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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo
 

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Editorials and Opinion

 

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The Consultation Double-Standard (Vetting Room, 06/09/17)
Harsh Voruganti: Let’s compare excerpts from the Senate Judiciary Questionnaires of ... judicial nominees: ... The contrast is stark. Compared to the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration has engaged in no pre-nomination consultation with Democratic Senators, instead cutting them out of the process. Now, Senate Republicans are debating whether to support their Democratic colleagues on this issue, or to cut off one of their only avenues for recourse: the blue slip.... On March 2, 2009, shortly after President Obama had been sworn into office with a large Democratic Senate majority, all 41 members of the Senate Republican conference sent him a letter with a clear missive: consult Republican home-state senators on nominees, or face a filibuster.... To his credit, President Obama worked assiduously to engage Republican Senators on judicial nominees, allowing them to name circuit and district court candidates from their states, and refusing to nominate judges when he could not reach an agreement with home-state senators. For his part, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) backed up his Republican colleagues by refusing to move forward with any nominee who did not have positive blue slips returned from both home-state senators, regardless of their party. In the six years that President Obama and Chairman Leahy served together, two circuit and seven district court nominees were blocked based on senatorial courtesy and blue slips .... When Republicans took over the Senate majority in 2014, new Chairman Chuck Grassley continued to strictly enforce senatorial courtesy and blue slips. During the last two years of the Obama Administration, blue slip use by Republicans ramped up, and the following nominees were blocked .... Tradition and principles aside, there are many practical reasons for keeping the blue slip.... While Senate Republicans may be able to muscle through a judge being blocked only based on ideology, it is hard to see them pushing a judge whose nomination was made with no consultation whatsoever. In other words, if the Trump Administration wants to see these nominees move, they’d do well to bring home state Democrats on board.

Counterpoint: Stras nomination for federal appeals court must be blocked: The Minnesota Supreme Court justice has the track record of a conservative ideologue. (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 06/08/17)
Beth Gendler, National Council of Jewish Women, Minnesota: the record of Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court indicates he would be neither independent nor fair-minded if confirmed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals .... Stras is clearly in the mold of an ultra-right-wing conservative, and his nomination by President Trump must be blocked.... It can only be described as profoundly disturbing that Stras would label school integration “contentious” more than 50 years after Brown vs. Board of Education .... From the bench, Stras has issued a number of highly questionable legal opinions. ... he already has compiled an inescapable paper trail. It is that of a judge driven by conservative ideology and falling short of judicial independence and evenhandedness. For all of these reasons, we urge Minnesota’s U.S. senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, to oppose this nomination.

How Trump plans to remake the lower courts (The Hill, 05/24/17)
Opinion by Prof. Jonathan R. Nash: Justice Joan Larsen (currently a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court) for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Justice David Stras (currently a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court) for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit — were on the list of 21 names from which, during the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump promised to select his nominee to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ... suggests continued influence of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.... President Trump has nominated Damien Schiff to a seat on the United States Court of Federal Claims. [The court's docket includes] claims for “Takings” of private property. The nomination of Judge Schiff is especially interesting, since Schiff has been serving as a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a self-described national conservative/libertarian public interest law firm. In that capacity, Schiff has argued in favor of a broad understanding of compensable Takings. Thus, his nomination to the Court of Federal Claims may signal the President’s desire to augment the protection of private property rights against government infringement.

Trump Is Disregarding Senate Norms to Get His Judges on the Bench (Center for American Progress, 05/12/17)
Jake Faleschini and Billy Corriher: Trump ignored the traditional vetting role of the American Bar Association, bypassed state judicial nominating commissions, and failed to consult with home-state senators.... Senators are in the best position to ensure that judicial nominees are well-respected in their local legal communities. ... Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) both released statements on Monday criticizing the administration for failing to consult with home-state senators about the recent slate of nominees.... Trump’s outsourced judicial selection process has led to several worrisome nominees.

PRESIDENT TRUMP NOMINATES JUDGES EVEN HE COULD LOVE (New Yorker, 05/11/17)
Jeffrey Toobin: “On Monday, President Trump announced his first group of lower-court nominations to the federal bench. The list illustrates how differently Democratic and Republican Presidents have approached the task of making judges: it comes down to ideology versus diversity. ... Republicans since Ronald Reagan have recognized the power of federal judges to move the country in a conservative direction. Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court showed that the new President belongs to the same tradition, and his ten judicial nominees—five to the circuit courts of appeals and five to the district courts—reveal that he will continue to use the courts to advance his political agenda.”

