Commentary, News

President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block

Justice Timmons-Goodson.jpg

Patricia Timmons-Goodson

Ho hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it.

AP’s Gary Robertson reports:

“President Barack Obama’s latest pick Thursday to fill a longstanding vacancy in eastern North Carolina’s federal courts already appears scuttled by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who blames the president for not acting in good faith.

The White House announced Obama had nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson of Fayetteville to become a U.S. District judge in the Eastern District.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Timmons-Goodson would fill a seat that’s been empty for more than 10 years. The president’s 2013 nomination of Jennifer May-Parker for the judgeship was never heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Late Thursday, Burr said the nomination is a ‘transparent attempt to turn the Eastern District vacancy into an election season stunt” and that he “will not support a new nomination in North Carolina from this administration.'”

Richard Burr 2Timmon-Goodson’s nomination is actually one of several of high quality that the President put forward yesterday. Senator Burr, however, claims there was some kind of “deal” between him and Obama years ago over court nominees and has been using this excuse to keep the people of eastern North Carolina under-served and deprived of their first federal judge of color in North Carolina history for years. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina.  Judge Timmons-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent.


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


Editorial: Senate’s Supreme Court obstructionism is “historic mistake”

Another good one this morning from the editorial page at the Greensboro News & Record slamming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Richard “I lost my blue slip” Burr and Thom “I flip-flopped so fast you probably didn’t even notice” Tillis on their outrageous refusal to consider any Obama Supreme Court nominee:

“This stand defies the constitutional duty to give “advice and consent.” The Constitution assigns this role to the Senate to provide a check on a president’s power. The Senate can withhold its consent when it concludes a nominee isn’t qualified. But McConnell and other Republicans, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, fail in their responsibility to advise when they refuse to consider any nominee.

Tillis warned last week that Republicans would “fall into the trap of obstructionism” if they rejected any nominee “sight unseen.” This week, he walked into the trap. The entire GOP caucus has followed its leader along this dangerous path. It won’t lead anywhere good.

The reasons McConnell cites to justify obstructionism don’t wash. He says the American people should resolve the deadlock in the November election. But the voters re-elected Obama in 2012 to serve until Jan. 20, 2017. McConnell ignores that election.”

And, as the conclusion notes, this latest blockade is just one of many such inexcusable exercises:

“McConnell already has slowed the pace on all confirmations, whether for lower federal judgeships or other federal positions.

‘In 2015, the Senate confirmed 173 total civilian nominees, according to the Congressional Research Service, about 100 fewer than were confirmed in 2007 when a Democratic Senate took over during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency,’ Burgess Everett wrote for Politico last month.

Republicans point to past offenses by Democrats, which were inexcusable, but they have escalated obstructionism to an unprecedented level. It’s bound to be repeated in the future, unless voters hold the obstructionists accountable in Senate elections. In North Carolina, Burr is on the ballot this year.

It’s easy to see straight through McConnell, an ‘establishment’ Republican who’s been faulted by his party’s extreme right wing for accommodating Obama too often. The critics have wanted McConnell to block every one of Obama’s initiatives instead of only most of them and to confirm none of his nominees.

Now, McConnell is yielding to the worst impulses of partisan politics, even if it means keeping a Supreme Court seat empty for years. History will remember.”


Senate refuses to hold any hearings on Scalia replacement until after Obama leaves office

TillisSenator Thom Tillis and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee dug in their heels Tuesday – delivering a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlining their determination not to hold hearings on anyone President Barack Obama might nominate to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Committee notes the Senate has the power to grant or withhold consent of the President’s nominee:


McConnell later told reporters that he accepts that recommendation and his chamber will take no action.

President Obama has indicated he will put forth an ‘indisputably qualified’ nominee to fill the seat in the coming weeks.

Read the full letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee here.

Also be sure to read Rob Schofield’s weekly briefing: Yet another absurd Burr blockade.


Editorial: Hypocritical Burr should pledge not to vote on important matters until after election

Richard Burr 2The Greensboro News & Record hits the nail on the head this morning with a lead editorial deriding the absurd hypocrisy of Senators Richard Burr, Thom Tillis and others on the question of the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia:

“’In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country,’ Burr said in a statement released by his office Monday. ‘For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until there is a new president.’

That notion is both wrong and a political miscalculation.

There is no precedent for denying presidents the chance to appoint justices to the court in the final year of their presidency. They have done so several times, most recently in 1988 when the Senate unanimously confirmed President Ronald Reagan’s choice of current Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Someone could just as credibly argue that Burr, who’s running for re-election this year, should leave important votes to whomever the people of North Carolina choose for his seat in November. But that’s absurd. Burr was elected to a full term; so was Obama. They shouldn’t stop doing their jobs just because their terms are running out. Obama will be in office for 11 more months — plenty of time for the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, and too long to leave a vacancy.”

And here’s the excellent conclusion:

“The president should make it as difficult as possible for the Republicans to get away with it. He can, and should, nominate someone with stellar credentials, a compelling personal story and mainstream legal views, with whom the Senate and the American public can find no legitimate objections. One person mentioned is Greensboro native Loretta Lynch, who has had an outstanding career, but her confirmation as attorney general last year was contentious. Obama can find a centrist judge who was already confirmed to a lower court with Republican support.

Americans now know Republicans have staked out their opposition to any candidate, sight unseen. They can judge whether members of the Senate are carrying out their constitutional responsibility to fairly weigh the merits of a presidential nominee. North Carolina voters can ask Burr why he thinks obstruction is part of his job description.

Scalia’s replacement may shift the court’s ideological balance, but so will the next justice, and the next, and the next. Elections do matter, and Obama is the elected president now. This appointment should be his.”