Republicans Obstruct the Judiciary

Submitted by Guest Blogger, Lawrence Rafferty

After a wonderful Christmas weekend spent with my family and my two Grandsons, and after celebrating the Bears victory over the Jets, it is time to get back to work.  I was not surprised to read that the Republican minority in the United States Senate have been trying to prevent President Obama’s nominations for the Federal Judiciary from receiving a vote on the Senate floor.  However, I was shocked to see the extent of the intentional obstruction.  The Obama Administration has the lowest judicial confirmation record since before the Carter administration.  Almost one of every nine judicial judgeships is currently without a Federal judge on the bench.  How could a minority in the Senate derail the nominations of so many judges to the Federal bench? 

Between secret Senatorial holds and the Republican’s favorite obstruction tool, the filibuster, the Republican minority in the Senate has blocked so many nominees from getting a vote on the Senate floor that they have created a vacancy crisis in the Federal Judiciary.  “Notably, three of these vacancies are on just one court. Of the four active judgeships on the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, three are presently vacant, leaving the court’s chief judge as its only active member. Two of President Obama’s nominees to this court, James Shadid and Sue Myerscough, were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee for this excessively overburdened court. Yet none of Obama’s nominees to the Central District of Illinois received a vote in the 111th Congress.”  Why would the Republicans want to prevent even non-controversial judges from being confirmed?   They are attempting to keep Democratic leaning judges from being sworn into positions where Republican issues can be thwarted or struck down by what they call “activist” judges.  Of course, an activist judge is in the eye of the beholder.  The Republicans do not care about the Federal Districts being overwhelmed with cases due to the vacancies.   It seems obvious that they only care about having judges in place who will rule as they want them to rule.  Even if their plan brings the nation’s Federal judiciary to a grinding halt.  Is it time to end or limit the filibuster and the secret holds in the Senate?

76 thoughts on “Republicans Obstruct the Judiciary”

  1. Well it surprised me. I guess I am naive. I never would have majored in city planning at MIT if I had known that governments in the U.S. are so crooked. I keep thinking that it is shocking when government is crooked. I keep thinking someone will care when someone’s rights are violated.

  2. Even if they don’t want to confirm more judges why don’t they just add magistrates?

    Also, I think the civil system could be made a lot more efficient. ECF could be programed so for instance when res judicata is claimed there would be a link to the judgement claimed to cause it. When “immunity” is claimed there could be fill in the blanks as to the basis for immunity and a required link to the statute, required notices etc.

    Litigants would be saved from anguish if there were requirements within ECF for the form of the judgment. If there is a motion to dismiss it could be required to link to one of the subcategories of Rule 12.

    Also the whole motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim could be gotten rid of. That is so abused. I stated claims and motions to dismiss were filed on the basis that I didn’t graduate from law school.

    If there is a rule 11 judgment, ECF could require a link to a rule 11 c 6 order and then the bill which is supposed to be paid could be required to link to the motion or objection that was required to respond to the incorrect pleading and the rule 11 motion.

    Everyone could be required to put a one paragraph summary for every single pleading.

    They are currently selling software on line that uses what they call artificial intelligence, sort of nested questions about money and relationships. Similar software could be used to address any legal issue.

    As it is now the country in general is extremely suspicious of lawyers, judges and the legal system. Almost everyone I know has told me not to trust lawyers, judges or the legal system. That really leaves people who aren’t into violence out on a limb as to what to do when their legal rights are invaded. At some level this has to be bad for the economy. For instance, why would anyone buy any real estate when you can’t count on the stability of the zoning and when people worry about local governments being taken over by crooks?

  3. rafflaw,

    “On the other hand, during the nation’s first 100 years, the U.S. Senate exercised its consent powers politically and rejected one quarter of the Presidents’ choices for the Supreme

    I’m pretty sure the total count for nominations to SCOTUS currently stands at 161, of which 125 have been accepted. Of the 36; 12 were rejected, 11 were withdrawn, 10 tabled, and 3 had their vote postpoed.

    Here’s some more good information:

  4. BBB,
    I did not know the 25% figure that you quoted. Where did you find that? I would love to see that. You are right about the secret holds. I was amazed and shocked when I first learned of those some years ago, and shocked again when I have seen how many times that rule has allowed Senators to hold back the majority.

