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. The is an unsigned editorial masquerading as a news story. Almost everyone quoted was biased in favor of letting all illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. (Ignoring that Obama deported 3.5 million in 8 years). For some reason Obama enforcing part of the immigration laws was O.K. but Trump enforcing additional parts is terrible. I have listed to press conferences and explanations of the Homeland Security memos and I gather from them that less than 1 million will be targeted for deportation, the "dreamers" will be left alone and illegals arriving in the last two years -- especially those arriving very recently -- will be subject to deportation but after the criminals. This will not substantially affect the GDP negatively, especially as it will take place over a number of years. I personally think this is a rational approach to the illegal immigration problem. It may cause Congress to finally pass new immigration laws rationalizing the whole immigration situation.

  2. Mr. Straw, I hope you prevail in the fight. Please show us fellow American's that there is a way to fight the corrupted justice system and make them an example that you and others will not be treated unfairly. I hope you the best and good luck....

  3. @ President Snow - Nah, why try to fix something that ain't broken??? You do make an excellent point. I am sure some Mickey or Minnie Mouse will take Ruckers seat, I wonder how his retirement planning is coming along???

  4. Can someone please explain why Judge Barnes, Judge Mathias and Chief Judge Vaidik thought it was OK to re weigh the evidence blatantly knowing that by doing so was against the rules and went ahead and voted in favor of the father? I would love to ask them WHY??? I would also like to ask the three Supreme Justices why they thought it was OK too.

  5. How nice, on the day of my car accident on the way to work at the Indiana Supreme Court. Unlike the others, I did not steal any money or do ANYTHING unethical whatsoever. I am suing the Indiana Supreme Court and appealed the failure of the district court in SDIN to protect me. I am suing the federal judge because she failed to protect me and her abandonment of jurisdiction leaves her open to lawsuits because she stripped herself of immunity. I am a candidate for Indiana Supreme Court justice, and they imposed just enough sanction so that I am made ineligible. I am asking the 7th Circuit to remove all of them and appoint me as the new Chief Justice of Indiana. That's what they get for dishonoring my sacrifice and and violating the ADA in about 50 different ways.

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