Federal judicial selection

  • March 23, 2012
    Following the recent deal to hold votes on 14 nominees, the Senate confirmed three district court nominees Thursday: David Nuffer to the District of Utah, Ronnie Abrams to the Southern District of New York and Rudolph Contreras to the District of Columbia.
     
    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against Nuffer, in spite of his stated support for his home-state nominee, in continued retaliation against President Obama’s recess appointments of Richard Cordray and three others.
     
    After last week’s Republican boycott of the Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting, the committee appeared poised again to lack quorum for this week’s meeting. A number of hours after its scheduled start time, enough senators finally convened to hold over one circuit judge and two district judges. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has declared one of these district seats a judicial emergency.
     
  • March 19, 2012

    by Nicole Flatow

    The Senate’s deal last week to confirm 14 judicial nominees over the next several months ensures that at least some long-pending nominees will finally get a vote. But even if all of these individuals are confirmed (which they likely will be), this would represent “just a fraction of the needed judges,” write three House members in an op-ed in Politico.

    Translation: the vacancy crisis on the federal courts persists. And among the overlooked consequences of the persistently high vacancy rate is that it harms our economy.

    “Simply put, they [vacancies] are bad for business,” write Reps. Charles Gonzalez, Emanuel Cleaver II and Judy Chu, the chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “While litigants’ cases remain pending, they must put their lives — and their business plans — on hold. This uncertainty prevents business owners from making the needed investments to create jobs.”

    The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen elaborates:

  • March 16, 2012
    Following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) bold move to file cloture petitions on 17 judicial nominees at once, Senate leaders reached a deal late Wednesday to hold votes on 14 over the next few months. Under the deal, the Senate will hold votes on 12 federal district court judges and two circuit court judges between now and May 7, with votes on a few nominees held each week.
     
    The deal leaves out eight other nominees who are ready for an immediate Senate vote, and does not consider those additional nominees who will reach the Senate floor over the next two months. “The deal Senator Reid reached today with the Republicans who were obstructing any and all action is certainly a step in the right direction,” said American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson. “Of course, the persistently high rate of vacancies on our courts continues – and with one in 10 seats still empty, litigants whose safety, security and livelihoods are on the line will continue to wait years for a resolution in court.”
     
    As part of the deal, the Senate on Thursday confirmed two nominees: Gina Groh to the U.S. District Court for the District of West Virginia by a vote of 95-2, and Michael Fitzgerald to the U.S. District Court for the District of Central California by a vote of 91-6. ThinkProgress reports that Fitzgerald will be “only the fourth openly gay lifetime tenured federal judge in American history.”
  • March 14, 2012

     

    By Nicole Flatow

    Following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bold move to file cloture petitions on 17 judicial nominees at once, Senate leaders reached a deal late Wednesday to hold votes on 14 judicial nominees over the next few months.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had blasted Reid’s move to force votes on the nominees as a “gimmick,” dismissing allegations that Senate Republicans have obstructed judicial nominations, even though Obama nominees have, on average, waited four times longer for a vote than Bush nominees for a confirmation vote.

    Under the deal, the Senate will hold votes on 12 federal district court judges and two circuit court judges between now and May 7, with votes on a few nominees held each week, Roll Call reports. 

    But the deal leaves out eight other nominees who are ready for an immediate Senate vote, and does not consider those additional nominees that will reach the Senate floor over the next two months.

     “The deal Senator Reid reached today with the Republicans who were obstructing any and all action is certainly a step in the right direction,” said American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson. “Of course, the persistently high rate of vacancies on our courts continues – and with one in 10 seats still empty, litigants whose safety, security and livelihoods are on the line will continue to wait years for a resolution in court.”

  • March 12, 2012

    by Nicole Flatow

    Ramping up his aggressive push to fill long-vacant seats on the federal courts, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the extraordinary measure Monday of filing motions to force votes on all 17 district court nominees pending on the Senate floor.

    “Republicans have refused to allow us to even vote - won't even allow us to vote - on these qualified judicial nominees,” Reid said. “Republicans have prevented the Senate from doing its constitutional duty and that's what it is.”

    Motions to invoke cloture have historically been considered extraordinary even when filed one at a time. But the filing of 17 cloture petitions on district court nominees is an unprecedented measure, taken to clear some of the 83 vacancies that continue to plague the federal trial courts.

    “Unfortunately, Republicans have forced our hand,” Reid said. “What else can we do?”

    All 17 of these nominees would fill seats on the federal trial courts, and half of those seats are considered judicial emergencies.