CNN: Sen. Warren Silenced During Sessions Debate

ELIZABETH WARREN SILENCED BY SENATE GOP: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell charged Senator Elizabeth Warren with violating Senate rules against impugning another senator during a Tuesday night floor speech opposing Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, reported CNN.

Warren was reading from a letter written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., which opposed Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship. The letter stated that “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.”

McConnell claimed that Warren’s reading of the letter violated Rule XIX, which prohibits Senators from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”  Senate Republicans upheld the rebuke by a vote of 49 to 43, which removes Warren’s ability to speak during the remaining hours of debate on Sessions’ nomination, according to NBC.

Senator Cory Booker stated that he was “proud tonight of Sen. Warren. She stood and told her truth. To see this body act as it did tonight is disappointing to me,” reported The Hill. Booker tweeted that McConnell didn’t just silence Warren – “he silenced civil rights icon Coretta Scott King.”

TRUMP TO MEET WITH MODERATE DEMOCRATS TO GAIN GORSUCH VOTE: President Trump invited Senate Democrats from multiple red states to lunch “in hopes of wooing their support for his Supreme Court nominee,” reported CNN. The four senators invited are all up for reelection in 2018, and among the 10 senators facing pressure from conservative and liberal groups – including our sister organization Alliance for Justice, reported Time.

“It’s full steam ahead,” Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, told Time. “We plan to win this fight.”

Alliance for Justice was also listed among SCOTUSblog’s key groups in the Supreme Court confirmation process.

IMMIGRATION BAN LIKELY TO GO TO SCOTUS: “A Justice Department lawyer on Tuesday said courts should not second-guess President Trump’s targeted travel ban, drawing skepticism from a three-judge federal appeals panel weighing the limits of executive authority in cases of national security,” reported The New York Times.

The court is expected to deliver its decision on President Trump’s immigration ban within days. However, “no matter how the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules — in a decision that is expected within days — an appeal to the United States Supreme Court is likely,” the Times continued.

CNN: Trump Has “a Good Sense” of His SCOTUS Nominee

“I THINK IN MY MIND I KNOW WHO IT IS”: Trump has “a good sense” of who he plans to nominate to the Supreme Court, according to CNN. CNN reported that Judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes are widely considered to be at the top of his list. 

Bloomberg BNA put out a short profile on Judge Steven Colloton, who is also thought to be near the top of Trump’s list. Bloomberg drew attention to two of Colloton’s opinions in favor of Tyson Foods Inc., which “are a prime example of how a more conservative court could make it harder for workers to bring wage claims against employers,” according to our sister organization Alliance for Justice. 
OBAMA’S JUDICIAL LEGACY: President Obama nominated over 300 federal judges in his presidency – most of whom were “either women, African Americans or persons of color,” reported NBC. The piece quoted the president of our sister organization, Nan Aron, who noted that unfortunately, “Republicans slow-walked or stonewalled dozens of federal judicial nominations.”

Judge Grants Floridians Another Week to Register to Vote

voter-registrationJUDGE EXTENDS VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE: The rising role of lower federal courts in deciding voting law challenges has been mentioned by Gavel Grab, and now a federal district judge in Florida has decided a different type of voting issue: He extended until Oct. 18 a deadline for people to register to vote because of the harm caused by Hurricane Matthew.

District Judge Mark E. Walker agreed on Wednesday to the extension, according to CNN. “We’ll now be able to make up for lost time and help register people whose lives were disrupted by the storm,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Our goal is to help every Floridian register, vote, and be heard, and we’re grateful that the storm did not silence their voices.”

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR LAWSUIT AGAINST ASHCROFT: The Washington Post reported, “The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would consider a long-running lawsuit against former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and other top officials filed by immigrants who say they were racially profiled and illegally detained after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

Does racial bias trump jury room secrecy? The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, a case that raises the issue. Lawyers for a defendant in a sexual assault trial contend his rights to an impartial jury were violated after one juror told two others, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican and Mexican men take whatever they want.” You can learn more from a Reuters article or from a blog of our sister organization, Alliance for Justice.

DOING THE MATH ON THE GARLAND NOMINATION: ThinkProgress has come up with a new way of doing the math on the long-stalled nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. It reported, “15 Republican senators openly oppose [Donald] Trump. 14 are blocking a Supreme Court nominee for him anyway.”

With one seat vacant, meanwhile, the “justices are chugging along in the slow lane,” according to The Economist. A Chicago Sun-Times editorial documented the “harm of [the] short-handed court,” and said it “hobbles along.”

Court Rejects Challenge to Ohio Judicial Election Law

Leaving the political affiliations of judicial candidates off the general election ballot in Ohio is constitutionally sound, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled, according to The Toledo Blade.

