Gavel Grab

Archive for the ‘Judicial Nominations’ Category

Editorial: Where was Grassley When GOP Presidents Packed Court?

An editorial in Sen. Charles Grassley’s home-state Des Moines (Iowa) Register questions Grassley’s legislation to shrink the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 11 authorized judges to eight (see Gavel Grab).

After outlining the proposal and concerns raised by critics, the editorial adds, “Grassley insists he just wants to redistribute court resources without increasing the judiciary budget. Maybe, but we don’t remember Grassley having these budget concerns when Republican presidents were packing the court.” Grassley is a Republican.

Justice at Stake has opposed the legislation in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders.

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Editorial Derides ‘Tit-for-Tat’ Senate Judicial Confirmation System

The U.S. Senate’s system for confirming federal judges is “breaking down” and having an impact in Texas, where six federal district court judgeships are vacant, reports a Houston Chronicle editorial.

The editorial urges homestate Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to take a leading role in ending Senat gridlock over confirming nominated judges, and it chastises a system that it says it caught in “tit-for-tat” thinking:

“Tit-for-tat. It will always be part of Washington, but it has to end when it comes to the Senate’s advice and consent of judges. Voters should not be content with politicians who hold our judiciary hostage in a race to the bottom. About one in 10 seats in the federal judiciary is Read more

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ABA President Prods Congress, Obama on Filling Judgeships

It’s past time for Congress and the president to collaborate, compromise and fill vacancies on the federal bench that are causing harm to the justice system, the economy and also to judicial nominees, American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows (photo) writes in a blog for The Hill newspaper. She makes these recommendations:

  • For the parties to collaborate and set up-or-down votes on judicial nominees whom the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved unanimously, or with scant opposition;
  • For fast-tracking action on 11 nominees left stranded when the 112th Congress adjourned;
  • For Senate leaders to give higher priority to filling those 37 vacancies that have been deemed “judicial emergencies” and to reduce the long wait between nomination and votes;
  • For President Obama to nominate a candidate for each open judicial seat. There are 86 vacant judgeships. Read more

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Commentary: Partisan Judicial Confirmation Wars Far from Over

Federal appeals court nominee Sri Srinivasan (see Gavel Grab) may have “an apparently easy path” to confirmation in the Senate, but that would offer little reassurance that partisan wars over judicial nominees are past, columnist Michael McGough writes in the Los Angeles Times.

McGough cites Republican filibusters of appeals court nominees Caitlin Halligan and Goodwin Liu, along with Democrats’ filibuster of Miguel Estrada, a George W. Bush nominee, to argue for an “end to partisan gamesmanship on judges.”

The confirmation wars have occurred “out of partisan spite or as part of a long game to take out potential Supreme Court appointees of the other party,” McGough suggests. But Halligan and Lieu deserved confirmation, he says, “because 1) they were well qualified, 2) they inhabited a broad philosophical mainstream and 3) they were being nominated for inferior courts that are bound by the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution and laws.” McGough concludes:

“It’s reassuring that Srinivasan seems on track to be confirmed, but the system is still not operating the way it should. Presidents of both parties should be given considerable deference when they propose professionally well-qualified candidates for the federal courts, Read more

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Opinion: Stop the ‘Mad Science’ of Filibustering Judicial Nominees

Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike have filibustered judicial appointments for political reasons over the years, but Republicans have almost turned blocking judicial nominees into a “mad science” that must end, says a Buffalo News opinion.

President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees continue to be challenged at every turn of the confirmation process. One nominee whom he put forth for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was filibustered and has withdrawn, and another is under consideration.

The 11-member court currently has four vacancies, making it difficult for the other judges to properly carry out their duties, the opinion argues. The longer the vacancies remain unfilled, the more cases will be delayed. Read more

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No Roadblocks Yet for Appeals Court Nominee Srinivasan

Sri Srinivasan, a Justice Department official and high-profile judicial nominee, sailed through a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. No Republican senator signaled outright opposition, providing a stark contrast to the experience of President Obama’s first nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

While New York lawyer Caitlin Halligan was filibustered twice by Republicans and ultimately withdrew her nomination (see Gavel Grab), Srinivasan “breezed his way through an uneventful Senate confirmation hearing” and won declared support of a Republican senator too, according to a New York Times article.

