Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Will Senate Leaders Break the Logjam on Judicial Nominations?

CapitolflagAt the Huffington Post, two separate commentaries address partisan politics in the stalling of judicial confirmations in the U.S. Senate and a model to cool the partisan political heat.

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.

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Politics Fuels ‘Growing Judicial Vacancy Crisis’ in Texas: Opinion

empty-bench1With another federal judge announcing his retirement and the state’s two Republican senators playing politics with a Democratic president, Texas “has become the epicenter of a growing judicial vacancy crisis,” a Fort Worth Star-Telegram op-ed says.

Natalie Knight of the Alliance for Justice wrote the op-ed, which is headlined, “Texas judicial vacancy flood means [Sens.] Cornyn, Cruz must act.” There are nine vacant federal judgeships in the state, and three of them have been unoccupied for more than three years. Seven have been formally deemed “judicial emergencies.”

“[John] Cornyn and [Ted] Cruz have a choice: Let the Texas vacancy crisis grow even worse, or start looking for the judges Texans desperately need,” Knight contends.

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Commentary: KS Supreme Court Selection Shines for Transparency

kansassupremeA “cape of confidentiality” envelops the nomination and hiring process for those administrative law judges who handle Kansas workers’ compensation cases, says a political writer who contrasts it to openness in the selection of state Supreme Court nominees.

In a Topeka Capital-Journal blog, Tim Carpenter faults both state Labor Secretary Lana Gordon and an opaque vetting process by a nominating panel tasked with finding the best administrative law judges (see Gavel Grab). Perhaps, Carpenter writes, that panel “ought to take a cue from the Kansas Supreme Court nominating commission, which interviews applicants in open forums. A list of finalists for Supreme Court vacancies is made public and forwarded to the governor, who makes the ultimate pick.”

The latter process has been denounced by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Carpenter notes. The writer adds, “He’s keen on amending the Kansas Constitution to deliver to governors unilateral power to make nominations for the state’s highest court. Each pick would be subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate.” When the legislature adopted that “closed-loop” model for selecting Court of Appeals nominees, according to Carpenter, the governor’s first pick for a vacancy was a personal friend and confidante. 

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Law Professor Appointed as Arkansas Chief Justice

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has named Howard Brill, a law professor at the University of Arkansas, to serve out the Arkansas Supreme Court term of Chief Justice Jim Hannah, who recently announced his retirement.

Brill previously has served as a special chief justice on the state’s highest court, according to Arkansas Online. At a blog of the Arkansas Times, it was reported that “Brill is well-known for his deep religious beliefs, but he’s also widely viewed as scrupulously fair.” Brill said he does not anticipate running for election to the court in the future.

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Sorting Through the Fallout From Tussle Over Virginia Judgeship

Justice Roush

Justice Roush

The fallout from partisan fighting over a Virginia Supreme Court judgeship (see Gavel Grab) continues to fuel discussion about what might, or should, happen next.

A WVTF Public Radio report said Republican legislators are warning that litigants would have grounds to challenge court rulings if Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, reappoints Justice Jane Marum Roush to a second interim term in September, as he has promised. The governor is allowed to do so when the legislature is not in session, and there is strident disagreement over whether it has technically adjourned.

A Roanoke Times editorial suggested that Roush rise above the partisan politics swirling elsewhere and remove her name from consideration for reappointment. She “could deliver both parties the public humiliation they both richly deserve,” it said.

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Obama Legacy on Bay Area Bench Includes Diversity

President Obama has not exactly transformed the federal bench in the San Francisco area with his 11 appointments out of 14 full-time judgeships there, but he has surely left his stamp, according to a San Jose Mercury News article.

The region’s federal judges “are a generally young, demographically diverse group that will be deciding Silicon Valley tech showdowns, civil rights challenges and major federal criminal law questions for the foreseeable future,” the newspaper said. 

Of the Obama appointees, seven are minority. They include Lucy Koh in San Jose, the court’s first Asian-American appointee; Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, the first Latina; and Vince Chhabria, the first Indian-American. Read more

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Push for Diversity Joined With Urging Judicial Confirmation

Some Florida defenders of fair courts who are critical of U.S. Senate delays in confirming federal judicial nominees also say the stalling impedes diversity on the bench.

A Daily Business Review article (free registration required) focuses on three vacancies in the Middle and Southern districts of Florida, which have been designated judicial emergencies. President Obama nominated former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mary Barzee Flores for one of these judgeships on Feb. 26. She has not had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yet. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, has not submitted a “blue slip,” a procedure permitting the panel to hold a hearing.

Ileana Cruz, president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, said, “We support the confirmation of Mary Barzee Flores’ nomination and hope to see the last blue slip released and a hearing scheduled as soon as possible to continue improving the diversity of our federal bench.” Read more

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Will Political Fight in Virginia Bring Chaos to its High Court?

Seal_of_Virginia.svgCould there be chaos on the court if Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe reappoints state Supreme Court Justice Jane Marum Roush to another interim term? Citing at least one legal expert, a Washington Post article raises that question.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, has said he plans to appoint Roush to another interim term in September. But Virginia GOP leaders say the state House’s technical failure to adjourn early this week when the state Senate voted to do so (see Gavel Grab) means the legislature still is in session and therefore McAuliffe can’t make the interim appointment he promised. And some others say the ongoing partisan squabble over a judgeship could bring legal challenges to cases in which she would be involved if reappointed. Read more

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Gov. Dayton Appoints Hudson to Minnesota Supreme Court

Judge Hudson

Judge Hudson

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed Court of Appeals Judge Natalie E. Hudson to replace Justice Alan Page on the state Supreme Court, the Minnesota Star Tribune reports. Thanking the governor on Tuesday, Hudson gave the following statement:

“I promise to do what I have always done as a judge, and that is to read the record carefully, read the briefs carefully, to listen carefully at oral argument, to be as prepared as I possibly can be and most of all to treat all of those that come before our court with the utmost respect and dignity that they deserve.”


Read more

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Scholar: Judicial Vacancies to Increase, Nominations to Decline

CapitolflagA respected tracker of judicial nominations in Washington, Russell Wheeler of Brookings, reports that that vacancies likely will climb in the final two years of President Obama’s administration and nominations will decline.

When the Senate recently began its summer recess, it had confirmed five federal judges in 2015 compared to 26 at a corresponding time in President Bush’s seventh year in the White House and 11 in President Clinton’s, Wheeler says in an analysis at the Brookings FixGov blog. 

“The 2015-16 Senate will likely not match its 1990-2000 and 2007-08 records. President Obama will probably appoint fewer circuit judges than did Clinton or Bush, and fewer district judges than Clinton. More important, unlike in those early periods, vacancies will likely increase,” he forecasts. He mentions, “Some Senate Republicans are apparently using the Senate’s ‘blue slip’ tradition to thwart confirmations by preventing nominations.”

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