Will Obama Fold (yet again) on Judicial Appointments due to GOP Opposition?

A news story coming out of Milwaukee reports that respected black jurist, Louis Butler, was one of 7 Obama nominees to face GOP opposition to being nominated to judicial positions, in Butler’s case one of two named as potential federal judges. Will Obama fold the tent on these seven?

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

President Barack Obama will have to resubmit Louis Butler’s name to the Senate next year if he still wants the Wisconsin judge to fill a slot on the federal bench.

Butler was among seven nominees who failed to gain Senate approval before the chamber adjourned for the year. Republican leaders could have agreed to allow the nominations to continue pending in the Senate but insisted on sending the names back to the White House – effectively signaling their opposition to the nominees.

Reached by phone, Butler said he had no comment on the situation and that he was referring inquiries to the Obama administration. White House officials also provided no comment.

It’s unclear whether Obama will choose to renominate his picks or how Senate leaders will proceed once the Senate reconvenes Jan. 20.

"In light of Republican opposition, we will need to discuss steps with the White House," Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said in an e-mail.

(emphasis added)

What is especially troubling here is the comment of Jim Manley that "In light of Republican opposition, we will need to discuss steps with the White House." Too often, these steps simply mean rolling over to GOP opposition.

Louis Butler is highly qualified for the federal bench. Born in Chicago’s South side, Butler has a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School, served as a judge on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and served as an Adjunct Law Professor at Marquette University. Earlier in his career, he also served as a State of Wisconsin public defender from 1979 to 1992 (being the first such person to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court) and as a judge in the Milwaukee municipal courts and then the state circuit court for a total of four years.

Butler is currently Jurist in Residence-Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Law School where he teaches courses in Appellate Advocacy and Criminal Law. He also serves as a permanent member of the faculty of the National Judicial College in Reno and serves as a member of the bench in the Southwestern Law School Moot court competition in Los Angeles.

He is the winner of numerous awards including the NAACP "Foot Soldier’s Award", the Thomas J. Cannon Equal Justice Award, and the William M. Coffey Memorial Award presented by the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Justice Butler also recently served as a panelist for the Sandra Day O’Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary, 2008 Conference: Our Courts and Corporate Citizenship, at Georgetown Law School.

Butler lost his seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a hotly contested election in 2008 in which big corporations and manufacturers put up millions of dollars for his opponent. The GOP and big business have dubbed Butler a "liberal activist" and criticized some of his criminal decisions as "pro-defense."

Here is some information on other judicial nominations that were held up:

Butler was one of two judicial nominees whose names were sent back to the White House. The other was Edward Chen, nominated for a federal judgeship in the Northern District of California.

Three Justice Department nominees were also blocked: Dawn Johnsen, slated to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and Christopher Schroeder and Mary Smith, picked to serve as assistant attorney generals. The two others were: Craig Becker, who had been nominated to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, and David Teeples, nominated to be a brigadier general in the Army.

Obama could chose to resubmit these judicial picks in January, 2010, but a single Republican could put a "hold" on them. Under Senate rules, the Obama administration would have to marshal 60 votes to move the nominations forward.

So Butler is black, a former criminal defense attorney, highly respected in the legal community, and has eight year’s experience as a judge including four on a state supreme court (where he was the first African American to ever serve). It will be interesting to see how much fight the "no fight" Obama puts up for Butler and these other nominees.

Note that Dawn Johnsen’s nomination has been left twisting in the wind for months by the Obama administration. Overall, Obama has a poor record on pushing forth his judicial appointees as commented on by observers like Glenn Greenwald and others. That all seven of these picks are progressive types doesn’t hold out much hope for them as Obama has shown no support (let alone fight) for Democrats from the Democratic side of the Democratic party.

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