Commentary, News

President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block

Justice Timmons-Goodson.jpg

Patricia Timmons-Goodson

Ho hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it.

AP’s Gary Robertson reports:

“President Barack Obama’s latest pick Thursday to fill a longstanding vacancy in eastern North Carolina’s federal courts already appears scuttled by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who blames the president for not acting in good faith.

The White House announced Obama had nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson of Fayetteville to become a U.S. District judge in the Eastern District.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Timmons-Goodson would fill a seat that’s been empty for more than 10 years. The president’s 2013 nomination of Jennifer May-Parker for the judgeship was never heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Late Thursday, Burr said the nomination is a ‘transparent attempt to turn the Eastern District vacancy into an election season stunt” and that he “will not support a new nomination in North Carolina from this administration.'”

Richard Burr 2Timmon-Goodson’s nomination is actually one of several of high quality that the President put forward yesterday. Senator Burr, however, claims there was some kind of “deal” between him and Obama years ago over court nominees and has been using this excuse to keep the people of eastern North Carolina under-served and deprived of their first federal judge of color in North Carolina history for years. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina.  Judge Timmons-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent.

Commentary

Richard Burr revives his silence routine on LGBT discrimination law

US Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

US Sen. Richard Burr

For a man beholden to millions of his fellow citizens for his job, North Carolina’s senior senator, Richard Burr, has a strangely introverted and secretive side when it comes to some important matters of public policy.

For years now, Burr has been blocking appointments to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Federal Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, while refusing to explain why. When last pressed on the matter by a reporter, Burr responded that the issue was “between him and the White House.”  That’s funny, it would seem instead that it is a matter between Burr and the 10 million North Carolinians he represents (or, at least, the three-or-so million who live in the Eastern District).

Now, this week, Burr is at it again. When asked earlier this week for his views on North Carioliona’s newly enacted LGBT discrimination law (i.e. the biggest controversy to hit his state in years and one that is chock full of important federal constitutional questions) here is what happened:

“…Burr told The Associated Press on Monday after a Raleigh-area event that he’s been out of the country and knows little about the law. But he says the law is a state matter and doesn’t involve federal issues.”

Uh, sorry Dick, did you say “doesn’t involve federal issues”? That would be, in a word, hogwash.

As reported by numerous media outlets, the  new law quite likely places billions of federal dollars at risk as a result of its violation of various federal laws and is also direct affront to the United States (i.e. federal) Constitution.  That’s why it’s being challenged in federal court.

Of course, we know the reason for Burr’s “who, me?” routine. The Senator knows that the law is a disaster and is headed for repeal, but he’s afraid to tick off the religious right base. He’s hoping to hunker down and ride out the storm from a safe distance as he has done with multiple other issues during his long tenure in D.C.

Stay tuned. It will be fascinating to see if he gets away with this old dodge yet again.

 

Commentary

Editorials, op-eds, cartoons blast Burr/Tillis for blockade of Supreme Court nominee

Editorial boards across North Carolina have blasted the U.S. Senate refusal to consider Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in recent days.

Here’s the Greensboro News & Record:

“There is no precedent for the Republican position and no logic behind it. The next president will fill court vacancies that occur during his or her term; the current president doesn’t pass that responsibility to his successor.

The Senate should work the same way and do its job now. Yet, Republicans say the next Senate should carry out the constitutional duty of advise and consent — unless they decide to act as lame ducks after the election. What hypocrisy.”

And after noting the statements of GOP senators who say they might be open to consideration of Garland in a lame duck session after the election, the Charlotte Observer said this:

“It all underscores the hollow, phony quality of GOP leaders’ protestations that their no-hearings stance is “about the principle, not the person,” as our own Sen. Thom Tillis put it.

The real principle has nothing to do with Obama’s lame-duck status, of course. The real animating principle is the same one that has driven the GOP the past seven years: Obama is the enemy. Whatever he wants, block it – even if sensible compromises or the occasional well-qualified nominee gets trampled in the process.”

And here’s Washington Post conservative George Will, from this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“The Republican Party’s incoherent response to the Supreme Court vacancy is a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle. The multiplicity of Republican rationalizations for their refusal to even consider Merrick Garland radiates insincerity.”

But perhaps the best and most on-the-money take comes from N&O editorial cartoonist Dwayne Powell. Click here to check out his March 20th skewering of Burr and Tillis.

