Commentary, News

President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block

Justice Timmons-Goodson.jpg

Patricia Timmons-Goodson

Ho hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it.

AP’s Gary Robertson reports:

“President Barack Obama’s latest pick Thursday to fill a longstanding vacancy in eastern North Carolina’s federal courts already appears scuttled by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who blames the president for not acting in good faith.

The White House announced Obama had nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson of Fayetteville to become a U.S. District judge in the Eastern District.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Timmons-Goodson would fill a seat that’s been empty for more than 10 years. The president’s 2013 nomination of Jennifer May-Parker for the judgeship was never heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Late Thursday, Burr said the nomination is a ‘transparent attempt to turn the Eastern District vacancy into an election season stunt” and that he “will not support a new nomination in North Carolina from this administration.'”

Richard Burr 2Timmon-Goodson’s nomination is actually one of several of high quality that the President put forward yesterday. Senator Burr, however, claims there was some kind of “deal” between him and Obama years ago over court nominees and has been using this excuse to keep the people of eastern North Carolina under-served and deprived of their first federal judge of color in North Carolina history for years. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina.  Judge Timmons-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent.

Commentary

Richard Burr revives his silence routine on LGBT discrimination law

US Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

US Sen. Richard Burr

For a man beholden to millions of his fellow citizens for his job, North Carolina’s senior senator, Richard Burr, has a strangely introverted and secretive side when it comes to some important matters of public policy.

For years now, Burr has been blocking appointments to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Federal Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, while refusing to explain why. When last pressed on the matter by a reporter, Burr responded that the issue was “between him and the White House.”  That’s funny, it would seem instead that it is a matter between Burr and the 10 million North Carolinians he represents (or, at least, the three-or-so million who live in the Eastern District).

Now, this week, Burr is at it again. When asked earlier this week for his views on North Carioliona’s newly enacted LGBT discrimination law (i.e. the biggest controversy to hit his state in years and one that is chock full of important federal constitutional questions) here is what happened:

“…Burr told The Associated Press on Monday after a Raleigh-area event that he’s been out of the country and knows little about the law. But he says the law is a state matter and doesn’t involve federal issues.”

Uh, sorry Dick, did you say “doesn’t involve federal issues”? That would be, in a word, hogwash.

As reported by numerous media outlets, the  new law quite likely places billions of federal dollars at risk as a result of its violation of various federal laws and is also direct affront to the United States (i.e. federal) Constitution.  That’s why it’s being challenged in federal court.

Of course, we know the reason for Burr’s “who, me?” routine. The Senator knows that the law is a disaster and is headed for repeal, but he’s afraid to tick off the religious right base. He’s hoping to hunker down and ride out the storm from a safe distance as he has done with multiple other issues during his long tenure in D.C.

Stay tuned. It will be fascinating to see if he gets away with this old dodge yet again.

 

Commentary

Op-ed: Judicial obstruction not limited to Scalia’s seat

There’s a great op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer this morning about the absurd ongoing blockade of almost all judicial nominations submitted by President Obama — a blockade that has resulted in a federal court seat in North Carolina being vacant for 10 years. Here are Mark Dorosin and Brent Ducharme laying out the problem:

“In the wake of the recent death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, politicians and the public have been debating the timing of a Supreme Court nomination and the potential effects of leaving the seat empty for over a year.

Sadly, there has been no similar public discussion of the 76 vacant judgeships on the 94 federal district courts and 13 federal appellate courts that hear the thousands of cases each year that never reach the Supreme Court. Far too often, the process of filling judicial vacancies is also marked by the same political motivations currently on display.

In recent years, the federal judiciary has faced growing caseloads that significantly outpace the relatively static number of federal judges. Between March 2013 and March 2014, more than 300,000 civil cases were filed in federal district courts. Nearly 87,000 criminal cases were also filed. Because of the heavy workload, delays in filling seats on the federal bench have severe effects on the administration of justice in the United States.

In the Eastern District of North Carolina, capacity challenges are compounded by the longest standing vacancy in the federal judiciary. In 2005, Judge Malcolm Howard, one of four then-active federal judges sitting in the Eastern District, vacated his seat and assumed part-time senior status with the court. More than a decade later, Howard’s former seat remains unfilled, and there are no nominees. This is the longest current vacancy in the federal judiciary by more than four years and the second-longest vacancy on the federal courts in at least the last three and a half decades.”

And here’s the excellent conclusion: Read more

Commentary

The Burr blockade continues: NC federal court vacancy now approaching 10 years

Richard Burr 2As has been documented on this website numerous times, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has been blocking, literally without explanation, President Obama’s attempt to fill a vacancy on the federal court in North Carolina’s Eastern District for years. It’s gotten so absurd (we are now approaching 10 years in which the court and the citizens of eastern North Carolina have been short staffed) that the White House appears to have given up, for now, in even appointing someone.

Fortunately, however, advocates for justice and sanity haven’t given up. As the Winston-Salem Chronicle reports, women of the NAACP spoke out yet again this week:

“[NC NAACP Executive Director Michelle] Laws recounted how in 2009, Burr first recommended federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker, chief of the Appellate Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District in North Carolina, to fill one of over 80 open U.S. District Court seats in the federal judiciary.

If confirmed, May-Parker would have become the first black female federal judge in the history of the Eastern District.

But once President Obama nominated her in 2013, Burr then inexplicably flipped, taking steps to block May–Parker’s nomination, denying her a committee hearing, and ultimately forcing it to die after approximately 300 days.

Newspapers across the state blasted Sen. Burr for not only blocking the nomination, but also never explaining why he did it.”

Burr’s silent stonewalling continues to this day. And sadly, his inexcusable behavior is clearly part of a pattern. According to the most recent data compiled by the folks at the Alliance for Justice, the across-the-board GOP blockade of Obama judicial nominees has now reached the point of true absurdity.

Commentary

Shameless stalling on Obama judicial nominees hits new low

As the numbers below from the good people at the Alliance For Justice show, the conservative blockade of President Obama’s judicial nominees is reaching absurd and historic levels. Admittedly, Obama has 18 months to go in his term, but if things continue at their current pace, only 20 nominees will be confirmed during his last two years in office. This number would be vastly lower than any other modern president — a fact that is rendered all the more outrageous by the fact that the country and the judiciary are both much larger than they were in the past.

The consequences of this shameless stall job are being felt all over the country (including here in North Carolina) as our court system grows increasingly incapable of doing its job — serving the legal needs of the citizenry.

Confirmations