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The latest news story from NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey — “All white and overwhelmingly male: Latest departure leaves NC federal courts among lest diverse in the nation” — contains a lot of information that will leave caring and thinking people frustrated and even ticked off, but this passage stands out:

James Beaty, the lone African-American judge on the state’s federal district court, stepped down from his position on the state’s Middle District – which covers the areas from Durham to Winston-Salem – moving to senior status at the end of June.

The result?

North Carolina has one of the whitest and least diverse groups of federal district court judges in the country.

That’s a perception problem for the courts at the very least, particularly given that the ugliness of racial politics has resurfaced in North Carolina.

As Andrew Cohen points out in his article in The Atlantic last November, asking why there aren’t more black judges in the South:

“Indeed, at a time when minorities are being disenfranchised by Republican officials in Florida and Alabama and other Southern states, the continuing lack of black representation on our federal benches sends another strong message of a tolerance for unequal justice.”

And if that doesn’t get you fired up, check out this graphic: Read More

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Richard Burr 2This week’s LOL, through-the-looking-glass moment in conservative politics revolves around the antiquated Senate “blue slip” process whereby home state Senators like North Carolina’s own Richard Burr can unilaterally and without explanation block federal court nominees — even ones they’ve endorsed previously to the President.

As Think Progress contributor Ian Millhiser reports, proposals in the U.S. Senate to temper the rule (as was done previously by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch when he once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee) are meeting strong resistance from…Senator Orrin Hatch:

“Rolling back the Senate’s so-called ‘blue slip process’ would be ‘disastrous,’ according to an op-ed written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Friday. Which is somewhat of a surprising position for Hatch to take, since he largely abandoned this blue slip process in 2003. Read More

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Richard Burr 2Today marks Day #293 of Senator Richard Burr’s silent, one-man filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District, federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker. Now, today, there is a new and fascinating explanation from one of the nation’s leading judiciary watchers as to what’s really up with Burr’s blockade and those of his fellow conservative senators: secession.

As Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic explains in “How to secede from the union one judicial vacancy at a time,” it really boils down to a matter of extreme, cynical, hardball politics:

“Secession can come in many forms—just ask anyone in Texas who cares to discuss the issue with you. One particularly effective strain currently wending its way through America has been largely ignored by reporters, political analysts, and legal scholars, even though it’s a bipartisan problem within the federal government itself that undermines the rule of law and hinders the lives of millions of citizens.

Call it secession by attrition. Read More

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Blue slipIn case you’ve lost count, today is Day #289 on the Richard Burr Blue Slip Watch. It’s been nearly ten months since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill what is the longest-standing vacancy in the federal court system in North Carolina’s Eastern District. Unfortunately, as we have reported repeatedly on this site, Burr is blocking consideration of May-Parker unilaterally and refusing to say why. It’s a disgraceful situation that is made only worse by the fact that May-Parker would be the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on the federal bench in the Eastern District in its history.

And speaking of inexcusable behavior by North Carolina elected officials, commentator Marena Groll of ENC Weekly did a great job this week of skewering Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly over the state’s worst-in-the-nation tax policy changes.

And speaking of the state’s misguided economic policies, Read More

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The New York Times wasn’t the only news outlet today — Day 285 of the Burr “blue slip” watch —  to chastise U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for obstructing the judicial nomination process and refusing to return the traditional “blue slip” allowing his own nominee for a seat on the federal bench in eastern North Carolina, Jennifer May-Parker, to move to a Judiciary Committee hearing in the Senate.

The Carolina Mercury and the News & Record  both picked up the Times editorial, and several others chimed in with their own thoughts.

The Asheville Citizen-Times editorial board gave Burr a grade of “F” for his tactics:

F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, for his puzzling move to block filling the seat of a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The seat has been vacant for more than eight years. In 2009 Burr recommended federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill the seat. Last June President Obama nominated May-Parker. But she has yet to receive a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of the Senate’s “blue slip’’ tradition. The practice, dating to the early 20th century, means if a home-state senator doesn’t return a blue piece of paper signing off on a judicial nomination, the nominee doesn’t get a committee hearing, a step before heading to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote. Burr has changed his mind on May-Parker and hasn’t explained why. Thanks to this sort of stonewalling, there are more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench. Burr should explain his reasoning or the Senate should re-examine this practice, which isn’t even a formal rule.

And citizens too weighed in, voicing their own disapproval in letters to editors.

Reader Vicki Boyer reminded the senator in this letter in the Durham Herald Sun that women voters here are watching and waiting for more women judges, and warned that if he didn’t return his “blue slip” they may be sending him a “pink slip” come 2016:

That our senator, Richard Burr, would keep the entire U.S. Senate from having hearings on the appointment of Jennifer May-Parker as federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina is indicative of what is wrong in Washington.

Here we have a perfectly qualified candidate for the judiciary, originally approved by Burr, who cannot even get a hearing on the hill because Burr has flipped-flopped and won’t turn in his “blue slip” on her nomination. This senate “courtesy” to fellow senators has long been used to hold up nominations. That one person can hold up the work of the Senate and the judiciary for, in this case, reasons he refuses to explain is ridiculous.

I call upon Senator Burr to send in that blue slip or publicly explain himself. Our courts need May-Parker. She is very well qualified and a woman. Women are 54 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters. And we want to see more women sitting on the bench.

So, sign that blue slip, senator, or in 2016, women will be sending you a pink one.