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Showing posts with label judges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label judges. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Making History: President Obama's Female Judicial Nominees

From AFJ's new report
        President Obama has named a greater percentage of women to federal judgeships than any other president in American history – in fact, no other president comes close.

That fact is just one of the statistics in a new report from Alliance for Justice documenting the president’s outstanding record when it comes to naming women to the federal bench.

Color-coded maps dramatically illustrate the states where President Obama named the first woman to a federal district court or circuit court of appeals.  The report also includes pictures and notable “firsts” for each judge.

One of the judges in the
report: Morgan Christen,
first female circuit
judge in Alaska
“This administration deserves credit for working to create a federal judiciary that more closely reflects the richness and diversity of the American people,” said AFJ President Nan Aron.

Among the other notable facts in AFJ’s report:

        ● President Obama is the first President to appoint two women to the Supreme Court.  Because of those appointees, three women sit on the Supreme Court for the first time in its history.

        ● Forty-two percent (42%) of President Obama’s appointees have been women – a rate almost double that of President George W. Bush (22%) and almost fifty percent greater than that of President Clinton (29%).

        ● President Obama already has appointed more female federal judges than President George W. Bush did in his entire presidency (80 to 71).

        ● President Obama already has appointed more minority women judges (33) than President George W. Bush (22) or President Clinton (23).

        ● President Obama has quintupled the number of Asian Pacific American woman Article III judges in history (from 2 to 10).

        The report is the first in a projected series.  Future reports will document the president’s record on naming African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Pacific Americans, and LGBT people to the federal bench, as well as the professional diversity of his judicial appointees.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grassley Intentionally Misstates Judicial Confirmation Record to Whitewash Obstructionism

Senator Grassley
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) recently responded to a letter sent to him from 16 national and Iowa groups criticizing him for unnecessary delays in confirming judicial nominees. In his response Grassley claimed that:

"[F]or the four years of this administration, we approved 160 nominations, and during the same period of time in the last Bush administration, there were 120 nominations."

This statement is both wrong and intentionally misleading.

First off, Grassley is comparing the first four years of the Obama Administration to the second four years of the Bush Administration. This is not “the same period of time.” Second, this is particularly misleading because Bush had a comparatively huge number of confirmations in his first term—202 in fact (see chart below). During Bush’s second term, there simply were not that many vacancies to fill.

With his statistical slight-of-hand, Grassley is trying both to minimize his—and his fellow Republicans’— obstruction of President Obama’s nominees during the last four years and make himself look reasonable!

You might expect more transparency and honesty from the ranking member of the venerable Senate Judiciary Committee. Instead, it seems, we’re getting one more attempt to mislead the public and obstruct nominees going forward. Iowans—and Americans—deserve better.

For Senator Grassley’s information, here are the facts:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jeffrey Toobin on reforming the Senate to get judges confirmed

Jeffrey Toobin, author and legal analyst for The New Yorker and CNN (and guest at a big AFJ event in New York City in December) has an important column on the New Yorker website today on the urgent need to reform Senate rules.

Jeffrey Toobin
In particular, he endorses a proposal that would curb the filibuster, which has been used by Senate Republicans to block almost every major Obama administration initiative.  As is discussed in detail in the previous post, it’s also contributed to a critical shortage of judges, because it’s been misused to block the confirmation of federal judges – even those who are considered noncontroversial.

There are a number of proposals kicking around at the moment.  Toobin singles out what may be the most elegant: require that Senators who want to filibuster do it the old fashioned way, by standing up and talking – and talking, and talking for as long as they can hold out – the way Jimmy Stewart did it in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  That might contribute to restoring the filibuster to its intended purpose – blocking the occasional piece of legislation that the minority party considers truly egregious. Toobin writes:
The theory behind their idea is that the requirement to stand up and filibuster would create a real deterrent to the profligate use of the tactic. It’s a modest change—filibusters would still exist—but a useful one.
Though Toobin doesn’t mention it, this change also would make the misuse of the filibuster to obstruct the work of the Senate more visible – and audible – to the American people.  They could watch Senate business grind to a halt as Senators filled hour after hour on C-SPAN for days at a time.

Toobin concludes:
Senate leaders tend to be institutional conservatives, who worry, with some justification, that their party will be in the minority some day. But Republican obstruction has become such an obstacle to legislative progress that the risk seems worth taking.

