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.
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.
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.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a passionate advocate for progressive ideals during her long tenure on the Supreme Court. However, many on the left are urging Justice Ginsburg to retire at the end of the Court’s current term, in order to avoid risking “a Republican president filling her seat.” Garrett Epps at The Atlanticexplains why “this Supreme Court justice will leave the bench when she's ready, regardless of what others think.”
Writing for NYRblog, David Cole—Co-Faculty Advisor for the Georgetown University Law Center ACS Student Chapter—comments on the growing controversy regarding the Central Intelligence Agency’s alleged tampering with a Senate torture investigation. Cole argues that the CIA’s “desperate efforts to hide the details … are only the latest evidence of the poisonous consequences of a program euphemistically called ‘enhanced interrogation.’”
The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law has announced a plan to allow its students the opportunity to end law school early while earning a Master of Legal Studies degree. Karen Sloan at The National Law Journal breaks down the first “risk-free Juris doctor program.”
Ronald K. L. Collins at Concurring Opinions examines how Justice Antonin Scalia’s “view of textualism and originalism … plays out in the First Amendment context.”
At Balkinization, Marty Lederman provides readers with a collection of his commentary on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. A list of ACS resources on Hobby Lobby and other challenges to the Affordable Care Act can be found here.
Peter Hardin at GavelGrab discusses the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision to uphold retention elections.
Students from Yale Law School wrote a letter admonishing Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) for voting against the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Sen. Coons voted against Adegbile because he oversaw an appeals process for a convicted murderer while at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Ryan J. Reilly at The Huffington Post reports on the letter.
On Monday, Tarek Mehanna’s lawyer asked the Supreme Court to review his client’s seventeen-year imprisonment by a Boston jury for “providing material support to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.” Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog notes the First Amendment implications of Mehanna’s conviction.
Anticipation is growing as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In an article for Slate, Adam Winkler—Faculty Advisor for the UCLA School of Law ACS Student Chapter—explains why corporations should have the rights of “legal personhood that are essential to their operations” and why “Hobby Lobby should lose.”
Kirk Siegler at NPR discusses why “California is shaping up to be the next major battleground over the Second Amendment.”
Celebrating Women’s History Month, Cortelyou Kenney at Womenstake discusses the “gains women have made in terms of their representation on the federal judiciary … under the Obama administration.”