Conservative group smearing Judge Jane Kelly in tv ad

Whether Eighth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Jane Kelly is still on President Barack Obama’s short list for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy is an open question. Multiple news organizations confirmed that she was under consideration for the appointment, and she remains a leading contender according to analysts like SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein. Julia Edwards and Jeff Mason reported for Reuters over the weekend that the “White House has narrowed its search for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee to three federal appeals court judges, Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland and Paul Watford.” (This piece by Dylan Matthews contains short backgrounders on each of those judges.)

The conservative Judicial Crisis Network is taking no chances. They announced Friday a “a six-figure television and digital advertising campaign in several states exposing potential Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jane Kelly, as a liberal extremist.” I enclose below the video, transcript, and analysis of the 30-second commercial, which is running in Iowa because our senior Senator Chuck Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Part of the $250,000 ad buy also went toward airing the spot “during Sunday morning public affairs shows in Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota, Washington D.C. and West Virginia,” hoping to put pressure on potentially vulnerable Democratic senators.

Continue Reading...

Obama considering Supreme Court nomination that would put Grassley on the spot

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been conducting background interviews” on Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jane Kelly, Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported today for the New York Times. Assuming that news is accurate, Judge Kelly is on President Barack Obama’s list of possible nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, many court-watchers speculated that Kelly could be named to replace him. After spending most of her career as a federal public defender, she won unanimous confirmation to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 with strong support from Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley.

As Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Grassley has the power to schedule hearings and votes on any judicial nominee. He has promised not to give Obama’s choice any hearing in the Senate. Denying a Supreme Court nominee any consideration for a full year is without precedent in U.S. history. Yet Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stuck to that stance yesterday during a White House meeting with the president and Vice President Joe Biden. I enclose below Grassley’s official comment on that meeting, a guest column the senator’s office submitted to Iowa media outlets late last week, and Grassley’s Senate floor speech from April 2013, urging colleagues to confirm Kelly.

Already, Democrats are bombarding Grassley and other GOP senators with calls to “do your job.” Nominating Kelly for the Supreme Court vacancy would put Grassley in a particularly awkward position, forcing him to explain over and over why he refuses to give a well-regarded, highly-qualified Iowa judge even the courtesy of a Senate hearing, let alone a floor vote.

UPDATE: According to appellate attorney Steve Klepper, Kelly set the record for fastest Senate approval of an Obama appeals court nominee: 83 days from nomination to confirmation.

SECOND UPDATE: The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported, “Grassley said Wednesday [March 2] that news the White House had ordered checks on Judge Jane Kelly of Cedar Rapids as a possible Supreme Court nominee wouldn’t neutralize his stance against any choice of President Barack Obama.” The same article quoted from a statement the senator released last month, noting that “It’s not an issue of any particular candidate. […] If a Democrat wins the White House, I’m sure Jane Kelly would be on any Democrat’s short list of candidates.”

Continue Reading...

Thoughts on the political fallout from Grassley's obstruction of a Supreme Court nominee

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has put a spotlight on Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. After wavering last week on whether he would be willing to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Scalia, on Tuesday Grassley joined all other Republicans on the committee to vow that no Supreme Court nominee will get any consideration this year. Not only that, Senate Republican leaders will refuse to meet with the nominee. Grassley is open to discussing the Supreme Court vacancy with the president, but only as an “opportunity to explain the position of the majority to allow the American people to decide.”

Grassley’s hypocrisy is evident when you compare his recent statements with what he said in 2008 about the Senate’s role in confirming judicial nominees, even in the final year of a president’s term. His refusal to do one of the key tasks of the Judiciary Committee may also undercut what has been the central slogan of the senator’s re-election campaigns: “Grassley works for us.”

UPDATE: Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge is thinking about jumping in to the U.S. Senate race, because of Grassley’s “double-speak” and “deliberate obstruction of the process.” My first thoughts on a possible Judge candidacy are here. I’ve also enclosed Grassley’s response to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid at the end of this post.

Continue Reading...

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died; will the Senate act on his replacement?

