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In case you missed it in all the hubbub surrounding the General Assembly, Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a fine op-ed by Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell yesterday about the inexcusable obstructionism in which the GOP is engaging with respect to President Obama’s federal court nominees. Here’s Rampell:

“Republicans have apparently grown bored with rendering the legislative branch completely dysfunctional. Now they’re doing their damnedest to destroy the judicial branch, too.

With little fanfare, the United States’ federal judiciary has started coming apart at the seams, particularly in judicial districts represented by at least one Republican senator. That’s no coincidence. Motivated by a desire both to make President Obama look bad and to delay any judicial appointments until there’s (possibly) a Republican in the White House, GOP senators have thrown obstruction after obstruction in front of the judicial appointment process. As a result, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed only six federal judges in 2015.

It’s the slowest pace in over six decades, as documented in a new report from the Alliance for Justice. As a result, since the start of the year, the number of open federal judgeships has increased from 43 to 67, with at least 18 more set to open in the next few months.

Also as a result, ‘judicial emergencies’ – basically, courts where caseloads have become unmanageable – have exploded throughout the country. This has had detrimental effects on both criminal defendants awaiting trial and civil litigants forced to wait months or years for their day in court.”

Richard Burr 2Rampell goes on to cite North Carolina as one of the states in which this obstructionism has reached a ridiculous level — a fact familiar to most Progressive Pulse readers who will recall that Richard Burr has been stonewalling Obama’s nominee to the state’s Eastern District vacancy for years.
Of course, none of this should be terribly surprising given the right’s ideologically-driven mission to impair the functioning of government in order to abet the mission of privatizing its core functions. That said, the bald-faced nature of the dishonesty that underlies this particular campaign of obstruction is truly amazing.
You can read Rampalll’s essay by clicking here and get all the sobering stats and facts on the obstructionism generally by visiting the Why Courts Matter website here.
News

The nearly ten-year vacant federal district court slot in eastern North Carolina tops the list of “most ridiculously long judicial vacancies that the Senate hasn’t filled,” as highlighted by the Huffington Post this past weekend.

Here’s a look at the worst Senate offenders when it comes to not filling long-vacant judgeships in their home states.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)

There’s a seat on U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina that’s been empty for 3,387 days. That’s more than nine years, and it has no nominee.

Burr avoided questions from The Huffington Post last year about why he was blocking a previous nominee for the slot, Jennifer May-Parker. His obstruction of May-Parker was particularly puzzling, given that he previously recommended her to Obama.

A Burr spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the hold-up for filling the seat, and on whether Burr plans to recommend a nominee soon. A request for comment also was not returned from Burr’s home-state counterpart, freshman Sen. Thom Tillis (R).

Of course none of that is news to court watchers here, many of whom continue to scratch their heads as to why U.S. Senator Richard Burr refused last year to support President Obama’s nominee, Jennifer May-Parker, after initially offering his approval.

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.”

With no new nominee in the hopper, the Eastern District — which is also close to the top of judicial districts having the most residents per judgeship — will continue to trudge along with a caseload being handled by three active sitting judges with the part-time help of three judges on senior status — the youngest of whom is 75.

News

Loretta BiggsJust before midnight, the U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote a slew of pending Obama judicial candidates, including Loretta Copeland Biggs, who will serve in the state’s Middle District.

Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.

Her addition to the court is welcome news and will begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench. She will be the first African-American woman to serve as a lifetime appointed federal judge in North Carolina.

But the state’s Eastern District continues to operate with a district court vacancy that has been pending for more than nine years.

The president’s nominee for that slot, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — who would have been the first African-American to serve as a federal judge in that part of the state — failed to get even a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s because Sen. Richard Burr has inexplicably withheld the “blue slip” indicating his approval, even though he initially supported her nomination and despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations.

Read more about Biggs here.

 

News

President Obama’s pick for federal judge in the state’s Middle District, Loretta Copeland Biggs, continues to move forward in the confirmation process with her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for today at 11 a.m.

If approved by the committee, Biggs will next move to a full confirmation vote on the Senate floor. And if confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.

Her addition to the court would be welcome news and would begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench.

But another nominee, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — chosen by the President to fill the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina — continues to languish. 

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold the “blue slip” indicating his support for her for, despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations.

Click here for more on the tortured history of North Carolina’s federal judicial vacancies and the lack of diversity of those who have served.

 

News
(Source: whitehouse.gov)

(Source: whitehouse.gov)

According to a Judiciary Committee spokesperson, both North Carolina senators have submitted “blue slips” for Loretta Copeland Biggs, nominated in September by President Obama to serve as a U.S. District Judge in the state’s Middle District.

That signal of support by home state senators allows the nominee to proceed to a Judiciary Committee hearing and move a step closer to confirmation, which follows from a full floor vote.

If confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.

“We have two highly qualified, outstanding African-American women who have been nominated to be federal judges, and I think it’s time we confirm them and get them on the bench,”  Sen. Kay Hagan said shortly after the Biggs nomination — referring also to Jennifer Prescod May-Parker, a pending nominee for the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina.

(Source: whitehouse.gov)

(Source: whitehouse.gov)

Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold a “blue slip” for May-Parker, though — despite his strong statements on the Senate floor disapproving of obstructionism in the judicial nomination process.

Click here for more on the tortured history of North Carolina’s federal judicial vacancies and the lack of diversity of those who have served.