Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Editorial: Citizens Punished When Senate Won’t Confirm Judges

CapitolflagVacancies on the federal bench below the Supreme Court are getting more editorial board attention as a political standoff over the high court’s vacancy seems unremitting.

Neither party has a sterling record when it comes to acting on judicial nominees when the president represents the opposing party. But in slow-pedaling Obama’s nominees, Senate Republicans have brought obstinate obstructionism to a new low,” thundered a PennLive.com editorial. “They should remember that in withholding timely consideration of judicial nominees, it is not the president they are punishing; it is deluged federal judges and the American citizens they strive to serve.”

In Washington, a Spokesman-Review editorial declared, “These confirmation battles aren’t new, and both parties have been guilty of holding up the process. But vacancies affect individuals and businesses with genuine concerns that need legal resolutions.” To learn more about judicial vacancies and jurisdictions deemed “judicial emergencies,” see Gavel Grab

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Scrutiny for High Court Nominee in New Jersey

seal of the supreme court of njNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s nomination of attorney Walter Timpone to the state Supreme Court (see Gavel Grab) is getting extensive scrutiny, at the same time as some applaud for what could be an end to a long political stalemate.

A Philly.com editorial said that “his nomination alone is noteworthy if it signals the end of an unsavory political crusade to stack the court. The balance and high quality of its justices have long brought well-deserved respect to New Jersey’s highest court. Politics should not be allowed to diminish its stature.” Christie is a Republican, Timpone a Democrat.

The editorial was headlined, “Christie court nominee raises questions,” and it mentioned controversies around Timpone when he served in the U.S. Attorney’s office and regarding his work on the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

A NJ.com article reported, “Christie Supreme Court pick scrutinized over political favor,” and a subsequent NJ.com headline stated, “Christie nominee’s law firm donated big and reaped millions from N.J.”

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Editorial Hammers Senate for ‘Neglect’ on Judicial Confirmations

Capitol_domeWhen the U.S. Senate fails to act on routine judicial appointments because of partisan political warring in Washington, it not only harms people who use the courts but also makes Americans cynical about our political system, an Omaha World-Herald editorial says.

The World-Herald focuses on an 18-month-old judicial vacancy for which President Obama nominated attorney Robert Rossiter Jr., who has drawn bipartisan support. Nebraska is one of almost three dozen jurisdictions deemed to be facing a “judicial emergency” given high caseloads, yet Rossiter’s nomination has been “frozen” in the Senate, the editorial says. It concludes:

“By its continued neglect of this important duty, the Senate is announcing its irresponsibility and unfairly burdening Nebraska’s courts. It’s also making an already skeptical public even more cynical about our political system.”

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Battle Over Supreme Court Seat Seen as ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

Judicial-VacanciesThe stalemate over filling a Supreme Court vacancy is sparking more media coverage nationwide of empty federal court judgeships and the Senate’s slow pace in confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees.

A McClatchy article mentioning the Senate resistance to considering a successor for Justice Antonin Scalia said that battle “is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to judicial fights on Capitol Hill.” It added about judicial vacancies and a backlog of cases, “The growing backlog is causing headaches in federal courthouses across the country, with overloaded caseloads and overworked judges and little relief in sight.”

There are 85 judicial vacancies across the nation, and 34 jurisdictions have been deemed to face a “judicial emergency,” McClatchy reported in its article about President Obama’s nomination of a federal judge to sit in Idaho. Read more

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Christie Appointment Signals End to Judicial Stalemate

NJ.com reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has withdrawn the nomination of Superior Court Judge David Bauman, a Republican, for the state Supreme Court, in favor of Democrat Walter Timpone. The latter is a former assistant U.S. attorney.

According to the newspaper, Timpone’s nomination and Bauman’s withdrawal signal an end to a dispute between Christie and the Democrats (see Gavel Grab) who control the Legislature over the Supreme Court seat. The fight began in Christie’s first year in office. Read more

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While Garland Waits, Senate Confirms District Judge

The Senate unanimously approved the nomination of Waverly Crenshaw for a federal judgeship in the Middle District of Tennessee on Monday, amid predictions he might be the last, or one of the last, of President Obama’s judicial nominees to win confirmation.

