The Oregonian has an interesting article on the efforts of state and federal courts to crack down on citizens not appearing for jury duty. The story nicely describes the range of tactics in play, from jury coordinators and James Taylor concert videos to being individually summoned and grilled by an irritated judge.
Jury trials are central to the American justice system, and citizens who serve on a jury almost always walk away with a better appreciation for the court system and their own civic responsibilities.
For a century, the U.S. Senate has followed an unwritten “blue-slip” practice, in which Senators are permitted to block federal district and circuit court nominees from their home states from advancing to a confirmation vote, simply by declining to endorse the nominees. Viewed in the most positive light, the practice allows Senators to exercise informed discretion over the nominee’s fit with a local court and local constituency. Viewed more cynically, the blue-slip procedure provides Senators with essentially unchecked power to block nominees for any reason, no matter how ideological, arbitrary, or mean-spirited.
Senate Republicans are now openly talking about modifying the practice, to extend blue-slip privileges only over district court nominees. This means that a single Senator could not hold up confirmation hearings over individuals nominated to serve on the U.S. Courts of Appeal. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) explained: “I think there’s a difference between the blue-slip application at the district court level where the courts is contained wholly within a state as opposed to a circuit court which covers multiple states…. The idea that an individual senator could veto in effect a nominee at the circuit court level is really unprecedented and I think it needs to be carefully looked at.”
Judge Julia Gibbons, the Chair of the Judicial Conference’s Budget Committee, appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday to request $7.2 billion in funding for the federal courts for Fiscal Year 2018. She was joined by James Duff, the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The full testimony of both Judge Gibbons and Director Duff are available at the link.
Want to keep track of the status of all pending federal judicial nominations? Here is the Senate Judiciary’s Committee’s website.
The Federal Judicial Center has updated and enhanced its interactive database on federal case filings, covering civil and criminal cases from 1970 to the present, appeals from 1971 to the present, and bankruptcy filings from 2008 to the present. This is undoubtedly a valuable asset for court researchers.
On Monday, the President nominated ten individuals for federal judgeships — five on the circuit courts of appeal, four on the district courts, and one on the U.S. Court of Claims. Three of the ten (Joan Larsen of Michigan, David Stras of Minnesota, and David Nye of Idaho) currently sit on state courts — Larsen and Stras on their state supreme courts, and Nye on his state’s trial bench.
The value of state court experience for federal judges has not been discussed much, but it should be. An intimate knowledge of state law and state court operations is surprisingly useful for the federal bench. And appointing federal judges from the state courts has valuable ripple effects for the states as well. More after the jump.
Continue reading “Several new federal judicial nominees have state court experience, and that’s great news”
Yesterday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the latest challenge to President Trump’s executive order on immigration. For the first time in circuit history, the court allowed the arguments to be recorded and broadcast on CSPAN.
Even without video, it was an insightful colloquy to listen to. Imagine if viewers could have seen who was talking! Still, score one for transparency, and for the court not being afraid to show its important work to the broader public.
Previous coverage here.