In case you missed it in all the hubbub surrounding the General Assembly, Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a fine op-ed by Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell yesterday about the inexcusable obstructionism in which the GOP is engaging with respect to President Obama’s federal court nominees. Here’s Rampell:

“Republicans have apparently grown bored with rendering the legislative branch completely dysfunctional. Now they’re doing their damnedest to destroy the judicial branch, too.

With little fanfare, the United States’ federal judiciary has started coming apart at the seams, particularly in judicial districts represented by at least one Republican senator. That’s no coincidence. Motivated by a desire both to make President Obama look bad and to delay any judicial appointments until there’s (possibly) a Republican in the White House, GOP senators have thrown obstruction after obstruction in front of the judicial appointment process. As a result, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed only six federal judges in 2015.

It’s the slowest pace in over six decades, as documented in a new report from the Alliance for Justice. As a result, since the start of the year, the number of open federal judgeships has increased from 43 to 67, with at least 18 more set to open in the next few months.

Also as a result, ‘judicial emergencies’ – basically, courts where caseloads have become unmanageable – have exploded throughout the country. This has had detrimental effects on both criminal defendants awaiting trial and civil litigants forced to wait months or years for their day in court.”

Richard Burr 2Rampell goes on to cite North Carolina as one of the states in which this obstructionism has reached a ridiculous level — a fact familiar to most Progressive Pulse readers who will recall that Richard Burr has been stonewalling Obama’s nominee to the state’s Eastern District vacancy for years.
Of course, none of this should be terribly surprising given the right’s ideologically-driven mission to impair the functioning of government in order to abet the mission of privatizing its core functions. That said, the bald-faced nature of the dishonesty that underlies this particular campaign of obstruction is truly amazing.
You can read Rampalll’s essay by clicking here and get all the sobering stats and facts on the obstructionism generally by visiting the Why Courts Matter website here.

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.



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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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.


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.


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.