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  • Fair Courts E-Lert: ABA Recommends Article I Court for Immigration Court System; Wisconsin Holds Supreme Court Election

Fair Courts E-Lert: ABA Recommends Article I Court for Immigration Court System; Wisconsin Holds Supreme Court Election

Our latest Fair Courts E-Lert highlights a new ABA report on the immigration court system, spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, and more.

April 5, 2019


ABA Recommends Creating New Article I Court for Immigration Court System

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Immigration released a report warning that the immigration court system is “irredeemably dysfunctional and on the brink of collapse,” calling for the “transfer[] [of] the immigration court functions to a newly-created Article I court.”

Immigration courts face “untenable backlogs” and “efforts to reduce those backlogs have been largely ineffective, or, at worst, counterproductive to the goals of an independent judiciary,” according to the ABA’s March report. Unlike federal courts, immigration courts are part of the executive branch, which advocates say leads to due process concerns. In the report, the ABA cites the Department of Justice’s implementation of strict case completion quotas and time benchmarks for immigration judges last year as an approach that “pits personal interest against due process and undermines judicial independence." The ABA recommends quotas “be rescinded and replaced with a more robust and transparent review process for immigration judges."

Creating an Article I court is the “most practical way to ensure due process and insulate the courts from the capriciousness of the political environment.” The report warns that systemic reform is necessary, explaining that “without wholesale reform, these efforts will merely provide band-aids to a failing system.”


Wisconsin Supreme Court Election Is Most Expensive in a Decade

Tuesday’s nonpartisan state supreme court race between Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer and Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn was the most expensive race Wisconsin has seen since at least 2008. The candidates and outside groups raised or spent more than $6 million combined, according to state filings. The race is currently too close to call and may soon head to a recount, though conservative-supported Hagedorn has claimed victory.

The race was the most expensive in Wisconsin in over a decade, even though some of the state’s traditional spenders did not get involved. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association sat out the race primarily due to Hagedorn’s extreme anti-LGBT views. But the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national conservative organization, spent $1.2 million on TV, internet, and radio ads in the final week to support Hagedorn. In all, more than $2.7 million was spent on TV ads alone.

A Hagedorn victory would expand the court’s conservative majority to 5–2 and lock it in until at least 2023, while a Neubauer win would open the possibility of flipping the court, contingent upon the 2020 state supreme court election.


Senate Invokes “Nuclear Option,” Limits Debate Time on Lower Court Nominees

Senate Republicans invoked a controversial legislative maneuver on Wednesday to “cut the time between ending debate and a final confirmation vote on executive-branch nominees and district court judges from 30 hours to two.” Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wrote an op-ed in Politico announcing the Senate would vote on such a proposal in order to “reduce the time a minority can keep delaying lower-tier nominations after a majority has invoked cloture.”

On Tuesday, the Senate failed to adopt a resolution limiting debate on district court judicial nominations that required 60 votes to pass. As a result, according to NBC News, McConnell used “Senate procedural tactics to change those rules by a simple majority vote” – the so-called “nuclear option” – which “mirrors what McConnell did to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court justices.”

According to CNN, Republicans accuse Democrats of using “Senate rules to slow walk nominees by utilizing all the allotted debate time for nominees.” But Trump has confirmed more circuit court judges than any other president at this point in his first term as a result of McConnell’s prioritization of judicial confirmations. According to Politico, Trump is on track to appoint “roughly 20 percent of the Circuit Court seats in the country after just two years in office.”