Commentary

Is an eight-justice Supreme Court the new normal?

That’s one of the provocative questions that constitutional scholar Michael Gerhardt will tackle at the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on Tuesday May 10 in Raleigh. RSVP today as it’s sure to be a full house. Here are the details:

A conversation with nationally acclaimed scholar, author and commentator Michael Gerhardt: The Merrick Garland nomination and its implications for the U.S. Supreme Court

Register below

It’s been well over a month now since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. To date, however, Senate Republicans (including Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) have remained adamant that Garland’s nomination will not even receive a hearing – much less an “up or down” confirmation vote.

To veteran constitutional law expert, Professor Michael Gerhardt, this is an important and disturbing turn in the history of the Court and the politics surrounding it. As Gerhardt has explained in a variety of national publications, Garland is one of the most distinguished and well-prepared nominees in Supreme Court history. If senators follow through with their plans to ignore the nomination, it will have important implications for the future of the Court.

Join us as Gerhardt examines the Garland nomination, what we can expect from a divided Court comprised of just eight justices and what the Senate blockade might mean for future presidents and nominees.

About the speaker: Michael Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at the UNC School of Law. He specializes in constitutional conflicts and has been active as a special counsel, scholar, adviser, expert witness, and public commentator on all the major conflicts between presidents and Congress over the past quarter century.

Professor Gerhardt has written dozens of law review articles and five books, including “The Power of Precedent” (paperback, Oxford University Press, 2011). The Financial Times selected his most recent book, “The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy” (Oxford University Press, 2013), as one of its Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013.

Professor Gerhardt’s extensive public service has included advising congressional leaders and White House officials on numerous constitutional issues, including judicial nominations, recess appointments, impeachment, health care reform, the filibuster, and the debt ceiling crises. In 1992-93, he served as one of eight members of the Justice Department transition team for President Clinton and wrote the judicial selection policy for the incoming administration.

Professor Gerhardt is the only legal scholar to participate in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for five of the nine justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court. He served as Special Counsel assisting the Clinton White House on Justice Stephen Breyer’s confirmation hearings. In 2005, he advised several senators on President Bush’s nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States, and he testified as an expert witness in the confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. In 2009-2010, Professor Gerhardt served as Special Counsel to Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the Senate Judiciary Committee for the nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Don’t miss this very special event!

Register here

When: Tuesday May 10, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

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.

Commentary, News

This week’s top five stories on NC Policy Watch

Merrick Garland1. Obama nominates Merrick Garland as next Supreme Court Justice
President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the open slot on the U.S. Supreme Court is 63-year-old Merrick Garland, currently Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The President made his announcement Wednesday morning from the Rose Garden, setting off a battle with Republicans in the U.S. Senate, most of whom have vowed to block any of Obama’s nominees, arguing that the selection to replace deceased Justice Antonin Scalia should be left to the next president.

Here’s Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Arizona who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee just this morning: [Continue reading…]

Bonus reads:

Burr, Tillis take to social media to dismiss Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
The case for considering Supreme Court nominee Garland is overwhelming

Keep calm2. Staying calm and focused in a raucous election year
Keeping perspective, commitment to peaceful change the best path for progressives

In a 1947 speech in the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill famously and correctly observed that “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Messy, disorganized and inefficient as it is, democratic government is one of the best things that humans have come up with in the 50,000 years or so since they started living together in civilized societies. Try as we might to come up with new systems or to recycle old ones, the merits of peaceful, participatory elections and governance keep rising to the top — especially when married to a robust set of civil and human rights. [Continue reading…]

School grades3. Panel of educators, activists pan N.C.’s system of grading schools

North Carolina’s controversial method of grading its schools—which includes dishing out “D” or “F” grades to designated “low-performing schools”—failed to find a single defender at a forum of educators, lobbyists and activists Monday night in Raleigh.

The meeting, led by the Public School Forum of N.C., a research and policy group in Raleigh, centered on identification of low-performing schools, a system that hinges heavily on test scores.

Most who spoke Monday said the formula should focus more on student growth in test scores, so as not to unfairly penalize schools with a challenging student body.

Currently, 80 percent of a school’s performance grade is determined by test scores. The remaining 20 percent keys upon students’ academic growth. [Continue reading…]

Erica L. #24. Equality advocates to lawmakers: Please don’t legislate in favor of hate and discrimination

A group of human and civil rights advocates gathered in front of the state Legislative Building this morning to plead with state lawmakers and Governor McCrory not to try and override the nondiscrimination ordinance adopted by the city of Charlotte.

