In Chicago, if you ask a school-aged child their number one fear, it’s not braces or a book report. It’s being shot on the way to school. While law enforcement officials around the country face the monumental task of cracking down on the thousands of illegal weapons that flood our streets and take innocent lives each day, it’s children in Chicago who bear the brunt of such violence. Last year in my hometown of Chicago alone, gun violence led to more than 500 homicides and the seizure of more than 7,400 illegal firearms by the Chicago Police Department.
“The cornerstone of the American judicial system is the trial courts,” the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said, “in which witnesses testify, juries deliberate, and justice is done.” But four years of delays in nominating and confirming district judges threaten the ability of the federal trial courts to carry that weight. To keep witnesses testifying, juries deliberating, and justice being done in the federal courts, we need to rebuild an efficient machinery for putting trial judges on the bench.
Neither the Democratic nor the Republican versions of the Violence Against Women Act survived the last Congress. Now Democrats, headed by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, vow immediate action on a new VAWA that does little to alter current flawed policies on domestic violence. The long hiatus in VAWA authorization represents a golden opportunity to get right what we’ve gotten wrong for so long.
VAWA’s detriments are too numerous to deal with here, but surely if we’re going to spend almost half a billion dollars to combat domestic violence, don’t we want a law that actually decreases its incidence?
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Judge Charles Pannell assumes senior status Friday after 13 years of valuable service. This action means that the bench experiences 72 vacancies in 677 district court judgeships and the Northern District has three in twelve, two of which are “judicial emergencies” due to their length. These openings – more than ten percent nationwide and one quarter in the Northern District – undermine justice. Accordingly, President Barack Obama must swiftly nominate, and senators promptly confirm, judges to fill the empty positions.
President Obama’s second term is but weeks old and his “to do” list is growing: reducing gun violence, managing the fiscal cliff and budget sequestration, raising the debt ceiling to pay the nation’s bills, and now following his major address in Nevada this week, comprehensive immigration reform and dealing with the 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S.
In the wake of the recent Newtown massacre, America’s attention has been sharply focused on the out of control epidemic of gun violence plaguing our country.
Much of the conversation has centered on the need for an assault weapons ban, banning high capacity magazines, universal background checks, and greater mental health investments. All are crucial components of any comprehensive approach to the issue. But none of these by themselves will be sufficient if we ignore another significant part of this tragic reality.
Last month the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on a pair of cases concerning the latest struggle for equality: gay marriage. The first is an appeal from the Second Circuit in which a three-judge panel, led by conservative appointee Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which precludes federal recognition of same-sex marriages sanctioned at the state level. The second case — shepherded by the doyens of Supreme Court advocacy, David Boies and Ted Olson — arises from a Ninth Circuit ruling invalidating California’s controversial Proposition 8, a 2008 voter initiative that confines marriage to the union of a man and a woman.
One night in 1985, when Lavinia Masters was 13 years old, she said goodnight and went to sleep in her Dallas home. She awoke suddenly to find a knife at her throat and an intruder sexually assaulting her.
On an ordinary Monday afternoon in 1996, Kristin Yorke was at home in New York City when her roommate returned from work. Unbeknownst to them both, a stranger lurked, forced his way into their apartment and raped both women.
In August, Northern District of California Judge James Ware retired after two decades of service, leaving the court with four vacancies in 14 judgeships. The huge caseload prompted the U.S. Courts to declare all four “emergencies.” Because these openings, which constitute 28 percent of Northern District seats, erode justice, President Barack Obama must quickly nominate, and senators expeditiously approve, judges for the court.
Obama has assiduously pursued guidance from Republican and Democratic officials where vacancies arise prior to nominations. He has recommended nominees of even temperament, who are intelligent, ethical, hard working, independent and diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender and ideology. Northern District Judges Edward Chen and Lucy Koh are quintessential illustrations.
Now that the Senate is nearing the conclusion of its lame duck session after President Barack Obama secured a second term and Democrats increased their Senate majority, it is appropriate to analyze court appointments. The judiciary experiences 60 vacancies in the 679 district court judgeships, two of which are Middle District of Pennsylvania openings. Thus, President Obama must promptly nominate, and the Senate swiftly approve, nominees, so that judges can dispense justice.