Glenn Sugameli

  • April 12, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Glenn Sugameli, Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife's Judging the Environment. Sugameli founded in 2001 and still heads the environmental community's Judging the Environment project and website on federal judicial nominations and related issues.


    Justice delayed continues to be justice denied, as unjustifiable Senate obstruction of federal judicial nominees delays resolution of urgent health, safety, environmental, and other cases.

    In the latest example, Nevada GOP Senator Dean Heller’s misunderstanding of the Supreme Court’s coincidentally-named D.C. v. Heller decision has led him to block a Judiciary Committee hearing on a pending nominee.

    My December 2008 ACSblog guest post discussed the need to fill the then-existing 44 empty federal judgeships. Since then, the vacancy crisis has worsened. March 27, 2012 marked the 1,000th consecutive day with 80 or more current vacancies. Today there are 81 current vacancies, and with 18 announced future vacancies, there are 99 seats to fill. My September 2011 guest post described how U.S. Courts declared "judicial emergency" vacancies had increased during President Obama’s term from 20 to 35; now there are 34.

    To fill one of these judicial emergencies, President Obama selected Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish for a District of Nevada seat. In 2007, Cadish was appointed to replace a retired state judge. She was elected in 2008 with strong support from the Editorial Boards of the Las Vegas Sun, and of the Las Vegas Review Journal, which stated: “In her knowledge of the law, in her intellectual firepower and judicial demeanor, Elissa Cadish was a superlative appointment who voters can proudly retain.” For the federal district court, the American Bar Association rated Cadish unanimously Qualified.

    The vast majority of Republican senators have strongly supported President Obama’s judicial nominees from their state. This even includes freshmen Republican senators who helped to confirm 10 nominees for judgeships whom Obama re-submitted after the senators were elected.

    Sen. Heller, however, has refused to sign the home-state senator “blue slip” that is needed for Judge Cadish’s Committee hearing. Moreover, he would only be willing to hold a pointless meeting with her “to tell her why I don't support her nomination."

    The Las Vegas Sun editorial “Preventing Justice” explained:

  • November 30, 2010
    Court-watchers have noted the lack of diversity on the federal bench, and a new graph produced by the federal government confirms that gender diversity is seriously lagging.

    According to the graph from the United States Courts' website, which is maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the federal judiciary, since 1998 the number of female judges has risen, but is still significantly lower than male judges. The number of women judges, since 1998, has increased to 496 from 302. In 2009 male judges exceeded 1,500.

    Glenn Sugameli, founder and head of the environmental community's Judging the Environment project and website on federal judicial nominations, told ACSblog, "The U.S. Courts' Federal Bench Gender Snapshot shows a disappointing lack of major progress in the percentage of female federal judges in recent years."

    Sugameli continued, "President Obama's 43 confirmed judicial nominees include 22 women and 17 men and women of color. Senate Republican obstruction of every pending judicial nominee, however, is blocking votes that would increase the diversity of the federal bench. Ten of the 23 nominees awaiting Floor votes are women and 13 are men and women of color."

    In an interview with ACSblog, Maryland law school professor Sherrilyn Ifill talks about the need to diversify the federal bench, noting that the decision-making process would be enhanced by judges "who represent and are reflective of the larger society." Ifill's interview followed an ACS panel discussion focusing on diversity on the federal bench.

  • September 30, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Glenn Sugameli, Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife's Judging the Environment. Mr. Sugameli founded in 2001 and still heads the environmental community's Judging the Environment project and website on federal judicial nominations and related issues.
    In my December 23, 2008 ACSblog post, I mentioned that there were 44 current federal court vacancies and described how "One of President Obama's most enduring legacies will be the nominees he selects for lifetime seats on trial courts, the circuit courts of appeal that have the final say in 99 percent of cases, and the Supreme Court."

    My prediction has certainly come true for the Supreme Court, with President Obama's successful nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

    Incredibly, however, federal judicial vacancies have soared to over 100, and those that the U.S. Courts has declared to be "judicial emergencies" have multiplied from 20 to 48.

    Unfortunately, as senators left town until November 15, continuing obstruction by unnamed Senate Republicans ensured that the judicial vacancy crisis will worsen. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) explained:

    Republicans have allowed the Senate to consider and confirm only 41 of President Obama's circuit and district court nominations over the last two years. In stark contrast, by this date in President Bush's second year in office, the Senate with a Democratic majority had confirmed 78 of his Federal circuit and district court nominations. That number reached 100 by the end of 2002, all considered and confirmed during the 17 months I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Indeed, the expressed desire to fill current vacancies has extended across the Senate aisle. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) recently said Senate rules should be changed to allow judicial nominees to more quickly be moved to a vote, that the legislative branch is to a degree holding the "judiciary hostage," and that senators should vote against nominees they don't like, not hold up the process. The Senate finally approved Jane Stranch's long-delayed Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals nomination after her home-state Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) went to the Floor with Sen. Leahy to request a vote.

  • April 27, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Glenn Sugameli, Staff Attorney, Defenders of Wildlife's Judging the Environment 

    "Conservatives' court-packing ploy," an op-ed by Professor William Marshall, explained how Republicans'

    "judicial activism" mantra has been inordinately effective in shaping the debate over judicial nominations. It has allowed them to push through deeply conservative nominees [and] changed the course of American jurisprudence from one based on advancing principles of equality and liberty to one centered on protecting wealth and privilege. The replacement of Justice Stevens stands as an opportunity for Obama to begin the process of returning our understanding of the Constitution to its essential moorings.

    E.J. Dionne Jr.'s Washington Post column described how "the conservative intellectual offensive" has transformed

    our discussion of the judiciary. That is why the coming clash over President Obama's next Supreme Court nominee ... must be the beginning of a long-term effort to expose how radically conservatives have altered our understanding of what the Supreme Court does and how it does it. Above all, it should become clear that the danger of judicial activism now comes from the right, not the left. It is conservatives, not liberals, who are using the courts to overturn the decisions made by democratically elected bodies ....

    Accounts of right-wing judicial activism have focused on the Roberts' Court's opinions, and properly so. For example, my April 13th ACSblog guest post explained how laws that protect people and the environment are "threatened by activist Supreme Court Justices with agendas that result in plurality and bare majority opinions that are overly broad, unwarranted, and ignore or overturn established precedent."

  • April 13, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Glenn Sugameli, Staff Attorney, Judging the Environment

    Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens's retirement highlights just how much Americans rely on fair and independent judges to uphold and enforce laws that protect people and our environment.

    Federal courts decide the fate of lawsuits that attack safeguards for clean air, clean water, endangered species, and special natural places.

    Judges must uphold anti-pollution and conservation laws against unjustifiable claims that their enactment exceeded Congress' Commerce Clause authority, and that they take away non-existent "property rights" to pollute.

    Environmental and other laws are seriously threatened by interlocking factors.

    Continuing long-term right-wing and industry efforts try to redefine judicial selection and the nature and results of constitutional and statutory interpretation and rulings. Aggressive litigation attempts to rewrite laws and the Constitution in order to bar citizen access to court (while allowing polluters to sue) and to overturn environment, health and other laws.