The Senate returned from recess this week with a flurry of judicial nominations activity. Before leaving for recess, the Senate voted 56-41 in favor of cloture on Michelle Friedland’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit (California). On Monday, the Senate voted to confirm Friedland by a margin of 51-40. In addition to being a former member of the ACS Bay Area Lawyer Chapter Board, she was the 100th woman to be confirmed for a federal judgeship under President Obama. Her confirmation leaves the Ninth Circuit fully staffed for the first time in 22 years.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on six district court nominees, and followed up on Wednesday with confirmation votes for all six:
Sheryl H. Lipman, Western District of Tennessee, 58-39 cloture, confirmed 95-0.
Allen Bastian, Eastern District of Washington, 55-41 cloture, confirmed 95-0.
Manish S. Shah, Northern District of Illinois, 57-40 cloture, confirmed 95-0.
Daniel D. Crabtree, District of Kansas, 57-39 cloture, confirmed 94-0.
Cynthia Ann Bashant, Southern District of California, 56-41 cloture, confirmed 94-0.
Jon David Levy, District of Maine, 63-44 cloture, confirmed 75-20.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hold votes on four Florida district court nominees, but they were held over at the request of Committee Republicans. Committee Chair Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.) made a point to note that all of the nominees, who would fill judicial emergencies if confirmed, are supported by Florida Senators Nelson (D) and Rubio (R), yet were being held over without reason. The nominees scheduled for a vote and held over were:
Carlos Eduardo Mendoza, Middle District of Florida.
On Monday, the Senate voted to confirm John B. Owens to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, filling the longest-running vacancy in the country. The seat that Owens filled was a judicial emergency and had been vacant since December of 2004 when Judge Trott took senior status.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for four nominees to Florida district courts, all of whom would fill judicial emergencies if confirmed:
Beth Bloom to the S.D. of Florida;
Paul G. Byron to the M.D. of Florida;
Darrin P. Gayles to the S.D. of Florida; and
Carlos Eduardo Mendoza to the M.D. of Florida.
On Wednesday, the Center for American Progress released a report entitled “Texas, Where Are the Judges?” The report discusses the vacancy crisis throughout Texas and found that “19 years’ worth of cases could have been decided by the Texas district and circuit courts had judges been appointed on schedule.”
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to report four nominees to the full Senate for consideration:
Cheryl Ann Krause to the 3rd Cir. (Penn.) by voice vote;
Richard Franklin Boulware II to the D. of Nevada, 11-7;
Salvador Mendoza, Jr. to the E.D. of Washington, 17-1; and
Staci Michelle Yandle to the S.D. of Illinois, 17-1.
Also on Thursday, President Obama announced two district court nominations: André Birotte, Jr. to the C.D. of California and Randolph D. Moss to the D. of the District of Columbia.
On Wednesday, the Senate held cloture votes on four nominees, quickly followed by successful confirmation votes for all four:
Christopher Cooper to the District of D.C., cloture 56-43, confirmed 100-0;
Douglas Harpool to the W.D. of Missouri, cloture 56-43, confirmed 93-5;
Gerald McHugh to the E.D. of Pennsylvania, cloture 56-43, confirmed 59-41;
Edward Smith to the E.D. of Pennsylvania, cloture 75-23, confirmed 69-31.
Christopher Cooper has been a long-time member of ACS. Gerald McHugh and Edward Smith are welcome additions to the Pennsylvania bench, which is overwhelmed with vacancies. Even with these confirmations, there remain five vacancies in the Eastern District (no nominees), three vacancies in the Western District (no nominees), and two 3rd Circuit Pennsylvania vacancies (1 nominee). There has been serious disagreement and concern over David Porter, thought to be under consideration for one of the Western District vacancies.
Florida courts came one step closer to adding Darrin Gayles to the bench this week when Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.) returned his blue slip, allowing Gayles to have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed, Gayles would be the first openly gay African-American man to be a federal judge. He was nominated by President Obama after Sen. Rubio blocked William Thomas’s nomination, despite Rubio’s early support.
During the 1950s, Victor Green wrote The Green Book, a travel guide listing restaurants and businesses that welcomed the patronage of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. Writing for The American Prospect, Kent Greenfield—Professor of Law and Law Fund Research Scholar at Boston College Law School and Faculty Advisor for the Boston College Law School ACS Student Chapter—explains why, “after Tuesday’s arguments at the Supreme Court, we may need to dust off the Green Book and indeed initiate new editions for women, LGBT people, Muslims, and Jews.”
“The U.S. remains the only country in the world that imposes [life without parole] on children.” Steven M. Watt at the ACLU’s Blog of Rights tells the tragic story of Juwan Wichware and argues that “any punishment kids do receive should reflect their unique capacity for rehabilitation.”
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether “Secret Service agents can be sued for moving a group of protesters out of earshot of President George W. Bush in 2004.” NPR’s Nina Totenberg breaks down Wood v. Moss.
At TPM’s Editor’s Blog, Nan Aron calls for more diversity from the federal bench and notes “why it is so important that the people who may someday judge us represent a broad cross section of the American people.”
Frank Ackerman at the CPRBlog describes how the Koch-funded Beacon Hill Institute is producing a “steady stream of anti-environmental analyses.”
Katie Hamm and Erika Basurto at the Center for American Progress reveal how “the Strong Start Act would significantly improve access to early education for low-income children.”
On Monday, March 10, the Senate voted in favor of cloture for Carolyn McHugh to the 10th Circuit (Utah) by a vote of 62-34.
On Tuesday March 11, President Obama nominated Leslie Joyce Abrams to the Middle District of Georgia. Her nomination was welcomed by many, including Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). However, criticism of President Obama’s other judicial nominees in Georgia continues.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate continued with four cloture votes on nominees to the Eastern District of Michigan:
Matthew Leitman to the E.D. of Michigan, 55-43;
Judith Ellen Levy to the E.D. of Michigan, 56-42;
Laurie Michelson to the E.D. of Michigan, 56-43; and
Linda Parker to the E.D. of Michigan, 56-42.
With successful cloture votes, the Senate was able to vote on the confirmation of these five nominees on Wednesday. All five were confirmed, four with no opposition.
Carolyn McHugh to the 10th Circuit (Utah), 98-0;
Matthew Leitman to the E.D. of Michigan, 98-0;
Judith Ellen Levy to the E.D. of Michigan, 97-0;
Laurie Michelson to the E.D. of Michigan, 98-0; and
Linda Parker to the E.D. of Michigan, 60-37.
Carolyn McHugh will be the first woman from Utah to sit on the 10th Circuit.