Mon07272015

Last updateMon, 27 Jul 2015 7pm

LOS ANGELES Monday, July 27th 2015 10:48

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Thoroughly Modern Bob – Coming to a Legislature Near You!

Paul Hatfield
PERSPECTIVE-Thoroughly Modern Millie was a Tony Award winner. State Senator Bob Hertzberg is rolling out his own sequel. The only problem is the production cost. Actually, the real problem is we will be the ones bankrolling it if Bob gets the green light. It is the most expensive tax scam concocted, more than California HSR. I’m talking…

Elite Girls School Has Brentwood Up in Arms … Over Traffic

John Schwada
INSIDE LA-Hairdresser Mikell Powell is walking her two dogs in Brentwood along Sunset Boulevard just across the street from the Archer School for Girls (photo left). “I’m opposed to anything that would make driving on Sunset here anymore hellish than it already is,” Powell says as her dogs tug on their leashes. No question: there’s a 1.2 mile…

Homeless LA: Safe Havens, Not Sidewalks

Mike Bonin
WHO WE ARE-In recent years, Los Angeles has seen more progress in combating homelessness than it ever has – yet the problem is still getting worse. Since 2011, the region has housed more than 23,000 people – a record number even by national standards. Yet homelessness is on the rise. Encampments are proliferating in our neighborhoods throughout…

Can LA Afford Another Olympics?

Jack Humphreville
LA WATCHDOG-Boston bailed on hosting the 2024 Olympics when Mayor Martin Walsh refused to sign a host city contract with the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) that would have put Beantown (and possibly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) on the hook for any cost overruns associated with this 17 day extravaganza. But Walsh’s refusal to…

The Petty Hypocrisy of Mandatory Ethics Training

Bob Gelfand
GELFAND’S WORLD-As a member of a neighborhood council board, I am required by state law to do 2 hours of ethics training every 2 years. Elected officials such as members of the City Council are also required to take this training. The curious thing about our California ethics rules is that they prohibit the small stuff while looking the other way…

Los Angeles: Brown lives Matter!

Fred Mariscal
LATINO PERSPECTIVE-According to the Los Angeles Times, over the last five years in LA County, coroner's data show that Latinos, who make up about half of the county's population, also represent about half the people killed by police. Of the 23 people fatally shot by law enforcement in the county this year, 14 were Latino. The Times raises an…

Grading the LA Times: Mike Feuer’s B+ Leaves Something Out

Noel Weiss
OTHER VOICES-Reading the LA Times’ Report Card grade of B+ for City Attorney Mike Feuer, it was good to see at least a 'hat-tip' to the issue of whether the City Attorney really is the “attorney for the people.” But their conclusion seems to be that he is not, and I believe that is wrong. Exactly who does the City Attorney represent? Certainly, he…

Beverly Hills Pounds Final Nail in Bike Lanes Coffin

Mark Elliot
GETTING THERE FROM HERE-If you expected that Beverly Hills might install bicycle lanes on our segment of Santa Monica Boulevard when reconstructing it next year, you will be sorely disappointed to know that City Council just pounded the final nail into the bike lanes coffin. City Council split on the Blue Ribbon Committee recommendation to expand…

Helter Skelter, Murder and the Looming Race War

Tony Castro
TONY CASTRO’S LA-In one of our last conversations before his death earlier this year, author and prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi lamented that while he had successfully imprisoned Charles Manson, he feared he had only made a dent in the threat of an apocalyptic race war that the mass murderer had hoped to ignite. “Madness and mad men,” said Bugliosi,…

 

Reynolds Rap Video: Is this reality or fantasy?




Thu Jul 30, 2015 @ 6:00PM - 08:00PM
A Taste of Chatsworth
Sat Aug 01, 2015 @12:00AM
Fifth Annual Veterans Summer Celebration & Picnic
Sat Aug 08, 2015 @12:00PM - 04:00PM
9TH ANNUAL VENICE COMMUNITY BBQ & POTLUCK PICNIC


You’re gonna cry! Kids sing to teacher with cancer

Scarrrry! The Flying Gun

Kid Stuff! Full of chuckles


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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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