As we have reported previously, conservative legislators are threatening to call a special session of the General Assembly prior to next month’s scheduled return in order to take precisely such action. The explanation for the action: the professed (and illusory) concern that the law’s guarantee of access to public restrooms for transgender people will somehow serve as an invitation for male sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms. [Continue reading…]

Water pollution5. McCrory administration’s reversal on drinking water safety near coal ash sites raises questions, concerns

Residents are right to be skeptical of the state’s sudden claims that their water has been safe all along
North Carolina officials owe residents and local officials in Lee County an apology, and they owe every North Carolinian an explanation.
Over the past month, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have walked back their own recommendation that families in Lee County not drink or cook using water from wells with carcinogens that exceed their own standards.

The water is now safe, they say, and it always has been.

Last November, private wells within a half-mile of open-pit clay mines in the county were tested to collect baseline data. Duke Energy plans to move more than 7 million tons of coal ash from sites in Lumberton and Goldsboro and dispose of it in the abandoned Lee County clay mines. [Continue reading…]

Commentary

Editorial: Tillis’ excuse on Supreme Court nominee is “hollow,” “phony”

In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer joined a long and growing list of major newspapers around the country to editorialize in favor of a hearing and vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Here’s the Observer in a recent editorial:

“In Merrick Garland, President Obama has nominated an eminently qualified jurist for the nation’s highest court.

As the well-respected chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – commonly called the nation’s second highest court – one could argue that Garland is the most qualified jurist Obama could have picked….

Now that Obama has indeed named Garland, the GOP’s self-constructed political box squeezes a bit tighter. Most Republicans are sticking to their no-hearings stonewall. Hatch, however, says he’d be open to considering Garland during the lame-duck congressional session, should Hillary Clinton win the White House in November.

That’s rich. So, the Senate would block Obama’s nomination because he’s a lame duck. But a lame-duck Senate would willingly take up the nomination if threatened with prospects of a younger, more liberal nominee from a President-Elect Clinton or perhaps even some unpredictable wildcard from a President-Elect Trump.

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.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

The case for considering Supreme Court nominee Garland is overwhelming

It’s official now; the United States Senate is run by men and women (mostly men) with the temperament, credibility and honesty of spoiled children trying to manufacture reasons why they won’t play with a new kid in the neighborhood. Let’s hope the facts and quotes regarding new Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland (see just a few of them below) are so overwhelming that, eventually, even Mitch McConnell and company are forced to tuck their tails and retreat from their absurd obstructionism.

Key facts

  1. Chief Judge Merrick Garland has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. No one is more qualified to immediately serve on the Supreme Court.
  2. He is one of the best appellate judges in the country – a brilliant, meticulous jurist with a knack for building consensus. That has been true ever since his strong bipartisan confirmation in 1997 to the D.C. Circuit, where he has served as Chief Judge for over three years.
  3. This approach has earned him bipartisan praise throughout his career – he was confirmed with majority support from both parties; Senator Orrin Hatch described him as “a consensus nominee,” and Chief Justice Roberts explained “anytime Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”
  4. Garland has distinguished himself as a jurist who plays it straight and decides every case based on what the law requires. In his own words: “The role of the court is to apply the law to the facts of the case before it—not to legislate, not to arrogate to itself the executive power, not to hand down advisory opinions on the issues of the day.”
  5. Garland has dedicated his life to public service, choosing to serve his country and take on some of the most difficult and significant anti-terrorism cases in our nation’s history.
  6. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Garland led the investigation and prosecution that ultimately brought Timothy McVeigh to justice – working with federal agents, rescue workers, local officials and others.
  7. Garland also kept in close touch with Oklahoma City victims and their families throughout the case, and for several years afterwards as well.
  8. Beyond the courtroom, Garland is a committed mentor. In addition to mentoring hundreds of law clerks throughout their careers and encouraging them to pursue public service, Garland has for almost twenty years, tutored second, third and fourth grade students in Northeast DC in reading and math.
  9. Garland is a dedicated family man. He and his wife of nearly 30 years, Lynn, have two daughters, Becky and Jessie. The family enjoys skiing, hiking and canoeing, and together they have visited many of America’s national parks.

Quotes from prominent figures

Sen. Hatch: “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” [NewsMax, 3/13/16] Read more