Target to Break Obstruction Record.”
In the other piece, Peg Perl of Colorado Ethics Watch describes a bipartisan screening process used jointly several years ago by Colorado’s two senators for identifying potential judicial nominees for vacancies. But now, the state’s two senators have different screening committees, one of them is made up completely of Republicans, and things do not appear to be flowing as smoothly, Perl writes.
To learn about the record of the Republican-controlled Senate this year in confirming judicial nominees of the Democratic president, Barack Obama, see Gavel Grab.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are sparring over the pace of judicial confirmations, reported Politico. The confrontation unfolded on Thursday after Grassley blocked the confirmation of three judicial nominees that, according to The Hill, Schumer wanted confirmed.
The New York Democrat complained about the judicial vacancy rate in the U.S. that is at 10%, and the 28 districts that are in a state of “judicial emergency,” mentions Politico. He also called it a “disgrace” that the new Republican-led Senate has only confirmed five federal judges so far, comparing that pace to the confirmation rate of the Democratic-led Senate under President George W. Bush, which at the same point in President Bush’s second term had confirmed 25 judges.
Grassley shot back that the statistics are misleading, arguing that “we’d be roughly at the same pace we were for judicial confirmations this year compared to 2007,″ if 11 judicial confirmations that took place during last year’s lame duck session had been scheduled for this year instead.
GOP leaders will not hold scheduled votes on judicial nominees until at least September, he said.
Meanwhile, President Obama has nominated four Pennsylvania judges to fill federal bench vacancies, reported Legal Intelligencer.
Since Republicans took control in January, the U.S. Senate hasn’t confirmed a single judicial nominee of President Obama’s, Huffington Post reported.
Sixteen judicial nominees await action, and eight of them would fill judgeships on courts deemed to be facing “judicial emergencies” due to heavy caseloads.
“It hasn’t always been the case that divided government means judicial nominations come to a halt,” the article said, pointing to Senate action on judicial nominees when President George W. Bush faced a Democrat-controlled Senate.