1. Brian Tannebaum covers the politicizing of the judiciary here:
Yesterday the Republican Party of Florida voted unanimously to oppose the retention of three Florida Supreme Court Justices. For those (most people) not paying attention, there is a movement afoot to remove Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis because they are viewed as too liberal.
From The Miami Herald:
“The announcement that the Republican Party is engaged in this effort would shock those wonderful Republican statesmen who helped create the merit selection and merit retention processes,” said Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, former president of the American Bar Association who, as a former legislator, helped to craft the law in the early 1970s."
This effort strikes at the heart of the "independence of the judiciary" talk that lawyers are engaging in at every Bar luncheon, conference, and in letters to the editor of bar publications. The jist of it is that judges should not be removed solely based on their rulings. If they commit misconduct or otherwise are not fit to serve, OK, but to campaign against the retention of judges merely because you disagree with their interpretation of the law, is to say that judges should not decide matters on the law but on the will of the public (most of whom believe that the problem with the death penalty is that it's not imposed enough and that the problem with prisons is that they are not full.)
2. BLT covers the ongoing fight over judicial nominees:
Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats Thursday afternoon to have confirmation votes on 17 non-controversial nominees for U.S. district courts across the nation, including 12 who would fill seats in districts considered to be "judicial emergencies."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised the objection to the votes, which means Democrats would have to go through a time-consuming cloture process to force a vote on each nominee. McConnell said the Senate already has met historic norms for confirming judges in this presidential year.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed for the votes on every district judge nominee awaiting action on the Senate floor, 14 of whom were non-controversial and approved from the Senate Judiciary Committee by voice vote.
"No matter how we try to juggle the numbers, we still have 12 emergencies," Reid said on the floor. "I hope my friends on the other side would at least look at some of those emergencies and see if we could get some help for those beleaguered judges out there and the court personnel."
3. Justice Kagan's clerks write the first drafts of opinions (via WSJ):
In a discussion Thursday at the University of Richmond School of Law, Justice Elena Kagan described clerks as having essential duties, such as helping choose the cases the court will consider each year, as well as talking them over with her to get a wide range of views, the Associated Press reported. Her opinions, she added, come from a first draft written by a clerk.
“I know the clerks improve my work,” Justice Kagan said, but added, “They are by no means junior varsity judges.”
The court receives about 8,000 to 9,000 petitions each year, according to Justice Kagan, and clerks help get the number down to about 75 which will be considered.