Judicial Nominations

  • December 19, 2014

    by Rebekah DeHaven

    This week we saw a strong ending to the 113th Congress with the confirmation of all twelve district court nominees who were on the Senate floor. On Tuesday, December 16, the Senate confirmed all nominees by voice vote, with the exception of one who was confirmed by a roll call vote (noted below):

    • Haywood Gilliam, Northern District of California;
    • Amit Priyavadan Mehta, District of D.C.;
    • Jorge Alonso, Northern District of Illinois;
    • John Blakey, Northern District of Illinois;
    • Allison Burroughs, District of Massachusetts;
    • Stephen Bough, Western District of Missouri, 51-38;
    • Joan Azrack, Eastern District of New York;
    • Loretta Biggs, Middle District of North Carolina;
    • Robert Pitman, Western District of Texas;
    • Amos Mazzant, Eastern District of Texas;
    • Robert Schroeder, Eastern District of Texas; and
    • Elizabeth Dillion, Western District of Virginia.

    These votes bring 2014 to a close with an impressive total of 89 judicial confirmations. The 113th Congress concludes with only 42 current judicial vacancies and 25 future vacancies. When President Obama took office in 2009 there were 55 current judicial vacancies, and this week's votes finally brought the current number of vacancies below where the President began. In President Obama’s six years, there have been 307 confirmations, adding significant diversity to the federal bench.

    When the Senate returns in January there will be 43 current vacancies and 24 future vacancies.[1] Of the 43 current vacancies, 12 are now considered judicial emergencies. All pending nominations were returned to the President at the end of the Senate session, and President Obama will need to re-nominate them at the beginning of the 114th Congress.



    [1] A Western District of New York future vacancy will become current on 1/3/2015. 

     

  • December 11, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Christie Thompson of The Marshall Project takes a look at “Skewed Justice,” the ACS-sponsored report on state judicial elections, and argues that ugly judicial elections are bad news for defendants.

    In The Washington Post, Matea Gold reports that a last-minute provision in a congressional spending deal could result in a financial resurgence of large donations to national political parties.

    David Cole, Co-Faculty Adviser to the Georgetown University Law Center ACS Student Chapter, argues in The New Yorker that the report on the C.I.A.’s interrogation program is only a start to taking responsibility for the wrongs done.

    At Bloomberg View, Noah Feldman asserts that the Supreme Court does not understand wage labor.

    At The Hill, Alexander Bolton reports that President Obama’s nominees are in a critical situation as the 113th Congress approaches adjournment.

    Anemona Hartocollis writes in The New York Times that insurers in New York are now obligated to cover gender reassignment surgery.

  • November 14, 2014

    by Rebekah DeHaven

    The Senate returned this week following the midterm elections and its first order of business was to consider two district court nominations. On November 12, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on Randolph Moss (nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) and Leigh Martin May (nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia). Senator Reid (D-Nev.) also filed cloture on Eleanor Ross, Mark Cohen, and Leslie Abrams, all nominated to the Northern District of Georgia. On November 13, the Senate voted to confirm Moss, 54-45, and May, 99-0.

    Also on November 12, President Obama made four new judicial nominations: Dale Drozd to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, LaShann Moutique DeArcy Hall to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Luis Felipe Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Kara Farnandez Stoll to the Federal Circuit. 

    On November 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Joan Marie Azrack (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York), Loretta Copeland Biggs (U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina), and Elizabeth K. Dillon (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia). The Senate Judiciary Committee was also scheduled to vote on nine nominees, but they were held over at the request of Senator Grassley (R-Iowa).

  • November 10, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In the Los Angeles Times, David G. Savage and Timothy M. Phelps argue that President Obama is unlikely to change the ideology of the Supreme Court with the new Republican Senate. ACS President Caroline Fredrickson is quoted in the article.

    Noah Feldman examines the newest challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court this term in Bloomberg View.

    In the Detroit Free Press, David H. Gans argues against the decision of U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey Sutton that upheld same-sex marriage bands in four states.

    Jessica Eaglin writes at the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice on California’s Proposition 47 and the attempt to slow mass incarceration.

    At The Atlantic¸ Matt Ford explains why the Supreme Court may not have to rule on same-sexmarriage. 

  • November 7, 2014

    by Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Follow her on Twitter @crfredrickson. This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

    Many may despair -- believing the next two years in Washington will be a long slog of tiresome partisan fights with no positive action to improve the lives of Americans. But moping is the last thing progressives should be about.

    Let's talk judicial nominations. Federal courts are vital -- they decide pressing matters every day, whether they are challenges to employment discrimination, corporate malfeasance, or immigration appeals. Do we just throw our hands up on judicial nominations, buying into a lazy argument that nothing much can be done now with a Senate controlled by Republicans? There likely are many important policy matters that will be shelved. But it doesn't have to be that way with judicial nominations. On this front there's work to be done and it can be achieved with an energetic attitude -- not apathy.

    There are 64 vacancies on the federal bench and if we give up on the federal courts that number will spike and we'll have judges with outlandish caseloads and Americans with a sluggish, inefficient court system. Part of the Senate's job is to confirm judges to ensure our country has a well-running judicial system. We know all too well that for much of Obama's presidency, Senate Republicans have obstructed the process, slow-walked the president's nominations while arguing everything was just fine. Republican leaders who will take control of the Senate in the New Year are talking about cooperation and working with President Obama, but let's be ready to hold them to their words.

    Some of the current vacancies can and should be filled during the lame-duck session. Democrats in the Senate need to get over the outcome of the midterm elections in quick manner and fill 25 vacancies, which can be done -- with the right attitude. There are 16 judicial nominees who have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are ready for up-or-down votes on the Senate floor. There's no excuse for letting those nominees languish. There are also nine nominees, who have had hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee should move those nominations to the Senate floor as soon as possible. This is doable in the lame duck.

    And then the next two years -- again no time for dwelling on what could have been. The Senate Republicans may turn back to their obstructionist ways -- let's hope not. Maybe they'll surprise us on the judicial nominations front and realize this is an area for cooperation. But if not, progressives must be ready to push back and keep up the pressure, reminding as many Americans as possible of the great importance our judicial system is to a well-functioning democracy.