Judicial Nominees

  • April 22, 2010

    President Obama announced more judicial nominees this week, while the Senate overcame obstruction to confirm some long-delayed executive and judicial nominations.

    Among the nominees confirmed is Duke law professor Chris Schroeder, who President Obama selected to lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy. Schroeder is a co-author of Keeping Faith with the Constitution, a book published by ACS. His nomination languished in the Senate for 11 months before being confirmed by a 72-24 vote.  

    Other confirmations include Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judge Denny Chin to the Second Circuit. Vanaskie's nomination, announced in August 2009, received Senate approval by a vote of 77-20. Chin was nominated last October and confirmed unanimously this week.

    While Chin's nomination was delayed in the Senate, the Second Circuit became the site of "the worst judicial emergency in the nation, as defined by the Judicial Conference of the United States," The Blog of the Legal Times reports. "There are 920 'adjusted filings per panel,' compared with a threshold for emergencies of 700 adjusted filings per panel."

  • April 21, 2010

    The Senate confirmed D.C. magistrate judge Marisa Demeo to the area's Superior Court last last night. The 66-32 vote fell largely along party-lines. 

    Demeo drew more opposition than is usual of nominees to the capital's local trial court, reports the Blog of the Legal Times (BLT). "[M]any Republicans opposed Demeo because of her opposition to [Miguel] Estrada and her other work during seven years as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund," the BLT states.

    While working at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Demeo represented the group's interest in opposing the confirmation of Estrada, nominated in 2001 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Democrats filibustered Estrada's nomination for the administration's failure to release documents concerning his work in the Solicitor General's office, and Estrada eventually withdrew from consideration.

  • April 15, 2010
    Democratic Senators increasingly are seeking to assert their muscle and gain swifter confirmation of President Obama's judicial nominees in the face of Republican delays, a report in Politico details.

    "Twenty-two nominations, 22 highly qualified nominees are languishing on the Senate floor because we haven't been able to reach time agreements with the Senate Republicans," Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy said. "Many of these were voted out of committee unanimously [with] every Republican, every Democrat supporting the nominee."

    "We are going to stay in as long as it takes, even if it means nights, weekends, to get these nominees through," Sen. Chuck Schumer warned at a press conference this week. "Because it's just unpardonable, unexplainable, only the worst of motivations that's holding these judges up."

    At an oversight hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week, Attorney General Eric Holder urged more expeditious consideration of nominees, speaking specifically about law enforcement nominees delayed in the Senate.

  • April 15, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Russ Wheeler, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he studies the selection of U.S. judges and how courts function with other branches of government and the press, among other judicial topics. Wheeler is a former deputy director of the Federal Judicial Center, research and education agency for the federal court system. 

    The buzz about likely nominees for Justice John Paul Stevens' Supreme Court seat is crowding out attention to the slow pace of nominations and confirmations of federal circuit and district judges. The fight over the Supreme Court vacancy will likely slow that pace even more.

    The Obama administration lags behind the W. Bush administration's number of nominees and confirmations at the same point, leading to grousing from law professors and others. Hopes are fading fast among liberal federal court watchers that Obama's strong electoral victory will mean a major change -- at least in his current term -- in the mix of Democratic- and Republican-appointed federal judges, especially on the courts of appeals.

    Here's a rundown of the pace of nominations and confirmations, and after that a look at some differences among Obama and Bush nominees at this point. More details are available here.

    Nominations and confirmations as of April 14 2002/2010 Obama has made fewer nominations: 38 district and 18 circuit nominations, versus 69 and 28 for Bush (not including a Fourth Circuit judge whom Clinton recess appointed and Bush renominated). Obama inherited 54 vacancies, but now there are more than 100, and over 20 publicly announced future vacancies.

  • March 24, 2010

    On Capitol Hill today, Republicans invoked what The Wall Street Journal characterizes as "an obscure rule" in which unanimous consent is required for committee activity to proceed, effectively bring all committee hearings to a halt. This included one in the Judiciary Committee, at which two judicial nominations were to be considered.

    Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy sharply criticized the action in a statement:

    Senate Republicans' tactics of obstruction and delay know no limit. They have objected to reasonable timetables to consider President Obama's qualified judicial nominees, and now they are objecting to allowing the Judiciary Committee to conduct hearings in connection with these nominations.

    The ranking Republican on the committee Sen. Jeff Sessions had no response.

    The Judiciary Committee was scheduled to consider the nominations of Magistrate Kimberley J. Muller, for the Eastern District of California, and Berkeley Law Professor and former ACS board chair Goodwin Liu (pictured), for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. According to the Senate Judiciary Committee's website, the hearing "will be rescheduled at the earliest possible time."