Monday :: Dec 18, 2006

Now Conservatives Worry About Losing The Courts


by Steve

You’ll recall that at the end of the Clinton Administration, Senate GOP conservatives sat on numerous judicial vacancies so that the federal courts could be stacked with reliable wingnuts when George W. Bush came to power through a stolen election.

Payback is a bitch.

A growing list of vacancies on the federal appeals court in Richmond is heightening concern among Republicans that one of the nation's most conservative and influential courts could soon come under moderate or even liberal control, Republicans and legal scholars say.
A number of prominent Republican appointees have left or announced plans to leave the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which has played a key role in terrorism cases and has long been known for forceful conservative rulings and judicial personalities.
Republican concerns also are fueled by the pending Democratic takeover of Congress, as several of President Bush's 4th Circuit nominees were already bottled up in the Senate when Republicans ran it. From the GOP's perspective, the situation now will worsen.

The court’s current partisan makeup truly hangs in the balance right now.

"I think everyone is concerned because the 4th Circuit literally hangs in the balance here," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, who has advised the White House on judicial nominees. "With the nature of the cases the court has been taking, especially on the terrorism issue, its direction is really critical."
Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice, said the new political landscape will force Bush to work closely with Democrats "to pick fair and open-minded judges who don't lean either to the right or the left" if he wants to get the administration's nominees confirmed. "If there were any way to appoint judges to move the 4th Circuit in a more moderate direction, that would be beneficial to both the circuit and to the country," she said.
The 15-member court has three vacancies, and a fourth judgeship will open in July. That would leave the bench with six Republican and five Democratic appointees by summer. In addition, one of those six Republican appointees has announced plans to take senior status as soon as a replacement can be confirmed. Senior judges receive full pay and hear cases but can take a reduced workload and are not considered active-service members of the court.

Aron and the rest of the center-left groups need to come to their senses: Bush will not work with Democrats “to pick fair and open-minded judges who don't lean either to the right or the left.” It isn’t in his DNA, and he would rather force a confrontation in the Senate than to accommodate any Democratic demand for moderate candidates. Any president who insists on getting his nominees with a pathetic 62% disapproval rating should instead get a filibuster. Let Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu sell the party down the river to give Bush what he wants, and thereby expose themselves to be the unprincipled accommodationists they truly are. I doubt that Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas will likely join Lieberman and Landrieu in any such kneepadding. I suspect that Bush cannot get 60 votes for cloture anyway, nor should his demands be heeded anymore.

As Bush likes to talk about political capital, let him reap what he has sown. He’s not in any position to demand anything.

Steve :: 2:06 PM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!