60 Groups, Including ACRU Demand Action on Federal Judges
The ACRU joined 59 other groups to call on Congress to confirm President Bush’s nominees to the federal bench.
This current judiciary committee has let Peter Keisler, a nominee for the DC Circuit Court sit without a vote for nearly a year and a half.
The ACRU maintains a listing of all the circuit court nominations currently open.
Below is the open letter sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
1920 L Street, N.W. | Suite 200 | Washington, DC 20036
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 13, 2007
CONTACT: Curt Levey, (202) 270-7748, email@example.com
DC Cir. Nominee Keisler is “Highest Priority”
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a coalition of about 60 organizations – led by the Committee for Justice (CFJ) – delivered a letter to each of the 19 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee “to express our deep concern about the lack of progress in 2007 in reporting judicial nominees . . . out of the Judiciary Committee, and to discuss reasonable expectations for progress on this issue in 2008.”
The coalition cites “the remarkably low approval ratings for the 110th Congress” and decries the fact that “a year into the 110th Congress, the Judiciary Committee has held hearings for only four appeals court nominees and has voted on only six. As a result, the full Senate has fallen far short of the confirmation pace necessary to meet the historical average of 17 circuit court confirmations during a president’s final two years in office [with] opposition control of the Senate.”
“This letter is aimed at both Republican and Democratic senators,” explained CFJ executive director Curt Levey. “Both parties have good reason to make this a priority. Senate Democrats remember that in 2004, the last time judicial nominees were an election issue in Senate races, the issue cost them and their leader, Tom Daschle, dearly. As for Republicans, Ranking Member Arlen Specter, his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate’s GOP leadership need only look at the passions still aroused by the 2005 ‘Gang of 14’ deal to see the peril in being perceived as soft on the judges issue.”
The letter makes it clear to Judiciary Committee members that the coalition expects them to, at very least, give the full Senate “an opportunity to confirm fifteen appeals court nominees in the 110th Congress.” That “would match the number of circuit court confirmations in President Clinton’s final two years.” “Anything less and the members of the Judiciary Committee will be remembered for presiding over historic levels of obstruction,” the letter emphasizes.
The coalition reminds senators that “the Judiciary Committee’s arcane ‘blue slip’ policy,” used to deny nominees even a hearing, is “rightfully perceived as serving senators rather than the public.” As examples of how this policy “exposes the Senate at its worst,” the letter cites “the [Michigan] senators whose only reason for blocking two circuit court nominees is a decade-old personal grudge, or the [Maryland] senators who can do no better than argue that the nominee they are blocking is so good at his current job that he should be kept there.”
The coalition names, as its “highest priority,” Peter Keisler, a D.C. Circuit nominee “who has inexplicably languished in committee without action since his hearing a year and a half ago.” The letter notes that “Keisler has been given the American Bar Association’s highest rating – ‘unanimously well-qualified’ – and has the enthusiastic support of leading legal scholars and practitioners from across the ideological spectrum.” Even “the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have called for Keisler’s confirmation.”
The letter concludes by asking Judiciary Committee members to “fulfill your responsibility . . . by ensuring that each and every judicial nominee is given a hearing and a vote in committee. If you cannot support a particular nominee, vote him or her out of committee without a positive recommendation, or vote against confirmation on the Senate floor.” But do “not stand in the way” of the full Senate “carry[ing] out its constitutional duty of advice and consent by providing each nominee with a timely up-or-down confirmation vote.”
Below is the full text of the letter, including a list of signers.
The Committee for Justice is a non-partisan, non-profit organization devoted to promoting constitutionalist judicial nominees and the rule of law.
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
The Honorable Arlen Specter
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The Honorable Sam Brownback
The Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin
The Honorable Tom Coburn
The Honorable John Cornyn
The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
The Honorable Russell D. Feingold
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
The Honorable Lindsey Graham
The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
The Honorable Herb Kohl
The Honorable Jon Kyl
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senate
CC: The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
We write both to express our deep concern about the lack of progress in 2007 in reporting judicial nominees – particularly circuit court nominees – out of the Judiciary Committee, and to discuss reasonable expectations for progress on this issue in 2008.
