The Assistant Attorney General who heads the Justice Department office that helps the White House vet nominees for federal judgeships blamed Republicans for the low confirmation rate for the Barack Obama administration’s judicial picks, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Christopher Schroeder, who has led the Office of Legal Policy since April, said at the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference this month that almost half of the 876 seats on federal courts could be empty in the next ten years if the Senate does not pick up the pace of confirmations.
Obama has the lowest judicial confirmation rate of any president in the last three decades, according to the newspaper. The Obama administration has seen 47 percent of its nominees for federal judgeships secure confirmation. The last four presidents saw no less than 79 percent of their judicial picks nominated in the first 18 months of their presidencies win confirmation.
Schroeder, whose nomination was held up for months in the Senate, said a “determined minority” is keeping 39 judicial nominees at bay.
“Their objections often are unrelated to a specific nominee,” Schroeder said, according to the L.A. Times. “They’re systematic attempts to throw sand in the works.”
GOP leaders retaliating for Democratic efforts to hold up George W. Bush administration nominees are partly blame for the slow pace of judicial confirmations, Republicans told the newspaper. But they also said Obama has been slow to nominate federal judges.
“Republicans can’t block something that’s not there,” Don Stewart, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told the L.A. Times.
A lawyer once considered for Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney was sworn in as a county public defender on Monday, the Tuscaloosa News reported.
Joseph Van Heest, who now leads the Tuscaloosa County, Ala., public defender’s office, was one of two candidates recommended in January 2009 for the U.S. Attorney post in Montgomery, Ala. But his candidacy was scuttled by the White House last summer after facing opposition from Alabama Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, who is ranking member on the Senate committee that considers U.S. Attorney nominees.
Rep. Artur Davis, Alabama’s senior congressional Democrat, then recommended George Beck Jr., a white-collar defense lawyer in Montgomery at Capell & Howard P.C., for the U.S. Attorney nomination in January. He would succeed Leura Canary, who is among the handful of presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys from the George W. Bush administration still in office.
Van Heest, a former assistant federal defender for the Middle District of Alabama, received the unanimous approval of the committee that hired him for county public defender.
“I have found criminal defense work more satisfying than other types of law. It is often an opportunity to help someone badly in need of help when nobody else is willing to do so,” Van Heest told the Tuscaloosa News. “When the awesome power of the state or federal government is brought down upon an individual with little or no resources, the system is not balanced. A strong, dedicated and talented public defender’s office is necessary to marshal available resources to reduce that imbalance.”
Scott Bowen (Michigan State University, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law) was nominated on July 28 to be the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. He would replace Donald A. Davis, who became the court-appointed U.S. Attorney in 2008.
- Born in South Bend, Ind., in 1964.
- Has been commissioner of the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery since 2008.
- Served as the director of Office of the State Employer from 2007 to 2008.
- Ran for Michigan attorney general in 2007.
- Served as a Michigan state judge from 2004 to 2005.
- Was a partner at the law firm of McInerney & Bowen in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 2001 to 2003.
- Served as Grand Rapids city commissioner from 1997 to 2003.
- Was a special assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan from 1997 to 2001.
- Was a partner at the law firm of Distel & Haynes P.C. in Grand Rapids from 1994 to 2001.
- Was an associate attorney at the law firm of Clary, Nantz, Wood, Hoffius, Rankin & Cooper from 1990 to 1994.
- Held various jobs at Fox Jewelry Company (Fred Meyer Jewelry) — including sales associated and general counsel — from 1980 to 1989.
- Has tried about 100 cases to verdict, serving as chief counsel in all but one of those cases.
Click here for his full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
On his Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure, Bowen reported making $129,842 salary as commissioner of the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery since January 2009.
UPDATE: On his Senate Judiciary financial disclosure, Bowen reported assets valued at $341,000, mostly from real estate, and $585,100 in liabilities, mostly from financial obligations to relatives, for a net worth of -$244,100.
Ripley Rand (University of North Carolina, University of North Carolina School of Law) was nominated on July 28 to be the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. He would succeed Anna Mills S. Wagoner, who resigned as U.S. Attorney in August.
- Born in Durham, N.C, in 1967.
- Has been a University of North Carolina School of Law Alumni Association board member since 2007. He was also on the Board of Visitors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2004 to 2008.
- Has served as a special superior court judge for the state of North Carolina since 2006. He was also a special superior court judge from 2002 to 2006. Between the two stints as special superior court judge, he was a resident superior court judge.
- Co-authored a children’s book, “I Want to Go to UNC!,” which was published in 2005.
- Served on the Wake County Bar Association/Tenth Judicial District Bar Association boards from 2006 to 2007.
- Has been the director/secretary of Summit House of North Carolina, a non-profit organization that helps mothers convicted of non-violent crimes, since 2003.
- Was a political organizer The Mike Easley Committee (for Governor) in 2000 and The Mike Easley Committee (for Attorney General) in 1992.
- Was an assistant district attorney in Wake County, N.C., from 1997 to 2002, serving as the director of the domestic violence unit and later as a member of the dangerous offenders task force.
- Was an assistant district attorney in Cumberland County, N.C., in 1997.
- Clerked for U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty Jr. in the Middle District of North Carolina from 1996 to 1997.
- Was a research assistant for North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley B. Mitchell Jr. from 1995 to 1996.
- Was a researcher for the law firm of Michaels and Jones (now Martin & Jones PLLC) in Raleigh, N.C.
- Was a disc jockey at WXDU-Durham 88.7 FM from 1994 to 2000.
- Was a summer associate at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1993 and 1994.
- Was a summer associate at Manning Fulton & Skinner PA in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1994.
- Was a research assistant at the North Atlantic Assembly (now NATO Parliamentary Assembly) in 1991.
- Was an assistant in 1990 at Lithotripters Inc. (now owned by Prime Medical), which was a company that specialized in instruments that pulverize kidney stones.
- Was a projectionist at Ram Triple Movie Theatre in 1990.
- Is a member of the Wake County Chitlin’ Club, a group of men who meet once a year to “eat country cooking and talk about politics.”
- Contributed lyrics and vocals to “Don’t Do the Math” on the “Undefeated in Apex” album by The Balsa Gliders, an indie rock group.
- Has tried about 20 jury trial cases and “hundreds” of non-jury trial cases as a prosecutor. He served as sole counsel in the majority of his cases.
- Presided over more than 150 jury trials and about 9,000 non-jury proceedings as a state judge.
Click here for his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
On his Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure, Rand reported making $113,616.52 as a state judge since January 2009. He also reported $63 earned from the sale of his book since 2009.
UPDATE: On his Senate Judiciary financial disclosure, Rand reported assets valued at almost $1.2 million, mostly from real estate, and $142,800 in liabilities from mortgages, for a net worth of more than $1 million.