We are pleased to introduce a monthly feature from People For the American Way, reviewing recent contributions by Biden judges on the federal bench.
Federal appellate judges nominated by President Biden wrote or cast deciding votes in four important cases in September, including one on environmental protection and two on police accountability. Each case is summarized below, along with a link to the full People For the American Way blog entry on the decision and to the ruling itself. Such rulings by Biden judges illustrate the importance to all of us of promptly nominating and confirming such fair-minded judges, and we expect to continue to summarize such decisions each month, focusing primarily on appellate courts because of their major impact.
The Biden White House and Senate Democrats have been working hard to rebalance the courts after four years of Trump-McConnell judges. But there is more to do. So far, the Senate has confirmed 145 Biden judges, which puts Biden and Schumer behind where Trump and McConnell were at this point four years ago (152 judges). Currently there are 24 nominees on the Senate calendar awaiting votes, and there are 57 judicial vacancies without nominees.
Biden Judge Provides Deciding Vote to Reject EPA Rule Exempting Drilling and Other Temporary Operations from Air Pollution Regulation
Judge Veronica Rossman, nominated by President Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, cast the deciding vote in a 2-1 decision that vacated an EPA rule allowing Colorado to exempt oil drilling and other temporary operations from a regulation concerning industry actions that cause air pollution. The ruling in Center for Biological Diversity v EPA will likely improve air quality in the Denver area and elsewhere around the country.
Biden Judges Bar Use of Traffic Stop to Conduct Search and Seizure Despite Trump Judge Dissent
Judges Lucy Koh and Roopali Desai, nominated by President Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, wrote a 2-1 decision that reversed a lower court that upheld a police search and seizure of evidence in a car, finding that the police had improperly extended a traffic stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Trump Judge Patrick Bumatay dissented and would have affirmed the district court. The ruling in US v Williams should also help deal with the overall problem of “pretext stops” in California and elsewhere.
Biden Judge Casts Deciding Vote to Give Family of Man Shot by Police their Day in Court on Wrongful Death Claim
Judge Holly Thomas, nominated by President Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, cast the deciding vote in a 2-1 decision that reversed a lower court and allowed the wife and mother of a man shot by police to proceed to trial with a wrongful death claim against the police. Trump judge Mark Bennett dissented and tried to uphold the lower court. The ruling in Yearick v Leatham will hopefully also help other families who are victimized by such police abuse.
Biden Judges Rule that Prosecutors Must Prove Someone Knew They Had a Machine Gun Before a Thirty-Year Penalty Can Be Imposed
Judge Gustavo Gelpi, nominated by President Biden to the First Circuit, issued a unanimous decision, joined by Biden nominee Lara Montecalvo, that vacated a conviction for possession of a machine gun. The court explained that the district judge had improperly failed to require the government to prove that the person convicted knew that the gun was a machine gun, even though the result was an additional 30-year penalty. The ruling in US v Perez-Greaux sets an important precedent in the First Circuit and elsewhere.