Monday, August 02, 2021

Biden and the Courts

 There's been a lot in the news about how Biden is trying to catch up to Trump in appointing judges.  But he has a long way to go... in part because it wasn't a priority to the Obama administration.  Here is a nice background article on what's going on and why Obama left Biden in such a hole:

President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees faced several structural obstacles that do not hinder Biden’s. When Obama took office, the filibuster enabled Republicans to block any nominee who didn’t have supermajority support in the Senate, and it enabled the GOP to slow the Senate’s business to an excruciating crawl even when Democrats did have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.

The Senate changed these rules to allow judges to be confirmed by a simple majority, and to limit the minority party’s power to delay most confirmation votes.

Then-Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — like so many other Democrats who cling to their own idiosyncratic notions of how institutions should function at the expense of governance — insisted on giving Republican senators veto power over anyone nominated to a federal judicial vacancy in their state by taking an unusually expansive view of a Senate tradition known as the “blue slip.” The current chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), will not allow Republicans to veto at least some of Biden’s nominees, especially his nominees to powerful appellate courts.

Obama also had to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in his first year, which made it difficult for the White House or the Senate to pay as much attention to lower court nominees.

But even if Obama was dealt a more difficult hand on judicial confirmations than Biden, he played that hand terribly.

At least in the first year of his presidency, Obama staffed his White House with senior officials who either treated the process of shepherding judges to confirmation as a chore, or who lacked experience with judicial politics.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, reportedly told a room full of activists that he didn’t “give a fuck about judicial appointments.” Greg Craig, Obama’s first White House counsel, was a former State Department official who showed more interest in Obama’s worthy, but failed, effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay than in choosing judges.

Obama, meanwhile, prevailed on Craig to hire Cassandra Butts, a personal friend and law school classmate of Obama’s with a distinguished career on Capitol Hill and in left-of-center politics. (Disclosure: In 2015, I interned on the Center for American Progress’s domestic policy team, which Butts led.) Craig made her his deputy overseeing judicial nominations.

Yet, while Butts was undoubtedly qualified to work in the White House, she had limited experience working in judicial politics. And her legislative background also fit in poorly in a White House counsel’s office that placed credentials such as a Supreme Court clerkship or practice at a white-shoe law firm on a pedestal. That appears to have diminished her influence.

The result of this mix of inexperience and indifference is that the early Obama White House was often slow to nominate judges. And it stumbled into traps that aides more familiar with judicial politics might have avoided.


Though Obama’s judicial confirmations effort grew more sophisticated later in his presidency, it never fully recovered from its early missteps. In eight years as president, Obama appointed only 55 federal appellate judges — just one more than Trump appointed in only four years in the White House.

 Biden is doing quite a bit better.  Here's an AP article about his early picks.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Los Muchachos

 Get ready for the new documentary from Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman: Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami.  It's the only-in-Miami story of Willy & Sal, coming out next week on Netflix.


And here is the famous New Times cover from back in the day and the one that came out today:


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Jury trials?

 Dave Ovalle and Rumpole have been covering the state court jury trial problems with COVID.  It's not good over there right now.  Here is Ovalle's article:

For Miami, the civil trial was relatively routine: an insurance dispute over building damage caused by Hurricane Irma. It was also one of the first lengthy jury trials to be held in person as Miami-Dade courts began opening up after a long pandemic closure.

The trial ended in early July. But then, several lawyers and the judges who had taken part in the two-and-a-half week trial tested positive for COVID-19.

One of the attorneys, Brittany Quintana Martí, who is pregnant, fell ill enough that she spent five days in the hospital. “She had shortness of breath and fatigue. Really horrible fatigue. Her oxygen levels dropped,” said her husband, fellow Miami lawyer Jose Martí.


Last week alone, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office disclosed, seven employees were diagnosed with COVID-19. On Monday, the office announced three more employees had tested positive; that’s 17 total since courts reopened fully to the public on June 28.

Since that date, at least 19 Miami-Dade jail inmates have tested positive, according to county statistics; it’s unknown how many of those have physically been to court, although at least two were confirmed in the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building during the first week back.

That includes one Miami jail inmate who tested positive on the third day of trial for a case involving a drunk-driving car crash. The trial was delayed three weeks, and is expected to resume in the coming days.

Federal jury trials in this district have restarted without any horror stories just yet. But it seems like it is only a matter of time before there is an outbreak in court.  

Monday, July 26, 2021

How are the new SCOTUS justices judging?

 CNN has this piece, which tries to peg how "Trump's appointees are turning the Supreme Court to the right with different tactics."  The beginning of the article seemed really silly to me:

The three appointees of former President Donald Trump have together sealed the Supreme Court's conservatism for a generation, but they have revealed strikingly different methods. They diverge in their regard for practical consequences, their desire to lay down markers for future disputes and their show of internal rivalries.
Neil Gorsuch takes no prisoners. Brett Kavanaugh tries to appear conciliatory, even as he provokes internal conflict. And Amy Coney Barrett is holding her fire, for the moment.
Whether their differences intensify or fade will determine the Trump effect on the high court and how fast the law moves rightward regarding abortion rights, gun control, religion and LGBTQ clashes.

 What does that even mean?

Here's the conclusion:

Overall, the three Trump appointees voted together with fellow conservatives (Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) in the most consequential cases of the 2020-21 session.

They curtailed the reach of the Voting Rights Act, threatened the ability of states to impose disclosure requirements on political donors and strengthened property rights in the face of government regulation. That last dispute, from California, arose from union organizers' efforts to temporarily enter agricultural property to talk to migrant farmworkers.

But as the three went their individual ways, Gorsuch agreed more with far-right conservatives Thomas and Alito, while Kavanagh and Barrett aligned more with Roberts at the center-right of this nine-member bench.

Overall in the recently completed session, Gorsuch agreed most with Thomas, 73% in full and 87% in part, according to SCOTUSblog annual statistics. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh and Barrett had one of the highest rates of agreement in cases: 75% in full and 91% in part.

Trump has touted his influence on the federal judiciary as one of his greatest achievements in office. That impact will swell as his appointees across the judiciary -- especially on the high court -- gain seniority and further shape the law with their opinions.

Well, that bolded part is interesting.   

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Breaking — Rubio JNC announces finalists

For Judge, they recommend David Leibowitz and Detra Shaw-Wilder  

For US Attorney, Jackie Arango, Markenzie Lapointe, and Andres Rivero  

For Marshal, Gadyaces Serralta