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep overnight while visiting west Texas, multiple local news sources reported this afternoon. Scalia was the longest-serving current member of the court, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

I am seeking comment from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, on whether Senate Republicans will consider a Supreme Court nomination by President Barack Obama, or whether they will decline to take up any nomination until after the presidential election. Last year the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed only eleven federal judges, “the fewest in a single year since 1960.” Some conservatives including Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz and Sean Davis, founder of The Federalist website, are already demanding that the Senate refuse to act on any Supreme Court nominees until a new president has been elected.

I will update this post as needed with Grassley’s comments and other Iowa reaction to Scalia’s passing.

UPDATE: Have not heard back from Grassley’s office, but a spokesperson for Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, says Scalia’s death “will put a full stop to all Obama judicial nominees going forward” and characterized as “less than zero” the chance of this president getting Scalia’s replacement on the bench.

SECOND UPDATE: Speaking by phone to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble, Grassley praised Scalia’s “legacy of scholarship” and said he would be “badly missed” as an interpreter of original intent, adding, “I wouldn’t make any prognostication on anything about the future because there’s so many balls in the air when those things are considered.”

THIRD UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid commented on Twitter, “Would be unprecedented in recent history for SCOTUS to go year with vacancy. And shameful abdication of our constitutional responsibility.”

FOURTH UPDATE: That was fast. In less than two hours, Grassley changed his tune, saying “it only makes sense that we defer to the American people” and let the next president appoint Scalia’s successor. That would mean leaving a Supreme Court seat vacant for more than a year. A statement from Reid’s office noted that since 1975, “the average number of days from nomination to final Senate vote is 67 days (2.2 months).”

Grassley also claimed “it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year.” But he voted to confirm Justice Anthony Kennedy in early 1988. (President Reagan had nominated Kennedy in late 1987.)

FIFTH UPDATE: Added below statements from Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst and a few links on how this vacancy could affect cases currently pending before the high court. Many names have been floated as possible nominees; one that would be particularly awkward for Republicans is Sri Sinivasan. The Senate unanimously confirmed him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013. He would be the first Asian-American to serve on the Supreme Court. Other possible candidates include Jane Kelly, “a career public defender from Iowa whose nomination for the federal bunch Grassley championed, leading to a unanimous confirmation in 2013.”

SIXTH UPDATE: For more background on Judge Kelly, see Ryan Foley’s report for the Associated Press at the time of her confirmation. Bleeding Heartland’s post on that unanimous Senate vote included Grassley’s floor speech enthusiastically supporting her.

Tom Goldstein argues that 9th Circuit Court Judge Paul Watford is Obama’s most likely pick for the high court this year.

Continue Reading...

Senate unanimously confirms Jane Kelly as 8th Circuit Court judge

The U.S. Senate voted 96 to 0 today to confirm Jane Kelly as U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Press releases from Senator Tom Harkin and the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition are after the jump, along with Senator Chuck Grassley’s speech on the Senate floor today. He used that opportunity not only to support Kelly’s nomination, but to argue that Democrats and President Barack Obama “should have no complaints [about] the judicial confirmation process.” (I don’t agree with him on that point.) Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today the Blog of Legal Times described a fascinating Grassley connection that helped Kelly’s confirmation move “faster than any other circuit court nominee during the Obama administration.”

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported last month that Kelly would be “only the second female judge in the history to serve on 8th Circuit and the only public defender to serve on the bench since 1891.” Harkin commented in today’s statement that as a federal public defender, Kelly “will bring a critically important perspective to the Eighth Circuit.” Obama has nominated “the highest percentage of former prosecutors” as federal judges, Harkin noted. Iowa’s Democratic U.S. Senator recommended Kelly for the vacancy last year.

Continue Reading...

Jane Kelly one step closer to confirmation as U.S. Appeals Court judge

In a voice vote today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved Jane Kelly’s nomination for the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Kelly here. She has been a federal public defender in the Northern District of Iowa since 1994. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, she would be “the only public defender to serve on the bench since 1891. Pres. Obama has nominated 100 former prosecutors to the federal bench.”

Senator Tom Harkin recommended Kelly for the Appeals Court vacancy. If confirmed, she would be “only the second woman in the Eighth Circuit’s 122-year history to have ever served on the court.” Senator Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has blocked some of Obama’s judicial nominations but supports Kelly. After the jump I’ve posted Harkin’s statement on today’s committee action, prepared statements from Harkin and Grassley for Kelly’s committee hearing on February 27, and a press release from the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition.

Continue Reading...
View More...