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Last updateMon, 25 May 2015 2pm

LOS ANGELES Monday, May 25th 2015 10:23

WAGE RAISE RAGE

  • WHO WE ARE-Nearly half of Los Angeles just gave itself a raise. Following a wave of state and local minimum-wage bills and initiatives, Los Angeles became one of the largest cities to dramatically raise its hourly base pay and join Seattle to hit the magic $15-an-hour demand pushed by labor and community groups nationwide. The City Council…
  • ​City Snookered by Westfield Billionaires

    Jack Humphreville
    LA WATCHDOG-In March of 2014, the Herb Wesson led City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved a 25 year, $48 million giveaway to help the $28.5 billion Westfield Corporation finance its $250 million development, The Village at Westfield Topanga. (Photo) But this subsidy championed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield was hardly necessary as The Village…
  • Slick With Denial: ‘Self-Regulation’ and the Latest Oil Spill

    Judith Lewis Mernit
    HISTORY LESSONS IGNORED-On Wednesday, May 20, the day after a Santa Barbara County fire inspector discovered a stream of contaminated crude oil flowing onto a pristine segment of the Southern California coast, a group of researchers published a study linking the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to a mass die-off of bottlenose dolphins. The 46…
  • Scaremongering about the Patriot Act Sunset

    Jameel Jaffer
    FALSE CLAIMS EXPOSED-In a last-ditch effort to scare lawmakers into preserving unpopular and much-abused surveillance authorities, the Senate Republican leadership and some intelligence officials are warning that allowing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset would compromise national security. (One particularly crass example from Senator…
  • Still the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave

    Ken Alpern
    ALPERN AT LARGE-It's been another year and another successful Flag Placement at the West Los Angeles National Cemetery. Crawling out of bed in the morning on a holiday weekend to show up bright and early for a show of American patriotism and respect to our veterans and fallen heroes, the region and nation saw yet again how the Boy Scouts, Girl…
  • Retaliation: VA Police Target Veterans

    Robert L. Rosebrock
    LOS ANGELES – Recently, I was interviewed by John Ismay, an Iraqi War Veteran who is the “Veterans and Military Issues Reporter” for Southern California Public Radio. We met at the Los Angeles VA to discuss the never-ending misappropriation of land at this largest VA in the nation, within our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans. We were…
  • City Controller’s Grandstanding DWP Audit is the Real Waste of Ratepayer Dollars

    Dennis Zine
    JUST THE FACTS-City Controller Ron Galperin’s Grandstanding DWP Audit results were finally released. Unfortunately, the conclusion and political spin that came afterwards from the controller was misleading. Here are the FACTS: The DWP’s Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute are administered by DWP managers and representatives of the…
  • A Place Where ‘Special Interest’ is NOT a Dirty Word

    Denyse Selesnick
    MY TURN-We need to have a new word to differentiate the villainous “Special Interest” that everyone is always complaining about and the “Special Interest” that almost all of politicians and civic and social activists have adopted as a cause. It is impossible to have passion about multiple issues. I know I have mentioned this before, but it seems…
  • Alert! America’s Small Businesses are Being Screwed by Big Business

    Robert Reich
    THE ECONOMY-Can it be that America’s small businesses are finally waking up to the fact they’re being screwed by big businesses? For years, small-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies. (Photo: small businesses in Studio City) They’ve contributed to the same Republican…

 

  • Can Strawberries Help Fight Cancer?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-There have been a number of studies over the years that could show evidence of strawberries fighting off cancer. Tong Chen lead a study…
  • Study: The Best Way to Quit Smoking … Bet On It

    Francie Diep
    WELLNESS-Oftentimes, money speaks louder than words. Apparently, that aphorism applies to cigarettes too. A new study finds that money incentives…
  • Exercise Can Help Anxiety … Here’s How

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-Statistics show that over 3 million American adults suffer from anxiety and there is no evidence that number will be declining any time…




ICYMI-Amy Schumer shows Dave her vagina

Remembering Ann Meara: 1929-2015

The Star Spangled Banner … like you’ve never heard it before

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Clearing the Benches

POLITICS AND THE FEDERAL COURTS - “The benches are empty! The benches are empty!”

Whether you are attending a Tea Party meeting or an Occupy Wall Street protest, you are unlikely to hear that rallying cry. But the chronic understaffing of the federal courts is becoming a significant crisis. This decimation (literally a cut by 10 percent) threatens basic protections guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to due process and a speedy trial.