  5. rafflaw,

    With respect to holds and filibuster; I am in complete agreement. I would also like to see a change to the anonymous/secret holds in which the name of the person placing the original hold, and the names of all subsequent Senators who place a hold in the same item are identified. I don’t like the idea of anonymity via tag-teaming.

    Our government is growing (not just via an expansion of power, but because more positions are needed to handle the size of the population). As it grows, there will be more appointments, and therefore, more confirmation hearings.

    I would be interested to see how the Seventeenth Amendment has effected confirmations. With Senators now being more accountable directly to the voters, is their political allegiance interfering with the confirmation process?

    Did you know that 25% of SCOTUS nominations were not approved during the first 100 years.

  6. @rafflaw

    Well of course I want to believe that it is possible that I will get my rights back and will be able to live a normal life. Do I want to hear that my life is hopeless and I will never be able to get a job or sign a lease and will be homeless or that for the rest of my life I will be ridiculed for being a so called “vexatious litigant”? No, no one would. Do I want to commit suicide? No.

    The law I was referring to is the Justice for All Act of 2004.—-000-.html
    (3) Motion for relief and writ of mandamus.— The rights described in subsection (a) shall be asserted in the district court in which a defendant is being prosecuted for the crime or, if no prosecution is underway, in the district court in the district in which the crime occurred. The district court shall take up and decide any motion asserting a victim’s right forthwith.

    I don’t know if anyone has ever actually filed under this and of course if I do so they will say that I am a vexatious litigant.

    I was imprisoned without a statutory basis and without written procedure. I was told in court that I did not have a right to a lawyer and did not have a right to an evidentiary hearing before being sent to jail. I was not arraigned and there was no bail hearing. There were no local charges it was only a federal action. The US Attorney for Colorado where I was held as a USMS prisoner said they didn’t have any records on me at all. DOJ Criminal Division wrote to me last week that they don’t have any records of me or any records of warrants for my arrest or investigation.

    Is not this federal witness intimidation? 18 USC 1512

    “If you fail to withdraw those lawsuits, the next time you’re in this court you better be prepared with your toothbrush, because you are going to jail.”. Case 1:02-cv-01950-EWN-OES Document 884 Filed 09/08/2006 Page 33 of 34

    “I have three United States Marshals here ready to put you in jail. And I am determined to do so, but reluctant to do so. So I’ll ask you one last time, will you withdraw these lawsuits voluntarily?” see Case 1:02-cv-01950-EWN-OES Document 884 Filed 09/08/2006 Page 27 of 34

    “I’ve checked with the District of Columbia clerks. Two cases have not been dismissed – have not been dismissed at all, with or without prejudice …. Are the defendants suggesting that the plaintiff be jailed until she purges herself of contempt or are they suggesting that I give her an additional period of time to accomplish this dismissal? …. I now have access to the database in Kansas and the District of Columbia. And I will check out and make sure that you have dismissed all of those cases…. So you’ll stay out of jail if all of these cases are dismissed in time for me to vacate the hearing. Otherwise the next time you show up, you pack your toothbrush, because you’re going to jail.” 2/14/06 Nottingham

    “She knows she’s not to pursue these lawsuits. And for her to suggest that I told her to dismiss the lawsuits and that does not cover her appeals from those lawsuits is silly, and you may convey that to her. So that if she wishes, she might dismiss everything before the marshals get to her, because it will – the marshals won’t be there this afternoon, but I guarantee they will be there sometime next week. And once she’s in custody, you may also tell her that she will not get out of custody until those are actually dismissed. The last time she was here I let her out on a promise that she was going to dismiss them. This time she will be in until they are done.” 9/22/06 Nottingham

    “On September 2, 2005, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held a contempt hearing based upon the Plaintiffs’ violation of the District of Colorado court’s injunction barring the plaintiffs from filing their pro se Complaint, and other pro se civil actions involving any of the transactions addressed in the Colorado action.3 At the hearing, Judge Nottingham found Plaintiff Kay Sieverding in civil contempt for violating the Court’s injunction and ordered her incarcerated until such time that she voluntarily dismisses this present action with prejudice, as well as any other actions she has filed that are based upon the Colorado action. Kay Sieverding refused to abide by the Court’s ruling and was immediately incarcerated. David Sieverding initially agreed to abide by the Court’s ruling and was ordered to dismiss his pending claims no later than September 9, 2005. Subsequently, Mr. Sieverding notified counsel that he does not intend to dismiss his claims so he is expected to face incarceration. See Exhibit E (Correspondence from David Sieverding to Counsel for the Defendants, dated September 6, 2005)”. DDC Case 1:05-cv-01283-RMU Document 17 Filed 09/07/2005 pp5-6

