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ACTION ALERT: National Call-in Days March 13-15 to End the Obstruction and Confirm Judges

Posted on 03/13/2012 @ 03:35 PM

Take Action: From March 13-15, call your senators toll free at 1-866-338-5720, and urge them to vote on President Obama’s judicial nominees and stop the unprecedented obstruction of justice in our courts.

A diverse group of extremely qualified judicial nominees have been awaiting votes for an average of more than 100 days. Many of these individuals were approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This unprecedented delay in the Senate means that our system of justice has slowed down in some places to a near stand-still. In addition, many of these federal court vacancies have led to judicial emergencies. This results in average Americans waiting months – and even years – for their day in court because there aren’t enough judges to hear their cases.

Make your voice heard. We need your help now!

As soon as today, March 13, the Senate could consider a number of President Obama’s nominees. For far too long, a small group of extremist senators have held up these important votes. Senators must be told to end the obstruction and vote on these judicial nominees.

Take Action: Participate in the National Call-in Days on March 13-15. Call your senators toll free at 1-866-338-5720, and urge them to end the obstruction and vote on judicial nominees. Tell senators that for too many Americans, justice delayed is justice denied.

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HFJ Alert: Cloture Filed on Judge Adalberto Jordan

Posted on 02/10/2012 @ 11:36 AM

Yesterday Senator Harry Reid filed cloture on the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordan to be United States Circuit Judge for the 11th Circuit, setting up a vote scheduled for Monday, February 13 at approximately 5:30pm.

Judge Jordan was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States at age 6. He excelled at the University of Miami School of Law, then served as a clerk for the U.S. 11th Circuit and later for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. After rising through the ranks at a Miami law firm, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida where he served until his appointment as U.S. District Judge in 1999. He has now served with distinction for over a decade on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Last year President Obama appointed Judge Jordan to fill a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Growing case backlogs in court had caused the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to declare the vacancy a "judicial emergency." Judge Jordan's nomination was met with bipartisan support, a top rating of "well-qualified" from the ABA, and unanimous approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Some Senators, however, remain set on playing politics with even the most qualified and non-controversial nominees. Before Monday's vote, it is crucial that we show our support for Judge Adalberto Jordan and urge our Senators to vote "yes." Please call your Senators' offices at (202) 224-3121 and tell them how important a diverse, qualified, effective judiciary is to you.

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White House Infographic: Record Judicial Diversity, Record Judicial Delays

Posted on 08/19/2011 @ 03:14 PM

Creating a judicial pool for the 21st Century, one with intellect, fair-mindedness and integrity that resembles the nation that it serves, is a top priority for President Obama and his administration. In fact, the President’s nominations for federal judges embody an unprecedented commitment to expanding the racial, gender and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice.

Unfortunately, the delays these nominees are encountering on Capitol Hill are equally unprecedented: earlier this month, the Senate left for its August recess without considering 20 eminently qualified candidates, 16 of whom had passed through the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee completely unopposed, a development the Washington Post called “not only frustrating but also destructive” in an editorial published yesterday.

The victims of these delays, of course, are the American citizens who are being denied the fair and timely judicial proceedings they deserve because of the chronic shortage of federal judges on the bench. Stephen Zack, president of the American Bar Association, told Senate leaders in a recent letter that the abundance of vacant federal judgeships “create strains that will inevitably reduce the quality of our justice system and erode public confidence in the ability of the courts to vindicate constitutional rights or render fair and timely decisions.”

To better understand how the Senate delays are impacting American families and businesses, take a look at our infographic that explains the confirmation process and highlights the bottleneck.

Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/08/18/infographic-record-judicial-diversity-record-judicial-delays

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Sen. Leahy Statement on Wal-Mart V. Dukes

Posted on 06/20/2011 @ 06:18 PM

The Supreme Court today issued an opinion in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees. At issue in the case was whether the corporation employed a practice of pay and promotion discrimination against female employees.

“The aspect of the Supreme Court’s decision today in Wal-Mart v. Dukes that involved a deep division is most troublesome, and undercuts the ability of this class of female employees to even get through the courthouse door to have their common issue considered. While the justices agreed on one issue about the availability of a particular remedy, they were divided on whether the women were discriminated against by sufficiently similar treatment. As a result, five justices have again decided to make it more difficult to hold corporations accountable under our historic civil rights laws.

“This is not an isolated case. It is the latest in a series of cases the Judiciary Committee has considered over the last four years. Whether it is Lilly Ledbetter suing her employer for gender discrimination, or a group of consumers suing their phone company for deceptive practices, an activist majority of the Supreme Court is making it more and more difficult for any American to have their day in court.

