Federal judicial selection

  • May 1, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Thursday, President Obama announced five new judicial nominations: Todd Sunhwae Kim to be an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Julie Helene Becker, William Ward Nooter, Robert A. Salerno, and Steven M. Wellner to be Associate Judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  

    Senator Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refuses to admit his part in the delays on judicial nominees. As the Alliance for Justice explains, the senator has claimed that Republicans should take credit for nominees confirmed last congress, but has denied any responsibility for two months of Loretta Lynch’s confirmation wait that occurred in the same time period.

    More troubling still, the senator’s comments at the National Press Club on Monday indicate that he may wish to shut down judicial confirmations entirely. Senator Grassley stated, “Come July of 2015, probably they’ll be cut off and not approving any.”

    The blog of People for the American Way illustrates the problem with cutting off judicial confirmations in July. Not only could this move continue to swell the number of judicial vacancies, but it also comes at a time when the nominees that have presented are being considered at a glacial pace.

    There are currently 55 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • April 24, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The U.S. Senate made another judicial confirmation on Monday. In a vote of 91-0, the Senate confirmed the nomination of George C. Hanks, Jr. to be a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas. Additionally, in unanimous voice votes, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out two more nominees.  Kara Stoll, nominated to be a United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit, and Roseann A. Ketchmark, to be a United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri, were both voted out of committee. 

    Overall, the Senate continues to delay on confirming nominees. Republican leadership has refused to accept responsibility for the judicial vacancies. Texas, for example, has ten current vacancies according to the Alliance for Justice. Senate Republicans have done little to alleviate this pressing problem, and have they failed to accept their part in creating judicial emergencies. 

    U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley announced that he will recommend two Iowans for District Court vacancies this week, and it looks as though he will move quickly to move the nominees through the process. The Des Moines Register argues that the senator should apply this same sense of urgency to other nominees.

    Senator Mitch McConnell may be slowing down judicial nominations as means of getting back at Democrats for previous filibuster reforms. But as ACS President Caroline Fredrickson points out in a recent article at Talking Points Memo by Sahil Kapur, these delays may offer an opportunity for progressives to mobilize their base.

    After the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, the Senate now needs to consider Sally Yates to be Deputy Attorney General. Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement on the nomination and the importance of moving more quickly on judicial nominations.

    There are currently 53 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • April 17, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Justice Wilhelmina Marie Wright to fill an upcoming vacancy on the U.S.  District Court for the District of Minnesota. Since 2012, Justice Wright has served as an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

    Months after its opening session, the U.S. Senate made its first judicial confirmation of the year on Monday. In a unanimous vote, the Senate confirmed Alfred Bennett to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. As the Houston Chronicle reports, however, there are still at least two other pending confirmation votes for Texas federal judges.

    The blog for People for the American Way provides commentary on the first judicial confirmation vote. While the confirmation should be celebrated, the post argues, the delay in reaching this point shows how dysfunctional the confirmation process has become.

    There are currently 54 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 18 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • February 13, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    In Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Session discussion, four nominees were held over until a later meeting: Alfred Bennett, George C. Hanks, Jr., and Jose R. Olvera, Jr. to be U.S. District Judges for the Southern District of Texas and Jill N. Parrish to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Utah. 

    Despite change in leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the pattern of Republican obstructionism continues with the use of the procedural tactic to “hold over” judicial nominees. Alliance for Justice critiques the practice in a recent blog post.

    The Detroit Free Press reports that in a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House this week, Muslim-American leaders asked the president to nominate a Muslim-American to the federal bench. There has not yet been a federal judge in the U.S. who is Muslim.

    Vocativ provides a list of the senators that have been the most likely to vote against Obama appointees and stall the judicial nomination process. 

  • February 6, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. and Lawrence Joseph Vilardo to serve on the United States District Courts. Crenshaw is nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, and Vilardo is nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. These are the first announcements of judicial nominees for 2015.

    Jonathan Bernstein asserts at Bloomberg View that it is time for the Republican Senate to make the first confirmation of 2015. “[I]t’s important for the government to function smoothly, and that means filling vacancies,” writes Bernstein.

    Judiciary Committee members in the House and Senate have introduced a bill that aims to stop sue-and-settle regulation, reports The Hill. Thirty-five groups, including the Alliance for Justice, have published an open letter urging Congress to ensure that citizens can stand up for their rights in court.

    Lawmakers are still considering whether to change Senate rules so that Supreme Court nominees could be confirmed with a simple majority, reports The Wall Street Journal. James Downie at The Washington Post warns Senate Democrats to be careful about their filibuster strategy and response to these proposed changes.

    There are currently 45 vacancies, and 13 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 14 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.