Filling the Eleventh Circuit vacancies

This month, Eleventh Circuit Judge J. L. Edmondson assumes senior status after a quarter century of valuable service. His decision leaves the bench with 13 vacancies in the 179 appeals court judgeships and the Eleventh Circuit with two in twelve. These openings, which comprise more than seven percent of the judgeships nationwide and 17 percent in the Eleventh Circuit erode the delivery of justice. Therefore, President Barack Obama must swiftly nominate, and the Senate promptly confirm, appellate judges, so that the vacancies will be filled systemwide and in the Eleventh Circuit.


Gridlock must end for VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), consistently described by the media as “a piece of legislation that has always enjoyed bipartisan support,” is trapped in congressional stalemate. VAWA has the support of the states’ attorneys general, more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations, including organizations of medical professionals, the broadest possible range of faith groups, as well as criminal justice system personnel, so it would be a devastating shame if VAWA itself falls victim to the gridlocked politics that have killed so many other worthy bills.


GOP choosing path of partisan acrimony with contempt vote

If  House Republicans are sincerely trying to obtain documents important to their “Operation Fast and Furious” investigation, rather than just provoking another partisan confrontation with a Democratic president, they are doing it all wrong.

The right way is now established.


Why does the government halt skilled immigration?

Just two months after the government started accepting applications, next year’s highly skilled worker visas hit the numerical cap. No firm will be now able to apply to sponsor highly skilled foreign workers. Foreign high skilled workers neither “take” American jobs nor do they lower American wages. The low numerical cap, along with other regulations and visa fees, need to go, if the American economy is to grow.
The H-1B visa is a three year, employer-sponsored work visa, renewable one time, for highly skilled foreign workers. Only 85, 000 such visas are issued to annually to private firms.


Impact of UMG and EMI merger on minority recording artists

Today the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee is holding a hearing to air concerns about the proposed purchase of EMI’s recorded music business by Universal Music Group. Congress, regulators and industry analysts are increasingly questioning this merger, and rightly so: the potential impact on competition in the music distribution marketplace – particularly the development of Internet distribution channels – and the overall effect on consumer choices are portentous.


Fast and more furious: The case for contempt

On December 15th, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed while on patrol in Arizona. This brave man gave his life in service to our country and was murdered with guns that, for all practical purposes, were handed to Mexican cartels by the very government he died serving.

Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failure to produce documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious - an effort approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2009, authorizing the transfer of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to build a case against drug smugglers.


The need to restrict prolonged solitary confinement

Today, we will join hundreds of people of faith across the nation to fast for 23 hours, symbolizing the 23 hours per day that tens of thousands of prisoners, inmates, and detainees, are warehoused in solitary confinement. As we have seen in recent prisoner hunger strikes in California and Virginia, refusing food is one of the few means prisoners have to protest their conditions in solitary confinement. We will fast and pray for divine intervention that “drives out fear.” It is fear, rather than evidence-based best practices, that has led to an explosion in America’s use of solitary confinement over the past several decades.


Filling the Ninth Circuit vacancies

On May 21, the Senate finally approved superb attorney Paul Watford for the Ninth Circuit three months after his Judiciary Committee vote. However, the countryʼs biggest circuit still has two openings. Accordingly, the Senate must confirm Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz, the excellent committee-approved nominee, this week, while President Barack Obama must expeditiously nominate another prospect.

The Ninth Circuit has as many openings as each of twelve regional circuits except D.C. Its judges have twice their caseload, a backlog of 14,000 pending appeals and the slowest disposition time. These dockets make both vacancies “judicial emergencies” and undermine justice in the Ninth Circuit, the court of last resort for 99 percent of appeals from the West. In October 2010, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote chamber leaders to stress the tribunalʼs “desperate need for judges,” urging action “on judicial vacancies without delay” because they mean the “public will suffer.” This month, he added: “If we don’t get more judges confirmed, delay in deciding cases will continue to increase.”


Indigent defense given short shrift in federal justice grants

A recently released federal report confirms what most observers have known for a long time—when it comes to federal funding, those who represent the poor in the criminal justice system are largely left out in the cold.  The new study, which members of Congress asked the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct, examines how state, local and tribal governments use critical criminal justice grants – such as the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG) and Byrne Competitive grant programs – they receive from the federal government.
The GAO found that legal assistance for defendants unable to afford it on their own consistently comprised the smallest percentage of state, local and tribal spending of federal grants. Based on survey responses, the GAO estimated states only allocated seven-tenths of one percent of Byrne JAG money to indigent legal defense over a five-year period, while prosecutors and law enforcement received about 38 percent. The imbalance is even starker at the local level, where indigent defense received a paltry one-tenth of one percent of the money, compared with law enforcement and prosecutors who receive 54 percent. In total, over those five years, police received $1.8 billion, prosecutors and courts nearly $300 million, and indigent defense only $22 million.  Clearly, when it comes to achieving fairness and parity in criminal justice funding, government at every level is simply falling short.


DREAM Act: Yes you can, Mr. President

Over the past months, undocumented youth, top advocates, former immigration officials, and members of Congress of both parties have urged the President to exercise executive authority to stop the deportations of DREAM Act-eligible youth. In response, the president and his top advisors repeatedly indicated that he did not have the authority to do so. This, however, has been a political excuse as the president does have the authority. Just a few days ago, leading legal scholars on immigration and citizenship law propounded, in a letter to the White House, that “there is clear executive authority for several forms of administrative relief for DREAM Act beneficiaries.”

At Obama's fingertips are three devices: Deferred Action, parole-in-place and deferred enforced departure. These forms of relief essentially would allow DREAM Act-eligible youth to remain in the country without the threat of deportation.