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Burr2Constitutional law professor Herman Schwartz has an excellent essay at Reuters.com about the battles over presidential appointments to the federal courts, the right’s decades-long and highly successful effort to capture this issue and the slowly-stirring effort by progressives to (finally, thank the lord!) respond.

As Schwartz notes, one positive development that may soon be on the agenda is the demise of that absurd and archaic U.S. Senate institution known as the “blue slip” — the system of “courtesy” whereby any single senator of either party may block a nominee from his or her own state without explanation.

As followers of N.C. Policy Watch are well aware, Senator Richard Burr has been one of the most egregious abusers of this silly rule for several months now with his outrageous and unexplained blockage of an African-American federal prosecutor named Jennifer May-Parker whom President Obama nominated to fill an eight-year-old vacancy on the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina last June.  Thus far, because of Burr’s silent refusal to give his blessing, May-Parker has not even received a hearing — a fact rendered all the more outrageous by the fact (noted in this space last week) that Burr endorsed her for the job in 2009!

Let’s hope senators act soon to repeal this absurd rule — something Republicans did when they were in charge of the Senate Judiciary during the Bush administration.  And let’s hope that this time, it’s a once-and-for-all decision.

Richard Burr 2As reported last September by N.C. Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey and noted again here and here, Senator Richard Burr has been blocking without explanation the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill a vacancy on the Federal District Court for the North Carolina’s Eastern District. May-Parker, who would be the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on Eastern District bench, was first nominated by President Obama last June but has yet to receive a hearing in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee because Burr has refused to sign off by returning his “blue slip” to the committee (as is required by Senate practice and tradition).

Happily, it does not appear that the White House will be backing down from the nomination as Read More

As 2013 fast recedes in the rear-view mirror, many of us would like to think that the worst of the Koch brothers/Tea Party/conservative theocracy wackiness is over. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to believe that 2014 will be even more of a knockdown, drag-out political battle. Here are just a few reminders as to why this is the case and why caring and thoughtful people will need to bring their “A games” in the coming year to push back  successfully:

Big, dark money - Dan Besse, editor of the excellent N.C. League of Conservation Voters blog, provides a link this morning to a story in Scientific American from over the holidays that highlights a new Drexel University study about who funds the climate change-denial movement. Surprise! The bucks aren’t coming from the grassroots.

Asheville: facing abolition? As was reported several times in 2013, one of the General Assembly’s most conservative ideologues, Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, has been waging a nonstop war with the city of Asheville for some time — whether it’s taking away the city’s water system or its airport. Now, comes word from Asheville Citizen-Times columnist John Boyle that Moffitt may want to go a lot further.

Standing fast in favor of discrimination – Another discouraging story from over the holidays came from the North Carolina Family Policy Council, which is doubling-down in support of discrimination against LGBT kids and families. Read More

Mel WattThe next time someone tells you that the problem with D.C. politics is the refusal of President Obama and folks on what passes for the “left” to “compromise” with conservatives, ask them to read this Huffington Post article about the utterly absurd, take-no-prisoners obstructionism confronting a long and growing list of high-quality nominees put forth by the President to fill numerous vacancies on the federal courts and in other important agencies – including the national Housing Finance Agency position for which North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt (pictured at left) was nominated months ago.

 And, of course, it’s just coincidence that so many of the stonewalled nominees are women and people of color.

As noted in the post below, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is blocking, without explanation, the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to be the first African-American judge in the history of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Sadly, as this infographic from the good folks at the Alliance for Justice in D.C. makes clear, the stonewalling of diverse court appointments by President Obama is a pernicious and widespread problem. Read More