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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.

 

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Richard Burr 2In case you missed it, the New York Times editorialized this morning against Richard Burr’s ongoing and inexplicable one-man filibuster of federal judicial nominee Jennifer May-Parker and called for the U.S. Senate to reform its archaic “blue slip” process that allows home state senators to block court appointees without explanation:

“The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her.

The strange part is that Mr. Burr himself recommended her for the seat in 2009. But now he’s changed his mind and won’t say why, exploiting an archaic Senate tradition to make sure Mr. Obama can’t fill that vacancy. Read More

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Blue slipOkay — this is getting ridiculous. It’s now been 264 days since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker  to become the first African-American judge in the history of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (64 days since he resubmitted her name in January).

Unfortunately, the nomination remains frozen in suspended animation because one man, Senator Richard Burr, refuses to return his “blue slip” — the modest little document (pictured at left in an image borrowed from the website of the Brennan Center for Justice) that, under Senate tradition, both Senators from the home state must return in order for such a nominee to receive a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What makes the whole thing that much more absurd, of course, is that Burr long ago signed off on May-Parker as the nominee. He even wrote a letter early in the Obama administration in which he specifically endorsed her for the job. Now, he won’t even answer questions about his actions in public.

This is clearly an unacceptable situation. Maybe Burr knows something the rest of us don’t. If he does, however, he owes it to his constituents to say what the heck it is. A more likely explanation seems to be that the senator is simply playing political games with a critically important matter of pubic business and, sadly thus far, getting away with it scot-free.

 

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Burr2It’s hard to know what’s worse when it comes to Senator Richard Burr’s ongoing, one-man filibuster of the woman who would be the first African-American federal judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District: the very fact of the blockade itself or the remarkably dishonest way in which the Senator is going about it.

It’s now been almost five years since Burr specifically endorsed Jennifer May-Parker (a federal prosecutor based in Raleigh) for the job to President Obama. Yet, since Obama actually made the nomination last June, Burr has steadfastly refused to submit his “blue slip” — something the quaint rules of the U.S. Senate require from home state senators in order for the nominations process to move forward.

While inexcusable enough on its own, Burr’s tight-lipped blockade is rendered downright outrageous by his duplicitous explanations for his actions. Recently, a friend of NC Policy Watch who wrote Burr on the subject, received a letter in response in which Burr, amazingly enough, said  the following: Read More

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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.”