judicial nominations

Conservative Legal Activist Admits GOP SCOTUS Obstruction Is All About Politics

Within hours of the news breaking of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Republican politicians and conservative activists circled the wagons and vowed to block the confirmation of any person President Obama nominates to replace him.

Some have tried to come up with bogus new “rules” about not confirming justices in a presidential election year. Some have tried to claim, as Sen. Marco Rubio did in Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, that more than 10 months before the next election Obama is already a “lame duck” president. Sen. Rand Paul went as far as to say that Obama has a “conflict of interest” in nominating judges who might consider the legality of things the executive branch does.

But some have been less coy about the purely political calculation behind the attempt to block an Obama nominee, including the Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino, who announced in a Newsmax interview yesterday that it would be “political malpractice” for Senate Republicans to allow President Obama to put another justice on the Supreme Court.

In a statement shortly after Scalia’s death was announced, Severino declared that Obama is “the last person” who should be nominating Scalia’s successor because he has “shown such contempt for the Constitution and the laws.”

Severino’s group was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network, with the stated mission of ensuring “that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote.” After President Obama was elected, the group conveniently changed its name and its mission.

PFAW Praises Nomination of Abdul Kallon, Will Be First African American from Alabama on 11th Circuit

People For the American Way today praised President Obama’s nomination of Abdul Kallon to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. When confirmed, Judge Kallon, who currently serves on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, will be the first African American judge from his state to serve at the federal appellate level.

Judge Kallon is a well-qualified nominee who received broad bipartisan support when he was confirmed to his current seat. The Senate should move quickly to process his nomination,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “In addition to being an historic nominee, Judge Kallon’s confirmation will fill a judicial emergency that’s been empty since 2013. This nomination is an excellent opportunity for the Senate to show that it can move past partisanship and gridlock in order to keep our courts working.

In 2009, Judge Kallon was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as a District Court judge and had the support of both his home state senators. At his confirmation hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions, then ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, praised Kallon’s “impressive legal credentials” and spoke of the Alabama legal community’s high respect for his “integrity and judgment and legal ability.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

Sandy Rios: 'White People Everywhere' Terrified Of Criticizing People Of Color

Earlier today, Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation spoke with Sandy Rios, a radio host and governmental affairs director with the American Family Association, about the nomination of Wilhelmina Wright to a federal district court seat in Minnesota.

Von Spakovsky alleged that Senate Republicans have refused to put up a fight against Wright, who is scheduled for a confirmation vote later today, even though, according to von Spakovsky, she is an extremist who hates the U.S. Constitution and thinks America is a racist country.

Rios claimed that Republicans aren’t blocking Wright’s nomination because they are “afraid” to oppose a black nominee. In fact, Rios said that “white people everywhere” are simply terrified of passing judgment on any person of color, which of course explains why no one on the Right has ever criticized President Obama.

“I am saying that a lot of this is coming from this fear now of white politicians, white spokesmen, white senators, white people everywhere, afraid to make any kind of a decision or judgment on someone who has a pigment in their skin, no matter what, because they will be accused of racism no matter what,” Rios said.

She went on to argue that Senate Republicans should “put a halt to confirmations” of judicial nominees altogether “because that has nothing to do with color.” Von Spakovsky agreed, saying that Republicans should oppose any nominee for the federal bench because they will all share President Obama’s “radical left-wing views.”

PFAW Applauds White House Announcement of Judicial Nominees

President Obama today nominated two judges to serve on the Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. The nominees, from Wisconsin and Indiana, will fill seats that have been vacant since January 2010 and February 2015 respectively.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

“President Obama should be applauded for moving forward with the nomination process in the face of years of Republican obstruction. Americans are sick and tired of gridlock in Washington. Our elected officials were sent here to do a job, and it’s time for them to put aside petty political disagreements and actually do it. In this case that means moving expeditiously to hold hearings and then votes on the individuals nominated by President Obama.

“Since 2009, Republicans have used every tool at their disposal to slow walk and delay the confirmation of qualified judicial nominees. That obstruction hasn’t always made the headlines, but it has had a profound impact on the lives of ordinary Americans who deserve to have their day in court. Vacancies in our judicial branch slow the administration of justice and harm individual people and small businesses who can’t wait years to have their cases resolved. President Obama’s decision to nominate these individuals is an important step forward. Now it’s up to Senate to respond in kind.”

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PFAW Statement on Senate Confirmation of Luis Restrepo

Today, more than a year after being nominated by President Obama, Judge Luis Restrepo was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Today’s vote followed months of needless delays by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, assisted by Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley.

“Americans of every stripe should be glad that Judge Restrepo was confirmed today. He will be a true asset to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. But Senate Republicans should be embarrassed about how they’ve played politics with the courts for months on end,” said People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker. “Judge Restrepo was nominated with bipartisan support from his home state senators, but at every turn Republicans delayed and dragged their feet, saying one thing and doing another. Not a single senator raised any concerns about Judge Restrepo’s fitness for the bench—this was anti-Obama politics plain and simple. If Americans need another example of who’s causing gridlock in Washington, the expanse of time that it took us to get to this vote is a perfect example.”

