Judicial Nominees

  • November 19, 2010

    Pressure is mounting on the lame duck Congress to act on pending judicial nominees. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy released a statement urging his fellow Senators to consider 20 nominations during the lame duck session, sixteen of which have already been approved by the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is lining up signatures for a cloture petition to force a vote on the confirmation of four long delayed judicial nominees, all of whom had to be re-nominated after their nominations expired. Meanwhile, two former federal judges, Abner J. Mikva, appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Carter, and Timothy Lewis, appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, writing in Politico, called for action on the nominees.

    The Judiciary Committee considered several new nominees this week, and President Obama chose six nominees for seats on the U.S. District Court, even as new vacancies were announced in Kansas and D.C.

  • November 5, 2010

    The results of this week's elections will affect the composition of the Senate Judiciary Committee, changing the game in the ongoing judicial vacancy crisis. Republican gains "will only intensify the [Senate] Judiciary panel's fight over judicial nominations," CQ Roll Call reports in its "Guide to the New Congress." All seven Republican members of the current Senate Judiciary Committee are expected to return and an increase in the number of Republican posts to reflect the new Senate balance is likely. While Sen. Patrick Leahy is expected to remain chairman of the committee, three of the twelve Democratic members will not be returning, reports The Blog of Legal Times.

    Even after committee approval nominees are likely to face an uphill battle. "On judicial nominations, the Democrats' much-reduced majority in the Senate puts in doubt the confirmation prospects of various nominees," writes Lawrence Hurley in The New York Times. The changed balance in the Senate makes it easier for the minority to obstruct President Obama's judicial picks, as Hurley cautions, "With the number of Senate Democrats reduced to a bare majority come January, the chances of Republican leaders being able to win the 41 votes needed to filibuster a nominee have increased considerably."

    Visit JudicialNominations.org, a website developed by ACS to track nominees, delays, and the continuing vacancy crisis, to follow the latest developments. Follow us on Facebook or bookmark JudicialNominations.org to receive regular updates.

    The Latest "In the News"

    • 11/04/10 - "Lame Duck Congress, Lots to Do, Little Time" on MSNBC
    • 11/04/10 - "Election Likely to Affect EPA Litigation, Judicial Nominations" in The New York Times
    • 11/03/10 - "Republican Gains in Senate Mean New Faces on Judiciary" in Main Justice
    • 11/03/10 - "Three Senate Races Too Close to Call" in The Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire"
    • 11/01/10 - "Election 2010 and the Senate Judiciary Committee" in National Review
    • 11/01/10 - "Judicial Activism" in The National Law Journal
    • 11/01/10 - "What Would GOP Takeover of Congress Mean for Judiciary Committees?" in Politics Daily
    • 10/29/10 - "Rejection of Schumer's Choice Complicates Filling Bench Vacancy" in The New York Law Journal


  • October 29, 2010

    President Barack Obama twice called for reform of the filibuster-one of the procedural tactics that has been used to block confirmation of judicial nominees-this week: first during a meeting with liberal bloggers and again during an appearance on "The Daily Show." "What we've been seeing is unprecedented, and that makes it very difficult for us to move forward," Obama told host Jon Stewart. During his earlier meeting with progressive bloggers, the president said the filibuster is not in the Constitution and "may have arisen purely by accident because somebody didn't properly apply Robert's Rules of Procedure and forgot to get a provision in there about what was required to close debate. And folks figured out very early, this could be a powerful tool. It was used as a limited tool throughout its history. Sadly, the primary way it was used was to prevent African Americans from achieving civil rights."

    The filibuster and other procedural measures have allowed a minority in the Senate to impede the confirmation of qualified nominees, leading to a critical number of vacancies on the federal bench. Matthew Yglesias, a fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, touches on this connection in a video podcast interview with ACSblog here.

  • October 22, 2010

    The struggle for an independent judiciary and the politicization of judging, at all levels of government, was made clear this week when a retiring administrative law judge on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleged that his colleague made a secret deal with a former Republican chairwoman of the agency to rule against all plaintiffs. As The Washington Post reported, George H. Painter, one of two administrative law judges who adjudicate complaints by investors alleging violations of the agency's rules, wrote in a notice that the other judge secretly promised the chairwoman that he would never rule in a complainant's favor. "A review of his rulings will confirm that he fulfilled his vow," Painter wrote in the document, which he submitted at the time of his retirement announcement. Painter said he could not "in good conscience" allow any of his pending cases to go to Judge Bruce Levine, and asked the agency to find an administrative judge from elsewhere in the federal government to take on his cases.

    Meanwhile, Linda Greenhouse questioned whether Chief Justice John Roberts would  "take a page from his mentor," former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and use his end-of-the-year announcement to draw attention to the vacancy crisis and chide the Senate for its inaction.

  • September 23, 2010

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Against the backdrop of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today of several federal district and circuit judicial nominees who were re-nominated by President Obama, pressure is mounting from a variety of sources on the Senate to stop the harmful delay and take immediate action on languishing judicial nominations.

    The New York Times noted in an editorial called, "An Extreme Judicial Blockade," that the Senate Judiciary Committee was set to consider earlier today "nominees for the federal district and circuit court judgeships who have already been approved by the committee once, or even twice."

    The editorial highlighted the re-nomination of Goodwin Liu, associate dean and professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. If confirmed Liu "would be the only Asian-American serving as an active judge on the United State Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit." The newspaper notes that Liu (pictured) "went to Stanford, was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and graduated from Yale Law School. He clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before beginning" his teaching career at one of the nation's top law schools. "Indeed," the editorial maintains, "it is largely his stellar background that is fueling Republican opposition. Mr. Liu, who is 39, is seen as a strong possibility to be on President Obama's short list for a future Supreme Court vacancy."

    Marcia D. Greenberger, of the National Women's Law Center, in a column for The Huffington Post, wrote, "Commentators and journalists have been focusing recently on the pace of confirmations to federal judicial positions - and for good reason. Procedural roadblocks have become routine even for nominees with bipartisan support - resulting in a dramatic slowdown in judicial confirmations."

    ACS distributed to Senate leaders a letter from former federal court judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents calling for the delays to end. "At this moment, our courts are overburdened and increasingly certain vacancies are being designated as ‘emergencies' by the Administrative Office of the Courts because of the length of time the court has been without a judge. This situation is untenable for a country that believes in the rule of law," the judges maintain in their letter.

    The Senate committee, largely along party lines, advanced four of the five nominees, including Liu, who had been re-nominated, the Legal Times reports.

    Following the committee's work, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy blasted the ongoing obstruction of the judicial nominations process.

    "A number of recent articles have discussed the judicial vacancy crisis that has been created by the Republican strategy of slow-walking consideration of non-controversial nominations," said Leahy in a press statement. "These include district court nominations, which have traditionally been considered without delays, and have never before been targeted for obstruction by Democrats or Republicans when supported by their home state Senators. There is no good reason to hold up consideration for weeks and months of nominees reported unanimously from the Judiciary Committee."

    To keep track of vacancies on the federal bench and status of judicial nominations visit the ACS project, JudicialNominations.org or receive updates from Facebook.