What We Know About The Judges Obama Is Reportedly Vetting For The Supreme Court

After an evening meeting, President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade from the Oval Office to the White House Residence in Washington, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, carrying a binder containing information on possible Supreme Court nominees. Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

— by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress

According to the Washington Post, the White House is considering six candidates for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia: federal appeals court judges Sri Srinivasan, Jane Kelly, Merrick Garland, Paul Watford, and Patricia Millett, along with district judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan
Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan offers the conventional mix of youth, experience, and credentials that presidents often look for when selecting a Supreme Court nominee. A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, a court that is widely considered the second most powerful in the nation, Srinivasan was confirmed to this job by a 97-0 vote. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, served as the principal deputy to Solicitor General Don Verrilli, and argued more than two dozens cases in the Supreme Court before his own elevation to the bench.

Srinivasan’s record during his just under three years as a judge suggests that his approach to the law is similar to other mainline Democratic appointees. Among other things, Srinivasan authored an opinion reinstating minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers after those protections were cut off by a trial judge’s order. And he was one of three judges on a panel that refused to halt the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, it’s most aggressive effort to fight climate change. (Shortly before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc halted this effort on their own, over the dissent of all four of the Court’s liberals.)

The case challenging the Clean Power Plan remains ongoing, however, and it is still pending before the panel that includes Judge Srinivasan. Thus, nominating Srinivasan presents some risk for the president because it could lead to a different judge being swapped in to hear this case. Should Srinivasan be confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would also need to recuse from the case because he already ruled on the request to temporarily halt the Plan as a circuit judge. Some of the White House’s liberal allies have also expressed concerns about Srinivasan’s record prior to becoming a judge; his past clients include ExxonMobil and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

Judge Jane Kelly

Judge Jane Kelly
Judge Jane Kelly

By the ultra-elite standards of the very top echelons of the legal profession, Judge Jane Kelly does not have the same eye-popping credentials as Srinivasan. After graduating with honors from Harvard Law, Kelly clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, but never for a Supreme Court justice. While Srinivasan made a name for himself in DC as one of the nation’s top Supreme Court litigators, Kelly toiled in relative obscurity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Dismissing Kelly’s credentials because they do not match up with Srinivasan’s, however, is a bit like labeling Wonder Woman a weakling because she does not pack quite as much of a punch as Superman. Elite law firms currently offer a signing bonus of up to $75,000 for recent law graduates fresh out of a federal circuit clerkship, and that’s in addition to a starting salary in the mid-to-high $100,000s. So Kelly could have enjoyed a very lavish life in a prestigious legal practice.

She turned this life down to become a public defender, a job she held until her appointment to the Eighth Circuit in 2013. She continued to do that job even after she was attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead while jogging in 2004. “After having that happen to her,” former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) later said about Kelly, “she went right back to work sticking up for the constitutional rights of people accused by the federal government. To me, that was a mark of real character and sort of inner strength and resolve that something like that was not going to make her throw in the towel.”

A Kelly nomination could also embarrass Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has thus far refused to consider anyone that President Obama names to fill Scalia’s seat. Grassley praised her nomination to the Eighth Circuit, quoting a friend of his on the federal bench who praised her “exceptionally keen intellect” and concluded that “she will be a welcomed addition to the Court if confirmed.” If Kelly is the nominee, expect videos like this one, where Grassley urges his colleagues to confirm her, to become a stable of cable news coverage of the nomination:

http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4580805

Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland
Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit is the sort of nominee that Obama and Senate Republicans might agree to elevate to the Supreme Court as a compromise, if compromise is actually possible with the current Senate majority. Garland, who President Clinton appointed to the DC Circuit in 1997, is far and away the oldest candidate among the four the White House is reportedly vetting — he’s 63. In nearly two decades on the bench, Garland has also built a fairly centrist record.

Like the much younger Srinivasan, Garland’s resume is laden with the kind of credentials that make mere mortal attorneys droll with envy — including a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and a senior Justice Department job prior to Garland’s elevation to the bench. On most issues, moreover, is is likely that Garland would side with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc in divided cases.

Nevertheless, there are a few areas where his instincts appear more conservative. In 2003, Garland joined an opinion holding that the federal judiciary lacks the authority, “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation, a military base outside the sovereignty of the United States,” effectively prohibiting Guantanamo Bay detainees from seeking relief in civilian courts. The Supreme Court reversed this decision a little over a year later in Rasul v. Bush. (Though, it is worth noting that legal experts disagree about whether the result Garland supported was compelled by then-existing precedents.)

