08 Dec 2008

Now We Pay the Price

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Many of George W. Bush’s appointments to the federal bench were successfully blocked by democrats despite the former Republican majority, thanks to RINOs like John McCain. Now Obama’s victory opens the door for those bench seats and others opening in the near future to be filled with liberals.

The Washington Post reports democrats happily predicted a return to “balance on the courts,” i.e. liberal domination.

The federal judiciary is on the verge of a major shift when President-elect Barack Obama’s nominees take control of several of the nation’s most important appellate courts, legal scholars and political activists say. With the Supreme Court’s conservative direction unlikely to change anytime soon, it is the lower courts — which dispense almost all federal justice — where Obama can assert his greatest influence.

The change will be most striking on the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, long a conservative bastion and an influential voice on national security cases, where four vacancies will lead to a clear Democratic majority. Democrats are expected to soon gain a narrower plurality on the New York-based 2nd Circuit, vital for business and terrorism cases, a more even split on the influential D.C. appeals court and control of the 3rd Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania and New Jersey. …

Obama has a huge opportunity,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who is an authority on federal courts. “In a very short time, significant segments of the appellate courts, which are the final authority in all but a tiny handful of cases, will be dominated by Democratic nominees.” …

Democrats, who successfully blocked some of President Bush’s 4th Circuit and other appellate nominees, said they will try to win Republicans’ support but made it clear that they will push for quick confirmations. …

The circuit courts of appeals, which cover the nation’s 13 federal judicial circuits, decide more than 30,000 cases a year. The Supreme Court takes fewer than 100 new cases each year.

Control of the appellate courts has shifted with the party in power. Republicans controlled 64 percent of appellate judgeships in 1993, but President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, reduced that to 42 percent by 2001. Bush’s appointees have restored a 56 percent Republican majority of the total authorized judgeships.

With current and future vacancies and Congress likely to pass a bill to create 14 appellate judgeships, Obama is likely to reduce Republican appointees to 42 percent and boost Democrats from the 36 percent to 58 percent during his first term, said Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution scholar who studies federal courts.

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