Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a tea party darling, is blocking confirmation hearings for two black judicial nominees by withholding the formality of submitting what is known as a "blue slip." Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas was nominated 552 days ago for a Miami opening in the Southern District of Florida. Nassau Circuit Judge Brian Davis has been waiting even longer — 612 days — for action to fill a Middle District of Florida vacancy in Tampa. The blue slip is a required by the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. Waiting for blue slips is a longstanding procedure that the chairman does not plan to break, his spokeswoman Jessica Brady said Thursday. Florida's other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, has submitted blue slips for both candidates. Rubio's and Nelson's offices did not respond to telephone calls or emails seeking comment by deadline. The failure to submit blue slips marks a ratcheting up of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, even if means alienating minorities, critics say. Thomas and Davis fulfill Obama's goal of bringing greater diversity to the federal bench. Both are black, and Thomas is openly gay. Obama has been more dedicated to diversity than any of his predecessors, with 43 percent of women nominees compared with 22 percent under George W. Bush and 29 percent by Bill Clinton. Obama also surpassed his predecessors on nominating blacks and Hispanics. By delaying the nominations of minorities, Republicans hope to hinder a lasting legacy on the lifetime appointment of jurists, said Andrew Blotky, director of Legal Progress, part of the Center for American Progress in Washington. "If you look at how long these vacancies have been open, it's ridiculous and unconscionable," he said.
Meantime, the district continues to try interesting cases. The psychic trial is going on in Ft. Lauderdale. Via Paula McMahon:
When Sylvia Roma visited a psychic in late 1997, she was a successful executive who figured her life was happy and the tarot card reading was "just for entertainment."
But Roma was quickly convinced that her family was cursed, she said, and over the next 14 years she sent close to $800,000 worth of cash and gold coins to the woman she knew as Joyce Michaels, but who was really Rose Marks.
Marks summoned her to Fort Lauderdale in July 2002 and told her that nearly $500,000 in cash and gold coins Roma had already given to Marks had burned in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — yet Roma continued to send money and jewelry to Marks, she testified.
"I was in so far, I had nothing to do but believe her. I didn't see any way out," Roma testified Thursday in federal court in West Palm Beach, where Marks is on trial.
Prosecutors say Marks, 62, of Fort Lauderdale, and her family defrauded about $25 million from victims they met in Manhattan and South Florida.
It's rare for so-called Gypsy fortune-telling frauds cases such as this one to go to trial, law enforcement experts say, and one of the reasons is that alleged victims are embarrassed and ashamed to admit they've been tricked.
Roma, who will be back on the witness stand Friday to be cross-examined by the defense, told jurors that she became depressed and isolated as Marks urged her to send more and more money.
Marks told Roma she couldn't discuss "the work" with anyone because it would let "negative energy" affect Marks' efforts to lift the curse and help Roma to have a happier life, she said. Marks told her she was meditating and building an altar and a protective shield with the hundreds of gold coins that Roma provided to her.
Any predictions on how this one will turn out?