Lame-Duck Session: Action Unlikely on Obama’s Judicial Nominees

CapitolflagBLEAK OUTLOOK FOR OBAMA’S REMAINING JUDICIAL PICKS: One of the most immediate impacts of the Election Day outcomes is a bleak outlook for 59 judicial nominees put forward by President Obama, according to a USA Today article. It cites a report by our sister organization, Alliance for Justice, spotlighting GOP obstructionism.

Although there is time for the Senate to act on judicial nominations in its lame-duck session, the article suggests that no pending nominees are likely to be confirmed in the wake of Republican Donald Trump’s election as president. And that’s despite the fact that during the administration of President George W. Bush, Democrats controlling the Senate ultimately confirmed all of the nominees who had gotten out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Regarding GOP obstructionism, “A report last year by the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice charged that the pace of judicial nominees confirmed under the GOP-controlled Senate is the slowest in 60 years,” USA today said.

Meanwhile, the dramatic post-election change that Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, labeled a “new reality” was taking hold as news media, advocates and academics assessed its impact. The Associated Press reported that even before Trump chooses a nominee for the high court, his administration could revise the Supreme Court’s agenda. “Legal challenges involving immigration, climate change, cost-free contraceptive care and transgender rights all could be affected, without any help from Congress,” depending on what the next administration does, because these challenges involve Obama administration policies, the AP said.

As Trump is expected to make choosing a Supreme Court nominee an early priority, it’s getting lots of attention. Related coverage and commentary included Jeffrey Rosen in Politico Magazine, “How President Trump Could Reshape the Supreme Court — and the Country”; Vox, “Trump on 60 Minutes: Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, women will ‘have to go to another state'”; and US News & World Report, Ilya Shapiro at Newsweek, and The Hill.

Discussing the confirmation process and barriers that Senate Democrats may raise were The New York Times, “Hard Choice for Mitch McConnell: End the Filibuster or Preserve Tradition”; Forbes, “Will Democrats Be Able to Block Trump’s Supreme Court Nominations?”; and a Los Angeles Times column, “Do Democrats still think ‘we need nine’ on the Supreme Court?”

STATE COURT ELECTION AFTERMATH: In North Carolina, there was an unusual development after a state election that promised a one-justice majority of Democrats on the state Supreme Court. Some Republican legislators were talking about possibly adding two justices to the court in a move to neutralize the Democratic majority, according to The Winston-Salem Journal. Opined a (Raleigh) News & Observer editorial, “Packing the court to offset the effect of an election would be an abuse of the legislative process.