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GOP Opposition Slows Obama's Judicial Nominees

Publication Date: 
November 16, 2009
Nina Totenberg

Professor Michael McConnell, a former federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, is quoted in this article on the filibuster of President Obama's first judicial nominee, David Hamilton. KQED News reports:

The Senate votes Tuesday on whether to end a Republican filibuster of President Obama's first judicial nominee, David Hamilton. The story of the Hamilton nomination is just part of a larger judicial nomination picture that shows the president slow on nominating judges and Republicans adept at stalling tactics.

Hamilton has served for 15 years as a federal district court judge in Indiana. He is so widely respected that Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican, strongly endorsed his nomination, as did the state president of the conservative Federalist Society. At the confirmation hearing, Lugar praised Hamilton's "brilliance," "fairness" and commitment to law. "He is the type of lawyer and the type of person one wants to see on the federal bench," Lugar said.


In some ways, that makes the relative lethargy about judgeships even more puzzling to many conservatives, as well as liberals. Michael McConnell was in that first group of conservative judges appointed by President Bush in 2001. Now a professor at Stanford Law School, he says that on the rare occasions that a president comes into office with a real agenda — he names Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Obama — then the courts can become a check on that agenda.

The courts, he observes, "were named by past presidents and confirmed by past Senates with different political ideas," so when new legislation or regulations are subjected to judicial scrutiny, those courts, populated by nominees of the past, are "going to serve as a kind of break to slow things down, sometimes to change directions."