judicial nominations

Jill Pryor Nominated to the 11th Circuit

President Obama has announced the nomination of Jill Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor would fill a vacancy that has been declared an emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Pryor's legal skills are recognized by her peers. The Best Lawyers in America recognized her from 2009-2011, and Georgia Super Lawyers selected her as one of the "Top 100 Super Lawyers" in 2010 and 2011. In addition, she has served as president of the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers, as well as on the Georgia State Bar's Board of Governors.

Her peers are not alone in recognizing Pryor's qualifications. Georgia's Republican senators have both stated that she is qualified for a lifetime judicial appointment. In a January 24 letter to President Obama, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson recommended three attorneys to fill judicial vacancies in Georgia. They recommended Pryor for one of the two vacant seats in the Northern District of Georgia, but President Obama recognized that she has the skills and experience needed to serve on the Eleventh Circuit Court.

This seat has been vacant since August of 2010. We hope that Sens. Chambliss and Isakson, who clearly recognize Pryor's qualifications and judicial temperament, quickly give their approval for the Judiciary Committee to proceed to examine the nomination.

PFAW

Ohio Judicial Nominee Demonstrates Bipartisan Support

President Obama has gone out of his way to nominate to the federal bench highly qualified people who have earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike. That was clear in yesterday's Judiciary Committee hearing for Jeffrey Helmick to serve as a judge in the Northern District of Ohio.

That Helmick was nominated by Obama and recommended by Ohio's Sen. Sherrod Brown makes clear his support from Democrats. He was originally recommended to Brown and then-Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican, by a bipartisan committee. Rob Portman was elected to replace Voinovich in 2010, he has approved of Helmick’s nomination moving forward.

At the hearing, Sen. Brown discussed the strong support that state Republicans have offered the nominee.  For instance, Jack Zouhary, a 2006 George W. Bush nominee, wrote in support:

You will find no better candidate than Jeff. He possesses the intelligence, the passion for our justice system, and the necessary temperament and people skills to be an outstanding district court judge.

Similar praise has come from Mark Wagoner, the Republican who chairs the Ohio's Senate's Judiciary Committee. Sen. Brown read an excerpt from Wagoner's letter of support:

[Helmick] is someone who has stood for principles, litigated honestly, and ably defended our constitutional system of government. These types of traits would make Mr. Helmick an outstanding federal judge.

Helmick should be confirmed quickly. But if the growing backlog of nominees languishing on the Senate floor isn't cleared up, Ohioans' access to justice will be at risk.

PFAW

This is Why Americans Don’t Trust Congress

The New York Times’ Gail Collins on the Senate’s failure to do one of its most basic tasks:


And the bipartisan cooperation keeps rolling on. This week, the Senate confirmed Judge Adalberto Jose Jordan to a seat on the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. A visitor from another country might not have appreciated the proportions of this achievement, given the fact that Jordan, who was born in Cuba and who once clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor, had no discernible opposition.


But Americans ought to have a better grasp of how the Senate works. The nomination’s progress had long been thwarted by Mike Lee, a freshman Republican from Utah, who has decided to hold up every single White House appointment to anything out of pique over ... well, it doesn’t really matter. When you’re a senator, you get to do that kind of thing.


This forced the majority leader, Harry Reid, to get 60 votes to move Judge Jordan forward, which is never all that easy. Then there was further delay thanks to Rand Paul, a freshman from Kentucky, who stopped action for as long as possible because he was disturbed about foreign aid to Egypt.


All that is forgotten now. The nomination was approved, 94 to 5, only 125 days after it was unanimously O.K.’d by the Judiciary Committee. Whiners in the White House pointed out that when George W. Bush was president, circuit court nominations got to a floor vote in an average of 28 days.


No matter. Good work, Senate! Only 17 more long-pending judicial nominations to go!
 

PFAW

Senate Confirms First Cuban American 11th Circuit Judge After Months of GOP Foot-Dragging

The Senate this afternoon finally confirmed Judge Adalberto José Jordán to sit on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Jordán becomes the first Cuban American to join the 11th Circuit – an important victory for Florida’s large Cuban American population.

