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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. 

Commentary

Richard Burr 2Those looking for some good news from the nation’ capital — any good news — got a small dose over the weekend in this story in the New York Times about the Obama administration’s progress in restoring a measure of balance to the federal judiciary. As the Times reported, after five years and an important rule change to limit the use of the filibuster in the Senate, the federal courts are, today, somewhat less completely under the thumb of the corporate and ideological right.

The shift, one of the most significant but unheralded accomplishments of the Obama era, is likely to have ramifications for how the courts decide the legality of some of the president’s most controversial actions on health care, immigration and clean air. Since today’s Congress has been a graveyard for legislative accomplishment, these judicial confirmations are likely to be among its most enduring acts.

One ongoing and absurd exception to this progress, however, is Senator Richard Burr’s shameful and unexplained blockade of federal District Court nominee Jennifer May-Parker, which is now going on 15 months old. Given the progress that the U.S. Senate has made in this realm by dispensing with filibuster on such matters, let’s hope Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont soon takes the next logical step by doing away with the obsolete and egregiously-abused “blue slip” rule that is enabling Burr’s petulant, one-man Jess Helms impersonation.

Read the entire Times article by clicking here.

Uncategorized

Women’s and civil rights groups will gather this morning outside the federal court house in Raleigh to protest Senator Richard Burr’s 10-month-plus, one-man filibuster of federal court nominee Jennifer May-Parker. This is from the state NAACP:

JMP_Press Conference“Women’s groups associated with the Forward Together Moral Movement will hold a news conference this morning at 9:00 a.m. in front of the U.S. Federal Court House at 310 New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. Groups, including NC Women in the NAACP, Planned Parenthood of Central NC, North Carolina Women United, NC NOW, NC AdvaNCe and others, will call on Senator Richard Burr to do the right thing and allow Ms. Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination to move forward.

The United States District Court seat for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant since 2005, burdening the system and hindering the rights of citizens. The eight year vacancy has been called a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Ms. May-Parker, who has yet to receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee due to Senator Burr’s refusal, has the potential to become the first African American and the first African American woman to serve as judge in the District.”