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“A Fight Worth Having”: A Strategy On Judicial Nominees Takes Shape

For nearly five years, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — aka, the D.C. Circuit — has had seven sitting judges hearing cases, four from judges appointed by Republican presidents and three from Democratic presidents. Last week, President Obama finally saw one of his nominees confirmed to this bench, bringing some parity to the appeals court.

There are, however, three remaining vacancies, which Senate Republicans would love to keep vacant indefinitely. What does the White House plan to do about it? A plan has apparently come together.

President Obama will soon accelerate his efforts to put a lasting imprint on the country’s judiciary by simultaneously nominating three judges to an important federal court, a move that is certain to unleash fierce Republican opposition and could rekindle a broader partisan struggle over Senate rules. […]

White House officials declined to say who Mr. Obama’s choices will be ahead of an announcement that could come this week, but leading contenders for the spots appear to include Cornelia T. L. Pillard, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center; David C. Frederick, who often represents consumers and investors at the Supreme Court; and Patricia Ann Millett, a veteran appeals lawyer in Washington. All three are experienced lawyers who would be unlikely to generate controversy individually.

For those hoping for a more progressive federal judiciary, there’s a lot to like in this plan. Indeed, it’s arguably overdue.

It’s a pretty straightforward exercise — Obama has to nominate jurists to fill these vacancies, and he’s apparently focused on three excellent, mainstream choices, who would ordinarily garner broad support. From the White House’s perspective, if Senate Republicans act responsibly, great — the nominees will be confirmed, the D.C. Circuit will be at full strength, and the bench will be less conservative.

If Senate Republicans act irresponsibly and block these nominees out of partisan spite, Democrats will have even more incentive to pursue the “nuclear option” and end this style of obstructionism altogether.

And just to reiterate a relevant detail, filling judicial vacancies is important everywhere, but the D.C. Circuit is of particular significance — not only is it often a proving ground for future Supreme Court justices, but the D.C. Circuit regularly hears regulatory challenges to the Obama administration’s agenda. Indeed, as the NYT report noted, this bench “has overturned major parts of the president’s agenda in the last four years, on regulations covering Wall Street, the environment, tobacco, labor unions and workers’ rights.”

With this in mind, it’s a fight worth watching.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 28, 2013

May 29, 2013 - Posted by | Federal Courts | , , , , , , ,

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