Sen. Chuck Grassley

  • March 29, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Mark S. Kende, James Madison Chair Professor in Constitutional Law and director of the Drake University Constitutional Law Center. Professor Kende serves as faculty advisor to the ACS student chapter at Drake University Law School.

    *This post originally appeared in The Des Moines Register.

    A group is running television advertisements in Iowa on behalf of Sen. Chuck Grassley saying that he wants “the people” to select the next U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace the Honorable Antonin Scalia, via this year’s presidential election.  Grassley justifies refusing to hold hearings as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on President Obama’s distinguished nominee, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, for this reason even though Garland has received support from distinguished Republicans such as Ken Starr and Sen. Orrin Hatch. Yet the Grassley advertisement misinforms Iowans.

    The U.S. Constitution specifically authorizes the president, not “the people,” to nominate Supreme Court justices. The Senate must give its “advice and consent,” but it’s the president’s choice. And by the way, President Obama was elected by “the people” through our electoral college for a full four-year term, not three years.

    Grassley assumes Iowans will not notice the misinformation campaign because he is making his position sound very democratic and populist. Yet it’s just incorrect. And Senator Grassley is not following his own frequent statements about strict allegiance to the text of the Constitution in his advertisements. Moreover, polls show that most people vote for a presidential candidate based on a number of reasons, including the Supreme Court. Other people worry about the economy or terrorism. So his statements that the presidential election is a referendum on the Supreme Court is not accurate.

    Some Republican leaders, including Senator Grassley, initially said that no vote should be held because Supreme Court confirmation decisions historically were not made in presidential election years. Yet Grassley had no problem when a Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed Republican presidential court nominee Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1988 during an election year.

  • May 8, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted hearings for four White House nominees. The committee heard testimony from Dale A. Drozd, to be a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California, Ann Donnelly and LaShann DeArcy Hall, to be United States District Judges for the Eastern District of New York, and Lawrence J. Vilardo, to be a United States District Judge for the Western District of New York.

    Massive delays in filling judicial vacancies continue as Senate Republicans refuse to confirm nominees or schedule hearings for nominees. This week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid ​harshly criticized Senator Pat Toomey for blocking Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Third Circuit nominee Judge L. Felipe Restrepo. As ​the blog for People for the American Way reports, Toomey has refused to explain his decision. 

    Judge Restrepo has already waited 176 days despite universal agreement on his qualifications for the position. Roll Call ​and the blog for the ​Alliance for Justice discuss the political machinations that are contributing to this wait. 

    The Des Moines Register ​criticized these delays, and argued that these judicial vacancies are making it more difficult for Americans to get their day in court. Senator Chuck Grassley has failed to schedule hearings for qualified candidates such as Restrepo despite judicial vacancies quickly turning into judicial emergencies.  

    There are currently 55 vacancies, and 24 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • May 1, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Thursday, President Obama announced five new judicial nominations: Todd Sunhwae Kim to be an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Julie Helene Becker, William Ward Nooter, Robert A. Salerno, and Steven M. Wellner to be Associate Judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  

    Senator Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refuses to admit his part in the delays on judicial nominees. As the Alliance for Justice explains, the senator has claimed that Republicans should take credit for nominees confirmed last congress, but has denied any responsibility for two months of Loretta Lynch’s confirmation wait that occurred in the same time period.

    More troubling still, the senator’s comments at the National Press Club on Monday indicate that he may wish to shut down judicial confirmations entirely. Senator Grassley stated, “Come July of 2015, probably they’ll be cut off and not approving any.”

    The blog of People for the American Way illustrates the problem with cutting off judicial confirmations in July. Not only could this move continue to swell the number of judicial vacancies, but it also comes at a time when the nominees that have presented are being considered at a glacial pace.

    There are currently 55 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • April 24, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The U.S. Senate made another judicial confirmation on Monday. In a vote of 91-0, the Senate confirmed the nomination of George C. Hanks, Jr. to be a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas. Additionally, in unanimous voice votes, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out two more nominees.  Kara Stoll, nominated to be a United States Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit, and Roseann A. Ketchmark, to be a United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri, were both voted out of committee. 

    Overall, the Senate continues to delay on confirming nominees. Republican leadership has refused to accept responsibility for the judicial vacancies. Texas, for example, has ten current vacancies according to the Alliance for Justice. Senate Republicans have done little to alleviate this pressing problem, and have they failed to accept their part in creating judicial emergencies. 

    U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley announced that he will recommend two Iowans for District Court vacancies this week, and it looks as though he will move quickly to move the nominees through the process. The Des Moines Register argues that the senator should apply this same sense of urgency to other nominees.

    Senator Mitch McConnell may be slowing down judicial nominations as means of getting back at Democrats for previous filibuster reforms. But as ACS President Caroline Fredrickson points out in a recent article at Talking Points Memo by Sahil Kapur, these delays may offer an opportunity for progressives to mobilize their base.

    After the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, the Senate now needs to consider Sally Yates to be Deputy Attorney General. Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement on the nomination and the importance of moving more quickly on judicial nominations.

    There are currently 53 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • September 19, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Along a party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination of Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination must still be considered by the entire Senate.

    Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voted against the nomination, again noting his wobbly claim that the 11-member D.C. Circuit, one of the most powerful appellate courts in the land, does not need the vacancies filled. Grassley has been pushing a bill that aims to cut seats from the D.C. Circuit, effectively leaving its right-wing tilt in place.

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) lauded today’s vote, saying “Pillard’s character and qualifications are unassailable.” A press release from Leahy’s office also noted that Pillard, a professor of law at Georgetown University, has argued “nine cases before the Supreme Court as well as drafted the government’s successful argument in the landmark Supreme Court case, United States v. Virginia, which opened the doors to the Virginia Military Institute for female cadets.”

    Despite efforts by some right-wing pundits to distort Pillard’s legal work and career, she has received support of Republicans, former law enforcement and military officials, conservatives, and many leading members of the Supreme Court bar from both parties.

    Several public interest groups lauded today’s Senate Committee action and called for a swift floor-vote of Pillard’s nomination.

    Leslie Proll, director of LDF’s Washington Office said, “We trust the Senate will recognize that Nina is a tremendously qualified nominee, who would be an incredible asset to the D.C. Circuit.”

    National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) Co-President Marcia Greenberger, noted that Pillard’s “impressive legal career includes two tours in the U.S. Department of Justice and 15 years teaching at the Georgetown University Law Center. In addition, she currently brings her legal acumen and expertise to her role as Co-Director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, which prepares lawyers for oral argument before the Supreme Court on a pro bono basis. She is a legal superstar who would bring extraordinary skills to the Court, including her deep background on legal protections for women.”

    There are more than 90 vacancies on the federal bench and for most of President Obama’s time in office vacancies have hovered near 80. Today the president announced 8 more judicial nominations, including Diane J. Humetawa to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. If confirmed, Humetawa would become the first Native American female judge in the nation’s history.

    The National Native American Bar Association lauded Humetawa’s nomination, calling it “historic.”

    For information on federal court vacancies and nominations see JudicialNominations.org.