Sunday, December 05, 2010

Remember when the Obama administration was going to remake the federal judiciary? (Hey, quit laughing!)


An empty bench: Emblem of the Obama judiciary?

by Ken

There aren't many activities that right-wingers enjoy more than crapping their pants. About the only thing that gives them more pleasure is screeching their putrid guts out like deranged imbeciles. So really scaring themselves silly is a twofer: After they befoul themselves, they got to scream bloody murder about the stench. And in both cases, apparently the thrill is exponentially heightened if the subject of their terror and the object of their screeching would be understood by a moderately informed seven-year-old to be unmitigated nonsense.

Remember when the Obama Hope and Change Caravan pulled into the Mall in DC in January 2008, and real hope and change seemed possible? One of the loonies' rawest terrors -- and screeching points -- was the opportunity open to the new administration to remake the federal judiciary, given the unprecedented number of vacant seats all through the system. Why, even the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, for so long the private preserve of Jesse Helms, had enough vacancies to be brought back into the land of the legally sane.

And then it turned out that not only did the new administration leave all those Bush regime U.S. attorneys in place, presumably scared silly that the Republicans would scream about them requesting the resignation of all sitting USAs (you know, the way, new administrations normally do), but as the slow trickle of judgeship appointees sent to the Senate began to meet hostility from the GOP senators who apparently have appropriated unto themselves the right of approval of nominations, the White House lacked the conviction, or guts, or something to fight for its people, and often seemed to be apologizing for them.

Well, that window slammed shut ages ago. Yes, the administration did manage to get two Supreme Court justices nominated and confirmed, and the both fall under the heading "coulda been worse." Indeed most of us assume that the next Obama Supreme Court nominee will be worse, given the makeup of the new Senate. More importantly, though, the R's didn't have to put up more than a pro forma fight over Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, considering the justices, Souter and Stevens, they were replacing. What's more, with Kagan they got the bonus of the large number of cases from which she will have to recuse herself early in her tenure because of her participation while she was solicitor general in so many cases coming before the Court.

And the rest of the federal bench?

For more than a week I've been meaning to pass on an item from ThingProgress's The Progress Report blog. The day's theme was "Prelude to a Shutdown":
The 112th Congress has not even been seated yet, but its GOP Members are already salivating over the government shutdown they plan to force next year. Make no mistake, the Republican Party's impending shutdown will have catastrophic consequences for American workers and the U.S. economy, but it is nothing more than an escalation of the GOP's most recent tactics. During the 111th Congress, Republicans lacked the majorities to force a shutdown, but the Senate's arcane rules gave them all the power they needed to hollow out the executive and judicial branches of government. Indeed, in many ways the shutdown began the moment President Obama took office, and GOP senators figured out they could keep virtually any Senate-confirmed job open as long as they saw fit.

And the first case in point was the judicial mess. (The onsite version is studded with links.)
AN EMPTY BENCH: No one has felt the force of this obstructionism harder than the federal judiciary and the millions of Americans who depend upon it for fair and timely justice. It's been more than two months since the Senate has held a single judicial confirmation vote, and more than half of Obama's judicial nominees -- 44 in all -- have yet to even receive a vote in the Senate. This includes 23 nominees who have already cleared the Judiciary Committee -- 17 of them unanimously. Moreover, more than half of these vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies" by the non-partisan agency responsible for monitoring judicial caseloads. And the GOP's efforts to keep even the most uncontroversial nominees from receiving a vote stands in stark contrast to the treatment afforded to President Bush's judges. According to data supplied by the Federal Judicial Center, Obama's 41 confirmed judges is less than half of the 99 judges confirmed at this point in Bush's presidency. Indeed, Senate Democrats confirmed 20 judges during Bush's first lame duck period alone. The GOP's unprecedented obstruction of Obama's judges has drastic consequences for Americans seeking justice. Presently, the average civil litigant must wait nearly two years for a full trial of his or her case to be resolved, and this wait will only grow as more judges retire. Just as tragically, GOP obstruction of Obama's judges preserves the far right's stranglehold over the judiciary -- ensuring more decisions halting scientific progress, more mo rally re pulsive rulings such as a Fifth Circuit decision requiring an alleged rape victim to cheer for her rapist , and more right-wing judges attending industry-funded junkets to learn how to rule in favor of big business.

I wish I had something pithy to say in conclusion. The one thing I would add is that the Progress Report people seem to me to be giving the president way too much of a pass on this, glossing ove the question of what the White House could, no should, have done to stand up to the obstructionists.

Just wait till Obama's successor starts pumping more of those patented right-wing loonies and thugs down the judicial pipeline. I'm just sick.

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At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



At 7:49 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Ralph, I'm sure I'm not the first person to point out to you that you are in urgent need of immediate mental help. It's quite possible, of course, that your mental defects are beyond help, but you owe it to yourself as well as decent human beings to try to get help.



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