Friday, June 30, 2023

July 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

ED-LA:  President Biden announced two nominations for judgeships in Louisiana with support from the state's R senators.  However, nine members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter criticizing their lack of consultation on the nominations and asked that the nominations be withdrawn.

ED-WI:  A bipartisan nominating commission has recommended Byron Conway and Marc Hammer to fill a seat on ED-WI that has been open since 2019.  President Biden previously nominated William Pocan for the seat, but Senator Ron Johnson (R) withheld a blue slip.

D-SD:  This article takes a long time to say that there has been no progress to fill one current and one future vacancy in D-SD, and nobody knows why.

D-OR:  Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced six finalists for an open seat on D-OR.

SD-NY: Margaret Garnett-clerk for Gerard E. Lynch (SD-NY), AUSA (SD-NY)
D-DE: Jennifer Hall-clerk for Kent A. Jordan (3rd Circuit), Sharon Prost (Federal Circuit), Magistrate Judge (D-DE)
MD-PA: Karoline Mehalchick-Magistrate Judge (MD-PA)
ED-MI: Brandy McMillion-AUSA (ED-MI)

The Federal Judiciary:

Affirmative Action:  The court issued a 6-3 decision written by Justice Roberts striking down affirmative action in university admissions.  See also Carrie Severino.

Speech:  The court ruled 6-3 that a website designer cannot be compelled to express messages that she disagrees with.

Student Loans:  The court ruled 6-3 that the Biden administration acted illegally when it claimed to cancel some student loans.

Gerrymandering:  The court ruled that Alabama must create a second black-majority congressional district.  Carrie Severino critiques the decision.

Supreme Court:  538 found that the Supreme Court has recently become more popular (or less unpopular), indicating that the effects of the left's smear campaign are abating.

Reporters:  At a recent panel, "D.C. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate, Elie Mystal of the Nation, and Jay Willis of the leftist Balls and Strikes" resolved to be even more biased and hysterical in their coverage of the Supreme Court.

Alito:  Following their smear of Justice Thomas, ProPublica attacked Justice Alito for vacationing with a billionaire.  However, Alito responded to the smear in a Wall Street Journal article published first.

Federal Circuit:  The dispute surrounding Judge Pauline Newman continues.  Her critics claim Newman had a heart attack, which she denies.  An interviewer describes her as "fully in command" of "complicated legal matters".

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 94 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
ED-MO: John Ross (Obama) 6/9/23 (senior)
D-OR: Ann Aiken (Clinton) 12/29/23 (senior)
SD-NY: Paul Gardephe (W) 8/1/23 (senior)
D-RI: William Smith (W) 1/1/25 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Arkansas:  Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robin Wynne died on June 21 at age 70.  He was elected in 2014 and reelected in 2022.  Although the court is officially nonpartisan, Wynne was a D state rep 1984-88.  Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) will appoint a replacement.

Arkansas:  Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, age 71, will retire from the court at the end of his term.  Justices Rhonda Wood and Karen Baker will seek the seat, and Justice Barbara Webb is 'strongly considering' running.  The election is on March 5, 2024.

Massachusetts:  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth Cypher will retire on January 12, 2024. She was appointed by governor Charlie Baker in 2017.  Governor Maura Healey (D) will get her first appointment to the court.

Minnesota:  Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea will retire in October.  She was appointed to the court by Tim Pawlenty (R) in 2006 and named chief in 2010.  Governor Tim Walz (D) will make his second appointment to the court.

West Virginia:  West Virginia Supreme Court Justice John Hutchison will retire at the end of his term in 2024.  He is an independent who was appointed in 2018 by Governor Jim Justice.

Numbers and Trivia:

Chief Judges: On July 8, the new chief judge of the 4th Circuit will be Albert Diaz, who was appointed by Obama in 2010.  He replaces Roger Gregory, who was recess-appointed by Clinton in 2000 and given a regular appointment by W in 2001.  The Presidents who appointed chief judges of the 13 appeals courts are W (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, Fed), and Obama (1, 4, 9, DC). 


Ed Whelan's Substack, "Confirmation Tales", has recent posts that deal with Bill Clinton's nomination of Stephen Breyer to replace Harry Blackmun.
Senate Republicans Oppose Clinton's Terrible Eleventh Circuit Pick
Judicial-Confirmation Trivia Answers

Rehnquist:  Ed Whelan debunks Slate's smear of Justice William Rehnquist, falsely claiming he sympathized with segregation.


