Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Federal Court Nominees Pending, Case Backlog Growing

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah

As the U.S. Senate is confirming judges “at a remarkably slow pace,” the federal court system had 44 vacancies on the district (trial court) level, and nine on the appellate level, the Wall Street Journal reports. There are currently 12 district nominees and two appellate nominees awaiting congressional approval.

The delays often have little to do with the nominees themselves. Instead, the federal bench hopefuls become caught in Washington’s notorious political gridlock. One candidate whose nomination has been pending since February, for instance, is backed by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, yet still cannot snag a confirmation. Democrats blame Republicans for dragging their feet over unrelated disagreements, but a GOP spokeswoman recently placed the blame on Democrats, who “rammed through 11 federal judges during the Lame Duck [session]. The article says it is possible, but not likely, that a vote could be taken today for four of the nominees.

Nominees are not the only ones pending due to these political games; the impressive backlog of pending cases has skyrocketed nearly 20% since 2004, with more than 330,000 awaiting a decision.

The Washington Post was cited in this article.

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Report: ‘No Significant Changes’ Needed in NJ Judicial Selection

Governor Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie

In the wake of a political standoff surrounding the appointment of judges, a panel of New Jersey legal experts convened at the State Bar Association’s annual conference. Central to the discussion was a report released last month which said “no significant changes” need to be made to the state’s judicial selection process.

An article on NJ.com says that the report was commissioned by the bar to determine the best course of action to prevent politics from interfering with judicial selection. The problem began after Governor Chris Chrisie promised to try and create a more conservative high court, and then did not reappoint Democratic Justice John Wallace Jr. in 2010. Democrats responded by “rejecting two of his nominees and refusing to hold hearings on two others,” the article explains. The report placed blame on both Governor Christie and the Democratic legislative majority. The article continues to explain that:

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Report: Hillary Clinton Has a Litmus Test for a Supreme Court Nominee

Hillary Clinton has told a group of fundraisers that she would not appoint an individual to the Supreme Court unless the potential nominee agreed with her view that Citizens United must be struck down.

A Washington Post blog reported this news based on anonymous sources who were present at the recent meeting.

She is the second  candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination whose conditions for Supreme Court appointments have made news recently. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on a talk show, “If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice.” He went on, “And that nominee will say that we are all going to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United because that decision is undermining American democracy. I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians.”

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Senator Signs Off on Nominee for U.S. Appeals Court

Judge Restrepo

Judge Restrepo

The Senate Judiciary Committee has completed a background investigation on the nominee for an appeals court seat, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has signed off on the nominee, the senator’s office told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has drawn media attention over delays that kept Restrepo from getting a confirmation hearing recently (see Gavel Grab). Some activists and commentators contended Toomey, a Republican, was “slow-walking” the nomination as part of partisan maneuvering in the GOP-controlled Senate. Read more

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Sen. Toomey Says He is Not Delaying Judicial Nomination

pat-toomey.gi.topU.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.,  said that contrary to some allegations, he is not delaying the nomination of U.S. District Judge Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (see Gavel Grab for background).

The first step to Judge Restrepo’s confirmation to the 3rd Circuit is a thorough background investigation. No hearing or vote goes forward until that investigation is completed. The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet completed that investigation,” Toomey wrote in a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“That is the reason the committee has not yet held a hearing on Judge Restrepo’s nomination — a fact that could have been easily learned with a call to the committee. I have made it clear to the committee that I plan to turn in my ‘blue slip’ — the formal manifestation of my support for Judge Restrepo — the day that investigation is completed, provided no issues of concern are discovered.” Read more

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Over Appeals Court Seat, Sparring by Wisconsin’s Two Senators

CapitolflagWisconsin’s two U.S. senators, without agreement from a bipartisan commission that vets prospective judicial nominees for them, are taking different paths over a vacancy on the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals. Their disagreement could imperil the chances for an Obama nominee.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, sent the names of eight people interviewed by the commission to the White House, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, said she Baldwin was not heeding the commission’s rules, she was pursuing a “strikingly partisan path” and the fallout would reduce a nominee’s prospects for confirmation.

A Baldwin aide said the senator sent the names to the White House because the vacancy was almost 2,000 days old and needed to be filled. The senator told the White House that the commission, which she and Johnson set up, could not agree on a list of finalists. Johnson, however, said Baldwin was departing from the nominating process the two senators had agreed to use. The Journal Sentinel said two district court judgeships were filled through this process earlier.

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Articles Ask Why Action on Judicial Nomination is Delayed

When the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing this week for several judicial nominees, U.S. District Judge Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo was notably not among them. And that has become a major topic for news media in Pennsylvania, where he is nominated to sit on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Confirmation vote on Pennsylvania jurist awaits ‘blue slip’ from Toomey,” reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has not signed off on a confirmation hearing with the piece of paper traditionally required of a home-state senator, the article explained, although Toomey says he continues to support Judge Restrepo.

“A Judicial Nominee Waits; Toomey Gets Blamed,” reported the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying Democrats and liberal allies are faulting Toomey for the delays. He dismissed the allegation. Read more

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More Partisan Delays for Obama’s Judicial Nominees?

United_States_Capitol_dome_daylightA “political game” is stalling Senate action on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine wrote in a Philadelphia Daily News op-ed. He urged Pennsylvania’s senators to prod Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley to hold a hearing on the nomination.

At Roll Call, an article examined the outlook for Obama’s judicial nominees in general and for Judge Restrepo in particular, given Republican control of the Senate that took effect this year. It was headlined, “New Congress, New Round in Senate Fight Over Obama’s Judges.”

A native of Colombia, Judge Restrepo would be the first public defender to sit on the court if confirmed. The judgeship at issue has been designated a “judicial emergency” due to a case backlog. The Roll Call article discussed possible political gamesmanship at play. It concluded: Read more

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Tennessee Legislative Gridlock Threatens Its Authority Over Judges

Gov-Haslam-headshotAfter a 2014 referendum, the Tennessee legislature should have the final say on gubernatorial appointments to the state judiciary. The House and Senate may not yet have the authority to do so, due to a disagreement on how many votes should be required from each chamber to reject an appointee.

The Memphis Daily News reports that a vacancy on the Shelby County Chancery Court has brought this question to light. Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery is of the opinion that Governor Bill Haslam’s appointee will not likely require legislative approval. “If the Legislature does not enact any such rules, then presumably it has not deemed any such rules to be necessary,” said Slatery in a legal opinion written at the request of state Rep. Jon Lundberg. “But that would in no way affect or impede the ability of the Governor to make judicial appointments.”

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Women Seemingly Overlooked for Idaho Federal Judge Opening

One of Idaho’s two federal district court judges is planning on taking senior status soon, leaving one full time judgeship open. Although President Obama will eventually make the nomination, the state’s Senators are leading the vetting process, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have interviewed four candidates so far – all male. “Idaho is the only state in the federal 9th Circuit that has never had a woman judge on the U.S. District Court bench,” the article explains. Several women have submitted applications as early as December, and none has yet been contacted. Attorney Terrie Pickens Manweiler says she heard she is too progressive, and the article suggests that U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, considered a front runner for the position, is being rejected for writing the decision that overturned Idaho’s same sex marriage ban.

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