Fair and Just Courts

Senator Hatch’s Double Standards and Abuse of Power

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, frustrated that Democratic senators are resisting his effort to push President Bush’s appeals court nominees onto the bench with minimal scrutiny, is increasingly abusing the power of his chairmanship to flagrantly violate or unilaterally change longstanding committee rules and bipartisan agreements that govern the Judiciary Committee’s deliberative process

The Blue Slip Policy

In the past, Hatch has been a fervent supporter of the Senate’s “blue slip” policy, which has allowed home-state senators who object to a judicial nominee to delay action in the Judiciary Committee by not returning a nominee’s “blue slip” to the committee. As American Prospect has noted, “it was Hatch, in 1995, who hardened the blue-slip policy to allow a single senator to block a nomination indefinitely.” Indeed, Sen. Hatch made his blue slip policy explicit in 1998 by stating on the blue slips themselves that “[n]o further proceedings on this nominee will be scheduled until both blue slips have been returned by the nominee’s home state senators.” Now, however, Hatch has apparently declared a new policy saying that even though a senator’s decision not to return a blue slip would be given great weight, it would not be allowed to prevent Hatch from moving nominees he wants to move. “In other words,” says Hatch, “we can go ahead with certain nominees where you might have a withheld blue slip.” Sen. Barbara Boxer in particular has objected to proceeding on controversial nominee Carolyn Kuhl, regarding whom Boxer has not returned her blue slip, but indications from Hatch are that he will proceed on the nomination, in blatant contradiction of his own policy.

Setting the Record Straight: Second Owen Hearing Highlights Hatch Hypocrisy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has scheduled a second hearing on Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, whose nomination to the federal appeals court was rejected by the Judiciary Committee in September after a public hearing at which her record was fully scrutinized at length by senators from both parties. Hatch has described the hearing scheduled for Thursday, March 13, as an opportunity to “set the record straight” on Owen’s record.

Filibuster Sustained! Democrats Hold the Line

Refusing to cave in to intense pressure from the White House and Republican leaders, Democratic senators rejected an effort to force a vote on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This is a major victory for for PFAW and the tens of thousands of members and online supporters who contacted their senators.

Truth a Frequent Casualty in the Estrada Nomination Battle

The heated political battle over the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is marked by frequently repeated assertions that are demonstrably untrue, and by increasingly harsh criticism of individuals and groups opposing Estrada’s confirmation and supporting use of the filibuster.

The Bush Steamroller on Judges: Good News, Bad News

Democrats make principled stand on Estrada; Feinstein casts disappointing committee vote for states’ rights extremist Sutton

The Nomination of Jeffrey Sutton: A Post-Hearing Report

The recent hearing on the nomination of attorney Jeffrey S. Sutton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit failed to resolve, and actually reinforced, the serious concerns about his nomination. Senators should reject his confirmation to the appeals court in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and legal protections that Americans have relied on federal courts to protect.

Selective Use of Filibuster Could Be the Only Hope for Bipartisan Resolution on Judicial Nominations

Senators are considering using a filibuster to prevent the confirmation of Miguel Estrada. The modern-day filibuster, a Senate procedure that requires 60 senators to agree to a vote on significant issues, is an essential check on the abuse of majority power and can be an effective strategy for achieving bipartisan cooperation.

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