Today is the Special United States Senate Primary Election for Senator Byrd’s seat in West Virginia.
With Democracy on my mind: Below is a video segment of the “Democracy in America” episode of Northern Exposure. When you click the play button below, you might get a copyright message so that you have to get redirected to the actual YouTube site (on which this segment is available).
This episode of Northern Exposure was a wonderful (and moving) glimpse of democracy in small town Americana, centering around the mayoral election for the fictional Cicely, Alaska. There are a number of other segments from that episode on YouTube. If you have some free time, get on YouTube and type “Northern Exposure democracy in America” to see some of the other clips. Or buy the DVD of season three of Northern Exposure, which contains the Democracy in America episode. While you’re at it, for another wonderful glimpse of small town Americana, watch the always fantastic Robert Preston in The Music Man.
Update (2015): It looks like the video linked above has been blocked on copyright grounds, so here is the Amazon link to buy season three of Northern Exposure, which included the “Democracy in America” episode.
The first item that has been circulating about Judge Sotomayor is a statement she made about appellate courts making “policy” during a panel discussion at Duke University in 2005 (note: this clip is lengthier, and provides much more context, than the clips played on most news sites):
Appointments to these federal judicial positions require the confirmation by the US Senate. The Democrats control at this time 58 votes in the Senate, through 56 Democrats and 2 Independents (Joe Lieberman, CT; Bernie Sanders VT) who caucus with the Democrats. If Al Franken eventually is declared the winner in Minnesota, which is expected, the democrats will have 59 votes. President Obama only needs 51 votes to confirm one of his judicial nominations. If the Republicans chose to filibuster any of President Obama’s nominations, the Democrats need 60 votes for cloture to cut off the filibuster and force a vote (cloture requires a three-fifths vote of the voting Senators). If the Democrats will be starting with 59 votes, they will likely frequently be able to “peel off” a Republican or two to break the filibuster.
Federal court of appeals nominations are usually made from lawyers with significant prior judicial experience. So the pool of lawyers to be considered will likely by the current federal district judges, and, less likely, current state court judges.
Given Presidential history since 1980, the substantial majority of federal judges are appointees of Republican Presidents (20 years of Republican presidency versus 8 years of Democrat presidency).
Of the current 11 judges on the Fourth Circuit, 6 were Republican appointees and 5 were Democratic appointees (although Judge Gregory was a “hybrid” having originally been appointed by President Clinton and then re-appointed by President George W. Bush). You can view a chart on Wikipedia that sets out the lineup of current judges and the Presidents who appointed them
Assuming President Obama fills all 4 current vacancies, then we will have a realignment on the Fourth Circuit to: 9 Democrat appointees, and 6 Republican appointees.