What wasn’t a victory for Cuban Americans, or for any Americans seeking justice in the desperately overworked 11th Circuit, was the long and frustrating process that led to Judge Jordán’s confirmation. Despite being a highly qualified nominee with broad bipartisan support, the GOP filibustered Jordán’s nomination for four months, only to vote overwhelmingly in his favor when the filibuster came to a vote. And once the filibuster was finally broken, one Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, used a little-used rule to postpone the final vote on Jordán another two days to push a completely unrelated policy priority.

In the Washington Post yesterday, columnist Dana Milbank wrote that the Jordán filibuster reflects the GOP’s puzzling indifference to Latino voters:


Jordan is the very picture of the American dream: Born in Cuba, he fled with his parents to the United States at age six and went on to become a lawyer and clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. With the support of his home-state senator, Republican Marco Rubio (Fla.), a fellow Cuban American, Jordan was nominated to become the first Cuban-born judge to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida.


There is no serious objection to his confirmation — which makes the hazing he has experienced all the more inexplicable. Republicans slow-walked his nomination (he was approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee in July), then filibustered his confirmation vote on the Senate floor. Even when the filibuster was broken Monday night (by a lopsided 89-5), a lone Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, used a procedural hurdle to postpone the confirmation vote by two days, to Wednesday.


Congressional staffers I checked with couldn’t recall a similar instance of blocking a confirmation even after a filibuster had failed. This would seem to be a unique humiliation for a man hailed by the Hispanic National Bar Association because of “the positive message this nomination sends to the Latino community.”
 

PFAW

Why is the Senate GOP Filibustering the First Cuban American Nominee to the Eleventh Circuit Court, Florida’s Adalberto José Jordán?

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way

Date: February 10, 2012

Re: Why is the Senate GOP Filibustering the First Cuban American Nominee to the Eleventh Circuit Court, Florida’s Adalberto José Jordán?

Florida District Court Judge Adalberto José Jordán has been waiting four months for the U.S. Senate to approve his nomination to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. On Monday, the Senate will hold a vote to break the Republican filibuster of Jordán’s nomination, a step that is traditionally taken only when the minority party has significant objections to the nominee’s qualifications.

So why is the GOP filibustering Jordán?

They have stated no reason, which leads to the natural conclusion that stalling Jordán’s nomination is just part of their larger effort to create gridlock in Washington. In the process, they have kept a highly-qualified jurist – one who is wholeheartedly supported by both Florida senators, including GOP Sen. Marco Rubio – from becoming the Eleventh Circuit’s first Cuban American judge and filling an urgent vacancy in the federal courts.

In October, Sen. Rubio praised Jordán to the Judiciary Committee, saying, "I think his experience and his resume will speak for itself. ... As a community, we're very proud of Judge Jordán's nomination and we look forward to his appointment."

Jordán immigrated from Cuba when he was six and is the quintessential American success story. After graduating from the University of Miami Law School, Jordán clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and became a federal prosecutor. Since 1999, he has served ably as a federal district court judge in Miami, where he has presided over nearly 200 trials on a wide range of civil and criminal matters.

He received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association and the Judiciary Committee members who reviewed his record agreed, voting unanimously to advance his nomination.

If confirmed, Jordán would become the first Cuban American to sit on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama. What’s more, the Eleventh Circuit desperately needs this vacancy filled, so much so that the Administrative Office of the United States Court has formally declared it a judicial emergency. In other words, there are so many cases and so few judges that Floridians, Georgians and Alabamans are facing unnecessary delays as they seek their day in court.

Jordán’s nomination has been languishing on the Senate floor since October 13. That was four months ago. Republicans have absolutely no excuse for this latest obstruction and should allow a simple up-or-down vote on his nomination, as well as the 17 others still awaiting votes.

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PFAW Praises President's Call for End to Nominations Obstruction

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama called for an end to the unprecedented obstruction of judicial and executive branch nominees.

