Judicial Nominees

  • September 8, 2010
    The slug's pace with which the Senate is confirming the Obama administration's judicial nominations continues to garner media attention and derision from those concerned about a federal bench that has a growing number of vacancies.

    A recent Associated Press article notes that Senate Republicans have remained steadfast in their determination to stall the administration's judicial picks, which has resulted in a situation where the administration has "put fewer people on the bench than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his presidency." The AP notes that "there are 45 nominees awaiting action, two for nearly 13 months."

    Yesterday, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein noted that although the administration has voiced anger over Republican obstructionism "even sympathetic observers acknowledge that the president is largely powerless (if not helpless) on the matter." Stein maintains, "That's because both he and allies in Congress simply lack the tools to force the Republican Party's hand."

    In a piece for the Constitutional Accountability Center's Text & History blog, Judith E. Schaeffer writes that even the president's least controversial nominees - and he has few that have drawn serious controversy - have been victims of the obstruction. Schaeffer notes that in early spring Kimberly Mueller was nominated to fill a vacant seat on the Eastern District of California "and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 6 without opposition, yet is languishing in Senate limbo, still waiting for a confirmation on the Senate floor."

    Schaeffer says Mueller is "about as uncontroversial as judicial nominees get," citing her sterling legal credentials, including the ABA's top rating and a stint as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in California.

    Schaeffer blasts the Senate Republican's tactics, writing:

    So why is Kimberly Mueller still waiting for a vote? The answer is simple, and unacceptable. Throughout the Obama presidency, Senate Republicans have taken judicial obstructionism to an entirely new level, abusing the Senate's procedural rules to block even the most uncontroversial of the President's judicial nominees and giving new meaning to the phrase "Just Say No." Mueller is one of many of these new pawns in this obstructionist game, which Republicans are playing to increase the backlog of nominees on the Senate floor and keep President Obama from filling judicial vacancies. This rank, hyper-partisanship diminishes the ability of our federal courts to dispense justice fairly and timely, and should concern every American, no matter his or her political leanings.

    As noted here yesterday, President Obama has urged the Senate to cease with the delays, and recently Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has joined that call.

    In article for The Huffington Post, ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson wrote, "The vacancies on the federal bench will continue to grow, considering the glacial pace at which the Senate is moving on the president's judicial selections, resulting in a judicial system that is already overburdened coming to a grinding halt."

    To follow the growing crisis on the federal bench, visit the ACS web-based project, JudicialNominations.org, which includes an interactive map detailing where the vacancies are and how long nominees have languished. Updates from JudicialNominations.org are available via its Facebook page.

  • May 13, 2010

    "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of Goodwin Liu to be a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sending him to the full Senate for consideration after a party-line vote of 12 Democrats in favor to 7 Republicans opposed," reports The New York Times' Charlie Savage.

    The Committee also approved without opposition the nominations of federal prosecutor Ray Lohier to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Magistrate Judge Leonard Stark to the District of Delaware. Both nominations were forwarded to the Senate floor without dissent.

    The debate on Liu, a Berkeley Law professor and former ACS board chair, has "increasingly become a proxy for Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court," the Blog of the Legal Times suggested, with Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Committee's ranking member stating, that, "In Solicitor General Kagan, President Obama has chosen another academic who has focused on policy the majority of her career, including in the Clinton White House, and who has never been a judge or seriously practiced law."

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein responded by highlighting three appellate judges who came from law schools and who were in their 30s when nominated by a Republican president: Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit, Kimberly Moore of the Federal Circuit, and J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the Fourth Circuit. 

  • April 23, 2010

    With many of President Obama's judicial and executive nominations delayed in the Senate, some members of that body are urging reconsideration a rule permitting one delay tactic. The charge is being led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (pictured).

    The Hill reports:  

    Senators have long been able to block action on any nomination (and sometimes legislation) by placing an anonymous "hold." Twenty Democratic Senators, led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), are now pushing the Senate to ban that practice.

    In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the group, argues that the anonymity of secret holds violates the spirit of democracy.

  • April 22, 2010

    President Obama announced more judicial nominees this week, while the Senate overcame obstruction to confirm some long-delayed executive and judicial nominations.

    Among the nominees confirmed is Duke law professor Chris Schroeder, who President Obama selected to lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy. Schroeder is a co-author of Keeping Faith with the Constitution, a book published by ACS. His nomination languished in the Senate for 11 months before being confirmed by a 72-24 vote.  

    Other confirmations include Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judge Denny Chin to the Second Circuit. Vanaskie's nomination, announced in August 2009, received Senate approval by a vote of 77-20. Chin was nominated last October and confirmed unanimously this week.

    While Chin's nomination was delayed in the Senate, the Second Circuit became the site of "the worst judicial emergency in the nation, as defined by the Judicial Conference of the United States," The Blog of the Legal Times reports. "There are 920 'adjusted filings per panel,' compared with a threshold for emergencies of 700 adjusted filings per panel."

  • April 21, 2010

    The Senate confirmed D.C. magistrate judge Marisa Demeo to the area's Superior Court last last night. The 66-32 vote fell largely along party-lines. 

    Demeo drew more opposition than is usual of nominees to the capital's local trial court, reports the Blog of the Legal Times (BLT). "[M]any Republicans opposed Demeo because of her opposition to [Miguel] Estrada and her other work during seven years as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund," the BLT states.

    While working at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Demeo represented the group's interest in opposing the confirmation of Estrada, nominated in 2001 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Democrats filibustered Estrada's nomination for the administration's failure to release documents concerning his work in the Solicitor General's office, and Estrada eventually withdrew from consideration.