People For the American Way

Sen. Burr Invents New Rule to Hide Obstruction of NC Judicial Nominee

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (like Marco Rubio before him) is in hot water for obstructing a judicial nominee who he himself had originally recommended to the White House. Burr is refusing to talk about his motives, but in trying to escape accountability, he has now claimed that he doesn't discuss judicial nominations publicly – a claim his own website proves as false.

In 2009, Burr wrote to the White House stating that Jennifer May-Parker had "the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction if nominated" for the position. President Obama nominated her last June, but Burr has refused to submit a blue slip for her. Under the practice of Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, the committee will not even hold a hearing for a judicial nominee unless both of her home state senators give their permission. As far too many of President Obama's nominees have learned the hard way, GOP senators are more than willing to abuse that process in order to keep the president from fulfilling his constitutional responsibility to fill the nation's courtrooms with qualified judges. And as long as no hearing is held, senators do not have to explain their obstruction or even admit to it.

The Huffington Post tried to pin Sen. Burr down yesterday on whether he still supports May-Parker's nomination:

"All my conversations are with the White House on judicial recommendations," he said.

The North Carolina senator also wouldn't comment on if he plans to submit his blue slip: "I just don't share anything about the judicial nominations process."

This non-sharing policy must come as news to the many North Carolina judicial nominees who Burr has "shared anything" about:

  • In February 2005, just a few weeks after replacing Democrat John Edwards in the Senate, Burr issued a press release telling the world that he had signed his blue slips for circuit court nominee Terrence Boyle and district court nominees Robert Conrad and James Dever III.
  • In February 2006, on the day that President Bush nominated Frank Whitney to be a district court judge, Burr issued a public statement of support.
  • In September 2006 – again, on the day they were nominated – he publicly applauded President Bush's selection of Martin Reidinger, William Osteen, Jr., and Thomas Schroeder for district judgeships in North Carolina.
  • In 2010, he released a statement praising President Obama's nomination of Catherine Eagles to be a district court judge. In that case, Burr waited until the day after the nomination.

Sen. Burr owes an explanation to his constituents, who deserve a fully functioning court system. If he has a problem with May-Parker, he should say so in public and allow the Judiciary Committee to look into the basis of his concerns. Unfortunately, under the current blue slip practice, Burr can continue to sabotage a nominee without facing the consequences or allowing her to discuss her record with his fellow senators.

Abuse such as this shows why the blue slip practice needs to be reformed.


blue slips, Jennifer May-Parker, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Obstruction, Obstructionism, richard burr