senate obstruction

  • December 7, 2011

    by Nicole Flatow

    The Washington Post editorial board called it an “insidious use of judicial nominees as political pawns.”  The Boston Globe dubbed it “dreary, familiar business.” And The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen laments that it is “simple and maddening.”

    The Senate’s move yesterday to block an up-or-down vote on U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit nominee Caitlin Halligan has brought new attention to some senators’ mounting obstruction of judicial nominees.

    Even after combing Halligan’s record for “evidence of dangerous radicalism” and finding nothing, Republican senators denounced her confirmation as “inconceivable,” The Boston Globe asserts in an editorial. Some called her an anti-gun extremist for  representing the state of New York as solicitor general in cases against gun manufacturers. Others claimed the case load in the D.C. Circuit Court is not high enough to merit filling the ninth of 11 seats.

    The reality, Cohen writes, is that senators are holding up these nominations out of “partisan spite,” with the American people as the casualties.

    “Halligan will move on after this ordeal,” he writes. “She's still a superstar. It's just the rest of us, who are not, who are left to suffer with this Senate.”

    Even White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler penned a column in The Huffington Post lamenting the move as the latest devastating blow to the judicial system:

  • December 2, 2011
    Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Thursday evening on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That vote to end debate and hold an up-or-down vote on her nomination will occur  Tuesday at noon. Halligan was nominated to fill a seat vacated in 2005 by now-Chief Justice Roberts.
     
    As part of a deal to schedule votes on five nominees, the Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Christopher Droney to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, notes Judge Droney will fill a judicial emergency vacancy that has existed for more than two years.
     
    The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out the nominations by voice vote of Jacqueline H. Nguyen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Gregg Jeffrey Costa to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and David Campos Guaderrama to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
     
    President Obama nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and litigator Robert J. Shelby to the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.
  • November 11, 2011

    The Senate confirmed Judge Evan Wallach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by a vote of 99-0. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did not vote. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hailed the vote of Judge Wallach but chastised the Republican leadership for their “refus[al] to proceed on 24 of the 25 nominations stalled before the Senate.”

    Edward C. Dumont, another of the president’s nominees to the circuit, asked the president to withdraw his nomination to the bench, Metro Weekly reports. In a letter to the president, Dumont noted that despite being nominated more than 18 months ago, the committee had yet to schedule a hearing for him because of opposition from a minority of committee members. The president withdrew Dumont’s nomination on Thursday, and immediately nominated another candidate for the seat, D.C. intellectual property lawyer Richard Taranto.

    The president also nominated San Diego Superior Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel to the Southern District of California, trial attorney John Z. Lee and securities litigator John J. Tharp Jr. to the Northern District of Illinois, and Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge George Levi Russell III to the District of Maryland.

    By voice vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out the nomination of Susie Morgan to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The Times-Picayune reports that Morgan has the bipartisan support of her home state senators, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.).

  • October 21, 2011

    The Senate confirmed four nominees this week. On Monday, it confirmed Cathy Bissoon to the Western District of Pennsylvania by a vote of 82-3. On Wednesday, it confirmed the nominations of Robert Scola, Jr. to the federal district court in the Southern District of Florida and Mark Hornak to the federal district court in the Western District of Pennsylvania by unanimous consent. It also confirmed Robert Mariani to the federal district court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania by a vote of 82-17. Scola and Mariani will fill vacancies that the Administrative Ofice of the U.S. Courts had designated judicial emergencies.

    President Obama nominated Paul J. Watford, an appellate litigation partner at the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP,to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    In his statement on the floor Wednesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) emphasized the slight improvement of the situation, noting that only “three of the 26 judicial nominations reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee” received action today. There are now 23 nominees pending on the Senate floor.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee held over the nominations of one judge to a circuit court and four judges to district courts. The committee also held a nomination hearing for Susie Morgan to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

    When the Senate returns from its recess a week from Monday, they are scheduled to vote upon the nomination of Stephen Higginson to be a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

  • October 14, 2011

    The Senate confirmed four district court nominees this week, completing a deal reached last month to schedule votes on 10 nominees. The nominees confirmed were Jane Margaret Triche-Milazzo to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Alison J. Nathan and Katherine B. Forrest to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Susan Owens Hickey to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Nathan, who was confirmed by a narrow margin, will be the second openly lesbian federal judge in the country.

    The Senate has scheduled a roll call vote this Monday at 5:30 p.m. on the confirmation of Cathy Bissoon to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July.

    In letters to congressional leaders this week, American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III urged swifter action in reducing the number of federal court vacancies.

    “Nothing less than a sustained, concerted, and cooperative effort will be sufficient to make discernible progress in reducing the longstanding and dangerously high vacancy rate on the federal courts,” Robinson wrote.

    The Judiciary Committee approved five nominees this week -- four by unanimous voice vote and one with Sen. Jeff Session (R-Ala.) opposed. This means there are now 27 nominees ready for a vote by the full Senate. The committee also approved the Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011 sponsored by Sen. Feinstein (D-Calif.) by a vote of 15-3. The bill would add district judgeships in Arizona, California, Minnesota, and Texas.