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Judge The Senate Judiciary Committee Not By What It Says, But What It Has Done ^ | June 06, 2002 | John Nowacki

Posted on 06/06/2002 7:07:46 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen

With the Memorial Day recess over, it's now back to business for the Senate . . . sort of. Actually, a number of important items that have been neglected by the Democrats will continue to be neglected this summer, among them circuit court nominations.

Since the Democrats took control of the Senate a year ago, they have confirmed just nine of President Bush's 31 nominees to the circuit courts of appeals - a bare 29 percent. Only three were confirmed this year. Ten of Bush's nominees have now waited more than a year for a committee vote, and all but one of them have never even received a hearing.

That's quite a contrast with the way other recent Presidents have had their nominations handled. Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton all had their first eleven nominations confirmed. And during their first two years - when the Senate is usually more deferential - those Presidents were actually given some cooperation. Reagan had 95 percent of his circuit court nominees confirmed, and so did the first Bush. Clinton had 86 percent. But with this year halfway over, confirmations are nowhere near a pace that would keep up with that precedent. And the Democrats really don't care, either.

If you judged them by what they say, you'd think they were serious about ending what they've called a vacancy crisis in the judiciary. That they cared about making sure that litigants before overburdened courts had access to justice. Or that nominees and the President himself should be dealt with fairly.

Take Miguel Estrada's nomination, for example. When Estrada was nominated to the D.C. Circuit, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy looked at him and his fellow nominees, announced that he was "encouraged" and committed himself to work with the President. Nevertheless, Estrada, a well-qualified attorney with stellar credentials, is still waiting for a hearing.

Leahy has also said nominees should get a Senate vote within 60 days . . . but Estrada was nominated 393 days ago. Leahy has said the D.C. Circuit's docket is "by far the most complex and difficult in the nation," but with four of 12 seats on that court empty, Leahy hasn't done a thing to fill those vacancies.

Instead, he's looked for excuses to stall and delay. Last month, he seized the opportunity after several special interest groups asked him to deny Estrada a hearing until September, claiming - a year after Estrada's nomination - that they needed time to examine the nominee's record. Not that the extra time for dirt digging will prove useful; a staffer at a group opposing Estrada admitted several months ago that they really didn't have anything on him.

Leahy's quest to torpedo the Estrada nomination has now branched out into demanding internal memoranda that Estrada worked on while at the Department of Justice, a demand so outrageous that it sparked critical editorials from both the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

And that's all about just one of the 22 court of appeals nominees waiting patiently for the Democrats to let the Senate do its constitutional duty.

This slow walk on confirmations comes in part from the Democrats' desire to politicize the judiciary. Although they acknowledge that politicization will damage the judiciary's independence, they've still openly embraced political or ideological litmus tests for potential judges. They'd like nothing better than to have nominees who meet their new burden of proof by declaring for the record that they hold certain acceptable political beliefs, all while saying that they would never, ever allow those acceptable political beliefs influence the decisions they render while on the bench.

Meanwhile, the vacancy crisis continues, the President and his nominees wait for Democrats to actually honor their commitments, and litigants across the country wonder what's going on.

Leahy once said that "those who delay or prevent the filling of [judicial vacancies] must understand that they are delaying or preventing the administration of justice." If only he really meant it.

John Nowacki is Director of Legal Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.
Free Congress Foundation

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
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1 posted on 06/06/2002 7:07:46 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
The GOP got headlines on this for a couple of days. Now they need to resume their shouting, and begin completely messing with Senate procedures until this gets resolved.
2 posted on 06/06/2002 7:34:18 AM PDT by Coop
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To: Coop
The democommies know if they confirm judges that they will have to give up thier base because there are so many crooks in thier party that most of them will be convicted and put away.
3 posted on 06/06/2002 4:41:20 PM PDT by solo gringo
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