Criticism All Around for Paucity of Confirmed Federal Judges « The Washington Independent
There’s growing attention today to the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans planning to filibuster the nomination of Judge David Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and to the Obama administration’s failure to make judicial nominations a higher priority.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg this morning [had an excellent roundup on the issue](NPR.Player.openPlayer(120482368,%20120488544,%20null,%20NPR.Player.Action.PLAY_NOW,%20NPR.Player.Type.STORY,%20'0')), while The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all have sharply worded editorials today chastising Republicans such as Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions has vowed to vote against cloture for the Hamilton nomination after years of haranguing Democrats for daring to block Republican judicial nominees.
Hamilton is a widely respected federal judge in Indiana who has the support of his home state’s Republican senator, Richard Lugar. But critics, who call him “the anti-Jesus pro-Allah judge”, don’t like that he ruled against allowing sectarian prayers as part of the official proceedings of the Indiana House of Representatives. They also don’t like that he struck down a law requiring women to have face-to-face counseling before being allowed to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion.
While it’s not surprising that some Republicans don’t like those rulings, that’s not supposed to be grounds for blocking a vote on the president’s nominee. No one is arguing that the Yale-educated, former Fulbright fellow who’s won the support of the American Bar Association isn’t qualified for the job. In contrast, Democrats allowed a vote on President George W. Bush’s nomination of Judge Jay Bybee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, even though as a Justice Department Lawyer Bybee approved memos authorizing the torture and abuse of detainees that even prominent Republicans have since disavowed and that sparked an ethical investigation into his conduct.
But in addition to Republican obstructionism, President Obama hasn’t exactly gone out on a limb to push his judicial nominations forward. Alliance for Justice has issued a report pointing out the paucity of judges nominated and confirmed by the Senate so far under Obama as compared to the first year of the previous administration. After Obama’s first ten months in office, only five judges had been confirmed by the Senate, 22 nominees remained pending and 97 vacancies were still open. During George W. Bush’s first year in office, the president had nominated 64 judges and won confirmation of 18 by mid-November. Meanwhile, Obama is operating with a strong majority of Democrats in the Senate, whereas Bush had to deal with a Democratic-controlled Senate in 2001.
Hamilton is likely to get a vote this week. Even so, the Obama administration still has a lot of catching up to do.