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Burr2It’s becoming increasingly clear that at some point, Senator Richard Burr is going to have to explain his one-man, silent filibuster of the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve on the federal District Court for North Carolina’s Eastern District.

As this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports, the Congressional Black Caucus is now weighing in full force on the issue:

“U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield says the Congressional Black Caucus is discussing how to break the logjam over the nomination of Jennifer May-Parker to the fill the federal district court judicial vacancy in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Read More

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Policy Watch has written plenty about Sen. Richard Burr’s stonewalling of a nominee whom he’d previously supported for the federal bench in eastern North Carolina  — a turnabout that’s left many scratching their heads.

Particularly disconcerting is the senator’s apparent refusal to heed his own words uttered  back in 2005, when he told his colleagues that “denying judicial nominees of both parties, who seek to serve their country, an up-or-down vote, simply is not fair.  It was certainly not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.”

Yet that’s exactly what he’s done by failing to return the blue slip for Jennifer May-Parker, raising doubts that Burr really means what he says.

Now it appears that Burr and others in the U.S. Senate who’ve resorted to the blue slip as their own type of filibuster have pushed too far.

According to this report, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will ask the Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to process nominations and send them on to a committee hearing without approval from both on a nominee’s home state senators, effectively ending the blue slip tradition.

Here’s more:

Fudge and other members of the Black Caucus say GOP Senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Richard Burr of North Carolina used the “blue slip” procedure to block the nominations of qualified African-Americans they previously endorsed for judgeships.

Rubio said he switched his stance on William Thomas’ nomination of because he had questions about Thomas’ judicial temperament and willingness to impose appropriate sentences. Burr has not explained his reasons for withholding his support for Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination.

Congressional Black Caucus members blame their actions on politics.

“They are abusing the process just because they have the power to do it,” says Fudge, adding that the Black Caucus will ask Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont to suspend use of the “blue slip” custom, as has been done in the past.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a Black Caucus member, said the U.S. Senate has failed to act on more than a dozen of President Obama’s African-American nominees, and the strategy is being used to “keep quality African-Americans from getting confirmed.”

“This is a matter of particular concern this year,” agreed Eleanor Holmes Norton, another Black Caucus member who serves as the District of Columbia’s non-voting Democratic delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. “More than any other thing a president can do, an appointment to the bench can cement his legacy.”

 

 

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Burr2Constitutional law professor Herman Schwartz has an excellent essay at Reuters.com about the battles over presidential appointments to the federal courts, the right’s decades-long and highly successful effort to capture this issue and the slowly-stirring effort by progressives to (finally, thank the lord!) respond.

As Schwartz notes, one positive development that may soon be on the agenda is the demise of that absurd and archaic U.S. Senate institution known as the “blue slip” — the system of “courtesy” whereby any single senator of either party may block a nominee from his or her own state without explanation.

As followers of N.C. Policy Watch are well aware, Senator Richard Burr has been one of the most egregious abusers of this silly rule for several months now with his outrageous and unexplained blockage of an African-American federal prosecutor named Jennifer May-Parker whom President Obama nominated to fill an eight-year-old vacancy on the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina last June.  Thus far, because of Burr’s silent refusal to give his blessing, May-Parker has not even received a hearing — a fact rendered all the more outrageous by the fact (noted in this space last week) that Burr endorsed her for the job in 2009!

Let’s hope senators act soon to repeal this absurd rule — something Republicans did when they were in charge of the Senate Judiciary during the Bush administration.  And let’s hope that this time, it’s a once-and-for-all decision.

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Richard Burr 2As reported last September by N.C. Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey and noted again here and here, Senator Richard Burr has been blocking without explanation the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill a vacancy on the Federal District Court for the North Carolina’s Eastern District. May-Parker, who would be the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on Eastern District bench, was first nominated by President Obama last June but has yet to receive a hearing in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee because Burr has refused to sign off by returning his “blue slip” to the committee (as is required by Senate practice and tradition).

Happily, it does not appear that the White House will be backing down from the nomination as Read More

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(Image courtesy of the Brennan Center)

(Image courtesy of the Brennan Center)

When last we left the conversation about the pending nomination of Jennifer May-Parker for the now 8-year long vacancy in North Carolina’s Eastern District, our own Sen. Richard Burr had yet to return the “blue slip” needed either to allow the nomination to proceed to a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee or to prevent that from happening.

May-Parker, you may recall, would be the first African-American to serve as a judge in the 44-county Eastern District, home to a significant minority population.

Unfortunately nothing’s changed. The senator still won’t commit.

It’s not that difficult a process, really.

As shown in the blue slip here, Burr just needs to check one or the other: approve, and allow the nominee to proceed to a hearing, or oppose, and clear the way for a new nominee.

But doing nothing means simply that May-Parker’s nomination will languish long enough to keep that seat open into the mid-term elections in November 2014.

By then, North Carolina will have two open federal court slots, with Middle District Judge James A. Beaty Jr. taking senior status in June.

And no judges of color in our federal courts.