NY Times: The Senate’s discourtesy to judges

The New York Times published an editorial Sunday criticizing Sen. Richard Burr’s decision to block President Barack Obama’s nomination for federal judge to the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The nominee, Jennifer May-Parker, is an attorney Burr himself recommended for the post in 2009. In his recommendation, Burr said that May-Parker had “the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction if nominated.”

Burr refuses to explain why he’s withholding the blue slip needed to advance May-Parker’s Senate hearing, claiming he doesn’t discuss judicial nominations.

Via the New York Times:

That tradition, known as the blue slip, gives senators the ability to block any judicial nomination in their state, no explanation necessary, before it even reaches the stage of a committee hearing — never mind the Senate floor. There’s no formal rule enshrining this tradition, and the committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, could end it tomorrow. But he has inexplicably clung to the practice, preventing worthy nominees from being confirmed and allowing petty Republican politics to reduce Mr. Obama’s influence on the bench.

If a home-state senator won’t return a blue piece of paper agreeing to a judicial nomination, Mr. Leahy won’t give the nominee a committee hearing or a vote. It’s a form of senatorial courtesy that goes back to 1917 or so, giving senators an anti-democratic power never contemplated in the Constitution.

As with the filibuster, members of both parties have abused the privilege, but only when it suits them. When Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, was the chairman of the committee during the presidency of George W. Bush, he would allow nominations to proceed over the objections of both home-state senators, as long as the president “consulted” with them first.

The New York Times – The Senate’s discourtesy to judges

The vacancy is the longest-standing federal district judicial vacancy in the nation.

May-Parker is the first person of color and the second woman to be nominated to serve in the Eastern District.

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