Judicial nominations and political war games

June 25, 2008
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Today's post is from IL reporter Michael Hoskins:

Indiana hasn’t gotten any news this week so far in the arena of federal judicial nominations. But what’s happened is worth taking a look at.

The full U.S. Senate Tuesday evening confirmed a controversial Michigan appellate judge to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati. Judge Helene White was elected to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1992. What makes this confirmation historic is that her name has been in the hat for the 6th Circuit for 11 years. That’s not a typo; more than a decade. Her actual nomination came from President Bill Clinton in 1997, but Republicans blocked it and the nomination languished for years. She never received a vote before President George W. Bush withdrew her nomination in 2001. That’s the longest time without a vote for any judicial candidate in Senate history. In legal circles and those watching judicial confirmations, Judge White’s nomination had become a symbol of how partisan politics can influence the judiciary. Angry Democrats and Republicans have been battling since 1997 about this nomination, accusing each other at times of trying to pack the courts to direct rulings to their liking.

Earlier this year, President Bush resubmitted Judge White’s name in exchange for his choices of two other Michigan nominees: attorney Raymond Kethledge to another 6th Circuit vacancy and U.S. attorney Stephen Murphy (who the current president had originally wanted for the 6th Circuit). The three were a package deal.

Of course, nothing that controversial is coming from Hoosier state as it relates to recent and current nominations. That’s the good news. Judge John D. Tinder easily made it to the 7th Circuit last year and Magistrate Judge William T. Lawrence is sailing through the confirmation process since being nominated by President Bush in February. As with Judge Tinder’s confirmation, both Indiana senators – Republican Dick Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh – came together to smile, shake hands, and say good things about the judicial nominees from their state. The Senate may vote on Magistrate Lawrence’s nomination Thursday and if the recent past is any indication, it’s expected to be a historic, and completely uncontroversial, confirmation.

But in a time when judicial independence is trumpeted by so many at all levels, what does this 6th Circuit political bickering say about politics and the judiciary overall? Practically, delays mean vacancies. That means courts must juggle rising caseloads, and that’s just not good for anyone in the legal system. But how can we talk about judicial independence on one hand and then watch as politicians try to cherry-pick candidates? It seems this can be seen everywhere from the federal level to the state level.
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  • It seems that there always has been, and always will be, political tension in the nomination process, particularly with nominees who have political baggage. As exemplified by Judges Tinder, Hamilton and Lawrence,

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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