Judiciary

Trump Remaking the Judiciary at a Rapid Pace

New York Times: “Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. Mr. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Mr. Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor.”

“Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them.”

Senate Panel Approves ‘Not Qualified” Nominee

“Brett Talley, President Trump’s nominee to be a federal judge in Alabama, has never tried a case, was unanimously rated ‘not qualified’ by the American Bar Association’s judicial rating committee, has practiced law for only three years and, as a blogger last year, displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee, denouncing ‘Hillary Rotten Clinton’ and pledging support for the National Rifle Association,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, approved him for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.”

Trump Calls U.S. Justice System a ‘Laughing Stock’

President Trump called for “quick” and “strong” justice for terror suspects in the wake of the deadly New York City attack, saying that it is not surprising terror attacks happen because the way the United States punishes terrorists is “a laughing stock,” CNN reports.

Trump also said he would consider sending the attacker to the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay.

ABA Deems Another Trump Nominee ‘Not Qualified’

Another one of President Trump’s judicial nominees — this time, to the powerful appellate courts — has been deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, Politico reports.

Grasz is the second judicial nominee from Trump to get a “not qualified” label from the bar association.

A Political Wire reader went through all of the ratings available on the ABA website, back to 1989.  This is only the third unanimous “Not Qualified” over this period.

Judge Refuses to Erase Arpaio’s Conviction

“A federal judge shot down former sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid to sweep his criminal record clean,” the Washington Post reports.

“In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said the pardon only freed Arpaio from possible punishment. In a four-page order offering a check on the president’s executive power, Bolton wrote that a pardon could not erase the facts of the case.”

How to Win Justice Kennedy’s Vote

Jeffrey Toobin: “The secret to advocacy before the contemporary Supreme Court is no secret: it’s all about pandering to Justice Anthony Kennedy. With the other eight Justices evenly split between liberals and conservatives, lawyers in controversial cases spend most of their energy indulging the idiosyncratic passions of the rangy Californian who sits beside the Chief Justice.”

“That means, for the most part, talking about the First Amendment. In his thirty years on the bench, Kennedy has displayed an almost Pavlovian receptivity to claims of infringement on the freedom of speech.”

Court Appears Divided In Major Voting Rights Case

“U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared divided over whether to issue a ruling that would curb the ability of politicians to draw electoral districts purely on partisan lines in a major voting rights case out of Wisconsin,” Reuters reports.

“Some of the conservative justices questioned whether Democratic voters challenging the maps drawn by Republicans in Wisconsin had legal standing to bring the case. But the potential swing vote, conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, asked tough questions of the state’s lawyers.”

“The liberal justices appeared more eager for the court to rule that partisan electoral maps could violate the U.S. Constitution.”

New York Times: How the new math of gerrymandering works.

Supreme Court Faces a Momentous Term

“The Supreme Court, which was shorthanded and slumbering for more than a year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, is returning to the bench on Monday with a far-reaching docket that renews its central role in American life,” the New York Times reports.

“The new term is studded with major cases likely to provoke sharp conflicts. One of them, on political gerrymandering, has the potential to reshape American politics. Another may settle the question of whether businesses can turn away patrons like gay couples in the name of religious freedom.”

How Democrats Are Still Blocking Judge Appointments

New York Times: “Though the Senate has virtually eliminated the ability of the minority party to block appointments to the bench from the Supreme Court on down, individual senators can still thwart nominees from their home states by refusing to sign off on a form popularly known for its color — the blue slip.”

“Now, with some Democrats refusing to consent as the Trump administration moves to fill scores of judicial vacancies, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, is for the first time publicly advocating that the blue slip be made strictly advisory when it comes to appeals court nominees — the most powerful judges after those on the Supreme Court.”

Justice Kennedy In the Middle Again

The Economist: “Why is Justice Kennedy hanging around for another year? Maybe he would like to put in a full three decades before hanging up his robe. Maybe he isn’t anxious to give Donald Trump an opportunity to replace him. Or maybe the dazzling array of cases coming to the Supreme Court in the term beginning on October 2nd is just too tantalizing to watch from the sidelines. Whatever his motivation, Justice Kennedy is likely to be the central player in a number of the most contentious disputes he and his eight colleagues will hear when they return from their summer break.”

“The first blockbuster comes on the second day of the term when the court hears Gill v Whitford, a challenge to partisan gerrymandering that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says is ‘perhaps the most important’ of the term and that Ian Samuel, co-host of First Mondays, a podcast about the Supreme Court, told listeners may be the ‘most important of your life.'”

Trump’s Real Victory Is More Conservative Judges

Jeffrey Toobin: “While the tragicomic fall of Anthony Scaramucci was playing out at the White House on Monday, the mood was business as usual at the Capitol. There, the Senate was dealing with its own kind of personnel matter, one that, in the larger scheme, probably matters more than who happens to be the White House communications director of the week. To little notice, and with no fanfare, the Senate moved toward confirming another of President Trump’s appointees to a lifetime seat on the federal Court of Appeals.”

“So while the public watches Trump churn through White House staff members, his Administration is humming along nicely in filling federal judgeships, with the enthusiastic assistance of the Republican majority in the Senate. The first and most important victory for the President came with the confirmation of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, in a seat that Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, kept vacant for nearly the full final year of Barack Obama’s Presidency. But McConnell didn’t just protect a Supreme Court seat for the next President; he basically shut down the entire confirmation process for all of Obama’s federal-judgeship nominees for more than a year. It’s the vacancies that accumulated during this time—more than a hundred of them—that Trump’s team is now working efficiently to fill.”