“Over the past two years, the American people have grown frustrated with the notion that some corporations are too big to fail. Today’s decision will undoubtedly make some wonder whether the Supreme Court has now decided that some corporations are too big to be held accountable. Discrimination in the workplace continues, and we need to make sure that all Americans are treated fairly, especially in these challenging economic times.”

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Judicial Selection Snapshot

Posted on 05/04/2011 @ 05:53 PM

Alliance for Justice has updated it's Judicial Selection Snapshot document, which is available in full here.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • There are currently 91 vacant seats on U.S. Circuit and District Courts and 22 seats will soon become vacant.
  • 35 of the vacant seats have been identified as Judicial Emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
  • While 81 of President Obama's judicial nominees since 2009 have been confirmed, 42 nominees still await an up-or-down vote from the Senate.

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Bruesewitz v. Wyeth: As Sotomayor Comes Out Strong Against Pro-Corporate Judicial Activism, Scalia May Have Met His Match

Posted on 02/23/2011 @ 02:29 PM

By Jamie Raskin, People For the American Way

There is something wearily predictable about Justice Scalia’s straitjacket reinterpretation of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (NCVIA) to eliminate the possibility of injured families suing manufacturers for design defects in vaccines. Justice Scalia brings his trademark sleight-of-hand to the task of explaining why the law does not provide for citizens what it obviously does provide and offers his well-developed rhetorical polish and high-minded sarcasm as a way to assure everyone that there is no reasonable alternative to his vigorous rewrite of the law in the interest of corporate immunity. Ah, another federal law, another judicial gloss for the corporations: business-as-usual on the Roberts Court.

What is startling and refreshing about this decision is that Justice Scalia has finally met his match in Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who comes out swinging hard in her powerful dissenting opinion against this aggressive pro-corporate judicial activism and impressionistic rewrite of the statute at hand. It seems that Justice Sotomayor is finding her voice defending popular legislation and democratic rights against the finger-painting and cut-and-paste rewrites of legislation that have become the specialty of free-wheeling conservative Justices.

Consider the numerous hard and effective punches Justice Sotomayor’s throws back at Justice Scalia here, quoting Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the “plain text and structure” of the statute, and the essential canons of statutory construction, to show who the real “judicial activists” are:

She starts off by blowing the whistle on Justice Scalia’s substitution of his political views for those of Congress: “In holding that the . . . Act pre-empts all design defect claims for injuries stemming from vaccines covered under the Act, the Court imposes its bare policy preference over the considered judgment of Congress.”

After a masterful explanation of the Act and why it permits causes of action related to design defects, Justice Sotomayor writes: “In contrast to the interpretation . . . set forth above, the majority’s interpretation does considerable violence to the statutory text, misconstrues the legislative history, and draws the wrong conclusions from the structure of the Vaccine Act . . .”

And, to leave no doubt about what has just taken place to rob the Bruesewitz family--whose daughter suffered more than 100 seizures after being vaccinated with the DTP vaccine made by Lederle Laboratories--of its fair day in court, she concludes that “whatever the merits of the majority’s policy preference, the decision to bar all design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers is one that Congress must make, not this Court.”

It’s good to know that Justice Sotomayor at least has woken up to the fact that we are headed at a high speed right back into a Lochner-era jurisprudence where conservative Justices work overtime to undo progressive legislation and substitute their own authoritarian judgments for democratic decision-making. The combination of this judicial assault on popularly enacted statutes with the decision in the Citizens United case to arm private corporations with political campaign spending rights under the First Amendment makes for a pretty scary polity and economy. We need more judges and Justices like Justice Sotomayor to stand up for democracy and the rule of law.

Jamie Raskin is a Maryland state senator, constitutional law professor at American University's Washington College of Law, and Senior Fellow at People For the American Way.

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New Judicial Nominee Stats from Alliance for Justice

Posted on 01/31/2011 @ 12:15 PM

The Alliance for Justice has released the latest statistics on President Barack Obama's judicial nominees and their confirmation status in the Senate.

Our Federal Circuit and District Courts continue to face a troubling number of vacancies--118 as of this week. Partisan bickering in the Senate continues to hamper the President's efforts to fill these vacancies. Only 55% of President Obama's nominees have been confirmed, compared to 74% of President George W. Bush's nominees and 87% of President Bill Clinton's.

For more statistics, check out the Alliance for Justice snapshot here.