Ohio Groups Meet with White House to Discuss Deepening Crisis in the Courts, Judicial Nominations

Cleveland, Ohio – Representatives from over a dozen Ohio social justice, legal and community action organizations from every part of the state participated in a conference call with White House staff today to discuss growing concern about the ongoing crisis in the federal courts.

Senate GOP Again Moves Goalposts on Judicial Nominees, Leaves 21 Unconfirmed at End of Session

The Senate ended its 2011 session on Saturday, leaving 21 judicial nominees on its calendar. All but two of the abandoned nominees were supported by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee. Under none of the previous four presidents has the Senate left noncontroversial nominees without a vote at the end of a session.

Before Going Home for the Holidays, Senate Should Confirm Pending Judicial Nominees

Before Going Home for the Holidays, Senate Should Confirm Pending Judicial Nominees

Senate GOP Plays Games with Halligan Nomination, Sets Dangerous Precedent

In a move that could have far-reaching implications for the ability of the president and the Senate to fill the federal courts, the Senate GOP today succeeded in blocking a vote on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, denying cloture on the nomination with a nearly party-line 54-45 vote.

Senate Confirms Bissoon, PFAW Urges Prompt Consideration of Remaining Nominees

The Senate last night voted overwhelmingly to confirm Cathy Bissoon as a United States District Court Judge in Pennsylvania, leaving 26 judicial nominees awaiting votes from the full Senate.

PFAW Applauds Progress on Judicial Nominations, Urges Senate to Vote on Remaining Nominees

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out five new judicial nominees and the Senate confirmed three, bringing to 27 the total number of nominees still waiting for a vote from the full Senate. This puts the nominations backlog back to where it was last month before Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through votes on ten nominees who received broad bipartisan support.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out five new judicial nominees and the Senate confirmed three, bringing to 27 the total number of nominees still waiting for a vote from the full Senate. This puts the nominations backlog back to where it was last month before Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through votes on ten nominees who received broad bipartisan support.

“Senator Reid took an important step last month when he stood up to Republican obstructionism and pressured the Senate to confirm ten highly qualified judicial nominees,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “Unfortunately, since then the nominations backlog has returned to its previous size. The Senate should make it a priority to completely clear the current nominations backlog. Holding a vote on all 27 nominees currently on the calendar would provide desperately needed assistance to strained courts throughout the country and demonstrate Congress’s ability to do its job.

“Senate Republicans have made a habit of delaying President Obama’s judicial nominees hostage for as long as possible. This obstructionism is bad for the American people, who depend on both an efficient justice system and an effective legislature. It’s time for the Senate to do its job and hold votes on these 27 nominees.”

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Pressure Begins to Yield Results as Senate Takes Steps to Confirm 10 Judicial Nominees

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last night that agreement had been reached for the Senate to consider ten of President Obama’s judicial nominees over the next two weeks as part of a time agreement made with Senate Republicans. The move comes after months of Republican delay and obstruction created a backlog of 27 judicial nominees waiting for votes on the Senate floor. The vast majority of those nominees faced no opposition in the Judiciary Committee and had the support of their home state senators.

PFAW: Senate Should Confirm Judges by Unanimous Consent

With 19 superb candidates for the federal bench who have cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, there is no reason to keep these well-qualified nominees in an endless holding pattern any longer.

The Senate returns to session today to approve a deal struck by the Obama Administration and congressional leaders to end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. The deal will be approved by unanimous consent, a procedure that requires the presence of only a few Senators as long as there are no objections.

PFAW Applauds White House Call for September Action on Judges

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans yet again prevented the Senate from voting on highly qualified judicial nominees who had cleared committee, leaving 20 of them in limbo even though 17 had no recorded opposition.

PFAW Condemns Senate Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

The Senate recessed yesterday without voting to confirm 20 judicial nominees, virtually all of whom received overwhelming support from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Time to Stop GOP Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

As the Senate prepares for a planned recess scheduled through Labor Day, it is incumbent upon Republicans to allow floor votes on the rapidly increasing number of judicial nominees who have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but whose nominations are still pending before the whole Senate.

