After Folding on Caitlin Halligan, Obama Needs to Act on Court Appointments

caitlin halliganAnthony Lewis, the greatest legal journalist of our times, has left us. My guess is, as he ascends to heaven, Lewis is putting in a word in upstairs: Would you please inspire President Obama to offer nominees to fill vacant judgeships, encourage Senate Democrats to stand up to filibusters, and inspire the Supreme Court to provide equal rights to gays who marry and straights who marry?

And, I would add, it is time President Obama pardon Don Siegelman, the former Alabama governor abused by the form of justice practiced by Karl Rove, which should be reversed fully by Obama.

Obama and his White House are shrewd. They whispered that they were surrendering by withdrawing the Halligan nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals late on a Friday. This is what presidents do when they are ashamed or afraid — good public relations, bad legacy.

Here is the scoreboard for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

  • Four judges named by Republican presidents,
  • Three judges named by President Clinton,
  • Four pending vacancies,
  • Zero sitting judges named by President Obama.

Caitlin Halligan was nominated for a seat vacant since 2005. The president, an attorney, should have instructed his transition team in November 2008 to prepare. The “filibuster-proof” Democratic Senate should have confirmed in 2009 or 2010 nominees for D.C. Circuit vacancies created in 2005 and 2008.

The president should send the Senate nominees for all four pending D.C. Circuit vacancies before Congress returns from its latest long recess. One nominee is pending. Surely the staff of the president, in the fifth year of his presidency, has prepared and vetted nominees for the three remaining vacancies on the most important appellate court in the nation.

This is not a PR matter for a weekend, folks. This is justice in America, life-tenured jurists on a judiciary packed by Bush nominees, corrupted by Republican filibusters, suffering from Obama nonchalance.

Regarding the gay rights cases, the songbirds of retreat are beginning to be heard among some who should know better. Perhaps the court should offer a narrow decision, they plead. We would not want the conservative backlash to be too angry, they suggest. No. Constitutionally, gays who seek to be married should have exactly the same rights as straights who seek to be married. No more, no less.

Remember those who told Thomas Jefferson to keep slavery out of the Declaration of Independence, those who proposed “separate but equal” and those who championed the “three-fifths compromise” about how slaves should be counted for representation?

Gays who marry should not have three-fifths the right to marry as straights, they should have five-fifths the right.

Finally for now, Don Siegelman should be pardoned. Now there were draconian abuses of justice during the presidency of George W. Bush, the attorney general tenure of Alberto Gonzales and the White House tenure of Karl Rove. Remember the U.S. attorney scandal? Nobody has been punished for those abuses except the innocent, the framed and the victims who include Don Siegelman and others I will mention separately.

Brent BudowskyObama and Attorney General Eric Holder have given a pass to some of those who misused justice during the Bush years. The president should now move forcefully and promptly to fill judicial vacancies and pardon any who were unfairly treated. His U.S. attorneys should objectively review those cases brought during the Bush years where justice might not have been done. Even justice delayed is better than injustice in perpetuity.

Brent Budowsky
The Hill

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

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