Trump Judicial Nominees (PrawfsBlawg, 05/10/17)
Prof. David Fontana: his judicial nominations so far have reflected what I blogged about previously: the strength of the judicial nominations part of his party.... I recently wrote an essay for a symposium in the Wisconsin Law Review about the relatively “cooperative” approach to judicial nominations utilized by the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration’s first nominee to the circuit courts was David Hamilton, a centrist district court judge in Indiana with established ties to both political parties. Hamilton was not particularly young, not particularly famous, and was the only circuit court nominee announced the day he was announced. By contrast, many of Trump’s nominees announced this week are very connected in the Republican Party, very young, and very known—and he announced ten nominees in one day.

Senate Democrats have the power to stop Trump's judge picks: Use it! (Daily Kos, 05/10/17)
Joan McCarter: Luckily, as of now, Democrats still have some power: the blue slip.... The custom in the Senate Judiciary Committee is for the chairman to hold off on bringing up nominees until their home-state senators sign off with so-called blue slips. Of course, the other tradition which Trump completely ignored in these cases is to get the names of his nominees through a negotiation process with those same senators. That's not what happened.

Donald Trump Is Radicalizing America's Court System Before Our Very Eyes: President nominates 10 judges to the federal bench, the first step in a right-wing corporate takeover. (AlterNet, 05/08/17)
Steven Rosenfeld: Trump’s appointees ... are doctrinaire right-wingers who started as clerks for the most right-wing Supreme Court and federal court justices, and then went on to build careers in corporate practices and academia siding with big business and religious fundamentalists over other Americans.... What follows are sketches of Trump’s five federal appeals court judges, the first of what will be a red wave shaping the courts for years. That’s because Senate Republicans blocked scores of Obama administration judicial nominees

The Trump Judiciary (People For blog, 05/08/17)
Paul Gordon: Conservatives are hoping for nominees who will regularly favor the powerful and fail to recognize the constitutional values of equality and liberty.... In addition to the scrutiny usually given to nominees, we must also be on the lookout for efforts to not just create a right-wing judiciary, but a Trump Judiciary. We must protect our federal courts, so that they can protect us. The records of all of today’s nominees must be examined very closely.

Trump has just begun massively reshaping American appeals courts (Vox, 05/08/17)
Dylan Matthews: By putting Larsen (who’s only 48), Stras (42), and Thapar (48) on appeals courts, Trump is further burnishing their credentials for future Supreme Court vacancies. ... Make no mistake: Larsen, Stras, and Thapar are all reliable conservatives. Larsen served in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2002-’03, when Jay Bybee and his deputy John Yoo were laying the groundwork for the Bush administration's torture regime. She also clerked for Antonin Scalia, and praised him in a eulogy for his conservative, textualist insistence that “statutes, cases and the Constitution were to be read for what they said, not for what the judges wished they would say.” Stras's campaign site for reelection to the Minnesota Supreme Court stressed that he thought judges should "faithfully interpret and apply the Constitution and laws passed under the political process, not follow their own political leanings or personal preferences." Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt Law, who researches federal courts, told Bloomberg BNA that Thapar was "very Scalia-like and Thomas-like" in his jurisprudence. And all three, tellingly, were included on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist, which was compiled by the conservative Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo....There are now more than twice as many district and appeals court vacancies as when President Obama took office

Trump Is Going to Lose It When He Finds Out About This Obscure Senate Rule (New York Magazine, 05/08/17)
Ed Kilgore: Current Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, like his immediate Democratic predecessor Pat Leahy, has been a staunch defender of the blue slip tradition. ... Both Stras and Larsen are from states with two Democratic senators ... Grassley and other Republicans will have to decide whether their short-term interest abolishing the blue slip tradition outweighs their long-term interests in maintaining it for use against future Democratic presidents. And Democrats may figure out ways to use blue slips carefully and strategically to resist an ideological overhaul of the federal courts without unduly provoking Grassley