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President Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing the nomination of three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 4, 2013. Nominees from left are: Robert Leon Wilkins,
President Obama with his three new D.C. Circuit appointees.

The Senate finally confirmed federal judge Robert Wilkins, the third of President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court on Monday, giving this court its full complement of 11 judges for the first time in two decades.

The D.C. Circuit is the second highest court of the land both in the scope and importance of the cases it considers, and because it is often the court from which Supreme Court Justices are selected. It considers key challenges to how the federal government works, with the responsibility of directly reviewing the decisions and rulemaking of federal agencies and actions by the executive. A key recent example is the Court's decision to strike President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Supreme Court heard the government's appeal of this ruling Monday. So having a full complement of judges, and a 7-4 majority of Democratic appointees, is hugely important.

The court is complete now, of course, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats who voted with him to end the filibuster on all nominations except to the Supreme Court. And Judge Robert Wilkins, the 41st African-American judge President Obama has put on the bench, and reflect of his efforts to diversify the federal judiciary.

Please read below the fold for more on Obama's nominations.

Obama has nominated, and the Senate has confirmed, more women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and openly gay judges than any other president.

The Senate has confirmed 93 women to the bench during Obama’s tenure, compared with 71 during George W. Bush’s full two terms. Bill Clinton got the first and only openly gay judge confirmed before 2009. Obama’s gotten seven confirmed so far. [...]

“The reality is they started slowly on judicial nominations, which had he not been reelected would have created a real problem,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

A year later, the situation looks very different, Leahy said. “When President Obama finishes his term, here’s what’s going to be important: He will leave a federal judiciary more diverse — gender, racial — than it ever has been.”

Whether that actually happens depends a lot on how the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeds in the next three years. Obama has also been forced to withdraw a number of nominees—women, African-Americans, and gay nominees—because of Republican obstruction. Most recently, he withdrew the nomination of William Thomas to a federal court in Florida because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who originally supported Thomas, a gay African-American, reversed course. Republican obstruction is also leading Obama to nominate conservative judges to try to get Republican support. It's actually pitted civil right leaders against the president in the case of Georgia, where his nominees have extremely conservative records on critical issues like abortion and voting rights. That certainly won't do much to burnish President Obama's legacy.

That could end if both Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Judiciary Committee, and President Obama end the courtesy to Republican senators of "blue slips," the tradition by which senators sign off on nominees in their home states. Blue slips aren't a Senate rule, but a tradition. The previous Republican chair of the committee, Orrin Hatch, ignored blue slips. Sen. Leahy could do the same, and Obama could then truly leave a legacy of a diverse, forward-looking judiciary.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 01:13 PM PST.

Also republished by Firearms Law and Policy and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (44+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 01:13:39 PM PST

  •  There are polls on the front page for both (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, tidalwave1, jedennis

    The President and the Majority Leader.  I answered "No" to both - and I won't be happy with how either of them are doing their jobs until this nonsense in the Senate is brought to an end.

    Judicial nominations are both the right and the responsibility of the President, and it is the Senate's job to advise and consent.  There are no laws and no constitutional provisions to allow the minority party to bring this to a standstill.  Furthermore, the House plays no role, making appointments one of the few things that the Democrats can actually get done on their own.

    Any delays, any nomination withdrawals, any disappointments are entirely due to the two top Democrats.  Not the Republican obstructionists, not the filibuster, not the Senate rules.  The President and the Speaker own this and need to make it happen.

    And it should happen this year, before the elections - just in case.

  •  Abandoning the tradition of having a blue slip (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, DaNang65, Aximill

    policy only moves the problem back a step. It's not a silver bullet in the heart of Republican obstruction of judicial nominations.

    Like any Judiciary Committee Chair, Leahy can change his version of the blue slip policy, and he's already issued a "don't make me pull this car over" statement that he probably considers strongly worded. But he can't change the committee rules unilaterally, he can't make the Republican senators show up to make a quorum to move nominations, and he can't change the 30-hr debate rule for circuit judges or the 2-hr rule (IIRC) for district judges. Look at how long it took some of his members to agree to the filibuster revision. What makes you think he's got the votes to change the committee rules to ensure more and better nominees?

    BTW, for most of his tenure as chair, Hatch didn't "ignore" the blue slip rule at all. He followed the same policy Joe Biden did for years before him -- a policy that Ted Kennedy opened the door to by weakening the rule after more than 20 years of Sen. Eastland observing the "pure" (Leahy) version of it.

    If we think the blue slip rule is in some objective sense a bad thing (i.e., producing a worse judiciary), then Hatch would have been right to ignore it. If we think it's a good thing, then Leahy is right to maintain it. But the reality is that since Kennedy, it has been a tradition subject to tweaking by any chairman depending on (1) whether his party also controls the WH; (2) his party's numbers in the Senate; and (3) the behavior of the other party. Let's not pretend that Hatch's decision to adopt a skid-greasing version of the tradition under Bush II had nothing at all to do with how Democratic senators were treating Bush nominees. In my view, the Democrats were often right on the merits, but their actions were hardly in the "elections have consequences" style we now seem to expect the Republicans to adopt.  

    Maybe Leahy's weak. Maybe he knows something about the wide range of pressure points the minority can use to slow or stop nominations, and is a realist about what changing the one aspect within his control will do. Or maybe he genuinely believes that some Senate traditions are worth preserving in the hope that the electorate will come to its senses and start sending something other than Tea Party hacks to govern.

    •  Election cycle is a consideration (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aximill

      Holding the Senate makes this a longer term proposition than what is "doable" right now. An appointment here and there for now, and reassessment around Labor Day.

      Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 02:47:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're probably right that it's no silver bullet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobbygoode, GleninCA

      ...but I look forward to what obstruction tactics the Senate Republicans can come up with to block the majority party and President's agenda. How many times have Congressional Dems and President Obama "negotiated" and "compromised" themselves over to the far right, only for the right-wing to pull away their votes anyway like Lucy van Pelt pulling away the football? Negotiating and following rules is useless when the opposition doesn't negotiate in good faith and uses the rules as weapons.

      So to the GOP, I say, bring it on! Block every appointee; stymie every piece of legislation; force Reid to chip away at that encrustation of procedural garbage which prevents the moderate and leftist Dems from accomplishing what they want and the people need; and keep every op-ed page, editorial cartoon, and weblog buzzing with stories following the template "Democrats attempt to ____ and Republicans obstruct by ____" from now until November. Go on guys, you know you want to.

    •  So...the whole 'nuclear' thing is moot? (0+ / 0-)

      So...Reid 'adjusted' the filibuster last year, just to get headlines? Just to try to make liberals, progressives and actual Democrats feel better about getting fucked by the minority GOP? But the fact remains that there are more than plenty of ways the GOP can stop anything they want in the Senate?

      Well. I feel SO much better knowing that.

      MAYBE Leahy's weak? MAYBE?

      "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

      by DaddyO on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:10:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not at all. The nuclear thing blasted loose (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        three crucial judicial appointments (the D.C. Circuit) and 14 others that had already gotten out of committee. And it applies to executive appointments, which are not subject to the blue slip or other Judiciary Committee constraints. It was and is a BFD. It's just not the whole ballgame on judges. The Judiciary Committee chairmanship -- as a position -- is a fairly weak one in the chain of events that has to occur for a judicial nominee to be confirmed. In Senate tradition, shaped by both parties over decades, that's a feature, not a bug.

    •  This comment is a perfect example of why (2+ / 0-)

      posting dairies days before they appear on the front page is a terrible idea. There's no longer any way to rec it.

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 08:54:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  ^^^ Top Comment - which I could rec it 100x nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Villanova Rhodes

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 12:36:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Leahy's blue slip bullshit is inexcusable (8+ / 0-)

    Some tradition! A tradition that wasn't traditional the last time the thugs were in control.

    This is an example of the way Dems help preserve conservative power. Reid didn't adjust filibuster rules for practically ever, and this blue slip nonsense just helps the conservatives run out the clock on Obama's judiciary.

    Makes me ill.

    •  It's nonsense regardless of who is in charge (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      winkk

      Perhaps a Senator with unique knowledge of the nominee can get a blue slip that holds the nomination up for 90 days.  

      But elections have consequences, regardless of what party wins.  Sometimes, traditions are senseless.  If a nomination is awful, let a Senator hold it up for a fixed period and then make the case that the nomination is awful.  And then vote on him/her.

      "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

      by gsbadj on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 07:11:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is really very important news. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SheLawyer, GleninCA

    One should be mindful the the DC circuit is quite often the fast track to a key position at the Supreme Court.

    I mean they have to come from somewhere.

    Generally, as close to the Federal kabuki as possible.

  •  Well, only one of the last five (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobbygoode, akovia

    SCOTUS appointees was elevated from the DC Circuit (Roberts; the others came from elsewhere: Breyer from the First Circuit, Alito from the Third Circuit; Sotomayor from the Second Circuit; Kagan from the Solicitor General's Office).

    The DC Circuit is important because they review an inordinate amount of cases involving federal regulatory laws. Because the Supreme Court hears so few cases each year, what appellate courts decide is often the last word, and that means the DC circuit looms large as a specter over legislation signed by Obama during his first two years in congress (when he was actually getting things enacted because he had a congress working at passing things).

    It's always darkest before it gets less dark.

    by Karma Electra on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 08:13:18 PM PST

  •  After 2016 (0+ / 0-)

    Y'all will hopefully will have room to reconsider your views of President Clinton, the remake... Jes sayin'.

  •  If the GOP hadn't come up with a way to obstruct (0+ / 0-)

    ...Obama would have invented one and GIVEN IT to them.

    All I hear from him--and the Daily Kos--are EXCUSES. I'm a human being; I don't want excuses.

    I want RESULTS.

    What has he done? Compared with what he's been KEPT FROM DOING and what he's been STOPPED from doing, in the last five years? What will be different in the next three?

    Anyone? Anyone?

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:07:42 AM PST

  •  but is Obama appointing liberals? (0+ / 0-)

    The last Pres. Bush got a lot of coverage when he nominated and lobbied for confirmation for far-right jurists. What sticks out for me about Obama's picks is the ones where Republicans agree with his choices. So I'm curious: when we talk about Republican-appointed judges vs Democratic-appointed judges, has anyone attempted to measure the political extremity of each?
    My worst fear is that Republican presidents are appointing hardcore conservatives, while Obama is appointing squishy "moderates" who don't balance out the bench.

  •  I no longer get upset with this crap (0+ / 0-)

    If Obama and the Senate want to keep playing games with appointments, fine. Don't use it as "click bait" to get me to donate anymore.

    You have the power to appoint and get them confirmed. If the Democratic Senate wants to keep these bullshit "rules" in place, they can. But they can't expect us to believe they can't change them if they want to.

    I've stopped caring about this "inside baseball" shit a long time ago!

    In an insane society, the sane man would appear insane

    by TampaCPA on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 08:45:21 AM PST

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