Heightened Pressure for Senate to Act on Court Nominees, Including Garland

CapitolflagJUDICIAL NOMINATIONS: With Congress returning to work today after its summer recess, “Senate Democrats are planning to ratchet up their pressure on Republicans to hold confirmation votes on President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees, including Edward Stanton III of Memphis,” The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

The article, circulated by the USA Today Network, mentioned a report by the Alliance for Justice last year finding “that the pace of judicial nominees confirmed under the GOP-controlled Senate is the slowest in 60 years.” Republicans have disputed that idea. There are 27 judicial nominees awaiting votes on the Senate floor.

“There is absolutely no reason why all of these judges should not be confirmed, other than sheer obstructionism,”  Glenn Sugameli, a lawyer and founder of the nonprofit group Judging the Environment, told the newspaper.

Seven months after Obama nominated U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland for a vacancy on the Supreme Court, meanwhile, supporters are mounting a new effort to spur Senate action, according to CNN. “With the Senate wrapping up its longest recess of the year, communities are refusing to allow senators to go back to the Capitol quietly,” said Michele Jawando of the Center for American Progress. Her group is planning  demonstrations in various states to urge senators to act on Garland’s nomination. As the presidential election plays out, Republican senators have refused to hold hearings.

U.S. SUPREME COURT AND VOTING LAWS: How has the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia affected recent Supreme Court actions on strict state voting laws? “Without conservative Supreme Court majority, voter-law challengers make gains,” The Washington Post reported, focusing on legal challenges to laws passed by Republican legislators in North Carolina and several other states.

Scalia’s death “has removed the Supreme Court as a crucial conservative backstop for such measures,” and appeals courts found voting laws in North Carolina and Texas to have discriminated against Hispanics and African Americans, according to The Post. The Economist, meanwhile, declared in a headline for its column about U.S. politics, “Supreme Court blocks a last-ditch attempt to suppress votes in November.”

KANSAS JUDICIAL ELECTION: You won’t see this happen very often. Four former Kansas governors, two Democrats and two Republicans, are close to embarking “on a three-city tour urging voters to keep partisan politics out of judicial retention elections,” according to The Lawrence Journal-World. In a state Supreme Court retention (up-or-down) election likely to grab national attention, conservatives long critical of the court are targeting four of five justices on the ballot for removal.

The Wichita Eagle noted that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, could appoint a state Supreme Court majority if the ouster efforts succeed. The judicial races “promise to feature fiery rhetoric on a range of issues, including abortion and school funding,” the newspaper said. The state GOP has taken a stance opposing the four targeted justices and supporting retention of the fifth, a Brownback appointee.