This is especially true because judicial nominations are likely to be more of a focus for President Obama in his second term. With the House in Republican hands for the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that major legislation will pass both bodies of Congress. But the Senate has a constitutional obligation to take up Obama’s judicial nominees—and the fights over them are likely to be fierce. If Reid and his fellow Democrats give up on filibuster reform, they will likely doom the President’s second-term legacy before he even has a chance to write it.
If you’d like to ask Jeffrey Toobin about this yourself, or hear more from him on this topic, the current state of the Supreme Court and other concerns, please join us in New York City on the evening of Dec. 6, when he discusses these issues with AFJ President Nan Aron.  The event is free, and you can register here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cloture Filed on 10th Circuit Nominee Robert Bacharach

Judge Bacharach
This afternoon Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on Judge Robert E. Bacharach’s nomination to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  A vote is expected next Monday at 5:30pm.  Bacharach is a noncontroversial nominee, rated unanimously “well qualified” by the ABA, who was reported out of the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.  Ultraconservative Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and James Inhofe (R-OK) both strongly back his nomination.  Indeed, when recently asked about the efforts to block a vote on Judge Bacharach, Senator Coburn told The Oklahoman on June 12, 2012 that: “I think it’s stupid.”  Senator Inhofe, in introducing Bacharach at his committee hearing, said that: “I believe that Judge Bacharach would continue the strong service Oklahomans have provided the Tenth Circuit.”

The question now is whether Senate Republicans will vote in support of an unquestionably qualified, consensus nominee. 

Earlier this summer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-NV) invoked the so-called “Thurmond Rule”, an informal call to arms for Republican senators to block judicial nominees before the election so as to keep seats vacant for a potential future Republican president to fill.  If Republicans were to block Bacharach, however, it would be first time a circuit court nominee reported to the floor with bipartisan support has been successfully filibustered.

Blocking the confirmation of Judge Bacharach would add yet another obstructionist precedent to the growing pile of similarly inglorious precedents four years in the making.  The net effect of this obstructionism has been to keep dozens of judgeships unnecessarily vacant.  These efforts have gone far beyond simple political retribution.  Indeed, by July 26, 2004, 197 of President Bush’s circuit and district nominees had been confirmed.  By July 26 of this year, only 154 of President Obama’s circuit and district nominees have been confirmed, more than 40 confirmations fewer than at this point in President Bush’s first term.  Due to Republican obstruction, President Obama will be the first President in at least 30 years to complete his first term with more judicial vacancies than when he took office.

Simply put, it’s time for Senate Republicans to stop playing politics with the federal judiciary and start confirming nominees who everyone agrees would be great judges and who are desperately needed in courtrooms around the country. Click here to tell your Senators to end the filibuster of Judge Bacharach.
For more information on vacancies and pending nominees visit AFJ's Judicial Selection Project.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eighth Circuit Judge Michael Melloy to Take Senior Status in January

Judge Melloy
According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Judge Michael Melloy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will take Senior Status on January 30, 2013.  President George W. Bush appointed Judge Melloy to an Iowa-based seat on the court in 2002.  The vacancy presents President Obama with his first opportunity to nominate someone to the Eighth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over seven states: Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas.  The court, which has 11 active judgeships, is the most Republican-dominated circuit in the country, with 9 Republican appointees and 2 Democratic appointees.  It also has the worst gender balance of any circuit, as its sole female Judge, Diana Murphy, is the first and only woman ever to sit on the court.
For more information on vacancies and pending nominees visit AFJ's Judicial Selection Project.     

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cloture withdrawn, Judge Confirmed to the District of New Jersey

Judge Shipp
This evening the Senate confirmed Judge Michael Shipp to the District of New Jersey after Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked for, and received unanimous consent to withdraw the cloture motion on Judge Shipp’s nomination and to proceed directly to a confirmation vote.  Republicans forced Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) to file cloture on Judge Shipp’s nomination last week because of a dispute on an unrelated bill.  This is not the first time that Senator Reid has been forced to file cloture on long-pending, exceptionally qualified nominees.  In March he filed cloture on 17 nominees, after Republicans slow-walked confirmations for much of the early part of the year.

Now that Judge Shipp has been confirmed, there are 20 judicial nominees awaiting final confirmation votes, including 10 who would fill “judicial emergency” seats.  The Senate should move quickly to confirm the pending nominees who are only waiting for their final votes -- almost all of whom have strong bipartisan support -- before the upcoming August recess.

Monday, December 13, 2010

AFJ Decries District Court Ruling on the Constitutionality of Health Care Law

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement today on the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson that portions of the health care law passed by Congress earlier this year are unconstitutional:

If anyone needed proof that judges matter and that the current battle in the Senate over judicial nominations is a fight worth having, they need look no farther than today’s ruling by Judge Henry Hudson, a former conservative Republican politician from Virginia, on a lawsuit filed by a current conservative Republican politician from Virginia, state Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli. So far, only judges appointed by Republican presidents have found the conservatives’ case to have merit, in spite of almost 70 years of precedent on commerce clause issues that argue for the opposite conclusion.

