Tuesday, March 15, 2005


A smidgen of good news, via our esteemed colleague Susan Madrak at Suburban Guerrilla: if, in the coming battle over the President's judicial nominees, Bill Frist deploys the "nuclear option" -- amending the Senate rules so that a simple majority vote can kill a filibuster -- Democrats are prepared to retaliate by any means necessary:
Democrats threatened Tuesday to slow or stop most Senate business if Republicans unilaterally change the rules to assure confirmation of President Bush's controversial court appointments.

Any such change would mark "an unprecedented abuse of power," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "The power to confirm judges includes the right to use well-established Senate rules to reject nominees."

Reid, the Democratic leader, exempted military and national security legislation from the threat, and said his rank and file would not block passage of measures needed to ensure continuation of critical government services.
The GOP is already charging the Democrats with -- gasp -- obstructionism, the idea presumably being that Bush's every whim, however debauched, should be instantaneously gratified as a matter of simple principle. (If, however, Mr. Bush were to empty his chamber pot from the third-story window under which we happened to be standing, we should be most grateful for whatever "obstruction" a first-story awning might supply -- and in this instance, naturally, we see the Democrats providing a function not unlike that of the awning.) Dwight Meredith of Wampum took a close look at a couple of the gentlemen our President has nominated, or re-nominated, for lifetime appointments to the federal bench, and concluded, based on their experience and qualifications, that we'd be much better off with Raymond Burr:
Recently, I looked at the trial experience of William Myers, President Bush’s nominee to the bench of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I found it remarkable that Mr. Myers was nominated to a post in which correcting trial errors is an essential function without any experience as a judge, and having never handled a criminal matter of any kind, and having never tried a single case before a jury. Indeed, Raymond Burr’s fake trial experience as TV’s Perry Mason exceeds Mr. Myers’ jury trial experience . . . .

Let’s look at the career of President Bush’s nominee to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Thomas B. Griffith. His answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire may be found here (pdf). Is he more qualified to decide if an error has been made at trial than Raymond Burr?

I first note that, like Mr. Myers, Thomas B. Griffith has never served as a judge . . . . Like Mr. Myers, Thomas Griffith has never tried a case to a jury. He has never exercised a preemptory strike, never submitted or objected to a jury charge, and never kept his voice down to prevent the jury from hearing the sidebar discussion. As far as I can tell, Mr. Griffith has never represented a human being in any civil case whatsoever. If any jury issues arise on an appeal to the D.C. Circuit, and such issues will frequently arise, he will have no experience on which to draw.

Indeed, Mr. Griffith’s jury trial experience is so lacking that in response to the Senate questionnaire, he was reduced to citing his experience in the case of Houston General Insurance Company vs. American General Lloyds. That case never went to trial but Mr. Griffith did point out to the Judiciary Committee that, in preparing the case, his firm conducted a mock trial. Mr. Griffin participated in that mock trial. Raymond Burr, of course, tried more than 250 mock cases on TV. Mr. Griffith can boast of only one.

I suggest that some Senator ask Mr. Griffith at his confirmation hearing to give a few examples of what would be an acceptable and a not acceptable response to a
Batson challenge. Perhaps he could be asked be asked under what circumstances he would uphold or overturn the use of an Allen charge. Those are among the type of issues Mr. Griffith will confront on the bench and it would be useful to know if he has any expertise in those areas . . . .

As was pointed out last summer at
Paperwight’s Fair Shot, at the time of the impeachment trial [of Bill Clinton, in which Griffith served as Counsel to the Senate], Mr. Griffith’s law license had been suspended. Thus, while Mr. Griffith was leaning over to whisper “Rule of Law, Rule of Law” in Trent Lott’s ear, he was practicing law without a license.

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