Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Slowdown in Confirming U.S. Judges Blamed on Politics

CapitolflagRepublicans controlling the U.S. Senate “are flexing their powers to slow down the process” of confirming President Obama’s nominees for the federal courts, The Washington Times reports, shortly after the Senate confirmed only its 10th judge this year.

The slowdown follows action by Democrats, when they were controlling the Senate, to change filibuster rules in order to accelerate the confirmation of judges, the article says. It is headlined, “Obama judicial nominees in limbo as ‘nuclear option’ backfires on Democrats.”

In The Hill, a piece by Prof. Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law applies the themes of Thanksgiving to the process of confirming federal judges, and notes that whereas federal judicial vacancies stood at 90 in August 2009, they now have been reduced and total 66. Read more

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Courts Can’t Work Efficiently With Too Few Judges: Commentary

The Senate has left Washington for its Thanksgiving break, and its Republican-steered delay in acting to confirm judicial and executive branch nominees “makes it hard for the courts and the federal government to work efficiently,” Jonathan Bernstein says in a Bloomberg View essay.

With only 10 judges confirmed this year and with 66 judicial vacancies, the foot-dragging of Senate on these nominations has not been equaled since the Eisenhower administration, he writes. It’s not just a variation of partisan maneuvering. “It’s new, it’s a big deal, and it’s terrible,” he contends.

U.S. News & World Report, meanwhile, had an article headlined, “Public Service Nominees Become Pawns in Political Squabbles.”

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Arizona Governor Will Choose From Seven Finalists for Top Court

ArizonaThe Commission on Appellate Court Appointments has given Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey a list of seven finalists for an open seat on the state Supreme Court, more than the minimum of three that is required.

Ducey is a Republican. Four of the seven are Republicans. Under the state’s law for merit selection of judges, no more than two-thirds of the finalists suggested by the panel may be from one party. Ducey had asked for the commission to send him as many names as possible, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

The recommended candidates are Court of Appeals Judges Kent Cattani, Andrew Gould, Samuel Thumma, and Lawrence Winthrop, all Republicans; attorney Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute, an independent; and Court of Appeals Judges Michael Brown and Maurice Portley, who are Democrats. The commission did not forward the names of two other candidates whom it had interviewed.

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Law Professor: Restrepo Nomination ‘Hostage’ in Confirmation Wars

Judge Restrepo

Judge Restrepo

President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Court Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for an appeals court seat is increasingly becoming depicted as an example of what’s wrong with partisan gamesmanship in the Senate.

At a blog of The Hill, law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond asserts that Restrepo, of Philadelphia, is “is the latest hostage in the protracted ‘confirmation wars.’” Tobias calls the judge a “sterling, consensus” nominee and urges his confirmation. He also cites a precedent from 2007 for the Senate, in control of the party in opposition to the president, confirming a well qualified appeals court nominee. Read more

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Commentary: VA Judgeships are a Form of ‘Political Patronage’

If Virginia Republicans boot newly appointed state Supreme Court Justice Jane Marum Roush off the court next year, it will be in keeping with partisan politics in one of two states where legislatures elect judges, says a commentator on Virginia politics.

At The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jeff Schapiro writes, “Judgeships … are the prerogative of the General Assembly’s majority party, making them a form of political patronage that is jealously guarded by the lawmakers who dispense it and highly prized by the lawyers who lust for it. The Virginia system is unique, approximated in only one other state, South Carolina.” Read more

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Two State Judicial Nominations Stir Controversy

The importance of state Supreme Court nominations by governors is reflected in news articles coming from multiple states. In two cases, there was controversy around a nomination.

In New Hampshire, according to Jonathan Adler at a Washington Post blog, members of the executive council that is charged with confirming judicial nominees rejected the nomination to the Superior Court of Dorothy Graham “because she did her job as a public defender.”

Adler said the National Republican Senatorial Committee publicized criticism of Graham because N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan is getting ready for a U.S. Senate bid. The executive council’s members are chosen in partisan elections. Read more

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N.Y. Times Editorial: Politics Over Confirming Judges Victimizes Us

CapitolflagAmericans are the victims when political gamesmanship in Washington blocks the confirmation of well qualified judicial nominees and vacancies abound, a New York Times editorial declares. 

The editorial scolds Senate Republicans over what it calls their confirmation roadblock tactics, making a prime example of the nomination of Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of Philadelphia. Nominated to sit on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, his selection was announced in November 2014 by President Obama, with a home-state Republican senator’s backing. There were extensive delays before he received a confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was approved by that panel in July, and he still awaits a vote on the Senate floor. The editorial says partisan politics are in play:

“The larger problem here, of course, is that Republicans are blocking votes on highly qualified and noncontroversial nominees to vent their anger with the president, who infuriated them with his now-stalled immigration action, among other things.”

Read more

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R.I.: Instance of ‘Smoking Gavel’ Judicial Nominations Politics?

To what extent does traditional “you-scratch-my-back,-and-I’ll scratch-yours” politics affect judicial nominations in Rhode Island? Columnist Edward Fitzpatrick of the Providence Journal contends it’s in play, and that remarks by a former governor prove it.

Regarding the appointment of state Senate President Joseph Montalbano to the Superior Court in 2013, Fitzpatrick writes that former Gov. Lincoln Chafee has disclosed that “he received heavy pressure from Senate leaders, who held up several of his initiatives after he bypassed Montalbano for previous judicial vacancies.” Read more

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Gov. Cuomo to Pick New Chief Judge for New York’s Top Court

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will face a far-reaching decision when he chooses the next chief judge of the state’s highest court, from  seven candidates recommended by a vetting commission, a New York Times editorial says.

In discussing the appointment, the editorial lauds retiring Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the state Court of Appeals for his accomplishments.

“[H]is most lasting legacy could be his effort to provide lawyers for the thousands of low-income New Yorkers who face serious civil proceedings — from eviction and foreclosure to the loss of child custody — with no legal support at all,” the editorial says. It also mentions his efforts to make the court system more fair and transparent, to reform the state’s bail system and to cut wrongful convictions. 

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Commentary on Alaska Judicial Council Opposes Revamp

Alaska-quarterAlaska Gov. Bill Walker’s recent appointment to the Alaska Judicial Council of Loretta Bullard draws praise in a commentary, which also takes issue with a proposal to revamp the membership of this judicial candidate screening commission.

Nicole Borromeo, general counsel for the Alaska Federation of Natives, wrote the commentary. Borromeo commends Bullard’s serving for two decades as president of Kawerak, Inc., an Alaska regional Native non-profit corporation, and says Bullard is highly qualified Native woman for selection to the Judicial Council.

In addition. Borromeo contends Senate Joint Resolution 3 is “a bad proposal because it would  politicize the appointment of individuals to serve on the Alaska Judicial Council and likely also politicize the nomination of individuals to be considered for various judgeships.” Read more

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