    Also, I was subjected to $100,000 plus of attorney fee shifting with no rule 11 c 6 orders and I think this is witness retaliation per 18 USC section 1513. The magistrate described them as sua sponte. One of the law firms I was ordered to pay didn’t even exist at the time and the lawyer that they claimed to represent described himself as PRO SE. Others filed no rule 11 motions. The magistrate said that the amount was based on my supposedly having “malice” by complaining about government corruption and alleging that my neighbor might have been a drug dealer. In 2009 he publicly admitted to having a felony conviction for conspiracy to sell hash. He was president of the city council of the City of Steamboat Springs CO and the police reported to him. He set their budget and controlled their promotions. Originally I complained about the extra 3 buildings he built on Princeton Ave in 2000 adjoining my property. I complained that they violated the zoning. These buildings were never added to the property tax rolls for Routt County. The assessor shows that the square feet of building area for 701 Princeton Ave is only 2,343 the same as it was in 1950 before he built the extra buildings.

  7. BBB & ShireNomad,
    I agree that Dems would like to have all progressive leaning judges on the bench, but no Democratic Congress has filibustered to the extent that the Republicans have in the first two years of the Obama administration. The filibuster has been used more in these two years than ever before in recent history. I am not calling for the nuclear option. I think reforming and limiting the filibuster would be sufficient. If you want to filibuster, it should be done like Sen. Sanders did in his recent example as Gyges suggested. The other reform that is needed is to get rid of or restrict the senatorial holds that can also act as a semi-filibuster. Take a look at the link that I provided in the original post and you will see a chart that shows how few judges have been confirmed by using the senatorial holds and filibusters.

  8. Every time someone complains about the Republican “abuse” of the filibuster, I recall when the Republicans dominated Congress and the Democrats were using it to stop confirmations. I also recall the Republicans looking into the “nuclear option” of eliminating the supermajority requirement to end a filibuster, and the Democrats screaming that this would be a subversion of a necessary check on the Senate. And so the Republicans backed down, and accepted that the filibuster is part of how the Senate should operate, and they used it in the same way when the Democrats took power.

    So I laugh, because I wonder how many of you were calling the filibuster the salvation of democracy five years ago. What short memories you all have…

  9. Gyges,

    I remember a Mr. Smith filibustering in Washington after he went there, but—oh, now I get it the recent Senator(Mr.) Sanders’ fillibusterings…I still prefer to get rid of the whole concept although I understand its ‘purpose’

    Regarding “Guess who…” I bet that would be your very young son, just now! (Ha!)

    Note: I have helped some others here learn the very basics of some “tags”; however, I prefer not to use them because I rather like the idea of people a’tryin’ to figure out if I am serious or not.

  10. FFLEO,

    Regarding your first comment: I say just make them actually filibuster, Mr. Sanders Goes to Washington style.

    On a side note, guess who finally got around to learning html tags?

  11. rafflaw,

    You must not have watched the same video or read the same article that I did. (both were provided by anon nurse) 🙂

    I don’t find it difficult to believe that Republicans don’t approve of left leaning judges. Nor do I find it difficult to believe that Democrats don’t approve of right leaning judges.

    Is the President trying to “pack the courts”? Sure he is. Just like other Presidents have done. Failure to confirm appointments to the federal judiciary isn’t something unique to the current Senate. It has been going on for decades. As I stated earlier, it’s just that the snowball is now getting big enough to be noticed by more people.

    You pointed out that “Almost one of every nine judicial judgeships is currently without a Federal judge on the bench.” This isn’t something so new. I remember CJ Rhenquist complaining about the same problem in 1998 when 1 in 10 seats were vacant. In 2002 George W. suggested a method to alleviate the burden of empty seats by getting judges to submit their notice of retirement a year in advance. Sen. Leahy balked at that idea. (I think it was one of the few good ideas GW ever had.)

  12. As a Republican, and if I were a Republican Senator or Representative, I would seek some manner to impeach Mr. Sessions. How he ever became a judge (I know, R. Reagan appointed him) is hard to fathom.

    Thanks anon nurse for finding the time to search out this material.

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