News

Waffling on judicial nominees

The President had barely stepped away from the podium yesterday after nominating D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court when Senate Republicans began falling in line with party leaders, saying there would be no hearing or vote on Garland nor any other Obama nominee during the remainder of this term.

That included North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, who as Policy Watch’s Clayton Henkel pointed out in this post made their positions known on Facebook. (Tillis, by the way, serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee charged with holding hearings on judicial nominees and sending those approved to the floor for an up-or-down vote.)

As we’ve pointed out countless times before in connection with Burr’s role in enabling an embarrassing 10-year vacancy on the federal district court in eastern North Carolina, the senator had a quite different view on the political obstruction of judicial nominees during his earlier years representing the state.

During a 2005 stalemate over judges nominated to the federal courts, Sen. Richard Burr stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that regardless of what they thought of any particular nominee, they had an obligation to give each an up-or-down vote.

I believe if one of my colleagues objects to a particular nominee, it is certainly appropriate and fair for my colleague to vote against that nominee on the floor of the Senate.  But 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.

That obligation becomes even more critical when it comes to nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s more from Sen. Burr:

Obstructing votes on Presidential nominees threatens the future of our judicial system and the nature of the Supreme Court. You see, I am not sure that many Americans have stopped to think: Well, what happens if this is exercised for Supreme Court Justices? Because I believe in the next several years we will have one or two or possibly more Supreme Court nominees to consider.

Well, the Court still meets. If we are not able to produce a Justice out of this fine Hall, then they will meet with eight Justices. I have to believe there is an odd number of Justices for a very logical reason. It was so there would not be a tie.

On a 4-to-4 tie, what happens? Seldom have we asked the question. On a 4-to-4 tie in the Supreme Court, the lower court’s decision stands. That means all of a sudden the Supreme Court, our highest court, the Court we look to to be the best and brightest to interpret law and the Constitution, is insignificant in the process. It means that whatever that court of appeals was—the Fourth Circuit or the Ninth Circuit—whatever decision they came up with that somebody believed was wrong, and they appealed it to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court, on the merits of the case, heard it, would become the law of the land.

My colleagues on the other side argue that the reason this is so important is because a Federal judgeship is for life. Let me say to them today, if you exercise this as it relates to the Supreme Court of the United States, and you jeopardize that there may be a 4-to-4 tie, the result is not for the lifetime of the judge you did not seek, it is for the lifetime of this country because that is now the law of the land, that an appellate court, whether it is the Fourth or the Ninth—not the Supreme Court—that will be the ultimate determining factor as to what the law is that our children, our grandchildren, their children, their grandchildren will live by for their entirety.

Commentary, News

Poll: Voters unhappy with Senate obstruction of Supreme Court nominee

Supreme courtIn case you missed it last week in all the electoral hubbub, Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling has some powerful new numbers on the what even Lindsay Graham has described as the Senate’s unprecedented obstruction of a replacement nominee for Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s Jensen:

New Public Policy Polling surveys in Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina find that voter anger over their Republican Senators’ unwillingness to consider a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court could help make those seats competitive for Democrats this fall.

Key findings from the surveys include:

-All these Senators start out with pretty mediocre approval ratings. John McCain’s approval is a 26/63 spread, Roy Blunt’s is 25/48, and Richard Burr’s is 28/44. Only Chuck Grassley within this group is on positive ground and his 47/44 spread is down considerably from what we usually find for him as he loses crossover support from Democrats because of his intransigence on the Supreme Court issue. Further making life difficult for this quartet is the incredibly damaged brand of Senate Republicans. Mitch McConnell is vastly unpopular in these four states, coming in at 11/63 in Iowa, 16/68 in Arizona, 16/69 in Missouri, and 19/65 in North Carolina. McConnell will be an albatross for all Senate Republicans seeking reelection this fall.

-Strong majorities of voters in each of these states want the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled this year. It’s a 56/40 spread in favor of filling the seat in Iowa, 56/41 in Arizona and Missouri, and 55/41 in North Carolina. What’s particularly important in the numbers is the strong support for filling the seat among independents- it’s 60/38 in Missouri, 59/37 in Arizona, 58/38 in Iowa, and 55/38 in North Carolina. Independent voters will be key to determining whether these incumbents sink or swim this fall, and they want the vacancy filled.

-What voters especially have a problem with is Senate Republicans saying they’re going to reject President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court no matter who it is.

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