ACSBlog

  • 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

    by Alexandra D. Lahav, Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut and Author of In Praise of Litigation

    The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill – passed along partisan lines in the House – that threatens the way Americans have enforced the law for seventy five years. The bill is called the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (FICALA) and its results are likely to strike a major blow against class actions and aggregate litigation. 

    The recent hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch highlighted the threat that current lawmakers pose to the administrative state – the apparatus that has, since the New Deal, allowed the executive to pass regulations that support our voting rights, clean air and water, workplace safety and more. But in the discussions one thing seems to have been missing: a major way that regulations are enforced in the United States is by individuals and groups bringing lawsuits. Congress has enabled these lawsuits by creating private rights of action in areas as diverse as employment discrimination and internet privacy.

    For the last thirty years, the Supreme Court has been eroding these regulations by creating barriers to suit: forced arbitration has been repeatedly upheld (even when it goes against state contract law), requirements for bringing a claim have increased and collective actions are harder to certify. If most of the enforcement of the law is left up to us, through the courts, the process of shutting the courthouse door also means that regulations will not be enforced. Now Congress is taking its turn to shut the courthouse door.

  • 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 31, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Next week, Senators will vote on Trump’s most enduring legacy as president. Lawmakers will vote up or down on Judge Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee to be associate justice of the Supreme Court. 

    To fulfill their advice and consent duties, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a four-day confirmation hearing to question Gorsuch, including his 10-year record of 2,700 appeals on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. As a witness, the nominee shared center stage with the looming presences of Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Trump. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) opening statement put the three competing interests in perspective:

    The Judiciary Committee once stood against a court-packing scheme that would have eroded judicial independence. That was a proud moment. Now, Republicans on this Committee are guilty of their own “court un-packing scheme.” The blockade of Chief Judge Merrick Garland was never grounded in principle or precedent.

    While Senate Republicans were meeting in back rooms to block President Obama’s nominee, extreme special interest groups were also meeting in private – to vet potential Supreme Court nominee for then-candidate Donald Trump. I do not know of any other Supreme Court nominee who was selected by interest groups, rather than by a president in consultation with the Senate, as required by the Constitution.

  • March 31, 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

    Last week, the Washington Post recommended that Democrats should make a deal on Gorsuch by not filibustering his nomination and instead preserving the 60-vote threshold for a future nominee. Yesterday, reports surfaced about efforts to find a last-ditch deal.

    Here are five reasons that a deal does not make sense for Democrats.

    First, Judge Gorsuch’s record. I agree with the Washington Post that “the national interest requires that Democrats judge Mr. Gorsuch ‘on the merits.’” Republicans and Democrats agree that, on the merits, Judge Gorsuch’s record demonstrates that he is a judge in the mold of former Justice Scalia. As Justice Scalia once noted about his own confirmation, “I was known as a conservative then, but I was perceived to be an honest person. I couldn’t get 60 votes today.” The same could be said of Judge Gorsuch.

    In fact, academic studies predict that Judge Gorsuch would be even more conservative than Justice Scalia. According to one study, if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch “might be the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court.” Another forecast that Judge Gorsuch would be the most conservative other than Justice Thomas—and that he is one of the most conservative among the candidates hand-selected by the ideologically-driven Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. A third report looked at campaign contributions before becoming a judge and estimated that Judge Gorsuch is more conservative than 87% of all other federal judges.

    Given Judge Gorsuch’s judicial ideology and record, if Democrats do not insist on a 60-vote threshold now, then when would they?