Mar 7, 2014
Obama Risks Losing His Judicial Prize
Posted on Nov 24, 2009
On Nov. 17, the Senate ended the stall and voted 70-29 to end the filibuster. Ten Republicans voted for cloture, including Lugar. Two days later, the full Senate voted 59-39, with Lugar casting the sole Republican aye vote. For all the fuss, the confirmation will probably have little political effect. The 7th Circuit appellate court, which serves Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, has seven judges nominated by Republican presidents and will have four, including Hamilton, chosen by a Democrat.
Sen. Sessions, the Republican-designated point man on judicial nominations, has a pertinent history. In 1986, Reagan nominated then-U.S. Attorney Sessions for a federal judgeship. The Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee held a prompt hearing, but Democrats unearthed a sorry record. Thanks to Sessions’ dubious past of offensive racial remarks and notions, the committee rejected his nomination, 10-8. Sessions now is a man on a mission, supported by outside lobbying groups, to thwart Obama’s nominations. Former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese secured a letter signed by 24 leading conservatives, urging a filibuster against Hamilton, calling him “precisely the kind of liberal judicial activist who would use our federal courts as his own superlegislature.” Nine of the 24 signatories opposed judicial filibusters during the George W. Bush administration, yet they now urged GOP senators to filibuster against the Hamilton nomination. We need a scorecard to keep track of these players in their ever-changing positions.
Obama has barely attempted to secure judges of his liking. There are 98 vacancies for district and appellate courts, and only 19 pending nominees. A majority of federal judges were appointed by Reagan and the two Bushes.
The David Hamilton saga in the Senate is a foretaste of what we can expect. George W. Bush, in his first year as president, made 64 nominations to federal courts; Obama has made 26 in the 10 months since his inauguration, according to the Alliance for Justice. Bush had 18 confirmed choices in his first year; Obama has had seven so far, including Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.
Stanley Kutler is the author of “Judicial Power and Reconstruction Politics” and other writings.
New and Improved Comments