Sunday, June 24, 2007

Increasing Tension in Lower Court Nominations

It is well known among scholars of the law that most of the power to decide cases lies with lower court judges rather than courts of appeal or courts of review. The rationale is that higher courts, while they have the power of reviewing lower court decisions, do not have the time to review all of the lower court decisions and therefore they usually stand as the law.

However, it appears that there is always a frenzy over appointing judges at higher levels in the court system. Alito and Roberts are examples on the USSC. On lower courts, we saw in the summer of 2005 the contentious battles over the nomination of Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers Brown for federal courts. Owens was finally confirmed for her seat on a federal appellate court and Brown now serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Recently, a similar, but less contentious battle over the Governor John Corzine's nominee for chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court has brought to light this battle over lower court nominees. Corzine nominated Stuart Rabner, former attorney general for the state, but some minorities in the New Jersey Senate criticized Corzine for Rabner's nomination citing the fact that not as much consideration was given to minority candidates.

Rabner was confirmed by a vote of 36-1 indicating that although there was concern over his nomination, this did not pose much of a threat to his nomination. It appears, therefore that either credentials were more important in state legislators decision to confirm Rabner or that his political ideology was in line with that of state legislators despite concerns over his race.

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