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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Senator Statements

 

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Sen. Feinstein: Protect Senate Power on Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - California) 09/25/17
An editorial memo with additional background on the history of the blue slip is available here [Link] “The blue slip is a Senate tradition that allows both home-state senators to have a say in which judges will serve in their states. It has been supported by Republicans and Democrats alike for 100 years, but it’s now in jeopardy by Senate Republicans who want to pack federal courts with Trump nominees. “Eliminating the blue slip would end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees and remove any incentive for the White House to choose mainstream candidates.... no judicial nominee has been confirmed without two blue slips in nearly 30 years, and fewer than five times in the last 100 years. Not a single Obama nominee received even a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, let alone a floor vote, without both blue slips having been returned.... the Obama White House didn’t just consult with Democratic Senators—it also consulted extensively with Republican senators. For example, Senators Hatch and Lee recommended Carolyn McHugh for the Tenth Circuit. Senators Isakson and Chambliss recommend Julie Carnes for the Eleventh Circuit. ... We’ve seen a troubling trend thus far in the Trump administration—candidates meeting only with Republican senators before they’re chosen. “The result is a White House that refuses to consult with Democratic senators on judicial nominees, then accuses them of obstruction when they want to fully review the nominees’ records. And now, they are threatening to eliminate the blue slip."

Senator Feinstein, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member: Setting the record straight on judicial nominees and blue slip
(Democrat - California) 09/25/17
Editorial memo on history of the blue slip and consultation with home-state Senators on judicial nominees

ICYMI: Sen. Coons defends Senate ‘blue slip’ process for reviewing judicial nominees
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/21/17
Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, defended the Senate ‘blue slip’ process to Business Insider. "Judges are appointed with lifetime tenure, so it is critical that senators have the ability to secure judges for their home states that are qualified for their positions," Senator Coons told Business Insider. "This isn't a partisan issue, either — this allows Republican senators to prevent Democratic presidents from confirming unqualified or inappropriate judges for their home states, and vice versa. The blue slip process encourages bipartisanship, too, and it increases the chances of consensus candidates. Ending the blue slip process would diminish the ability of senators to provide input based on the local needs of their states, making it increasingly difficult for the Judiciary Committee to function in a bipartisan way."

Sen. Lee on home-state Senator blue slips
(Republican - Utah) 09/20/17
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider in a statement that the blue slip process "should be used to prompt consultation between the Senate and the White House," but that it "isn't an invitation to thwart the president's power to nominate."

Sen. Schumer on home-state Senator blue slips
(Democrat - New York) 09/20/17
“Now we have the circuit court, and the blue slip has always been recognized. I will be meeting with Senator McConnell, Senator Grassley, and the ranking Democrat on the committee, to make the case to hold the blue slips.”

Sen. Coons on home-state Senator blue slips
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/20/17
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider that the blue slip process has historically been "followed by members of both parties" and "ensures senators are consulted regarding nominees for seats from their home states." "Judges are appointed with lifetime tenure, so it is critical that senators have the ability to secure judges for their home states that are qualified for their positions," Coons said. "This isn't a partisan issue, either — this allows Republican senators to prevent Democratic presidents from confirming unqualified or inappropriate judges for their home states, and vice versa," he continued. "The blue slip process encourages bipartisanship, too, and it increases the chances of consensus candidates. Ending the blue slip process would diminish the ability of senators to provide input based on the local needs of their states, making it increasingly difficult for the Judiciary Committee to function in a bipartisan way."

Sen. Whitehouse on home-state Senator blue slips
(Democrat - Rhode Island) 09/20/17
Pointing to past statements from McConnell and other Republicans, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Judiciary Committee member, told Business Insider in a statement that the practice "ensures that home-state senators and the people they represent can weigh in on the judges who will serve them." "Republicans, Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley among them, have taken advantage of this tradition for decades," Whitehouse said. "People who claim to be Senate institutionalists should not engage in wholesale destruction of Senate traditions just for immediate partisan advantage."

