GOP Senator: Don't Let Politics Trump Judicial Qualifications

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told the ABA annual meeting that he’s concerned about politics trumping qualifications when it comes to the Senate confirming judicial nominees.

The independent status of the federal judiciary is being put at risk by politics, Graham said, according to an ABA Journal article.

“I’m really worried about how we’re doing confirmations,” said the senator from South Carolina and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They’re turning into political events. I’m a conservative, and I’d like conservative judges on the federal bench,” Graham said, but if voters re-elect President Obama, then “his nominees are entitled to be confirmed as long as they’re qualified.”

Graham added, “The question is, are you qualified? It’s stupid to pick on something you said in law school, and pick on this or pick on that. I’m not worried about judicial activism. I’m worried about Senate activism.”

The senator also said judicial independence is threatened by Congress’s reticence to pay higher salaries to federal judges.

Meanwhile, political maneuvering again blocked  Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to a Blog of Legal Times post. She is general counsel in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and has drawn opposition from gun rights advocates including the National Rifle Association and from many Senate Republicans. An earlier nomination of Halligan was filibustered in December (see Gavel Grab).

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed on a 55-41 vote the nomination of Gershwin Drain for a federal district judgeship in Michigan, the BLT blog reported.

A scorecard on Obama’s judicial confirmations record so far was published by Russell Wheeler, Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies at Brookings. “President Obama’s circuit confirmation success rate so far stacks up fairly well compared to those of his immediate predecessors,” Wheeler wrote. “His district numbers lag behind, but some late-year confirmations could improve his tally, as they did those of his immediate predecessors.”

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