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Fair Courts E-Lert: Trump Advances Toward Milestone in Appointments to the Federal Judiciary

This Fair Courts E-Lert highlights Trump’s unprecedented quantity of appointments to the federal judiciary, the first Black Nominee to the Delaware Supreme Court, and more.

Published: November 14, 2019

Trump Advances Toward Milestone in Appointments to the Federal Judiciary

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on the nominations of White House lawyer Steven J. Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and federal judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 Several of Trump’s other nominees to the federal judiciary, including those opposed by senators of the President’s own party, have been confirmed by the Senate despite widespread criticism. Menashi and Ozerden, however, do not have uniform support among Republicans, despite having been rated “well qualified” by the American Bar Association.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party-lines to advance Menashi’s nomination to the full Senate, but held over Ozerden’s nomination “at the request of White House.” Previously, Menashi had been scrutinized for his activities in the Trump administration, as well as for his writings on women and ethnonationalism. Ozerden had also faced criticism from Republicans for dismissing a legal challenge brought by a Roman Catholic diocese to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance plans cover contraception.”

To date, Trump has appointed more sitting federal judges than Obama, W. Bush, or Clinton had at this point in their respective terms, according to data from the Federal Judicial Center

Delaware Governor Nominates First Black Justice to State’s Supreme Court

On October 24, Governor John Carney nominated the first Black judge to a vacancy on the state’s high court. The nominee is Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, who was also the first Black member of Delaware’s Chancery Court. Prior to that position, she was a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and has also served as a guest professor at her alma mater, the University of Georgia School of Law.

Montgomery-Reeves’ appointment to the Delaware Supreme Court also makes her the first person of color nominated to the court, and if her nomination is approved, she will be one of two women on the bench. A recent Brennan Center report, State Supreme Court Diversity, found that Delaware was previously one of only 13 states that had never had a person of color sit on its supreme court. The report also found that Delaware was one of seven states that seated their first female justice between 1998 and 2018. 

Black District Court Judge Faces Hundreds of Recusal Motions After Speaking About Racial Injustice

Chief Judge Lori Landry, the first Black woman elected to serve as a judge in Louisiana’s 16th Judicial District Court, is facing hundreds of recusal motions from prosecutors in the district due to her outspokenness about racial bias within the criminal justice system.

According to the Washington Post, prosecutors began requesting that “she be recused from pending criminal cases on the grounds that she ‘is biased or prejudiced against this office such that she cannot be fair or impartial.’” “Since then, the situation has escalated. As of Wednesday, Landry was facing more than 300 virtually identical motions asking that she be removed from upcoming cases.” The Post alleges that, “[t]he overall gist of the recusal motion is that Landry has routinely implied that the district attorney’s office treats black defendants unfairly.”

In 2014, Landry spoke about her experience as a judge, saying, “I am keenly aware of the importance of my perspective as an African American female being counted at the table of decision makers. It is vital to the success of our community that various voices are included.” Landry was also the first Black woman to serve as assistant district attorney for the 16th District. 

Nevada Senators Establishes State’s First Bipartisan Judicial Nominating Commission for Federal Candidates

Last month, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) established the state’s first ever bipartisan commission to select candidates for appointments to the District Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Nevada. The goal of the commission, according to the press release announcing its official creation, is to select federal judges that are, “experienced, qualified, independent, and selected through a nonpartisan process.” Other states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania have similar commissions to select potential nominees.

The commission is split up into two different groups made up of five-members: the Southern Nevada Judicial Commission and the Northern Nevada Judicial Commission. Members include Frankie Sue Del Papa, former Nevada Attorney General; A. William Maupin, Retired Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Nevada; and W. West Allen, Partner of Howard & Howard and President-Elect of the Federal Bar Association, among others.

The launch of the commission comes a month after Senators Rosen and Cortez Masto expressed frustration with President Trump’s nomination of Lawrence VanDyke to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The Administration’s decision to put forward this nominee ignores the broad, consensus-based opinion of Nevadans. Instead, the White House has chosen to move forward on their extreme judicial agenda,” the Senators said in a joint statement.