Sen. Cornyn on home-state Senator blue slip requirement for judicial nominees
(Republican - Texas) 09/14/17
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said it could be reasonable to do away with the tradition “on a case by case basis.” Cornyn specifically pointed to Franken’s decision to block Straus not because of concerns about his qualifications for the job, but because of the legal theory to which he subscribes. “I think it’s good to have consultation and for the White House to be required to work with senators of both parties on nominees, but where a senator admits that the nominee is qualified, but simply disagrees with the judge’s judicial philosophy I think that’s an inadequate reason to block him,” Cornyn told Courthouse News.

Sen. Grassley undecided on how to resolve ‘blue slip’ judicial holdups
(Republican - Iowa) 09/14/17
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said Thursday he hasn’t decided whether to disregard the chamber’s blue slip tradition and push through one of President Trump’s appeals court picks over the objections of a home-state Democrat. “You need to ask me in a month,” he told The Washington Times.

Sen. Blumenthal on home-state Senator blue slip requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Connecticut) 09/14/17
“I have not detected any groundswell of support to do away with it,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Thursday.

Sen. Franken on home-state Senator role in judicial selection
(Democrat - Minnesota) 09/12/17
“When the [blue-slip] process works as it should, the White House joins with home-state senators to identify qualified, consensus nominees,” Franken said. “And when the president and the senators are of different parties, that should mean identifying judicial moderates. Unfortunately, President Trump has demonstrated that he is less concerned with working collaboratively to fill judicial vacancies than his predecessor, which is not surprising given the fact that he has outsourced the job of identifying potential judges to the far-right Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.”

Sen. Franken to Oppose Nomination of Justice David Stras for Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals: Senator Says Nominee’s Deeply Conservative Judicial Philosophy Raises Concerns about How He Would Approach Civil Rights & Equality, Suggests He Would Favor Powerful Corporations over Working Families
(Democrat - Minnesota) 09/05/17
"I had hoped that, in recognition of our different views, President Trump would work with me to identify a consensus candidate-a nominee whose experience demonstrates an ability to set aside rigid beliefs in favor of finding common ground. But rather than work together to select a nominee who is a judicial moderate, the White House had already settled on Justice Stras before first approaching me, and the president nominated him despite the concerns that I expressed. "Justice Stras's professional background and record strongly suggest that, if confirmed, he would embrace the legacy of his role models and reliably rule in favor of powerful corporate interests over working people, and that he would place a high bar before plaintiffs seeking justice at work, at school, and at the ballot box. The president should be seeking out judges who bridge the issues that divide us, but I fear that Justice Stras's views and philosophy would lead him to reinforce those divisions and steer the already conservative Eighth Circuit even further to the right. "It is for those reasons that, after careful consideration, I have decided to oppose his nomination and not to return a blue slip to the Committee."

Sen. Klobuchar Statement on Nomination of Justice Stras to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
(Democrat - Minnesota) 09/05/17
"While Justice Stras was not my choice for the 8th Circuit Court, it is my view that he deserves a hearing before the Senate. “I am also concerned that this position could simply go to a less independent judge from another 8th Circuit state (Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota or South Dakota) since this is not a permanent Minnesota position. “I also respect the fact that Senator Franken has an equal role to play here. Under Senate practice, both Senators from a judicial nominee's home state must allow that nominee to have a hearing. Like Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, I support the practice as it is a check and balance regardless of whether a state is represented by two Democrats, two Republicans or one Democrat and one Republican. The policy has resulted in decision-making for judges across party lines. This policy has held true throughout the entire Obama administration, including when Republicans ran the Senate and when Democrats ran the Senate. Changing this policy would have serious ramifications for judicial nominations in every state in the country. Given this important policy, and given Senator Franken's view that Justice Stras should not be allowed a hearing in the Senate, the White House will need to provide additional names for the 8th Circuit position."

Sen. Feinstein Statement on Importance of Blue Slips
(Democrat - California) 09/05/17
Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement reiterating that the Judiciary Committee should honor home-state senators’ decisions regarding blue slips for federal judicial nominees, including Senator Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) decision not to return a blue slip on David Stras, President Trump’s nominee to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals: “It’s the prerogative of home-state senators to evaluate potential federal judicial nominees and determine whether or not they are mainstream and well-suited to hold these important positions of public trust, which have real-world consequences for their constituents. “The purpose of the blue slip is to ensure consultation between the White House and home-state senators on judicial nominees from their states. I expect the committee to honor Senator Franken’s decision not to return a blue slip, as was always done when Republican senators didn’t return blue slips on President Obama’s nominees. “In 2016 alone, President Obama’s nominations of Abdul Kallon for the Eleventh Circuit, Justice Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit and Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit didn’t move forward because they didn’t receive two blue slips. “I trust that this refusal to sign a blue slip will be treated the same way. If a nominee does not receive blue slips from both senators, the committee should not move forward.”

