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Obama Judicial Nominees in Limbo

CAC documented the U.S. Senate’s unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees under the direction of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). 

Has John McCain Been Inhabited By a Pod Person?

November 18, 2013

In 2005, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) joined 13 other Senate colleagues in forming the so-called “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan group that agreed not to filibuster judicial nominees except in “extraordinary circumstances.”  This deal resulted in the confirmation of a number of extremely controversial George W. Bush nominees, including Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C.

Give Patricia Millett the Pay Cut She Deserves

October 31, 2013

Fights over judicial nominations are hardy perennials. The politics around them can become dispiriting.  So it is important to remember that beneath the political warfare,there are often unbelievably talented human beings, without any ideological agenda, who are willing to take massive pay cuts and subject themselves to the grueling confirmation process to serve the American public as a judicial officer.

Senior Moments at the D.C. Circuit

September 25, 2013

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has been a hot topic of late, what with Senator Charles Grassley and other Senate conservatives trying to prevent President Obama from filling three vacancies on that court (out of 11 authorized seats) by claiming that the court does not need the judges.  Senator Grassley and his allies have gone so far as to introduce a bill that would eliminate those three judgeships from the court entirely -- cutting the court’s authorized seats by nearly 30%.   As we’ve previously shown (see links here), these efforts are nothing more than a hyper-partisan, hypocritical effort to keep President Obama from putting judges on this court.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans: Hypocrisy, Revisionism and the D.C. Circuit

August 1, 2013

This morning, by a strictly party-line vote of 10-8, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit, sending it on to the full Senate for consideration after the recess.  No Republican Senator voiced any concern whatsoever with Ms. Millett’s qualifications to be a federal judge.  To the contrary, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) specifically said, “I have no objection to her personally...I think she’s probably well qualified.”  This echoed the praise that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) had already lavished on Ms. Millett at her July 10 confirmation hearing.

Will Other Republican Senators Join John McCain and Susan Collins in Rebuffing Senator Charles Grassley’s Partisan Effort to Prevent President Obama’s D.C. Circuit Nominees From Getting a Vote?

July 8, 2013

On Wednesday, July 10, at 10:00 AM, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit, where three of 11 authorized judicial seats now sit empty.  On the merits, there can’t possibly be anything controversial about this nomination.  Ms. Millett is one of the country’s most accomplished appellate advocates; she has argued nearly three dozen cases in the U.S.

A Bad Week for Senator Charles Grassley and His Plan to Mass Filibuster the President’s D.C. Circuit Nominees

June 21, 2013

After a week like this, it’s not terribly surprising to find Senator Grassley back on his heels, offering up yet another defense of his proposal to gut the D.C. Circuit.  Once again, the facts don’t add up.

A "Pack" of Nonsense

June 7, 2013

Even some conservatives have had a hard time understanding this assertion. As Byron York, a Fox News contributor and author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy dryly noted, “it doesn’t strike me as ‘packing’ to nominate candidates for available seats.”

Did Senator Cornyn Forget About His Letter To President Obama?

May 14, 2013


Right now, there are six vacant seats on the very busy federal District Courts in Texas, with no nominee pending to fill any of those vacancies, four of which are considered to be judicial emergencies.  One of those six vacancies dates back to November 2008, and two of them to 2011.   Last week, during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) sought to blame President Obama for the lack of nominees, and to absolve himself (and his Republican colleagues) of any responsibility for this dismal situation. 

According to Cornyn, “The president’s got to nominate somebody before the Senate can act on it.”   That simplistic answer was met by pushback from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who reminded Senator Cornyn that it is the longstanding practice for District Court nominees to be recommended to the Administration by home-state Senators, and that the Judiciary Committee will not even proceed to consider a nominee if one or both of those Senators has not consented to such consideration by returning the so-called “blue slip.”

