ACRU

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, clevey@committeeforjustice.org

60 Groups Demand GOP & Dems Move Judicial Nominees
15 Appeals Court Nominees Must Reach Senate Floor

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.

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February 13, 2008

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

U.S. Capitol

Washington, DC

CC: The Honorable Harry Reid

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Dear Senators,

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.

Respectfully,

Curt Levey

Executive Director

Committee for Justice

James L. Martin

President

60 Plus Association

Gary L. Bauer

President

American Values

Roger Clegg

President

Center for Equal Opportunity

Jeff Ballabon

President

Center for Jewish Values

Jim Backlin

Vice President for Legislative Affairs

Christian Coalition of America

Paul M. Weyrich

National Chairman

Coalitions for America

Kay R. Daly

President

Coalition for a Fair Judiciary

Wendy Wright

President

Concerned Women for America

Kent Ostrander

Executive Director

Family Foundation (Kentucky)

Tom McClusky

Vice President of Government Affairs

Family Research Council

Brian Burch

President

Fidelis

Tom Minnery

Senior Vice President of Government and Public Policy

Focus on the Family

Ron Shuping

Executive Vice President of Programming

Inspiration Networks

James Bopp, Jr.

General Counsel

James Madison Center for Free Speech

Gary Marx

Executive Director

Wendy E. Long

Counsel

Judicial Confirmation Network

Day Gardner

President

National Black Pro-Life Union

Chris Brown

Executive Vice President

National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Raymond J. LaJeunesse, Jr.

Vice President and Legal Director

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

Linda Chavez

President

One Nation Indivisible

Dr. Randy Brinson

Chairman

Redeem the Vote

Joyce E. Thomann

President

Republican Women of Anne Arundel County, MD

Dr. Rod D. Martin

Chairman

TheVanguard.Org

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon

Chairman

Traditional Values Coalition

Dr. Keith Wiebe

President

American Association of Christian Schools

Susan A. Carleson

Chairman and CEO

American Civil Rights Union

Donald E. Wildmon

Founder and Chairman

American Family Association

Micah Clark

Executive Director

American Family Association of Indiana

Rev. John C. Holmes, Ed.D.

Director, Government Affairs

Association of Christian Schools International

Larry Cirignano

Founder

CatholicVOTE.org

Jeffrey Mazzella

President

Center for Individual Freedom

Samuel B. Casey

Executive Director and CEO

Christian Legal Society

Tom Shields

Chairman

Coalition for Marriage and Family

Professor Victor Williams

Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America

Karen Testerman

Executive Director

Cornerstone Policy Research

Ron Pearson

President

Council for America

Brad Miller

Director, Family Policy Council Dept.

Focus on the Family Action

Bryan Fischer

Executive Director

Idaho Values Alliance

Curt Smith

President

Indiana Family Institute

J. C. Willke, M.D.

President

International Right to Life Federation

Phillip Jauregui

President

Judicial Action Group

Anita Staver

President

Liberty Counsel

Mr. Kelly Shackelford

Chief Counsel

Liberty Legal Institute

Mathew D. Staver

Dean and Professor of Law

Liberty University School of Law

Dr. Patricia McEwen

Director

Life Coalition International

Bradley Mattes

Executive Director

Life Issues Institute

Steven Ertelt

Editor and CEO

LifeNews.com

Gene Mills

Executive Director

Louisiana Family Forum

Leslee J. Unruh

President and Founder

National Abstinence Clearinghouse

Steven W. Fitschen

President

National Legal Foundation

Len Deo

Founder and President

New Jersey Family Policy Council

Fr. Frank Pavone, M.E.V.

National Director

Priests for Life

David Crowe

Director

Restore America

Dr. William Greene

President

RightMarch.com

Dane vonBreichenruchardt

President

U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation

Al Laws, Jr.

CEO

WIN Family Services, Inc.