Thursday, March 16, 2006

Where have all the Judges gone?

A year ago the U.S. Senate was in a fit. Some Senators were obstructing the confirmation process for the appointment of federal and appellate judges to the bench. Certain Republican leaders were so outraged that the notion of amending the rules, called at various times the “constitutional option” or the “nuclear option” was an almost foregone conclusion. Then the famous or infamous “Gang of 14” announced a compromise and the “crisis” was averted. Some among the conservatives wanted the vote on the rules change and warned that the Democrats were waiting until they could successfully use the filibuster. A small number of appellate judges were confirmed and then the focus on the Supreme Court vacancies absorbed the attention of almost everyone. In the meantime vacancies have remained and the Senate has failed to take up this very important constitutional function, thus placing these additional pressure on an already burdened federal judiciary.

Columnist Robert Novak spoke to this issue in his March 16, 2006 article, “Not Confirming Judges” and noted that

“On May 9, 2001, President Bush nominated U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle of Edenton, N.C., to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. It took nearly four years for the Judiciary Committee to send his nomination to the Senate floor. It has languished there for more than a year with no prospect for Senate confirmation and no apparent interest by the Republican leadership.”

Novak continued to explain that Boyle has been on the federal bench for 22 years. So why has the Senate not acted. And why has the Senate leadership not taken this important responsibility to heart? Where is the Republican leadership that heard quite clearly from the American people during the Alito hearings that fair and prompt hearings are in the interest of the nation?

Novak did not just list Boyle who has been waiting for confirmation the longest. Ten other prospective appeals judges are caught in the mire of Senate inaction. No one seems the bit interested in addressing the problem. He mentioned a number of important candidates. The liability of these judges appears to be that they are all conservative.

For example Novak lists in his column the following nominees:

“Brett Kavanaugh, White House staff secretary. First named to the District of Columbia Circuit by Bush on July 25, 2003, Democrats blocked the routine retention of his nomination at the end of the last Congress and now demand a second hearing to delay any hopes for him. His liability is being a senior Bush aide and a former assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
-- William Haynes, general counsel of the Defense Department. A former General Dynamics executive nominated to the 4th Circuit, he has been blocked by Democrats for his association with the Pentagon's enemy combatant policies as a protégé of vice presidential chief of staff David Addington.
-- Michael Wallace, a Jackson, Miss. lawyer. He was named to the 5th Circuit six weeks ago to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Judge Charles Pickering. A former aide to Sen. Trent Lott, Wallace faces the same opposition from the Left that filibustered Pickering until he reached the bench on a Bush recess appointment.”

Novak’s concerns are well taken and Pro-Life activists need to call their Senators now and remind them that this situation must change immediately. Those who wish to see the status of nominees can check the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy website.

Senator Frist may be happy he won a meaningless straw poll in his home state of Tennessee, but if he ever wishes to show folks beyond the Beltway his leadership skills, he should get these nominees confirmed.

As for my own Senator John McCain, he should call for immediate floor votes on those candidates passed by the committee and for hearings on the balance of the president’s nominees. Republicans who consider themselves as leaders of their party need to speak out on this very important duty of the Senate.

Qualified judicial candidates who subject themselves to the process of confirmation have a right to prompt action by the Senate. When senators wonder why the American people are displeased with their government, it is inaction such as this that prompts such feeling.

Aside from playing into the Left’s hand by delaying consideration of these individuals, the Republican Senate leadership has a responsibility to those who worked on the campaign to keep the promises made in November. Anything less will affect the outcomes of races in 2006.


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