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Loretta BiggsJust before midnight, the U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote a slew of pending Obama judicial candidates, including Loretta Copeland Biggs, who will serve in the state’s Middle District.

Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.

Her addition to the court is welcome news and will begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench. She will be the first African-American woman to serve as a lifetime appointed federal judge in North Carolina.

But the state’s Eastern District continues to operate with a district court vacancy that has been pending for more than nine years.

The president’s nominee for that slot, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — who would have been the first African-American to serve as a federal judge in that part of the state — failed to get even a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s because Sen. Richard Burr has inexplicably withheld the “blue slip” indicating his approval, even though he initially supported her nomination and despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations.

Read more about Biggs here.

 

Commentary

Richard Burr 2It’s nothing new for Senator Richard Burr to express embarrassing views or to engage in inexplicable political behavior, but the senator’s comments yesterday on the horrific findings in the new report on the CIA’s un-American torture program hit a new low.

As you can read for yourself here and here, the torture report details a long, disturbing (and ineffective!) list of disgraceful actions taken in the name of the American people. Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully described the actions of the CIA and its contractors in this morning’s lead editorial as “brutal and illegal.”

Sadly, however, Burr, the soon-to-be chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, opted to turn the findings into partisan political fodder by describing them as “a blatant smear on the Bush administration,” and unnecessary because  the information was “already known by the vast majority of Americans.”

You got that? People acting in our name did this:

“CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.”

and this:

“(1) the attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) waterboard, (10) use of diapers, (11) use of insects, and (12) mock burial.”

but according to Richard Burr, it’s no biggie and shining the light of day on such horrific information is “political.”

One shudders to imagine what kind of behavior Burr would be outraged by. It’s a sad state of affairs that a man with such an off-kilter moral compass now stands near the top of the American foreign policy establishment.

News

President Obama’s pick for federal judge in the state’s Middle District, Loretta Copeland Biggs, continues to move forward in the confirmation process with her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for today at 11 a.m.

If approved by the committee, Biggs will next move to a full confirmation vote on the Senate floor. And if confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.

Her addition to the court would be welcome news and would begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench.

But another nominee, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — chosen by the President to fill the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina — continues to languish. 

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold the “blue slip” indicating his support for her for, despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations.

Click here for more on the tortured history of North Carolina’s federal judicial vacancies and the lack of diversity of those who have served.

 

Commentary

hagan-and-burrWith the midterm elections finally out of the way, lawmakers will return to Washington in the days ahead for what is commonly referred to as a “lame duck” session. Among many important piece of  business, are numerous judicial nominees that must get confirmed to fill vacancies on our nation’s federal courts and keep the wheels of justice moving.

Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. As we’ve detailed at length in this space previously, two of these vacancies are here in North Carolina and one has sat empty for eight years.

In such an environment, it is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote. If these judges are not confirmed, our federal courts will simply not be able adequately handle the numerous critical issues – from marriage equality to voting rights to health care to immigration – that affect all of us.

Happily, there are historical precedents for this kind of swift action: In the 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed.

Obviously, it is also important to work to confirm judges before the end of the year because the new Republican Senate it is likely to obstruct judicial nominees with the hope that a Republican president will be elected in 2016. Indeed, many expect that the GOP leadership will change the rules to slow judicial confirmations to a crawl and reinstitute obstruction by filibuster.

Instead of judges who side with corporate interests and whittle away at laws that protect our rights, the United States needs judges who support equality, protect access to health care, and are committed to safeguarding the Constitution. That’s why we need the Senate to act on judicial nominees before the end of the year.

The good people at the Center for American Progress have established a website — WhyCourtsmatter.org — that allows you to learn more about (and participate) in the effort to spur Senate action. Click here to learn more.

News
(Source: whitehouse.gov)

(Source: whitehouse.gov)

According to a Judiciary Committee spokesperson, both North Carolina senators have submitted “blue slips” for Loretta Copeland Biggs, nominated in September by President Obama to serve as a U.S. District Judge in the state’s Middle District.

That signal of support by home state senators allows the nominee to proceed to a Judiciary Committee hearing and move a step closer to confirmation, which follows from a full floor vote.

If confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.

“We have two highly qualified, outstanding African-American women who have been nominated to be federal judges, and I think it’s time we confirm them and get them on the bench,”  Sen. Kay Hagan said shortly after the Biggs nomination — referring also to Jennifer Prescod May-Parker, a pending nominee for the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina.

(Source: whitehouse.gov)

(Source: whitehouse.gov)

Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold a “blue slip” for May-Parker, though — despite his strong statements on the Senate floor disapproving of obstructionism in the judicial nomination process.

Click here for more on the tortured history of North Carolina’s federal judicial vacancies and the lack of diversity of those who have served.