PFAW Applauds Senate Confirmation of Paul Oetken

Today, the Senate confirmed J. Paul Oetken by a vote of 80 to 13 to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Oetken is the first openly gay man to be confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.

Judiciary Committee Republicans: Delay for Delay’s Sake

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Re: Judiciary Committee Republicans: Delay for Delay’s Sake
Date: June 15, 2011 

This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nominations of three of President Obama’s judicial nominees:  Steve Six (for the Tenth Circuit), Marina Garcia Marmolejo (for the Southern District of Texas), and Michael C. Green (for the Western District of New York).

Actually, the committee was originally scheduled to vote on these three nominations a week earlier, on June 9.  However, because Republican obstructionism has become the rule, not one person ever believed for even a second that the committee would actually vote as scheduled.  And no one gasped in surprise that day when Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee’s ranking Republican, announced that his party was exercising its prerogative to hold the vote over by a week.

That’s because since President Obama took office, virtually every one of his judicial nominees has had his or her committee vote delayed by Republicans by at least a week. This is true for Supreme Court Justices, circuit court judges, and even district court judges.  The routine use of this hold, without cause and almost without exception, is unprecedented.

Looked at in isolation, it might not appear all that harmful.  However, it is part of a larger set of procedural roadblocks the Senate GOP uses to obstruct confirmation of qualified nominees whose only “fault” is that they were nominated by a Democratic president.  The cynical abuse of this tactic makes clear that the actions of Senate Republicans toward President Obama’s judicial nominees is based on partisan politics, not principle.

Voting on a federal judicial nomination is an extremely serious responsibility and one that requires diligent research and thought.  So if senators sincerely have questions that have not been answered, or genuine and substantial concerns about a nominee’s fitness for the bench, then no one should begrudge them an extra few days to gather additional information.

But when Republicans exercise this option for every nominee, even those who are strongly supported by their home state Republican senators and have no opposition whatsoever, then their sincerity must be called into question.

The Senate has confirmed more than 70 of President Obama’s nominees without opposition.  In every case but four, committee Republicans exercised their prerogative to delay committee consideration of these consensus nominees by at least one week.  That begs the question:  Why?  What did they need to learn during the delay?  That is a question that should be posed to every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee about every one of these consensus nominees.

Take the nomination of Sue E. Myerscough for a judicial emergency district court seat in Illinois as a typical example.  She was first nominated in July of 2010, was deemed unanimously well qualified by the ABA, had a committee hearing in September, submitted responses to senators’ written questions, had her committee vote scheduled and delayed two weeks, was approved by the committee without opposition on December 1 ... and was one of the 43 qualified nominees needlessly denied a floor vote when the lame duck session of Congress ended.

By the time President Obama renominated her in early January, she was so well known to the committee that they did not require her to testify anew  or to submit new responses to written questions.  She was scheduled for a committee vote February 3, but committee Republicans exercised their option to delay that vote to the 17th, at which point she was again approved without opposition, leading to her unopposed confirmation by the Senate in March.

Senator Grassley and his fellow Republicans on the committee should explain why they demanded that the committee vote be held over a week.  There was no information they lacked, since they did not have her re-testify or submit new written responses to questions.  They had no serious concerns about her nomination, since they had already supported her in 2010 and ended up supporting her again once the vote was allowed.  Can they cite anything they learned during the week’s delay?

Sue Myerscough’s nomination is hardly unique.  No matter who the nominee is, no matter how qualified, no matter if confirmation is needed to address a judicial emergency, all the nominees have something in common: They were nominated by a Democratic president, and that is all the reason Republicans need to obstruct the process and sabotage the judicial branch of the United States government.

In so doing, they are living up to the vow made by right wing leaders in the opening days of the Obama presidency:  to function as a “resistance movement” rather than as responsible participants in an electoral democracy.

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Why is the GOP keeping women and people of color off the bench?

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker
Re: Why is the GOP keeping women and people of color off the bench?
Date: May 31, 2011

Last week, all Senate Republicans except Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski united to block Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, from getting an up or down confirmation vote.

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