Garland also appears to have relatively conservative instincts in criminal justice cases. According to a 2010 examination of Garland’s decision by SCOTUSBlog’s Thomas Goldstein, “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” Goldstein “identified only eight such published rulings,” as well as an additional seven where “he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand,” during the 13 years Garland had then spent as a federal judge.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is the only federal trial judge among the six mentioned by the Washington Post. At 45, she is also the youngest, Jackson’s resume includes several years of private practice, service on the United States Sentencing Commission, and work as a public defender. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.Jackson’s current status as a trial judge could prove to be both a blessing and a curse if she is Obama’s nominee. On the one hand, appellate judgeships are considered to be more prestigious than trial judgeships. The Supreme Court is also an appellate court, so a judge with experience at the appellate level is likely to be more used to the kind of work that goes into being a justice. That said, nearly all of the cases heard by the Supreme Court began in trial courts, and they can often turn upon procedural motions, fact-finding and other matters that occurred at the trial level. Currently, the only sitting justice with experience as a trial judge is Justice Sonia Sotomayor, so Jackson would bring an underrepresented perspective to the nation’s highest Court.

According to the Washington Post, the White House is focusing on potential nominees “with scant dis­cern­ible ideology and limited judicial records as part of a strategy to surmount fierce Republican opposition.” Jackson, however, does have some opinions that are likely to fuel Republican opposition if she is nominated. In Rothe Development v. Department of Defense, Jackson rejected a challenge to a program that provides “technological, financial, and practical assistance, as well as support through preferential awards of government contracts” to companies that are designated as “small disadvantaged businesses.” One of the criteria used to determine if a business qualifies for this designation is whether a majority owner of the business belongs to a racial minority group. Though Jackson’s opinion upholding this limited consideration of race in government contracting closely tracks a 2012 decision by another judge of her court, which rejected a “nearly identical” challenge, it is likely that Rothe Development will play a starring role in conservative attack ads should Jackson be the nominee.

Additionally, Jackson denied a request by the website Gawker that tried to “force former Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines to explain why he had work-related emails in a private account.” Although her decision merely concluded that the request was “premature,” and not that it could not succeed at a later date, it is unlikely that conservative attack groups will dwell on that nuance if Jackson is the nominee.

Judge Paul Watford

Judge Paul Watford
Judge Paul Watford

ThinkProgress previously described Judge Paul Watford as a “conventional superqualified nominee.” A former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Watford joined the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2012, after spending a few years as a federal prosecutor and then becoming a partner in a large law firm.Watford, however, had a somewhat more rocky confirmation process than Srinivasan and Kelly — a fact that may stem from Watford being one of only a handful of judicial nominees President Obama named in his first term who fit the conventional profile for a future Supreme Court justice. Grassley, in particular, objected to a few amicus briefs Watford wrote while still in private practice, including a brief opposing Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070, and another one filed on behalf of groups opposed to Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol. Judge Watford was eventually confirmed by a 61-34 vote.

Since becoming a judge, Watford authored three opinions in cases that were later reviewed by the Supreme Court. The justices agreed with Watford about the correct result in all three — including a case where the Supreme Court agreed with Watford’s decision to strike down a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels to share guest records with police even if the police do not have a warrant.

Judge Patricia Millett

Judge Patricia Millett
Judge Patricia Millett

Like Srinivasan, Judge Patricia Millett was among the nation’s top Supreme Court advocates prior to her appointment to the DC Circuit — arguing 32 cases during her time as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office and later in private practice. Prior to becoming a judge, she alsoserved on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organization in Washington, DC. During her confirmation to the DC Circuit, one of the most active lobbying groups working on her behalf was a network of lawyers who are also military spouses. Millett’s husband served in the Navy, and they met at a church event while he was stationed at the Pentagon and were later married in the same church.Under normal circumstances, a Millett nomination would be a considerable olive branch extended toward Senate Republicans. Among other things, Millett once defended the conservative Roberts Court’s record in business cases during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that the justices “show[ed] a fair amount of balance in the business area” during a previous term. In just over two years on the DC Circuit, she’s authored just over two dozen majority opinions, none of which are particularly ideological

(The president’s opponents may complain about an opinion rejecting a challenge to various aspects of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation, but that lawsuit received little backing from interest groups that have otherwise been eager to support suits against Obamacare that have even a small chance of prevailing. Judge Millett’s opinion in that case was also joined by a conservative George H.W. Bush appointee.)

