Wednesday, February 01, 2023

February 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

Biden judges:  Carrie Severino surveys the impact of President Biden's appointees on the federal judiciary.

Nominations:  In this article lamenting that southern R senators aren't giving President Biden judges in their states, it is mentioned that Biden and Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) are at odds over a successor to retired Judge Diana Motz of the 4th Circuit.

ED-WA:  Nominee Charnelle Bjelkengren was unable to identify article II and V of the US Constitution under questioning by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA).

Senate Judiciary Committee:  All returning senators kept their seats on the committee.  Rs lost one seat, that of Ben Sasse, while Ds replaced retired senator Pat Leahy with Peter Welch.


The Federal Judiciary:

Supreme Court:  The investigation into the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concluded without identifying the leaker.

Thomas:  Mark Paoletta debunks another smear of Justice Thomas by Mark Joseph Stern.

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 115 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
D-DE: Richard G. Andrews (Obama) 12/1/23 (senior)
9th Circuit: Paul Watford (Obama) 5/31/23 (resigned)
D-SD: Karen Schreier (Clinton) TBD (senior)
ND-CA: William Orrick (Obama) 5/17/23 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Abortion:  The battle over abortion continues in state courts.  The South Carolina Supreme Court issued a 3-2 ruling declaring a right to abortion, while the Idaho Supreme Court ruled 3-2 against such a right.  All the judges on both courts were appointed by Republicans.

Alaska:  Governor Mike Dunleavy appointed Sitka Superior Court Judge Jude Pate to the Alaska Supreme Court.  He replaces Chief Justice Daniel Winfree, who is age-limited in February.

Michigan:  Newly appointed justice Kyra Harris Bolden (D) hired a clerk who served 14 years in prison for robbing a convenience store and shooting at police officers.  Fellow justice Richard Bernstein (D) blasted the hire, while former Chief Justice Bridget McCormack (D), who Bolden replaced, defended the hire.  The clerk resigned shortly thereafter, and Bernstein later apologized.

New York:  Governor Kathy Hochul's nomination of Hector LaSalle to be Chief Judge on the New York Court of Appeals was rejected by the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee.  Hochul is still supporting the nomination, and has threatened legal action if the full senate does not vote on it.  Progressives senators view LaSalle as insufficiently progressive.

North Dakota:  Justice Gerald VandeWalle retired on January 31 at age 89.  He was appointed in 1978 by Governor Arthur Link (D) and served 44 years on the court.  Governor Doug Burgum appointed Douglas Bahr to fill the vacancy.  He was an assistant attorney general (1991-2001), North Dakota Solicitor General (2000-2016), and has been a district judge since 2018.

South Carolina:  The choice to replace age-limited Justice Kaye Gorenflo Hearn has become contentious due to Hearn's authorship of a 3-2 protecting abortion in South Carolina.  Some legislators questioned whether the three nominees were sufficiently conservative, while others advocated appointing one of them since Hearn will remain until another justice is selected.  Then two of the three nominees dropped out of contention, leaving only Judge Gary Hill remaining.  Hill clerked for Billy Wilkins, a Reagan appointee to the 4th Circuit, and has been a judge since 2000.

Tennessee:  The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments narrowed the list of choices for Tennessee Supreme Court to Kristi M. Davis, Tom Greenholtz and Dwight Tarwater.  Davis and Greenholtz are both appeals court judges, while Tarwater was general counsel to then Governor Bill Haslem (R).  Governor Bill Lee (R) will choose a replacement for Justice Sharon Lee (D), who retires in August 2023.  The position must go to a resident of East Tennessee.

Wisconsin:  The election for Wisconsin Supreme Court is getting heated amongst conservatives.  Former justice Dan Kelly and Waukesha County Circuit Court judge Jennifer Dorow are competing for the votes of conservatives, and they and their supporters are trading attacks on ideology and electability.  The nonpartisan primary is on February 21, and the top two candidates advance to the general election on May 4.  Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz are competing for the support of liberals.


Posner:  Corbin Barthold surveys the career of former 7th Circuit judge Richard Posner, including his "pragmatist" philosophy.