Friday, November 15, 2013

Court nullification is unacceptable

   partisanship on the federal level is poisoning the attitude of voters toward politics. In that game, some candidates will win and some will lose, the intended result of the campaign process.
    It is becoming dangerously clear, however, that the same partisanship is threatening the very existence of what makes the United States so unique in its ability to follow the rule of law overseen by the non-partisan judicial branch of government.
    At this moment, three of eleven justices’ seats on the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals are vacant. This court is considered one of the nation’s most important because it regularly rules on administration orders and regulations that affect the entire country, and because its judges are routinely considered as possible Supreme Court justices.
    Republicans are currently blocking confirmation of all of President Obama’s nominees to this court. Last week, they filibustered to prevent a vote on Nina Pillard, repeating the action taken last year against Patricia Millett and Caitlin Halligan.
    In the past, both parties have opposed nominees to the bench for lack of intellectual firepower or excessive political partisanship. No similar case has been presented effectively against these women. Instead, the filibusters are in line with the vow of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to keep all of the president’s nominees from moving forward.
    During the thousand days left in the president’s term, there may well be the resignation or death of a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Article III of the Constitution gives the president the right to appoint federal judges with the “advice and consent” of the Senate. That implies a simple majority vote, 51 ayes. Even so, it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, a number Republicans are using to nullify the president’s constitutional prerogative.
    What if the Senate simply refuses to confirm any justice to the high court? If this seems unthinkable and impossible, consider that this week, for no reason, the Senate refused to end procedural delays to confirm Pillard, who is a distinguished Georgetown University law professor.
    The Senate’s unwillingness to fairly consider nominees for the federal courts for their legal minds, judicial temperaments and characters, choosing instead to play with the courts in the continuing partisan game to block the president from doing his job, is doing more than frustrating and angering a population that needs its government to work. It is threatening to leave the country without functioning courts. That is unacceptable.

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