Sunday, March 01, 2020

March 2020 Judiciary News

There is a lot of news in the American judicial system.  Here is a roundup of recent devolopments.

Appointments, Hearings, Confirmations:

Overall:  This article from the Christian Science Monitor doesn't have much new, but is about the best summary of Trump judicial appointments.  It also has a nice graphic illustrating the changes in the appeals courts.

Overall:  Don't overdose on schadenfreude while reading this Vox article on Trump's appointees.

Brasher:  Andrew Brasher is Trump's 51st court of appeals judge.  He was confirmed 52-43 on February 11 to replace Judge Ed Carnes of the 11th Circuit, who will wait a few months to leave office.  Trump has appointed 6 of 12 judges on the 11th Circuit.

Territories:  Territorial judges in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were confirmed last week.  While many Trump nominees are controversial, these were not.

There have been a few more nominees for district courts in Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  These require deals with D senators.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a nominations hearing on March 4.  No word yet who will testify.

Schwartz:  U.S. Court of Federal Claims nominee Stephen Schwartz is under fire for articles he wrote as an undergraduate calling large parts of the federal government unconstitutional.

The Federal Judiciary:

Federalist Society:  The Judicial Conference of the United States Committee on Codes of Conduct wants to bar judges from being members of the Federalist Society, while claiming that the ABA is fine.  This is despite the fact that the ABA engages in advocacy and lobbying, while the Federalist Society does not.

9th Circuit:  Liberals on the 9th Circuit are upset with many Trump appointees, and have criticized them in an LA Times article.  W appointees Milan Smith and Connie Callahan seem happy with them.  Trump appointee Dan Collins has been the most aggressive in calling for en banc reconsideration of panel decisions.  Ryan Nelson has also annoyed some on the left by calling for removing a leftist district judge from a case.  Bridget Bade, Mark Bennett, and Eric Miller are best-liked by the other side (this may be related to Miller not dissenting from any en banc denials).

Clerks:  David Lat has a roundup of Supreme Court clerk hiring.

Murguia:  District Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas resigned after being publicly reprimanded for sexual harassment and having an affair with a felon.  Murguia was appointed by Bill Clinton.   His sister Mary is on the 9th Circuit, and his sister Janet runs the Hispanic race group La Raza.

State Supreme Courts:

Alaska:  Justice Craig Stowers will retire on June 1.  Eight people have applied to the Alaska Judicial Council, which will send two candidates to Governor Mike Dunleavy for his selection.  Dunleavy, a conservative, has clashed with the court when he vetoed some of its funding in response to an activist decision.

Florida:  There are two vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, thanks to the appointments of Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck to the 11th Circuit.  The judicial nominating commission submitted nine finalists to Governor Ron Desantis on January 23.  One of the appointees must be John Couriel, Norma Lindsey, or Eloit Pedrosa, who live in the 3rd Appellate District (Miami).  DeSantis must make his selections by March 23.

Florida:  Some black democrats have been pushing for the appointment of a black member of the court, which has not had a black member since 2018.  The only black nominee is Palm Beach Circuit Judge Renatha Francis, who is not eligible to serve until September 24.

Georgia:  Justice Robert Benham will leave the court March 1.  He is the last remaining democrat on the court.  His retirement canceled a November election to fill his seat, for which several candidates had already announced.  The state judicial nominating commission has selected nine candidates for interviews.

Georgia:  Justice Keith Blackwell (age 44) will leave the court in November to return to private practice (and make more money).  He is on President Trump's list of possible Supreme Court picks.

Iowa:  Governor Kim Reynolds appointed Dana Oxley on January 28 to fill the seat of Mark Cady.  She clerked for a Reagan/Bush 41 appointee to the 8th circuit, so she is probably a good choice.

Iowa:  The Iowa Supreme Court has elected conservative Susan Christensen chief justice.  She was appointed to the court in 2018.  She replaces liberal Mark Cady, who died in November.  Liberal David Wiggins has been acting chief.

Iowa:  Fifteen people have applied to the Iowa judicial nominating commission to fill the seat of liberal Justice David Wiggins, who will retire in March.

Kansas:   The Kansas Supreme Court currently has one vacancy, due to the retirement of liberal Chief Justice Lawton Nuss in December.  It will be filled by democrat Gov. Laura Kelly.

Wisconsin:  Conservative Justice Daniel Kelly will face liberal Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky in the April 7 runoff.  On February 18, Kelly won 50% to 37% for Karofsky and 13% for another liberal candidate.  The runoff coincides with the presidential primary, so it would be advantageous for Republicans if the democrat nominee were known by then.

Numbers and Trivia:

Numbers:  This article has lots of data on judicial appointments. Among other things, it shows that D appointed judges are less likely to retire under opposite party presidents than are R appointed judges.

President Obama appointed 141 district judges in his first term.  President Trump is up to 138, and will pass this total soon.

As of February 11, Sri Srinivasan is now the Chief Judge of the DC Circuit, taking over from Merrick Garland.  The Presidents who appointed chief judges of the 13 appeals courts are HW (11), Clinton (2, 4, 6, 7, 9), W (1, 3, 5, 8, 10, Fed), and Obama (DC).


Reinhardt:  Ultra-liberal 9th Circuit judge Stephen Reinhardt (who died in 2018) was accused of sexual harassment by former law clerk Olivia Warren at a US House hearing on February 13.

Reinhardt:  "more than 70 former law clerks to the late Ninth Circuit judge Stephen Reinhardt signed a letter “expressing support for" ... Warren ... "Specifically, the former clerks affirm that they “believe [Warren’s] testimony,” they thank her for “her courage in speaking out,” and they attest that some of them (but not others of them) “experienced or witnessed conduct in chambers [i.e., by Reinhardt] that we would call sexist, workplace bullying or mistreatment.”"

9th Circuit:  It appears that the 9th Circuit clerk's office rigged the panel selection to allow Reinhardt to sit on a disproportionate number of ideologically charged cases.

Bazelon:  In the 1960s and 70s, the most influential judge outside the Supreme Court was David Bazelon of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.  This was due to his close relationship with Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, sending him both cases and clerks.  But Bazelon had a dark secret.  According to the book 'Supermob' by Gus Russo, he started his career as a Mafia lawyer.  In the Truman administration, he was in charge of selling off property stolen from interned Japanese and Germans during World War II, and he sold it to Mafia associates at discount rates.  Truman soon after appointed Bazelon to the DC Circuit.  This suggests that his later crusade to undermine criminal justice in America was not entirely magnanimous.

Bench Memos (National Review)
The Vetting Room
The Supreme Courts
Wikipedia-Trump Judges
Wikipedia-US Appeals Courts
FedJudges (Twitter)
Senate Cloakroom (Twitter)
Senate Judiciary Committee