“The burden on the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights is minimal because political parties and judicial candidates remain free to provide, and voters remain free to receive, a plethora of information regarding whether a given candidate affiliates with or is endorsed by a particular political party,” U.S. Circuit Judge John Rogers said for a three-judge panel, according to Courthouse News Service. (more…)

Essay Touches on Higher Reversal Rate for Black U.S. Judges

At a self-described daily digital magazine called OZY, Meghan Walsh writes an intriguing short piece about race and our courts that’s headlined, “The Justice Issue Lurking Behind the Bench.”

Drawing on Harvard Professor Maya Sen’s research about federal judges, Walsh writes, “The rulings of black judges are 10 percent more likely to be overturned than those of their white counterparts.”

Walsh seems cautious about jumping to conclusions: “Granted, this may, to some degree, be a statistical thing, and it’s not to say that appellate judges are bigots. It’s been well documented that this bench tends to be more conservative, while judges of color lean liberal, particularly on civil rights and discrimination matters. ‘It’s very hard to disentangle race and politics,’ Sen says. It’s also up to litigants to appeal, so it could be that lawyers are more eager to contest a ruling handed down by a minority justice, which further complicates things.”

Governor Wants Arizona Removed From U.S. Ninth Circuit

Gov. Ducey
Gov. Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, a Republican, wants his state removed from the jurisdiction of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, for reasons his staff says are not political. But an American Civil Liberties Union official called it “court shopping,” the Associated Press said.

Ducey said he’d like to see Arizona shifted to a circuit other than the San Francisco-based Ninth, or that another circuit should be created by Congress, because of high caseload in the Ninth, the large area it covers and a higher rate of rulings struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans have made similar efforts in the past, sometimes complaining that the Ninth Circuit is too liberal in its decisions. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, believes this effort is politically driven, according to AP, and Dan Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona said, “You talk about judge shopping, well, this is court shopping.”

Obama’s Impact on Federal Appeals Courts is Measured

President Obama has put his stamp on appointing judges to the federal appeals courts, as only one appellate nominee, Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, awaits a Senate confirmation vote, and a presidential election year likely will mean that is the last such vote.

This is part of the analysis coming from nomination-tracking expert Russell Wheeler of Brookings at its FixGov blog. Here are the numbers Wheeler gives about the change in the composition of the federal appeals courts under Obama:

“When Obama took office, Republican appointees held 56 percent of the 179 circuit judgeships, Democratic appointees 36 percent; eight percent were vacant. With Restrepo’s confirmation, Republican appointees will occupy 42 percent of the seats, Democratic appointees 53 percent, and five percent will be vacant.

“Courts with a majority of Democratic appointees have increased from one to nine and courts with a majority of Republican appointees have dropped from ten to four (two were even in 2009).”


High Caseload, Not Enough Judges, Means ‘Crisis Point’ in CA District

Chief U.S. District Judge Morrison England of the Eastern District of California says “we’re at a crisis point” because of a soaring caseload, a growing population, and not enough judges, according to KCRA.

Since 1978, the number of full-time judges on the court has held at six, although the region’s population has increased significantly. Nationwide, the average caseload per federal judge is 554 cases a year, compared to 962 in the Sacramento district.

The number of judges in the district would be doubled to 12 under a recommendation by the non-partisan Judicial Conference of the United States. Congress hasn’t passed that recommendation into law.


Report Looks at ‘Judicial Transparency’ and U.S. Appeals Judges

As part of a special report on judicial transparency, The National Law Journal says it found instances where groups that reimbursed a federal circuit judge’s travel costs also appeared before that judge in the next 18 months. Lawyers weren’t aware of the reimbursed expenses, yet they also did not think a conflict of interest was created, National Law Journal said.

The special report examines 257 financial reports submitted by federal appeals judges covering their activity in 2013. It makes the reports available to viewers. Other topical articles published in the special report include, “Judges’ Trips Reflect Gray Area in Ethics Rules” and “Judicial Disclosures: By The Numbers.”


Obama to Appeal Adverse Court Ruling on Immigration

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a lower court-ordered hold on President Obama’s executive action to protect as many as five million immigrants in the United States from deportation. Today, the Obama administration said it will ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

In the three-judge panel’s 2-1 ruling on Monday, the court said there was not adequate public notice provided by the administration before attempts were made to revise U.S. enforcement policies after the president announced his executive action, according to The Washington Post. 

The New York Times said the president’s plan to request a Supreme Court hearing sets up  “another high-stakes legal contest in the nation’s highest court over the fate of one of the president’s signature achievements.”