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Senate moves slowly ...



The Washington Post today revisits a perennial story, that of the speed with which the Senate is confirming judicial nominations, "Senate moves slowly in confirming Obama's lower-court judicial nominees."

The story comes in the wake of Democrats taking to the Senate floor last Thursday, July 29, to demand confirmation votes on President Obama's federal judicial nominees. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) led the colloquy, starting on page S6476 of The Congressional Record.

Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin praised Louis Butler Jr., the former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice nominated for the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin. As this Wall Street Journal editorial recalls, voters in 2008 kicked Butler off the state Supreme Court, in part because of his liberal rulings against medical liability reform and his invention of "collective liability" for paint manfacturers. President Obama nominated him to the federal court in Oct. 2009 and renominated him last January.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed of Rhode Island were also exercised about Republicans preventing a vote on John "Jack" McConnell, the Motley Rice attorney and Democratic contributor nominated to the U.S. District Court. Whitehouse attacked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by name, posing the rhetorical question, "Do we want to let powerful out-of-State interests trump the better informed views of home State Senators about district court nominees? That is not the tradition of this body. I again ask my colleagues: Is this the tradition they want to set? If they open the door to out-of-State special interests trumping the considered judgment of home State Senators on district court nominees, will they ever get that door closed again? I submit it is a mistake for this body to go that road."

Alternatively, do we want Senators' parochial and political interests to always trump the public's objections to judicial nominees whose qualifications are solely political? Is that the road we want to go down?

Sen. Udall asked for unanimous consent several times to move the pending judicial candidates, with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) objecting. Two other controversial nominees who were stopped were Goodwin Liu to be a Ninth Circuit judge and Robert Chatigny to be on the Second Circuit. (Page S6486.)

Addendum: Originally appointed by Gov. Mike Doyle to the state Supreme Court to fill a vacancy, Justice Louis Butler was defeated in April 2008 for a full term by Burnett County Circuit Judge Michael Gableman. The expensive, rough-and-tumble campaign offended "good government" types, and Gableman became the target of a complaint based on one truthful TV ad. Last month the Wisconsin Judicial Commission decided not to take any action.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.