The remarkably low approval ratings for the 110th Congress are a testament to Americans’ concern that their representatives are more interested in partisan politics than in serving the people. The American people want you to do your job, and among the most important responsibilities of the Judiciary Committee are processing and voting on the President’s judicial nominees.
The impact of the judges issue on Senate campaigns over the last six years demonstrates that the public is watching. Your constituents may not pay close attention to the details of the confirmation process, but they cannot help but notice the personal attacks on nominees, the emphasis on politics over progress, and the basic unfairness of denying qualified nominees a fair up-or-down vote by the committee and full Senate.
A year into the 110th Congress, the Judiciary Committee has held hearings for only four appeals court nominees and has voted on only six. As a result, the full Senate has fallen far short of the confirmation pace necessary to meet the historical average of 17 circuit court confirmations during a president’s final two years in office – an average maintained during the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton presidencies despite opposition control of the Senate.
Instead of seeing progress, the American people are watching judicial nominees stack up in the Judiciary Committee. Ten appeals court nominees – seven of them waiting to fill vacancies declared “judicial emergencies” – and nearly twenty district court nominees languish in committee. Several nominees have been waiting more than a year and a half.
Given the long delays in the federal courts, the American people are unsympathetic to the claim that certain nominees cannot even get a hearing because of the Judiciary Committee’s arcane “blue slip” policy. That policy exposes the Senate at its worst and is rightfully perceived as serving senators rather than the public. Consider the senators whose only reason for blocking two circuit court nominees is a decade-old personal grudge, or the senators who can do no better than argue that the nominee they are blocking is so good at his current job that he should be kept there. In the end, responsibility for the resulting delays lies with the Judiciary Committee, because the “blue slip” policy exists entirely at the committee’s discretion.
Fortunately, the new year presents the Judiciary Committee with the opportunity for a fresh start. If you and your colleagues are willing to eschew partisan politics, focus on your constitutional duty, and treat nominees in a dignified manner, the Senate can meet or come close to the historical average of 17 circuit court confirmations.
Specifically, there are four pending circuit nominees – Robert Conrad, Steve Matthews, Catharina Haynes, and Gene Pratter – who have the support of home state senators, which Chairman Leahy has said is key to approval by the Judiciary Committee. Including D.C. Circuit nominee Peter Keisler, that makes five appeals court nominees for whom there is no excuse for denying them a committee vote. And, given the outstanding qualifications of these five nominees, there is no reason why the committee should fail to report them to the full Senate for a fair up-or-down vote.
Assuming at least two new nominees to the Fourth and Ninth Circuits in the next several months, that leaves seven circuit nominees in addition to the aforementioned five. Even if the Judiciary Committee meets only a very minimal standard by reporting just four of those seven to the full Senate, the Senate will have an opportunity – contingent on Majority Leader Reid scheduling up-or-down votes – to confirm fifteen appeals court nominees in the 110th Congress. Fifteen confirmations would fall short of the historical average, but would match the number of circuit court confirmations in President Clinton’s final two years. Anything less and the members of the Judiciary Committee will be remembered for presiding over historic levels of obstruction.
Lest the individual nominees get lost in a discussion of numbers, we want to draw your attention to the truly exceptional qualifications of D.C. Circuit nominee Peter Keisler, who has inexplicably languished in committee without action since his hearing a year and a half ago. Keisler has been given the American Bar Association’s highest rating – “unanimously well-qualified” – and has the enthusiastic support of leading legal scholars and practitioners from across the ideological spectrum, including Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman, Professor Neal Katyal of Georgetown, Professor Akhil Amar of Yale, Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin, former D.C. Bar President George Jones, and several former law clerks of Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan. In addition, both the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have called for Keisler’s confirmation.