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Downtown Streets

The city of Kalamazoo is planning to spend 30 million dollars to convert several downtown streets from one-way to two-way.  This proposal seems likely to make the city worse for drivers.

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about traffic downtown.  When Kalamazoo was first being developed over a century ago, most of the places that people would want to go were located downtown (which initially was the whole town).  Naturally, many roads were built to head to downtown Kalamazoo, including Westnedge, Burdick, Portage, King Highway, East Michigan, East Main, Gull, Riverview, Pitcher, Douglas, West Main, Stadium, and Oakland Drive.  Over time, the city expanded and important destinations spread throughout the city and its suburbs.  But the roads stay where they are, so drivers often need to travel through downtown Kalamazoo even when they aren't heading to or from there.

To facilitate the flow of traffic, in 1965, the city converted many of the busiest streets in downtown from two-way to one-way.  There are obvious advantages to one-way streets.  Without opposing traffic, cars can safely move faster.  There may be room for an extra driving lane, as for example, a road that could hold three lanes traveling in the same direction can only hold one lane each way.  With one-way roads, traffic lights only need two cycles rather than four.  All of this means that drivers can move through the city more quickly and are less likely to get stuck in traffic jams.

Eliminating one-way streets will reverse these benefits.

For years now, the city of Kalamazoo has been planning to convert downtown streets to two-way.  Back in 2019, the city of Kalamazoo acquired control of several major state-owned roads in Kalamazoo.  It will have to pay for future maintenance of these roads, which was previously funded by the state.  In a rare moment of reasonableness, commissioner Don Cooney voted against the transfer.

As result of this, the state highway M-43 was rerouted.  It used to go straight through Kalamazoo along West Main, along the one-way streets of Michigan Avenue and Kalamazoo Avenue downtown, and then along Gull Road northeast to Richland.  Since the downtown streets were sold, they could no longer be a state highway.  For the other pieces of M-43 to connect, it had to be rerouted along state-owned roads.  Thus it now makes a ridiculous detour along US-131 up to Plainwell, then along M-89 to Richland, avoiding Kalamazoo completely.  Gull Road from downtown to Richland was redesignated as M-343.

The city has been promoting plans for the conversion of streets to two-way.  While you might think they could just repaint some lines and reprogram the traffic lights, the project will actually cost tens of millions of dollars and take 8-10 years to complete.

One supposed reason for the change is to benefit pedestrians.  While advocates of the changes claim that downtown is hard to walk, I doubt this.  Recently, I crossed the widest part of Michigan Avenue in about 10 seconds without running.  If the width of a road doesn't change, the time to cross it won't either.  Some proposals do include "bump-outs" near crosswalks, but this comes at the cost of eliminating traffic lanes.  While pedestrians should always watch out for cars, two-way roads mean that pedestrians can be hit from either direction.  In addition, two-way traffic means more possible turns at intersections.  This increases the danger to pedestrians, since turns are often allowed at the same time that pedestrians are told to walk.

Allowing two-way traffic would seem to increase the danger of head-on collisions.  However, advocates claim that the changes will make drivers safer.  If this is true, it is only because of reduced traffic speeds.  Of course, if you make speed limits low enough (and get drivers to follow them) you will eventually reduce fatal crashes.  But this comes at the cost of wasting drivers' time.  You could eliminate traffic deaths completely if vehicles could only go 10 mph, but we don't do this because people's time also has value.

Perhaps the stupidest argument for the change is that one-way streets are racist.

When the roads were originally designed, it followed "historic redlining practices," DOT wrote, creating a barrier between Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood, the city's predominantly Black neighborhood, and the central business district.
It's unclear how Kalamazoo Avenue being one-way makes it more of a 'barrier' than when it was two-way.  In any case, residents of the Northside don't seem to have any difficulty getting to downtown.  One could just as well argue that making the streets two-way is a racist plot to create traffic jams that stop black people from driving to downtown.

The planners seeking to change the roads in downtown Kalamazoo should take heed of a similar experiment in Paw Paw back in 2014.  The village decided to implement a "road diet" to reduce Michigan Avenue in downtown Paw Paw from five lanes to three.  This "traffic calming" measure included reverse angle parking.  Not surprisingly, eliminating half of the road's driving lanes created traffic jams, which alienated local businesses.  The change was soon reversed.