A Los Angeles Times article suggested the strategy for success that Obama may have adopted to put Srinivasan on the the second most influential appeals court: “He chose a highly regarded corporate lawyer whose resume suggests he could have been a Republican nominee.”

For a switch, a big part of the news from such a hearing was the absence of partisan attacks on the nominee. The hearing provided “a break from ongoing partisan battles over judicial appointments,” Reuters reported. A committee vote on Srinivasan’s nomination will be scheduled for a later session. Read more

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Grassley Would Cut Judgeships on Influential Appeals Court

Although there were some signs of bipartisanship when the Senate Judiciary Committee opened its hearing on a high-profile judicial nominee on Wednesday, the session quickly turned political, according to a Blog of Legal Times post.

While Sri Srinivasan, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was in the spotlight, the hearing gave way to partisan debate about the speed in which the Senate handles — or fails to handle — judicial nominations. In addition, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa (photo) announced controversial legislation.

Grassley said he would trim the Washington, D.C.-based court from 11 judges to 8, and shift judgeships elsewhere, to courts that Grassley said are faced with higher caseloads. The D.C. Circuit is widely considered a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. It currently has seven judges and a majority appointed by Republican presidents; there are no Obama appointees on the court yet.

Grassley’s action, according to Blog of Legal Times, “underscored how, despite Srinivasan’s broad support and excellent legal pedigree, his nomination to the second highest court in the United States will have to navigate one of the most gridlocked parts of a gridlocked Senate.” Read more

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On Eve of Senate Hearing, Concern About ‘Deeply Politicized Process’

Shortly before a Senate committee was to begin a high-profile hearing today on a judicial nominee, a prominent Republican attorney lamented how politicized the judicial confirmation process has become.

“We’ve lived through this atmosphere since the confirmation hearings of Judge Bork,” Kenneth Starr (photo) told the New York Times, mentioning Democrats’ defeat in 1987 of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. “I wish we could get past the era of such a deeply politicized process.”

President Obama’s administration is pushing for confirmation of Justice Department official Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit “with a coordination and an energy that echo a Supreme Court nomination fight,” the Times article said. If it fails, a confrontation over judicial nominees may lie ahead.

A Washington Post editorial, meanwhile, condemned what its headline branded as the “Republicans’ D.C. Circuit barricade.” There are four open seats on the influential 11-member court, and another of Obama’s nominees withdrew after Republicans twice filibustered her nomination (see Gavel Grab about the nomination of Caitlin Halligan).
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Srinivasan Hearing a ‘Dress Rehearsal’ for Supreme Court?

In recent days, Gavel Grab repeatedly has mentioned rising media interest in President Obama’s nomination of Justice Department official Sri Srinivasan for the nation’s second most influential federal appeals court. Now Jeffrey Toobin suggests in the New Yorker why the stakes surrounding Srinivasan’s nomination may seem so high:

“The next Supreme Court confirmation hearing begins on Wednesday afternoon, April 10th. Technically, Sri Srinivasan is just a candidate for the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but few are misled. The stakes in this nomination are clear: if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama’s term ends.”

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NY Times Decries ‘Astonishingly High’ Judicial Vacancy Level

The nation is facing “political paralysis” in the Senate over judicial confirmations, and the impact is so severe that it is time to consider bolder options to resolve the stalemate, a New York Times editorial declared. It characterized the existing situation this way:

“The number of vacancies on the nation’s federal courts has reached an astonishingly high level, creating a serious shortage of judges and undermining the ability of the nation’s court system to bestow justice.”

Eighty-five out of 856 district and appeals court seats are vacant, and the leading factor is the desire of Senate Republicans to block as many of President Obama’s judicial nominees as possible, the editorial said. As a prime example of partisan obstructionism, it pointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, with four seats vacant out of 11 — and none yet filled by Obama.

The editorial identified options worth considering that include another look by Democrats at filibuster reform and also having Obama name four nominees to the D.C.-based appeals court at once. Read more

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