Judicial Nominations

  • July 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin and Victoria Bassetti, Brennan Center Contributor

    Donald Trump's contempt for women assumes many forms. His selection of nominees to serve as U.S. attorneys around the country has proven to be one of them: Of the 29 people he has nominated for U.S. attorney positions, 28 are men.

    Fully 25 are white men. There's one Asian-American woman, one African-American man, one Asian-American man and one Native American man.

  • May 15, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on Medium.

    by Kyle Barry, Legal Defense Fund Policy Counsel

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has revealed that he is willing to trash longstanding Senate tradition and undermine his Senate colleagues to hand control of the federal courts over to President Donald Trump. Grassley said that he will allow Trump to go over the heads of Democratic senators to fill federal appeals court vacancies in their home states “because that’s the way it’s been.” Grassley’s statement is both historically inaccurate and dangerous, as it removes a key protection against this administration’s relentless attacks on democratic norms and the rule of law.

    Grassley’s remarks addressed how he will apply the Judiciary Committee’s “blue slip” policy. Traditionally, judicial nominees do not receive a confirmation hearing until both senators from their home state indicate approval on a blue sheet of paper sent to the Committee. For 100 years, this policy has served as a vital part of the Senate’s constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on nominations. The blue slip ensures that senators advise on who serves as federal judges for the people they represent and preserves independent courts by making judicial selection a more inclusive process not confined to the president and his political allies. The blue slip is even more valuable now, with a president who picks judges in concert with right-wing interest groups and rushes to announce nominees before the nonpartisan American Bar Association evaluates their qualifications.

  • April 4, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This post was adapted from a longer piece at The Vetting Room.

    by Harsh Voruganti, Founder and Principal at The Voruganti Law Firm

    On March 21, 2017, President Trump made his first lower court nomination: Judge Amul R. Thapar, for a seat on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. With over 136 current and future vacancies on the federal bench, more nominees will likely follow. With a Republican majority in the Senate, the elimination of the filibuster on lower court nominations and conservative groups howling for blood, there is little incentive for Trump to choose moderates for the bench. However, one Senate practice may work to constrain Trump’s more conservative nominees and encourage him to work with Democrats: the blue slip.

    Derived from the traditions of senatorial courtesy, the blue slip is named after the traditional blue paper it is printed on. When a nominee is submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, “blue slips” are sent to the senators representing the nominee’s home state. The senators then return the blue slip, indicating either approval or disapproval of the nominee. If a home state senator expresses opposition to a nominee, or refuses to return a blue slip, the Committee does not move the nomination to the floor.

    While the blue slip practice goes back about 100 years, there are rare examples of nominees moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee without two positive blue slips. In 1983, then Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-SC) processed (and the Senate later confirmed) John Vukasin to a seat on the Northern District of California, over the objection of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA). A few years later, then-Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) processed President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Vaughn Walker to the same court, again over Cranston’s objection.

  • April 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

    by Christopher Kang, ACS Board Member and National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

    The Senate Rules provide a 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed, and it appears less and less likely that Neil Gorsuch will be able to meet that threshold. If he cannot, Senate Republicans will face a choice—and yes, it is their choice—as to whether they should unilaterally change the Senate Rules through the nuclear option, so that Supreme Court nominees can be confirmed with just a majority vote.

    Most of the arguments against the nuclear option have focused on institutional interests for both the Senate and the Supreme Court. Retaining the 60-vote threshold would preserve the unique nature of the Senate that encourages broader consensus and less extremism. There also is a concern—on both sides—that reducing the confirmation threshold to a simple majority could lead to more ideological Supreme Court Justices and a more polarized Court.

    Those are compelling reasons in themselves, but there also is a far more practical question that Republicans must consider: How will Senate Democrats respond to this historic power grab? If Democrats follow the Republican response in 2013, it will freeze the Senate for thousands of hours, preventing Republicans from advancing their agenda.

    In November 2013, Senate Democrats invoked the nuclear option to lower the confirmation threshold for lower court and executive branch nominees. In response, over the next 13 months, Republicans forced Democrats to file cloture on 154 nominees, and they forced 131 cloture votes.

  • March 30, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post

    by Christopher Kang, National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

    Many Senate Democrats believe that a Supreme Court nominee should be within the mainstream and therefore able to earn the support of 60 Senators. Given the stakes, this hardly seems unreasonable, but Republicans now claim that a 60-vote threshold for judicial nominees would be unfair. Here are the 12 times they insisted on a 60-vote threshold for Obama’s lower court nominees—and, really, once Republicans demanded that a trial court judge in Rhode Island needed 60 votes, shouldn’t Democrats be able to ask for the same for the highest court in the land?

    • Senate Republicans filibustered D.C. Circuit nominee Caitlin Halligan (twice) and 9th Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu, even though both had majority support.
       
    • Senate Republicans filibustered 10th Circuit nominee Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma, even though he was supported by both of his Republican home-state Senators, Inhofe and Coburn. His nomination was not controversial (as evidenced by his 93-0 confirmation eight months later) but Republicans set an arbitrary cut-off date for confirmations during the 2012 presidential election year—similar to their historic mistreatment of Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court last year.