There are 38 judicial nominees languishing on the Senate floor today, blocked from final consideration by an obstinate, obstructionist Republican Party bent on preventing President Obama from filling federal district and circuit court judgeships, even those in courts facing “judicial emergencies.” Today’s decision puts the stakes in stark relief as the President’s agenda and many other important social and economic policies are challenged in federal court. It’s long past time that all those who care about health care, civil liberties, worker rights, or any core principle or issue, get serious about our courts and work to ensure the confirmation of President Obama’s nominees, before it’s too late.

Click here to read a report by Alliance for Justice on the career of Judge Henry E. Hudson (PDF).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Corporate Courts: Fifth Circuit Judges Are Marinating in Oil

From Nan Aron on Huffington Post:

Thanks in part to Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing, a great deal of long-overdue attention has been focused on the strong corporate bias in the current Supreme Court. But the Corporate Court is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to special interest influence in the judicial branch. Industry ties and real or perceived conflicts extend down into all levels of the federal judiciary, including the district courts and the courts of appeals. (State courts are another equally disturbing story.)

Not surprisingly, the calamity in the Gulf of Mexico is providing a perfect case study in what's gone wrong in the federal judiciary. Gulf Coast wetlands aren't the only environments being coated with slime; the judicial system is starting to get an oily sheen, as well.

There have been widespread reports of oil industry connections and financial conflicts among many, if not most, Fifth and Eleventh Circuit judges. So many judges are taking themselves out of the game because of personal conflicts that it's questionable whether the Fifth Circuit could field a golf foursome, let alone a functioning appellate panel to hear cases. Actually, that's no joke. In early June, so many judges had to recuse themselves in a case called Comer v. Murphy Oil USA that the en banc panel couldn't get a quorum, resulting in the reinstatement of a district court verdict that favored (surprise!) the oil industry.

And on June 22, Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana issued a controversial ruling suspending the Obama Administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling. Judge Feldman was revealed to have been a long-time investor in the oil and gas industries, Transocean included, and sold his Exxon stock on the very morning he issued his ruling in a somewhat strained effort to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He is also reported to have been heavily invested in BlackRock Financial, the largest single shareholder in BP.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Judge Feldman, who refused to recuse himself, issued a ruling that favors the oil industry. It's a questionable, perhaps tainted, decision, but that's what appeals courts are for, right? Alas, the case was assigned to a three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit, comprised of Judges Jerry Edwin Smith, William Eugene Davis, and James L. Dennis. Sadly, as the song says, here we go again.

Alliance for Justice has issued a report, "Judicial Gusher: The Fifth Circuit's Ties to Oil," detailing the extensive connections between these three judges and their Fifth Circuit brethren and the oil and gas industry. This is a circuit, along with the adjacent Eleventh, in which many of its jurists have spent their careers marinating in the world of Big Oil.

Most media reports on Gulf Coast judges have focused on their investments and financial ties, of which there are many, but there is more to the story. Judges Smith and Davis had long careers in private practice before being nominated to the federal bench by President Reagan. Their specialty was ... wait for it ... representing oil and gas companies. Smith and Davis have also attended so-called "seminars" sponsored by the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), whose purpose is to promote free-market solutions to environmental problems and to "explain why ecological values are not the only important ones." Lest you think these seminars are held in dreary hotel rooms with droning speakers, you'll be relieved to know these all-expense-paid junkets are held in Big Sky, Montana, where these information-hungry jurists can be intellectually stimulated while horseback riding and playing golf - all courtesy of corporate sponsors like Exxon Mobil.

Of course a lot of the industry ties are financial in the old-fashioned sense. Judge Dennis, for instance, who was a Clinton appointee, has extensive holdings in the energy sector, with investments, according to his 2008 disclosures, in at least 18 companies. He was one of the judges on the panel in the Comer case, but, interestingly, was not one of the ones who recused himself. He's not doing it in the moratorium case, either.

What's at stake when corporations have undue influence in the courts - or even just the perception of it? The first casualty, of course, is justice for victims, as the people of Alaska found out in the wake of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, and the residents of the Gulf States are now discovering. In the current drilling moratorium case, the ability of the federal government to control the oil industry and protect the Gulf is on the line, to say nothing of the future of an entire ecosystem. But what's equally at risk is the integrity of the American judicial system itself.
Once the American people start believing the courts are no longer fair and impartial, but are mere adjuncts to corporate interests, our faith in justice is irreparably weakened. There are many oil-drenched casualties of the tragedy in the Gulf. It would be a shame if the integrity of the judicial system was one, as well.