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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ind. Courts - More on: 7th Circuit tie votes on questions of en banc review are reminder of the unfilled vacancy

Updating this ILB post from yesterday, about how the 7th Circuit has had an unfilled seat since 2010, and there is another vacancy coming up next spring, a reader has pointed to this Sept. 29th explanatory article by Ian Millhiser in Think Progress. Some quotes:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that role, he has given each senator veto power over any person nominated to a federal judgeship in their home state. This veto enabled a single Republican senator to control the balance of a key federal appeals court, which just handed down a decision restricting voting rights in Wisconsin. * * *

Although ten judges voted on whether to reconsider Wisconsin’s voter ID law, there are actually eleven active judgeships on the Seventh Circuit. The eleventh seat, however, has been vacant for more than four years.

In 2010, President Obama nominated a University of Wisconsin law professor named Victoria Nourse to this vacancy — Nourse was one of four potential nominees suggested to the White House by a nominating commission sponsored by the state’s two senators. This nomination died, however, after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) defeated incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) in the 2010 election. Shortly after his election, Johnson objected to Nourse’s nomination, claiming that the University of Wisconsin law professor “has very little connection to the state of Wisconsin.”

Johnson’s objection to Nourse took on particular significance after he declined to return a “blue slip” on Nourse to the Senate Judiciary Committee. * * *

Under Leahy’s rule — a rule that Leahy could unilaterally change at any time if he chose to — Johnson’s decision not to return a blue slip on Nourse held up her nomination indefinitely.

Eventually, in early 2012, Nourse asked President Obama to withdraw her nomination.

It’s possible that Johnson had a particular objection to Nourse and that there is some other lawyer that Johnson and Obama could agreed upon to fill the vacancy judgeship, but Johnson hasn’t exactly been in a hurry to find a mutually acceptable nominee. Johnson and his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), did not establish their own judicial nominating commission to screen potential nominees until April of 2013. Moreover, the commission waited until July 25, 2014 to announce that it was accepting applications for the Seventh Circuit vacancy — that’s more that four years after this vacancy opened and more than two years after Nourse withdrew her name. [ILB emphasis]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 30, 2014 09:19 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions