Judicial Vacancies

  • February 27, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to report four judicial nominees to the Senate floor: Alfred H. Bennett, George C. Hanks, Jr., and Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr., to be U.S. District Judges for the Southern District of Texas, and Jill N. Parrish to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Utah. 

    Also on Thursday, the White House announced the nomination of Mary Barzee Flores and Julien Xavier Neals to serve on the United States District Courts. Flores is nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Neals is nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

    People for the American Way discuss at their blog the problem with Republican inaction as judicial emergencies increase. Due to delays in identifying recommendations for vacancies and scheduling committee votes, there are now multiple situations in which vacancies have become judicial emergencies.

    There are currently 49 vacancies, and 20 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 14 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • February 6, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. and Lawrence Joseph Vilardo to serve on the United States District Courts. Crenshaw is nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, and Vilardo is nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. These are the first announcements of judicial nominees for 2015.

    Jonathan Bernstein asserts at Bloomberg View that it is time for the Republican Senate to make the first confirmation of 2015. “[I]t’s important for the government to function smoothly, and that means filling vacancies,” writes Bernstein.

    Judiciary Committee members in the House and Senate have introduced a bill that aims to stop sue-and-settle regulation, reports The Hill. Thirty-five groups, including the Alliance for Justice, have published an open letter urging Congress to ensure that citizens can stand up for their rights in court.

    Lawmakers are still considering whether to change Senate rules so that Supreme Court nominees could be confirmed with a simple majority, reports The Wall Street Journal. James Downie at The Washington Post warns Senate Democrats to be careful about their filibuster strategy and response to these proposed changes.

    There are currently 45 vacancies, and 13 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 14 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • November 21, 2014

    by Rebekah DeHaven

    This week, the Senate voted to confirm eight U.S. District Court nominees. On Tuesday, November 18, the Senate confirmed three nominees:

    Leslie Abrams, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, by a vote of 100-0;

    Eleanor Ross, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, by voice votes; and

    Mark Cohen, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, by voice votes.

    Later in the week, after invoking cloture, the Senate confirmed an additional five nominees:

    Pamela Pepper, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, by a vote of 95-0;

    Brenda Sannes, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, by a vote of 96-0;

    Madeline Arleo, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, by voice vote;

    Wendy Beetlestone, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, by voice vote; and

    Victor Bolden, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, by a vote of 49-46.

  • 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 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.