Harry Reid States The Obvious About The Nominations to the D.C. Circuit: “at least one more and that will switch the majority.”

August 9th, 2013

After the President nominated three judges to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, I stated what I thought was the obvious political reason behind the decision. It had nothing to do with workload. It had to do with too many Republican-dominated panels.

The D.C. Circuit is notoriously underworked. The caseload, in contrast with all other courts of appeals, is dwindling. The problem isn’t that the court is lacking judges. The problem is that the existing judges, most of whom were nominated by Republican Presidents, are voting in ways that progressives do not like.

Emily Bazelon said as much.

The D.C. Circuit hears cases in panels of three. Because the senior judges pick up a sizable share of the workload, “almost 80 percent of the panels in 2013 were composed of exclusively or a majority of Republicans,” Moshe Marvit writes in Dissent. “The results of this partisan court are not surprising. Many of the D.C. Circuit’s recent decisions have skewed heavily to the right.”

Today, Harry Reid said as much, and admitted he needed at least one more judge to “switch the majority.”

“We put on three people — I don’t think they deserve to be on any court, but they — we put them on there, and they have been terrible,” Reid said. “They’re the ones that said … the president can’t have recess appointments which we’ve had since this country started. They’ve done a lot of bad things, so we’re focusing very intently on the D.C. Circuit. We need at least one more. There’s three vacancies, we need at least one more and that will switch the majority.”

As I noted before, let’s be real about what’s going on here. Politics is fine, and this is the President’s prerogative, but let’s not pretend that vacancies on the court are driving this fight. This battle has gone back to the days of Miguel Estrada.

Now there’s nothing wrong with taking this position. Presidents appoint judges who reflect their view of the law. I think that’s an important part of any presidency (something Obama did not focus much on in his first term, perhaps due to spending so much time on the ACA). But, let’s be real (as I noted in thispost). Emily’s comments accurately reflect why the President wants to get these three judges confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, and is using the strategy of nominating three at once.

Also Reid’s comments that the Canning panel doesn’t belong on the court are staggering.

H/T John Gramlich.