Commentary

Richard Burr at the center of the most ridiculous (and telling) story of the weekend

Richard Burr 2Another “you can’t make this stuff up” story came to light this weekend in the saga of North Carolina’s monster voter suppression law.

As Lynn Bonner of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported:

“U.S. Sen. Richard Burr cast a ballot during the the early voting period for the North Carolina primary after going to a polling place without an acceptable form of identification.

Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem running for re-election, cast a provisional ballot and filled out a ‘reasonable impediment’ form, state elections records show.

‘Sen. Burr discovered he lost his ID when he arrived at the polling location, but he went out and got a new drivers license,’ his spokeswoman said in an email.”

There are several obvious takeaways from this story.

Number One is that had Republicans not made their last minute move to add the “reasonable impediments” language to their voter ID law last summer in response to court challenges, Burr would have been out of luck.

Number Two is that the whole incident points out the absurdity of the voter ID law. There is no actual widespread fraud that the law will attack. Instead, thousands of people who lack ID like Burr — many of whom have been voting religiously since the senator was in short pants — will be discouraged from voting.

Number Three is: How does a United States Senator lose his driver’s license and forget about it before heading out to vote for himself? Let’s hope Burr has a few choice words for his Senate colleague, the former Speaker of the North Carolina House and architect of the suppression law — Thom Tillis — the next time the two are sipping lattes in the Senate cloakroom.

Finally, Number Four is this: Let’s hope all the judges who will ultimately rule on the constitutionality of the law become aware of the Burr situation and take it into their calculus in rendering the ultimate decisions in the matter.

Commentary

Even Chris Christie thinks the U.S. Senate is wrong not to consider Supreme Court nominee

Chris ChristieHow outrageous is the mindless blockade launched by GOP U.S. Senators of any nominee President Obama might submit to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court? This outrageous: Even New Jersey Governor and Donald Trump supporter Chris Christie thinks it’s wrong. This is from a post on Talking Points Memo:

‘People can always vote up or down however they choose, but hearings should be held,’ said Christie, who dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Donald Trump.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that Federal Appeals Court Judge Jane Kelly is under consideration by the White House for the position. If she is in fact the nominee, it will be fascinating to hear GOP Senators explain their reasons for not considering her.

In 2013, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley supported her nomination to the Court of Appeals by describing her as a “forthright woman of high integrity and honest character” and a person of “exceptionally keen intellect.” She was then confirmed by the Senate 96-0.

Commentary

Op-ed: Judicial obstruction not limited to Scalia’s seat

There’s a great op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer this morning about the absurd ongoing blockade of almost all judicial nominations submitted by President Obama — a blockade that has resulted in a federal court seat in North Carolina being vacant for 10 years. Here are Mark Dorosin and Brent Ducharme laying out the problem:

“In the wake of the recent death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, politicians and the public have been debating the timing of a Supreme Court nomination and the potential effects of leaving the seat empty for over a year.

Sadly, there has been no similar public discussion of the 76 vacant judgeships on the 94 federal district courts and 13 federal appellate courts that hear the thousands of cases each year that never reach the Supreme Court. Far too often, the process of filling judicial vacancies is also marked by the same political motivations currently on display.

In recent years, the federal judiciary has faced growing caseloads that significantly outpace the relatively static number of federal judges. Between March 2013 and March 2014, more than 300,000 civil cases were filed in federal district courts. Nearly 87,000 criminal cases were also filed. Because of the heavy workload, delays in filling seats on the federal bench have severe effects on the administration of justice in the United States.

In the Eastern District of North Carolina, capacity challenges are compounded by the longest standing vacancy in the federal judiciary. In 2005, Judge Malcolm Howard, one of four then-active federal judges sitting in the Eastern District, vacated his seat and assumed part-time senior status with the court. More than a decade later, Howard’s former seat remains unfilled, and there are no nominees. This is the longest current vacancy in the federal judiciary by more than four years and the second-longest vacancy on the federal courts in at least the last three and a half decades.”

And here’s the excellent conclusion: Read more

Commentary, News

Message to Burr and Tillis: Another NC poll shows strong support for moving ahead with Scalia replacement

As Senators Burr and Tillis continue their pledge to stonewall, add the High Point University Poll to the growing list showing strong support among North Carolinians for ending the U.S. Senate blockade of Obama Supreme Court nominations. This is from an HPU release from yesterday:

“A new High Point University Poll finds that majorities of North Carolina residents believe that President Obama should nominate and the U.S. Senate should consider replacements for Justice Antonin Scalia, the recently deceased Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, before the end of Obama’s presidency. The poll also reported North Carolinians’ job approval ratings for public officials and legislatures.

When asked whether President Obama should nominate a replacement, 60 percent of those polled said yes. The poll also asked whether the U.S. Senate should consider President Obama’s nominee – keeping in mind that the U.S. Senate’s Majority Leader had said that the next president rather than President Obama should nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia. Sixty-eight percent of North Carolinians said that the U.S. Senate should consider any nominee.

North Carolinians appeared to be following relatively closely the story of Justice Scalia’s death and President Obama’s decision to nominate a replacement for the U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Fifty-four percent of the survey respondents said they had heard a lot about the story.

‘Over half of the poll participants indicated closely following the passing of Justice Scalia,’ says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor. ‘The poll confirms that North Carolinians are supportive of President Obama nominating a replacement. In addition, almost 70 percent are in agreement that the U.S. Senate should consider any nominee of the current administration.’”

Click here for more details.

The High Point poll comes just a week after pollsters at Elon University found similar results.

Commentary

The Burr blockade continues: NC federal court vacancy now approaching 10 years

Richard Burr 2As has been documented on this website numerous times, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has been blocking, literally without explanation, President Obama’s attempt to fill a vacancy on the federal court in North Carolina’s Eastern District for years. It’s gotten so absurd (we are now approaching 10 years in which the court and the citizens of eastern North Carolina have been short staffed) that the White House appears to have given up, for now, in even appointing someone.

Fortunately, however, advocates for justice and sanity haven’t given up. As the Winston-Salem Chronicle reports, women of the NAACP spoke out yet again this week:

“[NC NAACP Executive Director Michelle] Laws recounted how in 2009, Burr first recommended federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker, chief of the Appellate Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District in North Carolina, to fill one of over 80 open U.S. District Court seats in the federal judiciary.

If confirmed, May-Parker would have become the first black female federal judge in the history of the Eastern District.

But once President Obama nominated her in 2013, Burr then inexplicably flipped, taking steps to block May–Parker’s nomination, denying her a committee hearing, and ultimately forcing it to die after approximately 300 days.

Newspapers across the state blasted Sen. Burr for not only blocking the nomination, but also never explaining why he did it.”

Burr’s silent stonewalling continues to this day. And sadly, his inexcusable behavior is clearly part of a pattern. According to the most recent data compiled by the folks at the Alliance for Justice, the across-the-board GOP blockade of Obama judicial nominees has now reached the point of true absurdity.