Neither party has much incentive to crusade energetically against this attack on the judicial branch. The opposition party never wants to fill the judgeships, at least not until its president gets to do the nominating. The majority is wary of accusations that it is “politicizing” the courts by packing them with partisan appointees.


The public only tunes in when a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court, when nomination battles bring the courts into the limelight. But those vacancies do get filled, and what’s left unnoticed are the significant number of empty benches below the Supreme Court level. Often, nominees for these openings do not even get so far as an up or down vote after enduring months of a life in limbo.

The issue has been in the news of late, due to the Republicans’ filibuster of Caitlin Halligan, President Obama’s nominee to join the important federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. And this is no isolated stalemate.

There are currently 80 open judicial seats out of 874 federal judgeships. That’s nearly a 10 percent vacancy rate. Twenty-nine of these are classified by the federal court system as “judicial emergencies,” due to the mounting caseload in those jurisdictions or the duration of the opening.

Many of these vacancies have been open for years. Nineteen additional seats are scheduled to become empty over the next seven months, potentially raising the vacancy rate to as high as one in nine.

Can you imagine if we had a 10 percent vacancy rate for governorships across the nation—five states without a governor? Or how about a Congress to which 43 districts across the country didn’t bother sending representatives, and to which 10 states sent only one senator? What if one Supreme Court seat was simply left empty for an entire term because the Senate would not agree to hold a vote?

Any of these scenarios would be scandalous, for good measure, and it is no less scandalous that this is the norm in the judiciary as a whole.

The Senate bears the lion’s share of the blame. Senators on both sides of the aisle have made a habit of holding nominations hostage. Democrats routinely stalled Bush appointees, and Republicans are now doing the same to Obama’s choices. As the vacancies mount, the stakes continue to climb. A president who could consistently push through his appointments would drastically alter the shape of the federal courts for decades to come.

The Senate may be inching toward ending the minority’s ability to block judicial appointments. But suddenly opening the floodgates, though appealing, could do actual harm to the courts. The majority must avoid the perception that it is merely eager to pack the courts with political allies. Such an impression would undermine the courts’ legitimacy.

What is needed is a grand bargain for the judiciary that addresses both the long-term problem of stalled nominations and the current crisis of understaffing, while avoiding the appearance of court packing.

To address the long-term problem, the Senate should adopt a rule requiring a vote on all judicial nominees within 90 days. The “advice and consent clause” of the U.S. Constitution requires the Senate’s approval for judicial and other high-profile presidential appointments. But Senate rules govern how it grants such consent.

Only in recent history has it taken a super-majority to move along judicial nominations. The Senate rule could set a longer timeline for Supreme Court nominees, but 90 days should be enough time for a vote on lower court nominations.

To address the current crisis, President Obama should strike a deal with the Senate. For his part, he should agree to defer on one-third of the nominations for current judicial vacancies to Senate Republicans.

As a constitutional matter, of course, the nominees would remain the president’s, but by finding a mechanism to engage Republicans in these choices, the White House could help resurrect the type of true consultation that once took place in filling these slots. Such a proportional agreement that resulted in the appointment of judges from each party would ensure that the federal bench maintained an ideological balance.

In exchange for a larger role in the nomination process, the Senate would have to agree to a tight voting deadline and filibuster-proof schedule for this new set of judicial nominees. All nominees should receive an up or down vote within the next six months. After that, the Senate would take up its new rule, allowing future presidents to keep the judicial bench fully staffed.

In theory, the judicial branch is co-equal with the legislative and executive. But it can only operate properly if not suffocated by the Congress. The Senate and President Obama must find a way to break that logjam, and soon. Otherwise, basic Constitutional rights like those of due process and a speedy trial are in danger of becoming empty promises.

(Jason LaBau is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. He is currently at work on a book project, Phoenix Rising: Arizona and the Enduring Divisions of Modern Conservatism. This article was posted first at zocalopublicsquare.org.)
Photo courtesy of runJMrun.   
-cw

Tags: Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Federal Courts, Federal Judges, Supreme Court, speedy trial, due process, Caitlin Halligan, President Obama, Republicans, judicial emergencies, Constitution, Senate








CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 100
Pub: Dec 16, 2011

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