Tags: D.C. Circuit | Court | Appeals | Republican | Obama | nominee

Republicans Move to Stop Obama from Stacking Appeals Court

Image: Republicans Move to Stop Obama from Stacking Appeals Court Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 09:14 AM

President Barack Obama is planning to simultaneously push through the appointments of three judges to what has been called the second-most-important court in the country, in a move seen by Republicans as an attempt to stack the court toward a liberal agenda.

According to The New York Times, the announcement of Obama's choices to rapidly fill the three vacant seats on the 11-member United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia could come as early as this week.

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Leading contenders include Cornelia Pillard, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center; David Frederick, who often represents consumers and investors at the Supreme Court; and Patricia Millett, a veteran appeals lawyer in Washington.

"The whole purpose here is to stack the court," says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell and other GOP lawmakers reportedly are preparing to challenge the appointments. One plan involves shifting the three empty slots from the court to other parts of the country. Failing that, Senate Republicans could filibuster the nominees if they can pull together 41 of their 45 members.

The court currently has four Republican and four Democratic appointees, including Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee who was just confirmed last week. But the court also utilizes six additional senior judges who previously served full time on the court and still regularly hear cases. Five of the senior judges were appointed by Republican presidents, giving the present court a more conservative bent.

"The court is critically important. The majority has made decisions that have frustrated the president's agenda," Nan Aron, a liberal activist who has called for Obama to be more aggressive in nominating judges, told the Times. "Our view is that balance must be restored on that court, and the empty seats must be filled."

Democrats say that if Republicans move to block Obama's three nominations in close succession, the public will take notice and disapprove. With a tide of public opinion in their favor, Democratic leaders argue, they could try to change Senate rules to prohibit filibusters on judicial nominations, even though Democrats themselves have blocked Republican judicial nominations in the past by using the filibuster.

"A single blocked nomination may not generate much publicity, but by blocking so many nominees at once, the Republicans are overplaying their hand," Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters Thursday, according to the Times.

"The other side must be careful," said Schumer. "If they think they can win a debate over whether the Senate should change its rules, they might very well be mistaken."

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