While we had two circuit judges in attendance (which is about 20% of the court!), there is a fight brewing over President Obama's most recent nomination to the 11th Circuit -- Jill Pryor. From the AJC:
The 11th Circuit opening, created by Judge Stanley Birch in August 2010, also has been declared a judicial emergency. The circuit has jurisdiction over cases in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
No pick for any of the vacancies has made it to the committee hearing stage and the process typically slows in an election year, with Republicans hoping for a new administration with more friendly nominees.
But the tango between Georgia’s senators and the White House has been odd even by the standards of the often contentious judicial nomination process, according to longtime observers.
Chambliss and Isakson refuse to say why they are blocking President Barack Obama's nomination of Atlanta attorney Jill Pryor for the 11th Circuit appeals court, after both senators said they would approve her if she were nominated to the district court.
In January Chambliss and Isakson wrote to the White House saying they would approve Pryor and U.S. Magistrate Linda Walker for the district court openings, and Atlanta attorney Mark Cohen for the appeals slot.
Obama nominated Walker for the district court judgeship in early 2011, but as is often the case with multiple nominees from the same state the White House demanded she be included as a package with federal public defender Natasha Perdew Silas, whom Isakson and Chambliss blocked without giving a reason.
The Senate returned both nominees to the White House at year's end, and Obama has not renominated anyone for the district court openings.
The two senators also have not given "blue slips" to the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow a hearing on Pryor, a longstanding courtesy for home-state senators. Representatives of both senators said they do not comment on judicial nominees.
“They need to explain publicly why they’re holding up her nomination, which has been vacant for a long time,” said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who studies the confirmation process. “They’re sort of turning the Constitution on its head. The senators don’t nominate and give the president a chance to reject.”
Party politics is a potential motive. According to campaign finance records, Pryor often donates to Democrats, and last year she gave $2,500 to Obama’s re-election campaign.
Cohen, the senators’ preferred appellate pick, served as executive counsel and chief of staff to Gov. Zell Miller.
Glenn Sugameli calls out the senators:
Glenn Sugameli, who tracks judicial nominations for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, noted that Georgia's two senators were outspoken in opposing filibusters of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees. In a 2005 joint op-ed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Chambliss and Isakson wrote “denial of an up-or-down vote goes against basic principles of fairness."
Sugameli said the turnaround is striking, considering that the senators are preventing a hearing, much less a filibuster.
“To pervert that into a situation where you’re essentially demanding the right to make all of the nominations for all of the slots is outrageous, unwarranted, and ... it really hurts the people not only in Georgia but in the rest of the circuit for whom justice delayed is going to continue to be justice denied,” Sugameli said.