Fair Courts E-lert: Trump Announces Federal Court Nominations; CT Passes Bail Reform Measures

June 9, 2017

STATE JUDICIAL SELECTION

Trump Announces New Federal Court Nominations

This week, President Donald Trump announced a new slate of nominees to the federal courts, writes Adam Liptak for The New York Times. According to Liptak, “[t]he new nominees, like the 10 announced last month, include prominent conservative judges and scholars.” One of the nominees, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid, would fill the 10th Circuit seat vacated by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Eid “was on lists of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees issued during the presidential campaign.” Liptak reports that the administration “may believe that shifting her from a state supreme court to a federal appeals court could make her a more attractive candidate for eventual elevation to the Supreme Court.” Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that supported Justice Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation with a $10 million campaign, praised the nominees, saying “[m]any of the nominees are well known in the conservative legal movement and have shown commitment to principled and evenhanded application of the law throughout their careers.” However, Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, said “Trump’s nominees thus far have had troubling records that have raised real concerns about their ability to act independently of the executive branch.”


JUDICIAL ETHICS

Virginia High Court to Hear Arguments about Judicial Discipline for Political Activity

The Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments on a judicial conduct complaint that resulted in the censure of two retired judges who spoke out against a ballot measure to move the county courts, writes Frank Green for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Green writes that after advocating against moving the courts, “[a] complaint the judges were involved in political activity was made to [the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission]” by the county Board of Supervisors. The JIRC’s “counsel, Katherine B. Burnett, was concerned the judges’ actions damaged public trust and confidence in an independent, impartial judiciary,” continues Green. The JIRC found that the complaints were “well-founded and of sufficient gravity to constitute the basis for retirement, censure, or removal,” but the judges, supported by amicus briefs from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Rutherford Institute, and 23 former presidents of the Virginia Bar Association, argue that they were engaged in protected free speech. The judges “are asking the justices to dismiss the complaint, arguing in court papers that terms such as ‘political’ and ‘political organization’ have been misinterpreted and misapplied by JIRC and should be limited to mean only partisan political activity involving candidates and political parties.


JUDICIAL REFORM

CT Legislature Passes Bail Reform Measures to Protect Indigent Defendants

The Connecticut Senate passed legislation reforming the state’s bail system to “ensure that indigent defendants are not jailed simply for lack of resources,” write Mark Paznoikas and Keith M. Phaneuf for The CT Mirror. According to the authors, the legislation, which received bipartisan support and passed in the House four days earlier, would bar “judges from setting cash-only bails” and restrict “judges from setting bail for misdemeanors in most circumstances.” It would also accelerate “bail redetermination hearings in misdemeanor cases.” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) spoke to the motivation of the bill, saying “[p]oor people accused of crimes face the ‘extreme pressure’ of worrying about their families and jobs after sitting in pretrial detention for several weeks” and that “[p]eople should not be pressured to accept plea deals under these conditions because of their financial situation.” Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) echoed this sentiment, saying that “being incarcerated for as few as a couple of days can have a dramatic effect on that person’s ability to maintain housing, employment, and contact with their family – all of which are keys to ensuring people lead productive lives and that the cycle of crime and poverty does not perpetuate.” The Associated Press reports that the bill will now go to Malloy, who has said he plans to sign 


JUDICIAL DIVERSITY

NY Legislators Encourage Gov. Cuomo to Appoint First Openly LGBT Jurist to High Court

Lawmakers in New York are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to consider diversity when filling a vacancy on the state’s highest court and recommend appointing Justice Rosalyn Richter or Justice Paul Feinman, either of whom would be the first openly LGBT person on the court, writes Jon Campbell for The Poughkeepsie Journal. In a letter penned to Cuomo by five gay members of the state legislature, the legislators write that “[b]oth Justice Feinman and Justice Richter are seasoned jurists who are highly regarded by practitioners, their peers and the LGBT community” and that “[e]ither would be a superlative addition to the Court of Appeals.” They also note that “[t]he legitimacy of our judicial system depends upon the public being confident that we have a bench that is representative of our diverse population and applies the law without bias” and that “[t]his is of particular importance when the civil liberties of minority groups are threatened.” Campbell writes that “Cuomo is expected to announce his choice before June 21, when the Legislature is scheduled to end its annual session. His pick then has to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.”