Judicial Nominations

  • May 2, 2014
    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.
    Darrin P. Gayles, Southern District of Florida.
    Paul G. Byron, Middle District of Florida.
    Beth Bloom, Southern District of Florida.
  • April 11, 2014
    This was a slow week for judicial nominations. On Tuesday April 8, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the nomination of Michelle Friedland to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On Thursday, April 10, the Senate voted 56-41 in favor of cloture on her nomination. Because she is nominated to a circuit court, Senate rules require 30 hours of post-cloture debate before a final confirmation vote, unless there is unanimous consent to yield back that time. As they have done since the November rules change, Senate Republicans refused to yield. Sen. Reid had said that he would keep the Senate in session for an usual Friday afternoon vote but he changed course Thursday evening, announcing that the confirmation vote for Friedland would take place on Monday, April 28, the first day the senators return from a two week recess.
    Also this week, there were conflicting reports about President Obama’s progress on filing judicial vacancies. Some argued that he has been as successful as President Bush because of the number of nominees confirmed at this point in their presidencies. Others, however, argued that raw numbers do not offer an accurate comparison because President Obama has seen more vacancies, yet had a lower percentage of his nominees confirmed.
    There are now a total of 85 current vacancies and 23 future vacancies (including three vacancies that will become current if a sitting district court judge is elevated to a circuit court). There are 50 pending nominees, two of whom are nominated to future vacancies. There are 36 judicial emergencies. Thirty-one nominees remain pending on the Senate floor.
    For more information on judicial nominations, see the latest from “In the News” and “Recommended Readings” on JudicialNominations.org, a project of ACS.
  • April 9, 2014
    At The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen discusses “secession by attrition” in which a collection of senators are “starving the federal courts of the trial judges they need to serve the basic legal needs of the litigants who come to court each year seeking redress of their grievances.”
    Writing for Daily Kos, Jon Perr criticizes Politico’s recent piece “Obama now outpaces George W. Bush on judges,” for its misleading message. While the Obama administration has made some “headway” against Senate Republicans’ egregious obstruction of the president’s judicial nominations, Perr reveals how  Politico’s data shows that President Obama’s nominations have been “confirmed at a lower rate than President Bush’s.”
    Yesterday, President Obama signed two executive orders that “will prevent retaliation against employees who disclose compensation information and will require businesses to include race and gender information when reporting compensation data.” Keli Goff at The Root comments on this critical step towards ensuring workplace equality. 
    At the Daily Journal, Richard L. Hasen discusses Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and the "faux judicial restraint" of the chief justice’s “gradualism.” 
    Michelle Olsen at Appellate Daily notes a recent petition to the high court requesting oral argument in a case involving threats made on Facebook.
  • April 4, 2014
    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.
  • April 2, 2014
    A recent American Constitution Society symposium explored the vitally important topic of state court judicial selection. Entitled (“Justice at Risk: Research Opportunities and Policy Alternatives Regarding State Judicial Selection” the event empirical evidence showing that how a state selects its judges can impact judicial decision making. The symposium (which was co-sponsored by the American Judicature Society and Vanderbilt Law School) built upon the foundation set by Justice at Risk, a study commissioned by ACS that sounded the alarm over the big money takeover of state courts across the nation. Written by Professor Joanna Shepherd-Bailey of Emory University, who examined thousands state court cases and over 175,000 judicial campaign contributions, Justice at Risk shows that consciously or unconsciously, judges tend to rule in favor of their contributors. For example, a judge who receives half of his or her contributions from business groups would be expected to vote in favor of business interests almost two-thirds of the time.
    Professor Shepherd-Bailey led the symposium’s opening panel which examined the findings of Justice at Risk and discussed its methodology. Two subsequent panels looked at the research opportunities presented by Professor Shepherd-Bailey’s research and a broader discussion at the policy implications of this empirical research. The latter panel featured the Honorable Martha Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Honorable N. Randy Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.