CRS Confirms Historic Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees

May 6, 2013

In a report issued by the Congressional Research Service on May 2, 2013 analyzing and comparing the Senate fate of President Obama’s lower court nominees with those of all Presidents since Ronald Reagan (during their first terms), CRS confirmed what Constitutional Accountability Center has been saying

Did Senator Grassley Not Check His Inbox? -- His Proposal to Gut the D.C. Circuit Ignores the Judicial Conference

April 17, 2013

On April 10, 2013, Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, kicked off the confirmation hearing for D.C. Circuit nominee Sri Srinivasan by announcing that he was introducing a “Court Efficiency Act,” S.699, which would, if enacted, eliminate three of the 11 authorized judgeships from the D.C.

"Judicial Emergency" Seat on Ninth Circuit Still Vacant While Goodwin Liu Marks One Year Anniversary as Nominee to Fill It

February 28, 2011

Spending a full year as a pending judicial nominee is nothing to celebrate.  Senators should heed the pleas of Judge Kozinski and his colleagues, move quickly to report Goodwin Liu’s nomination out of Committee, and then move promptly to confirm him and fill this judicial emergency seat.

Senator Mike Lee is Feeling the Heat – But He Shouldn’t be the Only One in the Frying Pan

February 10, 2012

What Senator Lee is doing is reprehensible, but he’s hardly the only obstructionist in the Senate, and he’s not the only one who should be feeling the heat.

VACANCY CRISIS UPDATE: 80+ Vacancies, 936 Days and Counting

January 19, 2012

When the Senate returns for session on January 23rd, there will have been more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench for 936 straight days, dating back all the way to July 2009.   Outside of a completely anomalous period when Congress established 85 new judgeships in 1990, never before has the number of vacancies risen so sharply and remained so high for so long during a President’s term.

Why Can’t Ed Whelan Take Yes for an Answer?

December 2, 2011

For decades, conservatives like Ed Whelan, the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a prolific blogger at National Review’s Bench Memos, have criticized progressive judicial nominees for not endorsing originalism or for espousing a “living Constitution.”  So you would think that Whelan would be overjoyed that many of President Obama’s nominees, including D.C. Circuit nominee Caitlin Halligan – scheduled for a cloture vote next Tuesday -- have emphasized the priority they put on the Constitution’s text and history.

An Updated Note to Senator Grassley re Caitlin Halligan: Nine < Ten < Eleven

December 2, 2011

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, the Senate is scheduled to vote on cloture in connection with the long-pending nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The very idea that this superbly qualified nominee could be filibustered is absurd.

Senator Cornyn and the Filibuster of Judicial Nominees – a Little Historical Revisionism Thrown in With the Hypocrisy

April 28, 2011

While the Senator is correct that Democrats did invoke the filibuster against a handful of Bush nominees after losing control of the Senate in 2003, he conveniently fails to mention that his party provoked a constitutional crisis over this, threatening to explode the Senate by detonating a procedural stratagem that members of Senator Cornyn’s party dubbed the “nuclear option,” which would have ended filibusters of judicial nominees.

Senatorial Discourtesy?

April 5, 2011

Why is it that nominees of President Obama are being held to a different, new standard than applied to the nominees of President Bush?  Why have we departed from the longstanding tradition of respect for the views of home State Senators who know the nominees best and who best understand their home districts?

D.C. Circuit Nominee Caitlin Halligan to Argue Before U.S. Supreme Court on Monday

March 18, 2011

Don’t judge Ms. Halligan by the votes of conservative Senators against her confirmation.  Folks who would rather see for themselves just what kind of lawyer Ms. Halligan is should head down to the Supreme Court on Monday morning.  It will be a rare opportunity to watch a judicial nominee ply her craft before the highest court in the land.

Senator Cornyn and the Filibuster of Judicial Nominees – a Little Historical Revisionism Thrown in With the Hypocrisy

April 28, 2011

While the Senator is correct that Democrats did invoke the filibuster against a handful of Bush nominees after losing control of the Senate in 2003, he conveniently fails to mention that his party provoked a constitutional crisis over this, threatening to explode the Senate by detonating a procedural stratagem that members of Senator Cornyn’s party dubbed the “nuclear option,” which would have ended filibusters of judicial nominees.

