blue slips

  • November 17, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way

    *This piece was originally posted by People For the American Way

    Chuck Grassley wrote this about blue slips in the Des Moines Register in 2015:

    For nearly a century, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought nominees up for committee consideration only after both home-state senators have signed and returned what’s known as a “blue slip.” This tradition is designed to encourage outstanding nominees and consensus between the White House and home-state senators. Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.

    It turns out that only applies to a Democratic president’s nominees. On Thursday, Politico reported that Chuck Grassley is ditching the longstanding Senate blue slip policy and will be holding a hearing for David Stras, even though Stras does not have the support of both of his home state senators. Grassley laid out his justification for this seismic shift in policy in an op-ed in The Hill yesterday. An earlier PFAW post explained how Grassley’s comparison to the 2013 filibuster rules change made no sense. But that’s just one of the many holes in his argument.

  • September 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Chris Kang, ACS Board member and former Deputy Counsel to President Obama

    *This piece originally ran on Huffington Post

    As President Trump seeks to dramatically pack the judiciary with conservative, ideological judges, attention has turned to blue slips—little blue pieces of paper that home-state Senators have returned for a hundred years and allow judicial nominees to proceed to confirmation. Here is what you need to know about them:

  • February 3, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Richard W. Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School; former Associate Counsel to the President and Chief Ethics Lawyer, White House Counsel's Office (2005-2007); co-author of the ACS Issue Brief, “Extraordinary Circumstances: The Legacy of the Gang of 14 and a Proposal for Judicial Nominations"
    Senator Rubio of Florida is now one of the strongest contenders in the GOP for president. He is qualified and likeable and thus far has a clean record on ethics. One or more of Rubio’s Senate colleagues also might have a shot at the nomination. There are other good candidates as well. And Republicans, if they can get their act together, have a very good chance of electing a president in 2016. 
    One of the most important things a new president will do is appoint judges, the job that our current president has been trying to do for the past five years. The president will need the advice and consent of the Senate to make these appointments, but courts need judges, and presidents and senators have an obligation to make sure vacancies on courts are filled.
    And the place where senators should care most about filling judicial vacancies should be their own home states. The interests of constituents in access to judges and justice should be a priority over playing partisan politics.
    And this is why, until recently, it usually was not a problem for the Senate to allow home state senators an informal veto—implemented through the so called “blue slip” process—over confirmation of judges in their own states. Senators might try to block nominees from other states with filibusters and other tactics, but would protect their own constituents by working out a deal with the White House for nomination and confirmation of an acceptable nominee in their state.      
  • April 9, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Though the Senate finally confirmed Judge Patty Shwartz to a seat on the federal appellate court bench, one should hardly take that as a sign that the Republican-led band of obstructionists is ready to alter its agenda of delaying judicial nominations.

    Shwartz was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by a vote of 64 – 34. She was re-nominated earlier this year by President Obama. As Judging The Environment notes, Shwartz was originally nominated by Obama in fall 2011.

    ACS President Caroline Fredrickson, while applauding the confirmation of Shwartz, a federal magistrate judge in Newark, N.J., said the process was “all too typical for the president’s judicial nominee, and that must change.” She continued, “Filling our benches must become and remain a priority for the Senate so people can have faith in our system to guarantee every American fair and swift justice.”

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also noted the snails’ pace of confirmation for judges. Shwartz “should not have been delayed for more than a year,” he said in a statement. “Sadly, this is not an isolated case but one in a steady pattern of obstruction.”

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, before the vote took place, noted that nearly 400 days had passed since Shwartz’s second hearing.

    Carney said, “After her expected confirmation, there will still be 14 other judicial nominees awaiting floor votes. Of these 14, 13 were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously, and the five nominees would fill judicial emergencies. They have been waiting on the Senate floor for an average of 67 days for a vote. That’s nearly twice as long as President’s Bush’s judicial nominees.”

  • June 22, 2012

    by Nicole Flatow

    Saturday marks one year since Rosemary Marquez was nominated to fill a judicial emergency seat in the District of Arizona, a jurisdiction so overwhelmed with immigration and drug cases that the chief judge has said it might be difficult to find anyone willing to accept a nomination.

    But as Cronkite News reports, Marquez’s nomination has not moved one inch since June 2011, thanks to the Arizona senators’ refusal to submit the required “blue slips.”

    Withholding these blue slips has increasingly become a means of imposing a de facto veto on Obama nominees, with similar blocks causing longtime freezes on nominees in Georgia, Nevada, Kansas and Oklahoma.

    And threatening to withhold blue slips has prevented President Obama from even making nominations or re-nominations in many other instances, The National Law Journal reports.

    In Wisconsin, nominees once supported by both senators were sent back to the President after newly elected Sen. Ron Johnson refused to support Obama’s nominees. In Kansas, Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran withdrew their support for a nominee they originally backed. And in Georgia, Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have refused to submit blue slips on a circuit court nominee they supported for the district court.

    Perhaps one of the most disturbing examples of this trend was the failed nomination of Arvo Mikkanen, who would have been only the third Native American federal judge in American history.