Rather than try to obstruct drivers who need to drive through downtown, Kalamazoo should create alternative routes so that drivers can bypass downtown.  One project that has been discussed for years is extending the the US 131 Business Loop to Riverview Drive.  This would allow easier access to the industrial area north of downtown and make it possible for most trucks to avoid traveling through downtown.

Another idea is to extend Howard Street to Burdick Street (so that it continues onto Reed Avenue).  This would reduce the traffic on Maple Street, which has been the subject of complaints.

The city of Kalamazoo should help drivers get to their destinations more easily, not make it harder for them to do so.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Bicycle Lanes

The city of Kalamazoo is making life more difficult for motorists.  One big way is adding bicycle lanes to many major roads.

Bicycles can be used for either transportation or recreation.  But do either of these goals justify dedicating part of the road to bicycles?

I won't judge the merits of bicycles for recreation except to note that some people obviously like them.  But recreational bicycling doesn't need to be done on roads. A much better option are bicycle paths, some of which parallel roads, and others don't (often following old railroad beds or power lines).

For transportation, have the advantage of being cheaper than cars and faster than walking.  However, there are some serious disadvantages.

One major disadvantage is safety.  Putting bicycles on roads creates a major risk of being hit by cars.  Back in 2016, a pickup driver hit and killed five bicyclists and injured four others on North Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township.  The driver was high on drugs at the time.  Obviously, the driver was legally and morally responsible for the deaths.  Nonetheless, it should be noted that the road the bicyclists were traveling on had a bike path parallel to it that the bicyclists were not using.

The Kalamazoo tragedy was particularly dramatic, but the news is full of stories of bicyclists killed by collisions with cars, almost all of which could have been avoided if bicycles were not allowed on roads.  Bicycles are not allowed on freeways, where drivers can legally drive 70 miles per hour, so why should they be on roads where cars can travel 55 miles per hour?

There are also many reasons why riding bicycles for transportation is impractical.  Many people live too far away from work, and in many jobs, arriving sweaty and in bicycle gear would be frowned upon.  Some people aren't physically capable of riding a bike (get on your bike, grandma!).  Biking when it rains is unpleasant, not to mention dangerous when the "bicycle gutters" turn into ponds.  During winter, temperatures are usually cold, and roads are often covered with snow (that gets plowed into the bicycle lanes), making bicycling impractical.

Another problem with bicycles on streets is that they are an obstacle to drivers.  Passing a bicycle often requires swerving into a lane of oncoming traffic.  When this is not possible, an entire line of drivers will be limited to the speed of a bicycle, often around 10 mph.

Another obstacle to drivers is the fact that Kalamazoo has been eliminating vehicle lanes in favor of bicycle lanes.  This has happened on Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo Avenue, Westnedge and Park Avenue, Rose Street, and elsewhere.  Cork Street, a major thoroughfare (particularly when traffic is detoured from I-94), was put on a "road diet".  Specifically, it was reduced from four lanes to three (one each way with a turn lane).

Perhaps the craziest proposal yet would convert Winchell Avenue to a single vehicle lane and two bicycle lanes.  The single vehicle lane would somehow accommodate cars traveling in both directions, with drivers swerving into the bicycle lanes to avoid crashing into each other.  Perhaps the city could save some money by pre-building the memorial to all the drivers and bicyclists who will get killed by this insanity.

What is amazing about Kalamazoo's obsession with adding bike lanes is that almost nobody uses them.  Driving around Kalamazoo, it is easy to observe that the bike lanes are almost always empty, except in the vicinity of Western Michigan University, where some students and employees use bikes to commute to campus.  The number of travelers per unit area is far less in bicycle lanes than in vehicle lanes.

There are some countries where biking to work is common, whether because people are too poor to afford cars, or just because of cultural differences.  However, Kalamazoo citizens have not adopted this culture, despite the city planners' attempts to encourage them to do so.  So what is driving the proliferation of bike lanes, if not public demand?  It appears to be an ideology hostile to cars, driven by environmentalism and fear of global warming.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

June 2023 Judiciary News

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

Blue Slip:  The Congressional Black Caucus is pushing Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to eliminate the blue slip for district court judges.  They called it a "Jim Crow practice", despite defending the practice when Trump was president.  Many D Senators seem reluctant, as they realize it could be used against them under an R president.

Feinstein:  Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) finally returned to the Senate long enough to cast votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Three controversial nominees, Charnelle BjelkengrenKato Crews, and Marian Gaston were passed out of committee.