Sen. Franken on nomination process and David Stras Eighth Cirucit nomination
(Democrat - Minnesota) 08/29/17
"We did not have meaningful consultation at all. Normally we are consulted about the choice. That’s the tradition, so if there’s any abuse here, it’s the Trump administration by saying this is who we are going with. Normally they would consult with the senators who would be part of the process of picking someone. There’s a reason for the blue slip and it’s basically like in this situation, a party controls the White House and the Senate, that they won’t load the court with very very conservative or very very liberal judges, so this creates some kind of balance. Justice Stras clerked with Justice Clarence Thomas, he said Clarence Thomas was his mentor. There are writings of his that suggest that he and from reports we’ve heard from students etc. that is very far to the right. He’s a nice guy. I talked to him. But I wasn’t assured. [Supreme Court Justice] Gorsuch was a nice guy, but you see how he’s ruling right now. The Eighth Circuit is pretty conservative right now. But I want to consider this. And I wasn’t terribly happy with the process. I think we’re going to have a decision very soon."

Sen. Franken spokesman on Stras judicial nomination
(Democrat - Minnesota) 07/04/17
Neither Sens. Amy Klobuchar nor Al Franken have returned their blue slips signaling acceptance of Justice Stras. Both senators are currently reviewing his record. “That takes time — especially since he was not meaningfully consulted by the White House in advance of the nomination,” said Michael Dale-Stein, a spokesman for Mr. Franken.

Sen. Franken’s Statement on Trump Nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for the Eighth Circuit
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/08/17
Senator Al Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on President Trump's nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to serve on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals: "Justice David Stras is a committed public servant whose tenure as a professor at the University of Minnesota underscores how much he cares about the law. I am concerned, however, by that fact that Judge Stras' nomination is the product of a process that relied heavily on guidance from far-right Washington, DC-based special interest groups—rather than through a committee made up of a cross-section of Minnesota's legal community. As President Trump's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, I will be taking a close look at his record and his writings in the coming weeks to better understand how he thinks about the important matters before our federal courts today."

Sen. Klobuchar on David Stras Eighth Circuit Nomination
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/08/17
A spokesperson for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who along with Sen. Al Franken is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the senator "looks forward to meeting with the judge and reviewing his judicial record."

Sen. Durbin on President Trump judicial selections
(Democrat - Illinois) 05/08/17
“We know that there is a prized list now from [conservative] special interest groups and one of them is now on the Supreme Court,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said Monday, referring to recently-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. “If that’s the way the president is going to choose the leaders of the judiciary, we need to ask some probing questions about why these special interest groups believe these particular judges are the best choices.” Of the blue-slip powers, Durbin added: “As long as we have the authority, we’ll use it if necessary.”

Sen. Schumer Statement on President Trump’s 1st Slate of Lower Court Nominees
(Democrat - New York) 05/08/17
“Instead of allowing these groups to single-handedly pick judges that will tilt the lower courts to the hard right for a generation, the president should work with members of both parties to pick judges from within the judicial mainstream who will interpret the law rather than make it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

Sen. Franken on lack of meaningful consultation on David Stras Eighth Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/08/17
A spokesman for Franken said the senator was “not meaningfully” consulted and the White House declined the Minnesota senator’s recommendations to fill the vacancy at the St. Louis-based appeals court. A separate Senate Democratic aide said the Trump administration notified, rather than consulted, the senators, declining to ask for input before announcing the nominee. Lack of consultation on judicial nominees goes against traditional White House practice, say veterans of the nominations process. “In the Obama administration, people would not return their blue slips simply because they felt they weren’t consulted efficiently,” said Christopher Kang, who served as deputy counsel to former President Barack Obama. Kang, now the national director at the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said 17 judicial nominees during Obama’s tenure were blocked because home-state senators declined to give approval, or return his or her blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.