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The saga of judicial obstructionism continues in Washington, thanks in large part to the stalling tactics of our own U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

As we’ve reported often (see Rob Schofield’s most recent post here), the senator is inexplicably refusing to support one of his own selections, Jennifer May-Parker, to fill the now 8-year vacant seat on the federal court in the district serving eastern North Carolina.

Time and again, we’ve asked for an explanation as to why he was holding up the nomination of a woman who would be the first African-American to serve in that court — and, once U.S. Judge James Beaty takes senior status in June — the only African American judge to serve on the federal bench in the entire state.

Burr’s abuse of the judicial selection process is now bringing more negative national attention to the state. Yesterday, in a piece about continued intransigence getting judicial nominees confirmed — even in the absence of the filibuster — Newsweek magazine called out Burr as a singular example of what continues to plague Washington:

” . . . the May-Parker debacle stands out as a particularly egregious example of obstruction keeping the Obama administration from filling dozens of vacancies across the country despite a years-long judicial vacancy crisis.”

That’s notoriety North Carolina could do without.

 

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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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(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.