1st Circuit:  Michael Delaney, the nominee for the NH seat on the 1st Circuit, withdrew his nomination.  He faced opposition from some leftist groups due to signing a brief defending a parental notification law on abortion and opposition from both the right and left due to his advocacy as an attorney for publicly disclosing the identity of a minor victim of sexual assault.

9th Circuit:  Judge Ana de Alba (ED-CA) was unable to explain the Dormant Commerce Clause under questioning by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA).

11th Circuit:  The Senate confirmed Nancy Abudu to the 11th Circuit by a 49-47 vote.  Notably, Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted no, his first vote against a Biden judicial nominee.  This may explain the 16-month gap between Abudu's nomination and confirmation.

ND-MS:  Nominee Scott Colom wrote a letter to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, disputing the reasons she has refused to return a blue slip.  These include "opposition to legislation to protect female athletes" and support from George Soros.

D-KS:  Jabari Wamble withdrew his nomination to D-KS.  He was previously nominated to the 10th Circuit in August 2022, but never received an ABA rating, and the nomination expired in January.  He was then nominated to D-KS, but he was expected to receive a 'not qualified' rating from the ABA.  Wamble is the son-in-law of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).


The Federal Judiciary:

Ethics:  The D majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee held two hearings to attack the Supreme Court over ethics issues.  However, R senators refuted their attacks.

Ethics:  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a bill to force recusal of Supreme Court justices who supposedly have conflicts.  This would result in numerous complaints trying to recuse justices the complainants don't like.

Thomas:  Ann Coulter argues that praise from left-controlled establishment institutions is more valuable than the free vacations that Justice Thomas took with Harlan Crow.

Sotomayor:  Justice Sotomayor received over 3 million dollars from publisher Penguin Random House and did not recuse herself from voting on whether to hear a case involving it.

Fortas:  Ilya Shapiro explains that the corruption that led to Abe Fortas' resignation in 1969 is not comparable to anything alleged against current justices.

Fix the Court:  The leftist group Fix the Court accidentally revealed its donors, showing that almost all of its funding comes from three leftist foundations.

Federal Circuit:  The complaint against Judge Pauline Newman claims that Newman is paranoid and unable to remember basic facts.  The Federal Circuit panel hearing the claim denied a transfer to another circuit, despite what would seem to be an obvious conflict of interest.

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 95 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past month are listed below.
D-HI: Leslie Kobayshi (Obama) 10/9/24 (senior)
ED-MI: Paul Borman (Clinton) 8/1/23 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Connecticut:  Governor Ned Lamont nominated Sandra Slack Glover to the Connecticut Supreme Court.  She is an attorney for D-CT who clerked for Richard Posner (7th Circuit) and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court.  After being attacked by the left for signing a letter supporting the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, who she clerked with at the Supreme Court, Glover withdrew her nomination.

Florida:  Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Meredith Sasso to the Florida Supreme Court.  She was Chief Deputy General Counsel to Governor Rick Scott, who appointed her to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in 2019.  She was transferred to the recently created Sixth District Court of Appeal, where she was chief judge. Sasso, age 40, is Cuban.  She fills the seat of retired Justice Ricky Polston.  She was one of the original three applicants for the seat, and one of six finalists after applications were reopened.

Idaho:  Idaho Supreme Court Justice John R. Stegner will retire on October 31.  He was appointed to the court by Butch Otter in 2018.  Governor Brad Little will get his second appointment to the court.

New Jersey:  Governor Phil Murphy nominated Michael Noriega, an ACLU lawyer specializing in immigration.  He would replace Barry Albin, who was age-limited in 2022.  The seat is currently held by Jack Sabatino, a temporary appointee.  The previous vacancy on the court lasted for 10 months due to an extended dispute with the state senate.

North Carolina:  North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan (D) will not seek reelection in 2024.  He was first elected in 2016.  He would only have been able to serve three years, as he would have been age-limited in 2027.  Appeals Court Judge Jefferson Griffin (R) is running for the seat.

Pennsylvania:  The primary election for Pennsylvania Supreme Court was held on May 16.   Pennsylvania Superior Court judge Daniel McCaffery (D) of Philadelphia defeated Deborah Kunselman 60-40.  Carolyn Carluccio (R), the president judge of Montgomery County Court, defeated Patricia McCullough 54-46.  The general election is on November 8, 2023.