Fair and Just Courts

Still No Explanation From Grassley on Judiciary Committee Delays

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved five nominees to serve on federal district courts in New York, California and Florida and on the US Court of International Trade. A week ago, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley postponed votes on all five nominations without giving a reason, a delaying tactic that he has used on 97 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees who the committee has voted on.

Sen. Grassley did not explain the reason for the delay last week, when a coalition of Iowa and national groups urged him to stop such routine delays. And the reason remained unclear today, as all five nominees were approved without opposition.

These five nominees now join fifteen other federal judicial nominees awaiting confirmation votes from the full Senate. The Senate has made progress by scheduling confirmation votes on four unopposed district court nominees in the past week, but that small amount of progress isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaps in overworked federal courts. Seven of the nominees still waiting for votes would fill officially-designated “judicial emergencies.”

It would be easy, of course, for the Senate to hold votes on all of the remaining nominees before the end of the year. After all, most were approved by the Judiciary Committee many months ago. But Senate Republicans have continued to stall even nominees with strong bipartisan support. All the circuit court nominees waiting for votes have the support of their home-state senators, Republican and Democratic, and nearly all of the pending district court nominees were approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or nearly unanimous bipartisan support. One circuit court nominee, New Jersey’s Patty Shwartz, has been waiting nine months just for an up-or-down vote from the Senate; Federal Circuit nominee Richard Taranto has also been waiting since March.

If the Senate fails to vote on these nominees during the lame duck, the confirmation process – from presidential nomination through floor vote – will have to start all over again next year.

Notable about the district court nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee today is that all are women or people of color, representative of President Obama’s efforts to bring diversity to the federal courts. The nominees also include New York’s Pamela Chen, who would become just the fifth openly gay person to be confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.

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More Dissembling from Chuck Grassley

Sen. Grassley again offers a blizzard of misleading statistics to hide his party's obstruction of President Obama's judicial nominees.
PFAW

Grassley's Non-Response on Judicial Nominations

Chuck Grassley issues a misleading response to complaints about his obstruction of resident Obama's judicial nominees.
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GOP Bad Faith on the Pace of Confirmations

Since a bipartisan agreement on judges ended in May, the rate of confirmations that Republicans have consented to has plummeted.
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Florida Federal Judge: We Need More Judges!

One of the district's vacancies could have been filled many months ago, if only Republicans would stop their blanket obstruction.
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This is How Judicial Nominations are Supposed to Work

President Obama will end his second term with more vacancies on the federal courts than there were when he started. Today there are 99 vacancies on the federal circuit and district courts, 33 of which are for courts that are so busy that they’ve been officially designated “judicial emergencies.” This glut of vacancies is in large part due to Senate Republicans’ persistent obstruction of the president’s nominees – even the ones from their own states who they purportedly support. During President Obama’s first term, judicial nominees have had to wait on average three times as long after committee approval for a vote from the full Senate as did nominees in President George W. Bush’s first term.

But some vacancies are due to a less well-known but all too common delay at the very start of the nominations process.

Before he makes a nomination to the federal judiciary, President Obama asks senators from the state where the vacancy has occurred to present him with recommendations. It’s a way to identify nominees from any given state and to ensure home-state, often bipartisan, support for nominees. The problem is, senators from both parties have too often dragged their feet in recommending acceptable nominees, leading to often years-long vacancies in the federal courts.

These vacancies exist despite the fact that most federal judges give months, sometimes even a full year of notice before retiring or taking senior status (semi-retirement) so that a replacement can be found.

This week, senators from Colorado and New Mexico showed how the process is meant to work – and how it would work, if all senators followed their lead.

In Colorado, district court judge Wiley Daniel announced last winter that he would be leaving his seat in January 2013. Colorado senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet set up a bipartisan commission to find qualified nominees for the seat in a timely manner. They then recommended a set of finalists to the White House, which in turn nominated Raymond P. Moore on Tuesday, before the seat he would fill becomes vacant. Of the 18 future vacancies currently listed by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, Colorado is one of only two states with a nominee.

In New Mexico, Judge Bruce Black announced in June that he would be leaving the court in October, just a few short months. So New Mexico’s senators, Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, announced their bipartisan commission that very day, leading to the president’s nomination yesterday of Kenneth John Gonzales to fill the vacancy.

There is no excuse for seats on the federal courts to be left open for years, as caseloads multiply and litigants face delays. The senators from Colorado and New Mexico showed how the front end of the judicial nominations process can be efficient and fair.

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President Obama Continues to Diversify the Federal Bench

Yesterday's slate of judicial nominations makes clear that President Obama's commitment to a diverse federal bench will continue into his second term.
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Lame Duck - Time to Confirm All the Pending Nominees

Don't believe the latest Republican spin to justify their obstruction of judicial nominations even during the lame duck session.
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Supreme Court to Review Voting Rights Act

A lynchpin of protecting the right to vote may fall before the altar of "states' rights."
PFAW Foundation

Election Is Mandate for Policies Grounded in Progressive American Values

The American people have made their choice -- a resounding victory for President Obama and Vice President Biden and a mandate for their policy agenda.
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Endorsements Cite Supreme Court

Overwhelming majority of endorsements cite the Supreme Court as an enormous contributing factor to keeping President Obama in office.
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New PFAW Report on the Importance of the Supreme Court in the 2012 Presidential Election

This week People For the American Way released a new report on the importance of the Supreme Court in the 2012 presidential election.
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Judge Cebull in the News Again

In an election year case affecting minority voting rights, we can't have confidence that Judge Cebull's decision is unaffected by his own prejudices.
PFAW Foundation

A Real-Life Halloween Scare From Mitt Romney

Forget ghosts and goblins. Americans' biggest Halloween fear should be a Supreme Court chosen by Mitt Romney.
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Romney Campaign Plays Dumb About Roe v. Wade

What do you do to win over abortion rights supporters if you've spent your whole presidential campaign telling right-wing activists you're anti-choice? For Mitt Romney, the answer is simple: lie!

First there was the TV ad assuring women that under a Romney administration, they would have nothing to worry about. Then Romney told the Des Moines Register that no anti-choice legislation "would become part of my agenda." Then the right-wing Concerned Women for America -- one of the staunchest opponents of abortion rights out there -- backed him up with an ad saying that Romney could do nothing to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The main problem being, of course, that Romney's official position, which is on his website and which he has stated on video, is that he intends to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, in effect criminalizing abortion in as much as half the country. The next president will likely get the opportunity to nominate at least one Supreme Court justice. If that president is Romney, the movement to overturn Roe will likely gain a majority on the Court.

But apparently the Romney camp thinks that just lying about Roe v. Wade is still the right way to go. Former Sen. Norm Coleman, who is campaigning for Romney in Ohio, told a group of voters yesterday that Romney would have no power to eliminate abortion rights through the Supreme Court:

“President Bush was president eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed,” former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) told a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Beechwood, Ohio. “It’s not going to be reversed.”

If Coleman were to do some simple counting, he would realize that Bush did not have the opportunity to put an anti-Roe majority on the Court. His appointments of Samuel Alito and John Roberts only got the Right very, very close to that long-held goal. Mitt Romney would unquestionably and deliberately put them over the edge.

But of course, Coleman knows that. And so does Romney. They're just hoping that they can tell anti-choice activists one thing and abortion rights supporters another, and somehow get away with it.

PFAW

What Kind of Justice Will We Vote for On Election Day?

President Obama's Supreme Court Justices respect the words and the values of the Constitution and deeply understand the law's impact on everyday Americans.
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