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.

Anisha Singh at the Center for American Progress has produced a remarkable new infographic on the absurd obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees. As the accompanying post notes:

“Since 2015, the U.S. Senate has confirmed just six federal judges to the bench, and the number of judicial emergencies has nearly tripled. As the graphic below shows, this is the worst obstruction of judicial nominations in more than half a century. As a result, millions of Americans are being denied access to justice.”



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.



Steven LaRoque, the former Kinston state lawmaker facing federal charges of stealing from two federally-funded non-profits he ran, will find out this week if a judge agrees the dozen criminal charges in the case should be thrown out.


Steven LaRoque, at a 2011 press conference.

A pre-trial motions hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow at the federal courthouse in Greenville, will be a sealed hearing and closed to the public, according to an order filed by Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard.

LaRoque’s trial – his second, after the first ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct — is scheduled to begin on Feb. 2.

The Kinston Republican is accused of taking $300,000 for his personal use from an economic development group he ran that was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural business lending program. LaRoque is also facing accusations that, instead of funding struggling businesses to spur economic growth, he used federal money to offer loans to personal associates and political allies, and then took money to fund his campaign and buy jewelry, replica Faberge eggs and a Greenville ice skating rink.

The federal investigation began shortly after N.C. Policy Watch published a 2011 investigation into LaRoque’s management of the federally-funded non-profits.

LaRoque, a former member of House Republican leadership team, has maintained he is innocent of criminal wrongdoing, and that the money in question was owed to him.

Howard wrote in his Jan. 6 order (scroll down or click here to read) that he is sealing the hearing and closing it to the public in order to hear confidential information that may come up in response to a motion LaRoque filed seeking information about the grand jury that indicted him.

Grand jury proceedings are, by design, secret and details about the inner workings of the groups are very rarely released to the public.

“This hearing will be sealed due to the potential for disclosure of grand jury documents or other materials,” Howard wrote.

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Loretta BiggsLoretta Copeland Biggs, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. District Judge in North Carolina’s Middle District, has not yet been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biggs appeared before the Committee on November 13 for her scheduled hearing and is now waiting on approval by the Committee. If she is approved by the Committee, Biggs’s nomination will then be forwarded to the Senate floor where it will be considered and voted on by the full Senate.  This entire process must occur within the next few weeks in order for Biggs to be confirmed before the Senate’s lame-duck session ends. Nominees who aren’t confirmed this month will have to do it all over again next year, starting with being renominated.

Currently, it seems to be taking approximately a month between when hearings are held and when the Committee approves a candidate. Unfortunately, there is no exact timeline for how long this may take because there are many permitted ways to stall and obstruct the process. At the Committee’s last hearing, for instance, Charles Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa, unnecessarily decided to delay approval of nine judicial nominees for a week. This in turn delayed scheduling a vote on the Senate floor and will delay the eventual vote itself (which generally seems to occur two to three months later).

These delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. Read More