Millett, however, was also the very first judge confirmed after Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to allow lower court nominations to be confirmed by a simple majority vote. This maneuver, which effectively shut down Senate Republican efforts to maintain ideological control over the nation’s second most powerful court, remains a sore spot among Senate Republicans. If Millett is the nominee, it is likely that many senators will take their frustrations with this rules change out on the judge.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

We’re Waiting … Will Sen. Heller Vote NAY on Yet Another High Profile Female?

Senate Republicans Must Stop Delaying Attorney General Confirmation

— by CAP Action War Room

It has been 124 days since Loretta Lynch was nominated to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. In that time, the 50th anniversary of Selma reminded us that we have a long way to go to achieve equal voting rights; Ferguson re-entered the news with a report detailing egregious racism in the police department and its repercussions; a new coalition of groups working on criminal justice demonstrated a bipartisan commitment to reform; and a moving tribute at the Grammy awards proved that these issues go far beyond politics.

In all of these issues, the Department of Justice plays a vital role. And its head, as the top law enforcement officer in the United States, leads the way. Ms. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a highly qualified nominee for the position. While some Republicans used her confirmation hearing as a chance to voice their out-of-touch views on President Obama’s recent immigration action or the departing Attorney General, she excelled in answering questions and impressing a bipartisan group of Senators.

So what is the hold up? Here are 5 reasons to quit delaying and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.

  1. She has been more than fully vetted. On top of her confirmation hearings, Lynch submitted detailed responses to 900 written questions and met individually with at least 59 senators.
  2. She is a proven, well-qualified leader. Lynch has a proven record of prosecuting hate crimes and corruption, and a reputation of being committed to protecting human rights and ensuring equal opportunity.
  3. She has a wide array of support. Senators from both sides of the aisle support Lynch, along with 25 former U.S. Attorneys from Republican and Democratic administrations. Rudy Giuliani said, “if I were in the Senate, I would confirm her.” Rudy Giuliani!
  4. She has waited longer than any other Attorney General nominee. Loretta Lynch’s nomination has been pending for 124 days, more than a month longer than any other in history
  5. She would make history. Loretta Lynch would make history by being the first African-American woman to become Attorney General. What better way for the Senate to celebrate Women’s History Month and the legacy of Selma than to confirm Lynch.

Bonus: The movie Goodfellas was based on one of Loretta Lynch’s cases. She’s got what it takes.

BOTTOM LINE: When issues of racial inequality, voting rights, criminal justice, and more are front and center in our nation’s dialogue, it is no time to be playing games with our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Loretta Lynch has proven herself, and the Senate has had ample time to deliberate. Now its time to bring the nomination to the floor, and vote to confirm.

 


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebookand follow us on Twitter.

The Jobs Report In 5 Charts

A Remarkably Positive Jobs Report, With A Reminder That There’s More To Do

— by

 

jobs2014-11
CREDIT: DPCC

The November jobs report was released today, and it brought a lot of good news. The U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November, well exceeding analysts’ expectations of 230,000. The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent. But the report also offers a reminder of the struggles that many working Americans continue to feel in the sluggish recovery.

The monthly jobs report doesn’t provide a comprehensive view of how our economy is doing, but it does offer an important glimpse into some of the macro employment and wage trends that reflect whether the economy is growing, and who is sharing in that growth. Here are five charts that show what to be happy about, and why we need to continue to work so that everyone has a chance for economic opportunity and prosperity.

This article was published by ThinkProgress” online.  Read the full article here ….

7 Deadly Amendments That Would’ve Protected Dirty Energy And Trashed The Climate

— by Ryan Koronowski, Tiffany Germain, Guest Blogger, Dan Weiss, Guest Blogger and Jessica Goad

Over the weekend, Senate Democrats passed a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2014. In order to do so, Senate rules allow for consideration of any amendment that is brought to the floor. Senators introduced hundreds of amendments, which resulted in a “vote-o-rama.”

Many conservatives offered amendments to undermine existing and potential public health safeguards, particularly those that would attempt to reduce climate pollution. Below are seven deadly amendments to curtail protection for our children’s health and heritage. As usual, these conservatives are focused on protecting dirty energy companies profits at the expense of public health.

