• By Democrats' Own Standard, We Have a Judicial Vacancy Crisis

    By Democrats’ Own Standard, We Have a Judicial Vacancy Crisis

    Words like “crisis” are in the eye of the political beholder. But it’s hard to pick a better one to describe the current state of vacancies in the federal courts.

    Today, 126 positions on the U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals are vacant. In fact, we’re in the longest period of triple-digit vacancies in 25 years. But the raw numbers don’t tell the full story, so, since the partisan environment is so bitter, let’s apply some standards advocated by Democrats to put these numbers in perspective. READ MORE...

  • Before Congress Adds More Judges, Let's Fill the Current Vacancies

    Before Congress Adds More Judges, Let’s Fill the Current Vacancies

    The 115th Congress is wrapping up its legislative business. What will the 116th bring?

    One likelihood is a bill to expand the federal judiciary. Here’s how Congress should handle it.

    Two months ago, retiring Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., introduced H.R.6755, the Judiciary Reforms, Organization and Operational Modernization Act of 2018. Title II incorporates an earlier recommendation of the Judicial Conference to create 52 new judgeships on the U.S. District Court and convert eight temporary district court judgeships to permanent status. READ MORE...

  • Where Trump’s Judicial Picks Stand at the End of This Congress

    Where Trump’s Judicial Picks Stand at the End of This Congress

    The 115th Congress is almost finished, with the Senate expected to adjourn by Dec. 14. What does that mean for the process of filling positions in the judicial and executive branches?

    First, here’s how it usually works. The majority and minority typically agree to confirm a group of nominees in the last few days of a Congress. For example, the Senate confirmed 19 judges in the closing days of the 111th Congress under President Barack Obama, 20 judges at the end of the 107th Congress under President George W. Bush, and 28 judges when the 103rd Congress finished under President Bill Clinton. READ MORE...

  • Capping Off the Year With More Impartial Judges

    Capping Off the Year With More Impartial Judges

    Rumors swirl that the Senate, originally set to adjourn on Dec. 14, may pack it up a week earlier. Since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the election that confirming judges would be his “top priority” for the rest of the 115th Congress, let’s take stock.

    We are in the longest period of triple-digit judicial vacancies since the early 1990s, when Congress created 85 new judicial positions. More than half of the current vacancies are designated “judicial emergencies” because the positions have been open so long that they’re worsening judicial caseloads. READ MORE...

  • Senate Election Results Give Republicans Opportunity to Confirm More Judges Faster

    Senate Election Results Give Republicans Opportunity to Confirm More Judges Faster

    The 2018 election results are encouraging, if for no other reason than that more progress can be made in filling judicial vacancies.

    First, a snapshot of where things stand right now.

    President Donald Trump has appointed almost 40 percent more nominees to life-tenured federal courts than the average for his five predecessors of both parties at this point. The pace of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings for judicial nominees is also way ahead of the usual pace.

    The Senate’s record for confirming those nominees, however, is not as robust. Previous posts (see here, here, and here) have detailed the strategies by Senate Democrats to make the confirmation process cumbersome rather than efficient. READ MORE...

  • 3 Takeaways From Day 3 of Kavanaugh's Confirmation Hearings

    3 Takeaways From Day 3 of Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearings

    After a marathon 13 hours of questioning on Wednesday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings continued Thursday with more questions from the senators.

    Protesters continued to punctuate the senators’ questions throughout the day, and a dozen or so of the girls Kavanaugh has coached on basketball teams showed up in the afternoon to support “Coach K.”

    Here are the key takeaways from Kavanaugh’s final day before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    1. Booker’s ‘disclosed’ documents were a nothing burger—and a publicity stunt. READ MORE...

  • 3 Takeaways From Day 1 of Kavanaugh's Confirmation Fight

    3 Takeaways From Day 1 of Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Fight

    The Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off its hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh today, and it was no peaceful outing.

    The first day of a confirmation hearing is usually placid, with committee members and the nominee offering fairly predictable opening statements before the nominee begins answering senators’ questions on Day Two.

    No such luck.

    Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was 30 seconds into his first remarks when committee Democrats began demanding that the hearing adjourn or be postponed until the latest set of documents on Kavanaugh’s record could be studied. Repeated interruptions by both Democratic senators and protesters in the audience moved the hearing steadily off-schedule. READ MORE...

  • What to Expect in Kavanaugh’s Senate Hearings

    What to Expect in Kavanaugh’s Senate Hearings

    The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh begins at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Here’s what you can expect.

    The committee has 21 members—11 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is the chairman and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is the ranking member, or lead member of the minority party.

    The hearing will last for four days, the same length as seven of the previous 10 Supreme Court nominees. The other three—Justices Stephen Breyer (1994), David Souter (1991), and Anthony Kennedy (1988)—had three-day hearings. READ MORE...

  • Colorado Cake Baker Turns Tables in Anti-Religious Bias Lawsuit

    Colorado Cake Baker Turns Tables in Anti-Religious Bias Lawsuit

    Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, and is himself a master baker. He’s in trouble with the state of Colorado for declining to create a custom cake for an event because doing so would violate his religious beliefs.

    If that sounds familiar, it’s because Phillips has already taken a similar case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor on June 4.

    Here’s the background.

    In 2012, Phillips declined the request by a same-sex couple marrying in Massachusetts that he create a custom cake for their reception in Colorado. READ MORE...

  • Kavanaugh Follows the Law, Even Under the Most Difficult Circumstances

    Kavanaugh Follows the Law, Even Under the Most Difficult Circumstances

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., served on the Judiciary Committee in 2009. During the confirmation for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Schumer said that even in “hot-button cases,” judges should follow the law even if it results in rulings against so-called sympathetic litigants.”

    That’s an important principle to follow as the Senate considers Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

    Sotomayor herself embraced this principle, saying that even if a party’s position is “sympathetic,” the judge must do “what the law requires” and reach “the result [that] is commanded by law.” In other words, the law, not the judge, must determine how each case is decided. READ MORE...