Upon today’s vote, Restrepo becomes the second Latino judge ever to serve on the Third Circuit and the first from Pennsylvania.

Today’s vote comes during an period of historic obstruction of judicial nominees in the Senate. Since Mitch McConnell became majority leader in January 2014, the number of current circuit and district court vacancies has climbed from 40 to 71 today, a nearly 80% increase. Despite Restrepo’s confirmation, the current Senate’s confirmation rate remains far behind that of Democrats who controlled the body during the last two years of President Bush’s term eight years ago.

“During the long wait for Judge Restrepo’s confirmation, yet another vacancy has opened up on the Third Circuit,” said Baker. “If Republicans decide to start caring about the ordinary people they purport to represent, moving expeditiously to fill that vacancy, among others, would be a reasonable place to start.”

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Carly Fiorina Promises To Nominate Anti-Choice Supreme Court Justices

In a conference call with anti-abortion activists last night, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina promised that, if elected, she would “nominate pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court along with signing a budget defunding Planned Parenthood and pushing through a national 20-week abortion ban.

“Here’s what I will do and here’s what I want people to hold me accountable for,” she said on a conference call hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser and Priests for Life's Frank Pavone. “If President Obama vetoes our attempts between now and the election — which, unfortunately, sadly, he may — I will deliver a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood. I will nominate pro-life justices. I will get the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protect Act passed.”

When she ran for Senate in California in 2010, Fiorina said that abortion rights would not be a litmus test for her votes on Supreme Court nominees.

Fiorina, who has come under fire for a series of falsehoods on the campaign trail, including repeatedly describing a video of Planned Parenthood that does not exist, also told participants that her main strategy for handling hostile questioning is to always “speak the truth.”

“You know, the truth shall set you free,” she said. “We all know this, we read it in the Bible. The truth shall set you free.”

“Don’t worry so much about finding exactly the right words, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she advised. “Worry about, concentrate on speaking the truth. Speak what you know to be the truth. that’s a powerful thing, it’s always a powerful thing, and that’s what I will keep doing. No one is going to frighten me into silence.”

Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, has made no secret of her admiration for Fiorina, telling call participants that Fiorina is a model candidate for her organization, which largely endorses female candidates opposed to abortion rights.

Dolores Huerta Criticizes Sen. Toomey, Senate Republicans for Holding Up Restrepo Nomination

This past Thursday, Senate Republicans disregarded the procedure they’ve been using all year and decided that they would skip over the confirmation vote for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Restrepo would be only the second Latino to ever serve on this prestigious federal court.

Though no one has questioned Judge Restrepo’s qualifications for the job, Republican Senator Toomey is collaborating with Senate GOP leaders to prevent a confirmation vote.

Civil rights leader and People For the American Way (PFAW) board member Dolores Huerta stated:

“Shame on Senator Toomey and Senate Republicans for holding up the confirmation of highly-qualified Judge Restrepo. Republicans are once again using obstructionist tactics in a way that harms our country, and this time, it impacts Latinos in particular. We can’t let Senate Republicans get away with this blatant, partisan obstruction.”

PFAW Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon explained:

“By skipping over Judge Restrepo, Senate Republicans threaten not to hold a confirmation vote by the end of the year, meaning that the reset button could be hit on his confirmation. If they do that, he’d have to be re-nominated and re-processed by the Judiciary Committee, even though Republicans and Democrats alike have voiced only support for Judge Restrepo.”

To schedule an interview with a PFAW spokesperson on this issue, please contact Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org).

Background on Restrepo’s Nomination Process

In November of last year, President Obama nominated federal district Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to be a judge on the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Unfortunately, Republican Senator Toomey and Senate GOP leaders in Washington DC have up to this point refused to hold a confirmation hearing.

Judge Restrepo would be only the second Latino to ever serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He would also be the first judge on the court to have experience as a public defender. It is important to fill this vacancy: The caseload is so high that it has been formally designated a judicial emergency, and there is a second vacancy on the same court. No one has questioned Judge Restrepo’s qualifications for the job, and Senator Toomey said great things about Judge Restrepo. But for over a year, every time that action has been needed to prevent Judge Restrepo from falling victim to Washington partisan politics, Toomey has chosen to be silent.

It’s critical that Judge Restrepo be confirmed before senators leave town for the holidays, which could be as soon as next week. He’s at the top of the list of judicial nominees waiting for a vote. But, apparently with Toomey’s acquiescence, GOP leaders have skipped Judge Restrepo and plan to confirm another nominee on Monday.

Because the Senate will likely adjourn at the end of this week, skipping Judge Restrepo could mean his confirmation vote will not happen this year. This could mean that in 2016, Judge Restrepo would have to be re-nominated by President Obama and re-submitted to the Judiciary Committee, further delaying his confirmation process.

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An Anniversary Pat Toomey Should Be Ashamed Of

Pat Toomey has spent a year helping his party obstruct the nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo, who he says he supports.
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Courts' Vital Role in Protecting Women's Health and Everyone's Rights

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