Senate Democratic leadership protested what it called a massive stall on judicial nominations, while Republicans, who control the Senate, contended confirmations were proceeding apace. A neutral observer, law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond, told CNN that the Republicans’ expected refusal to confirm more lower court judges in this presidential election year  is “plumbing new depths in the confirmation wars, which needs to end for the good of the courts and good of the nation.”

Both of Tennessee’s home-state, Republican senators,  supported Crenshaw. Several news media reports also alluded to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, which Republicans have blockaded. Coverage included Associated Press “GOP Senate OKs Obama judicial nominee for Tennessee”;  Des Moines Register op-ed by Sen. Charles Grassley, “Sky won’t fall with one less justice”; Reuters, “Grassley, Garland reprise 1990s judicial confirmation fight”; and Huffington Post, “Republicans Finally Confirmed A Judge. Is This Obama’s Last One?” 

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Merit Selection Would be ‘Big Improvement’: Pennsylvania Editorial

justice-scalesA truly bipartisan judicial vetting commission advising Gov. Tom Wolf would be a good idea for Pennsylvania, and it “might even pave the way for another big improvement — merit selection of all appellate judges,” a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial declares.

The editorial comes in the wake of complaints from state Senate Republicans (see Gavel Grab) about the role of an existing advisory group and accusations that its membership is disproportionately weighted in favor of Democrats. The Republicans ought to take Wolf’s invitation to recommend someone for the panel, the editorial adds.

Pennsylvania’s legislature is considering a proposal to switch from the contested election of top state judges to their selection through a merit-based system. The proposal has attracted a lot of attention Read more

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Opinions: Efforts to Politicize State Courts Mirror Washington

The parallels between efforts to politicize the nation’s highest court in Washington — in the fight over a Supreme Court vacancy — and similar political efforts to influence state courts are getting more attention from analysts.

Kansas has been an increasingly contentious battleground, especially with legislation advancing to expand the legal grounds for impeachment of state Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab). In The Garden City Telegram, Julie Doll writes about that effort and says, “At both the state and federal level, politicians are working to make sure that judges do their bidding in court.”

A stalemate between Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and the Democratic-led state Senate over a state Supreme Court nomination by Christie (see Gavel Grab) has also sparked analogies with the struggle in Washington, where leading Senate Republicans are refusing to consider the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. Read more

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‘Extraordinary Crisis’ Possible for New Jersey Judiciary?

An “extraordinary crisis” may be ahead if there is no resolution of a stalemate between Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey Senate over filling a state Supreme Court vacancy, and if Christie goes further and refuses to renominate two dozen judges who are up for lifetime tenure, New Jersey Bar Association President Miles Winder III says.

Winder was interviewed NJTV News. “I went to law school in Denver, Colorado,” he said. “We read mostly New Jersey cases because the New Jersey Supreme Court, the New Jersey lower courts were the best in the United States. They still are. We can’t let that be injured by a political fight.” You can learn more about the renewed political feud over filling a judicial vacancy in New Jersey from Gavel Grab.

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Four Finalists Recommended for Alaska Supreme Court

The Juneau Empire reports that the Alaska Judicial Council has recommended four finalists for the vacancy on the state Supreme Court. Gov. Bill Walker has 45 days to make a final decision about which of the recommended candidates will replace Dana Fabe, the justice who announced her retirement last year.

“While national headlines have been filled with the controversy surrounding the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the process of filling Alaska’s vacancy has been downright sedate by comparison,” the newspaper reports.

The article goes on to highlight the stresses for applicants going through the vetting process, noting in particular the negative criticism that can be generated through the Judicial Council’s practice of sending anonymized surveys of the candidates to every member of the Alaska Bar Association. However, Alaska’s merit system is ultimately praised for the calm and lack of political drama that it brings to the appointment process.

“On the federal level, that’s a highly politicized process…In Alaska, happily, we have an entirely different process that was created through the brilliance and the foresight of the delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention,” the Empire quotes Alaska Chief Justice Craig Stowers as saying.

Speaking to the newspaper, Julie Willoughby, a Juneau attorney and former member of the Judicial Council, said that Alaska’s system is an “apolitical…comparative merit-based process” and that she believes it “functions as designed and that it’s a fantastically good system.”

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