Tracking the latest developments in the fight for a fair America
Today Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont continued the fight against the pernicious practice of forced arbitration, introducing the Restoring Statutory Rights Act of 2016. The bill would ensure that big corporations can’t use insidious forced arbitration clauses to avoid liability for violating statutory and constitutional rights. If passed, the bill would be a victory not just for the individuals and small businesses who need access to fair courts to vindicate fundamental legal rights, but for democracy itself.
Below, read the full letter that AFJ sent to the Senate urging support for the bill. Read more
In October 2014, we released “The Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit,” a report detailing the impact of the nation’s oldest circuit court vacancy and examining the record of the judges of the Seventh Circuit. At that time, there was no nominee for Judge Terence Evans’ seat in Wisconsin, which had been vacant for almost five years. The report showed a divided court on which a longstanding vacancy directly influenced the outcome of important constitutional issues. The report also detailed the efforts of Republican Senator Ron Johnson to delay filling the vacancy.
A year later, the Wisconsin seat remains unfilled, and another judge, Judge John Tinder of Indiana, took senior status in February 2015, leaving the court with only nine active judges. To restore the Seventh Circuit’s full complement of judges, President Obama nominated Donald K. Schott from Wisconsin and Myra C. Selby from Indiana on January 12, 2016.
We’re now issuing an updated version of the report to highlight these nominations and the significant constitutional and statutory cases the Seventh Circuit has decided over the past 14 months. The report illustrates the deleterious effect vacancies can have when fundamental constitutional rights hang in the balance, and profiles the recent judicial record of the court’s active judges.
For too long, the Seventh Circuit has been forced to resolve major constitutional questions shorthanded. Schott and Selby are eminently qualified to serve on the court, and Selby would add much needed diversity—only four of the 55 judges who’ve served on the Seventh Circuit have been women, and Selby would be both the first woman and first African American from Indiana to serve on the court.
Now it’s up to the Senate’s Republican majority to confirm them.
You often hear the refrain “elections have consequences” and that who you vote for matters. Debates, then, serve the important role of highlighting candidates’ positions so that the electorate can make an informed decision come Election Day.
So far this presidential election season, debate moderators have asked both Democratic and GOP candidates plenty of questions about how they would wield executive power and work with Congress to achieve their policy agenda. But there’s one branch of government that has been notably missing from all of the debate moderators’ questions: the Supreme Court. Read more
“I think it’s clear that there is no Thurmond Rule” – Republican Senator Mitch McConnell
“There is no Thurmond Rule” – Republican Senator Orrin Hatch
With only 11 judges confirmed, 2015 was the worst year for judicial confirmations since 1960. Thirty-one nominees were left pending, including 14 noncontroversial nominees ready for votes on the Senate floor. With this abysmal record, it’s clear that the Senate’s unapologetic Republican majority will persist in its strategy of obstruct and delay, trying to keep vacancies open and limit the president’s influence on the judiciary. The excuses have started already, with Republican leadership alluding to a supposed Senate custom, known as the “Thurmond Rule,” of cutting off judicial confirmations during a presidential election year. The Thurmond Rule is complete nonsense, but before explaining why, it’s worth noting the destructive results of last year’s historic obstruction and where things stand today. Read more
With the Senate controlled by a newly-elected Republican majority, 2015 turned out to be the single worst year for judicial confirmations in over half a century.
Instead of keeping their promise to follow “regular order” and “work to confirm consensus nominees,” Senate Republicans obstructed and delayed the confirmation process at every opportunity. Only 11 judges were confirmed, the fewest in a single year since 1960. Only one court of appeals judge was confirmed, the worst since none were confirmed in 1953. And as confirmations dwindled, vacancies shot up. In 2015, vacancies rose from 43 to 66 (they’ll hit 70 by January 1), and officially-designated “judicial emergencies” went up nearly 160% from 12 to 31. Read more