A Note to Senator Grassley: Ten < Eleven

March 11, 2011

Whatever Senator Grassley may think about Caitlin Halligan’s substantive qualifications to be a federal judge, he should at least get the numbers right, and be consistent about them.

Senate Obstructionism Reaches New Low

February 25, 2010

The ever-escalating war over executive and judicial branch confirmations is often associated with big-picture ideological battles over the meaning of our Constitution and the direction of the nation’s highly influential appeals courts.  Rarely do we consider how such fights -- often waged using procedural tricks like holds and filibusters -- directly affect Americans seeking justice in courts around the country.  Yet a clear illustration of the negative impacts of obstructionism over nominees has emerged in our own backyard at the D.C.

The Chief Justice Calls for Action to Solve the Vacancy Crisis

January 4, 2011

On the final day of 2010, the vacancy crisis that is plaguing the federal judiciary was thrown into the spotlight by a previously silent and very important voice: that of Chief Justice John Roberts.

What’s Good for One Lame Duck Ought to be Good for Another

November 11, 2010

When the Senate returns to town next week for its post-election “lame duck” session, it will find 23 of President Obama’s judicial nominees who had been voted favorably out of the Judiciary Committee exactly where the Senate left them in September -- still languishing on the Senate floor, waiting for an up or down confirmation vote. 

Unprecedented & Unjustifiable Delays: A Response to Ed Whelan

October 7, 2010

We recently noticed that as part of a response to a judicial nominations piece by Dahlia Lithwick and Carl Tobias, Ed Whelan took a quick swing at numbers CAC has been using about a stunning increase in Senate floor confirmation vote wait times for judicial nominees, which show that President Obama's nominees are facing unprecedented obstruction tactics in

WATCH CAC’s Kendall on Fox News: “Americans are Waiting Too Long for Justice”

September 30, 2010

CAC's President Doug Kendall appeared on Fox News’ Special Report to discuss Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees and  the impact such obstruction is having on our justice system:

On The First Monday in October, We Must Not Forget About the Other Federal Courts

September 30, 2010

While the Supreme Court is fully-staffed, the same can hardly be said of our country’s lower federal courts – the trial courts (known as District Courts), and the courts of appeals (the Circuit Courts) – where more than 100 judicial seats -- nearly one in eight -- are now vacant.  It is the judges on these courts who bear the greatest burden when it comes to dispensing justice to the American people.

Senators Must Act Now to get their Home State out of Confirmation Limbo

September 27, 2010

As has been well-documented (see, e.g., here, here, and here), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has led an unprecedented effort to obstruct President Obama’s judicial nominees, with the result being that more than 100 vacancies have piled up on the federal bench, greatly impairing our Nation’s system of justice.

Kimberly Mueller: A Poster Child for Republican Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

September 7, 2010

In a recent, important speech before the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy decried the growing crisis in our nation’s federal courts caused by an increasingly insufficient number of judges available to dispense justice to the American people.

Will Senator Sessions Send Still Pending Sixth Circuit Nominee Jane Stranch An Anniversary Cake?

August 3, 2010

In today’s Washington Post, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, claims that President Obama’s nominees to the federal trial and appellate courts are “moving along.”  It takes a great deal of chutzpah to make this claim in the face of the actual data, which show, as we detailed in a  post here several days ago, that Senate Republicans are engaged in unprecedented obstruction of the President’s lower court nominees. 

CAC Urges Senate to Confirm Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit

April 23, 2010

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee sent on April 22, CAC has urged the Senate to confirm Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  As we stated in our letter, Professor Liu’s “exceptional record of accomplishments, his ‘well qualified’ rating by the American Bar Association, and his testimony at his confirmation hearing on April 16” demonstrate that Professor Liu “is overwhelmingly qualified to sit on the Court of Appeals.”