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October 16, 2009

The growing (and justified) complaints about Obama's approach to judicial nominations

Judges This new Washington Post article, which is headlined "Obama Criticized as Too Cautious, Slow on Judicial Posts," documents the growing complaints about the President's approach to judicial nominations. Here are excerpts:

President Obama has not made significant progress in his plan to infuse federal courts with a new cadre of judges, and liberal activists are beginning to blame his administration for moving too tentatively on what they consider a key priority.

During his first nine months in office, Obama has won confirmation in the Democratic-controlled Senate for just three of his 23 nominations for federal judgeships, largely because Republicans have used anonymous holds and filibuster threats to slow the proceedings to a crawl.

But some Democrats attribute that GOP success partly to the administration's reluctance to fight, arguing that Obama's emphasis on easing partisan rancor over judgeships has backfired and only emboldened Senate Republicans. Some Republicans contend that the White House has hurt itself by its slow pace in sending over nominations for Senate consideration. President George W. Bush sent 95 names to the Senate in the same period that Obama has forwarded 23....

The delays are having a ripple effect in federal courts, where caseloads continue to back up, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). Currently, about 90 judicial seats -- about 10 percent of the total -- remain vacant in appeals and district courts.

The White House predicts that nominations and confirmations will pick up soon. "The administration has been working closely with members of Congress to identify a set of uniquely qualified judicial nominees with diverse professional experiences," said Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman. "This process has been bipartisan and we have made every effort to make confirmation wars a thing of the past."

But liberal activists argue that Obama needs to quicken the pace, partly for political reasons. "It is incumbent on the Democrats and the White House to push as hard as they can to confirm judicial nominees, given that next year Republicans will make an all-out effort to block candidates as a means to gin up their base before the election," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, an advocacy organization.

Analysts say that unlike Bush, who saw judicial appointments as a way to advance a strict view of the Constitution, Obama has not sharply defined his judicial philosophy. Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, said that Republicans consider the federal courts crucial to furthering their policy aims by overturning current law, but that Obama is among Democrats who view court appointments mainly as a means of defending the legal status quo.

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October 16, 2009 at 10:41 AM | Permalink


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I, for one, would be more interested in getting some US Attorney's in office.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 16, 2009 12:24:25 PM

The presidential appointments process is broken. It typically takes a president the better part of a whole year to get his administration fully staffed. Judicial appointments are more problematic, because the "good behaviour" clause makes both sides (the WH and the Senate) afraid of making a mistake.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Oct 16, 2009 3:48:48 PM

There is no rush. The cavalry is coming in 2010. The Party of Treason must lose both Houses of Congress, and then the purges must begin. All these Hate America, Commie freaks must be removed anyway, by impeachment. If the Appeaser in Chief induces a terror attack by his apologies for America and his cutting and running, he should be impeached, and tried for treason.

I tried to find something about sentencing for treason and insurrection against the Constitution in Prof. Berman's book on Sentencing. Not there. Most of it is on case law helping criminals get away with their crimes.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 17, 2009 11:54:15 PM

Doug, you're very quick to join the condemnation of President Obama's pace of appointment, graphically highlighted by the table comparing President Bush (43)'s quicker pace, but does the article offer any comparison of the very different worlds each president faced in their first nine months in office?

Bush 43 bragged (and the press marveled) about how little time he felt the job of president required to show his contempt for government as a whole. It took 9-11 to educate Bush that the presidency requires hard work that can't be put off to read "My Pet Goat." I suspect that Bush's speed in sending nominees reflects the well organized conservative plan to seat very partial jurists devoted to the overturning of abortion rights, gay rights, and criminal rights.

President Obama, on the other hand, inherited a nation and a world full of burning fires, set by Mr. Quick Draw Bush 43. Yeah, OBama needs to appoint judges with greater speed, but it seems pretty superficial to simply allege that Obama is justifiably criticized for going slow in filling judge ships compared to that beacon of judicial quality he succeeded.

Posted by: FC | Oct 19, 2009 10:50:45 AM

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