Category Archives: Vacancies

Special Election for Senator Byrd’s Seat, and “Democracy in America” From Northern Exposure TV Series

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.

President Obama Nominates Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor Pres­i­dent Oba­ma today announced (CNN sto­ry and video) his nom­i­na­tion of Sonia Sotomay­or, cur­rent­ly a Judge on the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, to fill the posi­tion on the US Supreme Court to be vacat­ed by the res­ig­na­tion of Jus­tice David Souter.

With­in a few hours of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s announce­ment, the CATO Insti­tute and The Her­itage Foun­da­tion had sig­nif­i­cant arti­cles devot­ed to attack­ing the nom­i­na­tion. Rush Lim­baugh this after­noon called Judge Sotomay­or a “racist”. Sean Han­ni­ty called her a “rad­i­cal” who had made “out­ra­geous” and “amaz­ing” state­ments. The lib­er­al sites raced out arti­cles attack­ing the attack­ers and defend­ing Judge Sotomay­or (Talk­ing Points Memo and The Huff­in­g­ton Post).

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):

Con­tin­ue read­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma Nom­i­nates Sonia Sotomay­or for Supreme Court

Fourth Circuit Vacancies; President Obama Will Have 4 of 15 Judicial Positions to Fill

Lewis F Powell Jr. Courthouse, Richmond, Virginia 2/1/09: The US Fourth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals hears appeals from fed­er­al dis­trict courts in West Vir­ginia, Vir­ginia, Mary­land, North Car­oli­na, and South Car­oli­na. The Fourth Cir­cuit has 15 judges when all of the judi­cial posi­tions are occu­pied. How­ev­er, 4 of the 15 judge posi­tions are cur­rent­ly vacant. That means that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will be able to appoint those 4 judges.

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).

Fourth Circuit MapOf 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.

NLRB Vacancies: The Potential For Big Changes in Labor Union Law

NLRB Logo 2/1/09: The Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board (NLRB) con­sist of 5 mem­bers, and the NLRB issues impor­tant deci­sions on a broad range of labor union issues.

There are cur­rent­ly only 2 mem­bers, so there are 3 vacan­cies. Wilma Lieb­man is con­sid­ered lib­er­al and pro-union. Peter Carey Schaum­ber is con­sid­ered con­ser­v­a­tive and pro-man­age­ment.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will be able to fill the 3 vacan­cies, with a like­ly sig­nif­i­cant shift in labor law in the Unit­ed States.