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 REVISIONIST HISTORY

‘The Politics of Race’ …Revising the Legacy of Tom Bradley

Clinton Galloway
CORRUPTION WATCH-I recently saw a documentary titled “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race" that was shown on PBS. What was supposed to be a documentary was little more than a gratuitous fluff piece distorting the true record of Tom Bradley. While Tom Bradley did very well for Tom Bradley, his effects upon the racial divide…

Special Report: California Saved by Whistleblowers

Ed Coghlan
PERSPECTIVE--“For democracies to work, elected leaders need to be responsive and representative, and voters must be able to hold elected officials accountable for results. Democratic integrity requires an electoral process that empowers voters and gives candidates and incumbents the incentives to listen and lead. It requires transparency…

Can High Density Housing Solve LA’s Housing Crisis? It’s Complicated!

Jason Islas
ANALYSIS-Southern California Public Radio affiliate KPCC, in partnership with the Milken Institute, assembled a panel of experts last Wednesday night to answer the question: can high-density housing solve the housing crisis currently facing L.A. County and California? For those who have been following news about the crippling housing supply crisis…

DWP: No Reform, No Rate Increase!

Jack Humphreville
LA WATCHDOG--Our Department of Water and Power is planning to have its proposed $1.4 billion increase in our water and power rates to be effective as of January 1, 2016. But this timing is unlikely because of the many questions involving the Department’s operations and finances and its dysfunctional and financially draining relationship with City…

Memo to City Leadership: Blame Yourselves if Angelenos Reject the Olympics

Ken Alpern
POLITICS-For the record, I would love to see the Olympics return to LA, and I would love to see a successful Measure R-2. That said, I think the Mayor, City Council and Downtown "leadership" have done enough mischief and backdoor wrongdoing that it will prove very difficult for Angelenos (who really are sick of City corruption) to support either…

Action Alert! Amend the Citywide Mansionization Ordinance

Shelley Wagers and Dick Platkin
speculators. The problem is not house size. It’s house size relative to lot size and neighborhood context. Mansionization disrupts the scale and character of established neighborhoods. Houses that loom over neighboring homes take away air, sunlight, privacy, and market value. Mansionization replaces modest homes with showplaces that price out all…

Trump’s Nonsense: Latinos Shouldn’t ‘Take it Personally’

Fred Mariscal
LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump continues in the lead with no end in sight. He recently unveiled his plan to deport by force all 11 million undocumented workers residing in the United States. As George Will said, Trump’s roundup would be about 94 times larger than the wartime internment of 117,000 persons of…

Vision Zero 101: Bike Lanes Are NOT Parking Spaces

Sahra Sulaiman
LA STREET WATCH--Tap-tap-tap. The parking enforcement officer looked up from his phone. When he rolled down his window, I smiled and asked politely about his having parked in the bike lane on Los Angeles Street. There was a long pause. “And?” He raised his eyebrows. Having only expected some, not total, disdain, I stuttered my way through my…

Racial Quagmire in a ‘Post-Racial’ America? The Key is Economic Progress, Not Protest

Joel Kotkin
RACISM AND IDENTITY POLITICS-The election of Barack Obama promised to inaugurate the dawn of a post-racial America. Instead we seem to be stepping ever deeper into a racial quagmire. The past two months saw the violent commemoration of the Ferguson protests, “the celebration” of the 50th anniversary of the Watts riots, new police shootings in…

  • Arsenic in Your Rice?! Here’s Help

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS--Rice has been found to be high in arsenic. Arsenic is a chemical element comes in organic and inorganic, and the highly toxic inorganic is…
  • Campbell’s Soup to Remove MSG … at Long Last!

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-You can’t get more American than Campbell’s soup. This company has been gracing our grocery shelves since 1859. With iconic artists like…
  • Probiotics Instead of Weight Loss Surgery?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism on August 4, they have proven a link between weight loss surgeries and gut microbes. It…





Dream Team. Sarah Palin interviews the Donald

Downton Abbey. Final season promo


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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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