  • Blunt #261: This amendment would have blocked future legislation to impose a carbon tax or fee to reduce industrial carbon pollution and raise revenue. Specifically, the amendment would create a “point-of-order” against any carbon tax measure that could only be overcome with a three-fifths vote of legislators. While it would have been a mostly symbolic move, the fossil fuel industry’s friends in the Senate are reiterating their opposition to government action on climate pollution. However, the impacts of climate change have already been felt across the country — in 2011 and 2012, the United States suffered from 25 climate related storms, floods, heat waves, drought, and wildfires that each caused at least $1 billion in damages, with a total price tag of $188 billion. The Blunt amendment would allow these damages and costs to grow unchecked. Result: FAILED 53-46
  • Coats #514: This amendment would have struck down key Clean Air Act protections by authorizing the President to exempt any industrial facility from complying with air toxics standards for two-year periods. Essentially, the amendment would have given a free pass to coal-burning power plants from EPA’s 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were put in place due to the well-documented health risks of mercuryarsenic, and the millions of pounds of additional hazardous chemicals. Methylmercury from coal pollution accumulates in fish, poisoning pregnant women and small children. Mercury can harm children’s developing brains, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills. Upgrades to the aged and dirty coal plants will also significantly reduce harmful particle pollution, preventing hundreds of thousands of illnesses and up to 17,000 premature deaths each year. “The ‘monetized’ value of these and certain other health benefits would amount to $37–90 billion per year,” the Environmental Protection Agency determined. Republicans are once again trying to protect the dirty energy industry over our children’s health. Result: FAILED 46-53
  • Alexander #516: This would “repeal … the wind production tax credit.” The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity to encourage investment in clean wind energy. A CAP analysis determined that “wind power helps lower electricity prices.” Along with state renewable portfolio or electricity standards, the PTC has enabled “the wind industry … to lower the cost of wind power by more than 90% [and] provide power to the equivalent of over 12 million American homes.” A Navigant Consulting analysis predicted that eliminating the PTC would cost 37,000 jobs. Some argue that we should end tax provisions for clean technologies, including wind. However, this ignores the fact that the oil and gas industries have received $80 in support for every $1 for wind and other renewable energy sources over the past 95 years. In addition, the Alexander amendment would ignore the annual $4 billion in special tax breaks for big oil companies. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Inhofe #359: This amendment would “[prohibit] further greenhouse gas regulations for the purpose of addressing climate change.” This would have prevented the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court, which ruled that EPA is required to regulate carbon and other climate change pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. EPA proposed the first carbon pollution standard for new power plants in 2012. After it is finalized, EPA must set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — responsible for two-fifths of U.S. carbon pollution. Such reductions are essential to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Result: FAILED 47-52
  • Cruz #470: This radical amendment would have limited the amount of land owned by the federal government in each state. It is yet another attempt by Republicans to give federal public lands over to states or private companies so as to better exploit them, and is in line with recent efforts of House Republicans to sell off “millions of acres” of public lands to private companies. Despite what this amendment implies, public lands provide tremendous economic benefits to local communities. For example, recreation and other uses of the 500 million acres of public lands managed by the Interior Department contributed two million jobs and $385 billion in economic activity in 2011. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Vitter #544: This amendment would have dismantled the president’s authority to protect America’s historical and natural treasures under the Antiquities Act. Since it was passed in 1906, 16 out of 19 presidents have used the act to protect places like the Statue of Liberty, Muir Woods, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Acadia. Just this week it was reported that President Obama would create five new national monuments including Delaware’s first-ever national park. The Vitter amendment would have kept the president from answering local communities’ calls to protect such places for future generations. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Murkowski #370: This amendment states that it would “increase oil and natural gas production on Federal lands and waters,” despite the fact that oil production is at its highest level in 20 years. Additionally, the Congressional Research Service noted that over the last four years oil production from federally-owned areas was higher than in 2008, despite the fact that companies are choosing to “follow the oil” to shale plays on non-federal lands. Murkowski’s amendment isn’t the only one that would have sought to fulfill the wish list of the oil and gas industry — Sessions #204 would have opened the economically and environmentally vibrant coasts of Virginia and North Carolina to dangerous oil and gas exploration. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.

On Monday March 18, the GOP released its “Growth and Opportunity Project” or “autopsy” report that tried to determine why Republicans lost in 2012, and how to prevent future defeats. While the report did not mention climate or energy — or deal with much policy — it did talk demographics and messaging. The report urged that the Republican Party should change its tone, “… especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters.” They need to “promote forward-looking, positive policy proposals that unite young voters,” and “be conscious of developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women.” And finally, they stress the importance of “addressing the concerns of minority communities.”

In their effort to do the bidding of big oil and other major polluters, the authors of these seven deadly amendments blithely ignore the findings and recommendations of this autopsy. The groups most harmed by and concerned about climate change are most supportive of addressing the problem: young people, women, and minority groups.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center forAmerican Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.