This impressive array of supporters surprises no one familiar with Keisler’s unmatched credentials. A graduate of Yale Law School, Keisler served as Associate Counsel to President Reagan and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy before joining Sidley Austin. At Sidley, he was quickly promoted to partner and argued cases at every level of the federal court system, including the Supreme Court. In 2002, he left Sidley to serve his country at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he was promoted to Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division a year later. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned last year, Keisler postponed his plans to leave government service so that he could see the Department and the nation through a difficult transition period as Acting Attorney General.
The least the Judiciary Committee can do to thank Peter for his service to the nation is to report him to the full Senate for an up-or-down vote. There is no rational reason why, after a year and a half of waiting, this exceptional nominee should remain on hold. If his nomination is allowed to die in the Judiciary Committee, it will be a loss to both the federal bench and the reputation of the committee. His confirmation is our highest priority, and it should be yours as well.
President Bush fulfilled his constitutional duty by nominating the men and women who await action in the Judiciary Committee. We respectfully request that you fulfill your responsibility as well, by ensuring that each and every judicial nominee is given a hearing and a vote in committee. If you cannot support a particular nominee, vote him or her out of committee without a positive recommendation, or vote against confirmation on the Senate floor. The full Senate must be allowed to carry out its constitutional duty of advice and consent by providing each nominee with a timely up-or-down confirmation vote, and you should not stand in the way. We ask only that you do your job by putting statesmanship above politics and special interests. The American people expect no less.
We would be happy to speak with you in person about this critical matter.
Committee for Justice
James L. Martin
60 Plus Association
Gary L. Bauer
Center for Equal Opportunity
Center for Jewish Values
Vice President for Legislative Affairs
Christian Coalition of America
Paul M. Weyrich
Coalitions for America
Kay R. Daly
Coalition for a Fair Judiciary
Concerned Women for America
Family Foundation (Kentucky)
Vice President of Government Affairs
Family Research Council
Senior Vice President of Government and Public Policy
Focus on the Family
Executive Vice President of Programming
James Bopp, Jr.
James Madison Center for Free Speech
Wendy E. Long
Judicial Confirmation Network
National Black Pro-Life Union
Executive Vice President
National Federation of Republican Assemblies
Raymond J. LaJeunesse, Jr.
Vice President and Legal Director
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
One Nation Indivisible
Dr. Randy Brinson
Redeem the Vote
Joyce E. Thomann
Republican Women of Anne Arundel County, MD
Dr. Rod D. Martin
Rev. Louis P. Sheldon
Traditional Values Coalition
Dr. Keith Wiebe
American Association of Christian Schools
Susan A. Carleson
Chairman and CEO
American Civil Rights Union
Donald E. Wildmon
Founder and Chairman
American Family Association
American Family Association of Indiana
Rev. John C. Holmes, Ed.D.
Director, Government Affairs
Association of Christian Schools International
Center for Individual Freedom
Samuel B. Casey
Executive Director and CEO
Christian Legal Society
Coalition for Marriage and Family
Professor Victor Williams
Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America
Cornerstone Policy Research
Council for America
Director, Family Policy Council Dept.
Focus on the Family Action
Idaho Values Alliance
Indiana Family Institute
J. C. Willke, M.D.
International Right to Life Federation
Judicial Action Group
Mr. Kelly Shackelford
Liberty Legal Institute
Mathew D. Staver
Dean and Professor of Law
Liberty University School of Law
Dr. Patricia McEwen
Life Coalition International
Life Issues Institute
Editor and CEO
Louisiana Family Forum
Leslee J. Unruh
President and Founder
National Abstinence Clearinghouse
Steven W. Fitschen
National Legal Foundation
Founder and President
New Jersey Family Policy Council
Fr. Frank Pavone, M.E.V.
Priests for Life
Dr. William Greene
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
Al Laws, Jr.
WIN Family Services, Inc.