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Incremental progress on Hispanic judicial nominees

Posted on 12/03/2010 @ 03:38 PM

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanamously approved two excellent Hispanic nominees for the federal bench and made plans to vote on another Hispanic judge. And President Obama nominated Esther Salas of New Jersey to serve on United States District Court.

On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved two Hispanic judges who have been nominated to serve on U.S. District Court. Diana Saldana of Texas and Edward J. Davila of North Carolina now join Mary Murguia, Albert Diaz and a growing list of other noncontroversial, qualified judges who await action from the full Senate. Unfortunately, Republican blockades and stalling have made this final huddle a very high one.

The Judiciary Committee also announced that on December 8 it will hold a vote to move Marco Hernandez, nominee to be an Oregon District Judge, to the full Senate, as well.

We are also excited to pass along news that the President has nominated Esther Salas to serve on the District Court in New Jersey. Judge Salas was endorsed by the Hispanic National Bar Association which encouraged the White House to select her. We enthusiastically add Salas to the list of outstanding Hispanic nominees that we are urging Senators to support--and we hope you will join us.

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Judicial nominations are still on the Senate's to-do list

Posted on 12/01/2010 @ 01:33 PM

We at HFJ continue to push the Senate to confirm non-controversial, qualified judicial nominees like Mary Murguia and Albert Diaz who have been nominated to serve on courts that face growing backlogs of cases.

As we have highlighted before, judges Murguia and Diaz are just two of the many qualified nominees who have been stuck in the Senate's extraordinary gridlock. With 2010 winding down, issues like tax cuts, unemployment and the START nuclear weapons treaty have dominated Congress's attention. As a result, resolving the judicial emergencies that our courts face is sliding down the Senate’s to-do list.

In fact, today Senate Republicans signed a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid refusing to support any other piece of legislation until Congress extends the Bush tax cuts. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did later clarify that judicial nominations were not included in the Republicans' threat, but the letter further demonstrates the contentious atmosphere on Capitol Hill. And just how important it is that we urge our Senators to confirm great nominees like Murguia and Diaz.

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The Supreme Court takes up the 10th Amendment

Posted on 10/26/2010 @ 04:36 PM

Adam Liptak of the New York Times recently wrote about a Supreme Court case that pits two former friends in a fight fit for a soap opera. After one friend tried to poison the other, federal prosecutors sought to charge the offending woman with violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 instead of accepting milder punishments available through state law. The accused woman claims, however, that the federal government did not have the right to get involved.

Now, this may not seem particularly relevant to our work at HFJ. However, Liptak points out that, if the Supreme Court rules that the federal government overstepped its bounds, it could be a crucial interpretation of the 10th Amendment.

The 10th Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This means that everything the federal government does must be spelled out—directly or indirectly—in the Constitution. Should the Supreme Court determine that the poisoning case violates the 10th Amendment, it might jeopardize many of the federal programs Latinos and all Americans benefit from. For instance, Liptak says that activists have already begun clamoring for the health care reform law to be challenged as a 10th Amendment violation.

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An Historic Composition

Posted on 10/12/2010 @ 04:00 PM

Last week, the Supreme Court’s term began with an historic composition consisting of three female justices for the first time in its history. However, due to her previous role as Solicitor General, the history-making third female justice, Elena Kagan, has had to recuse herself from participating in what will probably be the highest-profile immigration case to be heard by the Supreme Court during this term. No, this won’t be the case of Arizona’s infamous racial-profiling law, known as SB 1070. That case still has to make its way through the appeals process and won’t land in the Supreme Court for at least another year.

The immigration case to be heard this year will be Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, in which another Arizona law is in dispute. The law in question makes it mandatory for employers in the state to use the federal e-Verify database to check whether a potential employee is authorized to work. The law is being challenged by a broad coalition of business, civil rights and immigrant rights groups, with the support of the federal government, on the grounds that the federal law that created e-Verify makes its use voluntary. Similar to the grounds the federal government used against SB 1070 in district court, the reason for rejecting Arizona’s law is, in very simple terms, that it pre-empts federal law.

Since Justice Kagan has recused herself from this case, it will be decided by the remaining eight justices, setting up the possibility of a 4-to-4 tie, in which case the previous appeals court ruling in favor of the State of Arizona would stand. Regardless of which way the court decides this case, some may rush to draw parallels and make predictions about how the court will rule on SB 1070. However, it will be important to remember that each case is different, with different circumstances and arguments.

For more information on this and upcoming cases to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court go straight to their main page — supremecourt.gov. We’ll keep you posted on our end as well.

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