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As the numbers below from the good people at the Alliance For Justice show, the conservative blockade of President Obama’s judicial nominees is reaching absurd and historic levels. Admittedly, Obama has 18 months to go in his term, but if things continue at their current pace, only 20 nominees will be confirmed during his last two years in office. This number would be vastly lower than any other modern president — a fact that is rendered all the more outrageous by the fact that the country and the judiciary are both much larger than they were in the past.

The consequences of this shameless stall job are being felt all over the country (including here in North Carolina) as our court system grows increasingly incapable of doing its job — serving the legal needs of the citizenry.

Confirmations

Commentary

Loretta LynchThe national news site Politico has a new and interesting story that shines additional light on the new U.S. Attorney General, Greensboro native Loretta Lynch. The story is entitled “What made Loretta Lynch’s father see red,” and it features several candid comments from the A.G.’s father, 83-year-old Lorenzo Lynch) about his daughter’s rise and the obstacles she has had to overcome as an African-American woman raised in late-20th Century North Carolina.

Here’s a particularly poignant excerpt:

In elementary school in the late 1960s, Loretta took a standardized test and did so well that the stunned white administrators forced her to take it again. “At the time, we were just a few years out of this dual [segregated] society, so we were not as shocked,” says her father. We were used to going to the back of the bus, or front of the train.” His daughter was still living the injustice of the society, Lorenzo says, “but I don’t think she understood it, I think she just took it as routine.” As a child, she spent hours with her father, watching court proceedings in the local courthouse, and reading in the town library, which was only four blocks away.

Loretta Lynch endured the backdoor racism of low expectations all the way through high school; though she graduated at the top of her 1977 senior class, Durham High School asked her to share valedictorian honors with a white student. She won a full scholarship to University of North Carolina, her father says, but all she wanted was Harvard. She had seen the school during a family trip when she was a little girl and had declared: “I want to go there.”

Of course, Lynch eventually overcame the obstacles thrown up by the remnants of Jim Crow, but it hasn’t been easy. Moreover, as has been reported repeatedly in recent weeks, conservative forces in North Carolina (namely, Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis)  haven’t stopped trying block her from getting where she wants and deserves to go. As the Politico story also notes:

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News

Loretta LynchAfter waiting longer for a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate than any other cabinet nominee in recent history, Loretta Lynch has been confirmed as Attorney General by a vote of 56-43, becoming the first African-American woman and the first native North Carolinian to serve in that role.

The daughter of a black Baptist minister and a school librarian who once picked cotton in the eastern part of North Carolina, Lynch made her way from Durham to Brooklyn, where she has twice led the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As chief there, Lynch earned the respect of law enforcement officials and prosecutors from both sides of the aisle, many of whom voiced support for her nomination at the time of her committee confirmation hearing in January.

Both of North Carolina’s senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, opposed her confirmation and voted no.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the only senator who did not cast a vote.

News

In case you missed it, the Wall Street Journal weighed in on Tuesday on the growing backlog of civil cases in federal courts across the country, due mostly to more criminal cases and fewer judges.

That’s a topic Policy Watch has written about frequently — especially as it relates to North Carolina’s Eastern District, where a judgeship has gone unfilled for close to ten years.

As we pointed out recently:

Fewer judges handling rising caseloads means that it’s taking longer for cases, especially civil ones, to get to trial. Data collected by the federal courts show that it now takes 63 percent longer for a civil case to get to trial. In 1993 it took 16 months; in 2013, 23 months.

Filing-changes

Numbers from the Eastern District fall in line with this trend. For the year ending September 2014, it took an average of 27 months from filing for a civil case to get to trial.

But there’s another reason why the state’s U.S. Senators should act with a sense of urgency to get the Eastern District vacancy filled and perhaps also seek another judgeship for that court: The number of judges there hasn’t kept up with population growth in the region.

According to population data analyzed by the Journal and charted in its print edition (subscription required for online), North Carolina’s Eastern District is second only to California’s Eastern District in terms of number of residents per judgeship.

Commentary

Both the Greensboro News & Record and Raleigh’s News & Observer take Senator Thom Tillis to task this morning for his “‘no” vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on the confirmation of Attorney General nominee (and North Carolina native) Loretta Lynch.

Lynch’s one-time hometown paper, the News & Record pus it this way:

tillis-newsandrecord“Thom Tillis said it was his most difficult decision in 45 days as a U.S. senator to oppose Greensboro native Loretta Lynch’s confirmation as attorney general.

It didn’t seem hard for him at all. While he made condescending comments about Lynch’s family ‘beaming with pride’ at her confirmation hearing last month, noting ‘she was raised right,’ he was clearly against her from the start….

Lynch was ‘raised right’ in Greensboro and Durham. She was raised in a family that participated in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It is disappointing but not surprising, given his record as a state legislator, that Tillis has little appreciation for those experiences and how they would shape Lynch’s views today.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona joined Judiciary Committee Democrats in voting for Lynch’s confirmation. The favorable vote of 12-8 will move the nomination to the Senate floor. It’s a shame that Tillis, Lynch’s home-state senator, couldn’t join those 12.”

And here’s the N&O – which blasted Richard Burr as well:

“Beyond being wrongheaded about the confirmation process, Tillis and Burr are simply classless in standing against Lynch. Read More