We’re nearly halfway through a busy Supreme Court term in which many important cases ranging from affirmative action to recess appointments and from campaign finance to buffer zones at abortion clinics have been heard by the nine justices. More than ever, this term affirms the importance of the Supreme Court in adjudicating the most important social, political (and of course, constitutional!) issues of today.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu nominated Karnit Flug to be the new governor of the Bank of Israel. Flug had been passed over twice for the position before being nominated for the position on October 20, 2013. Flug was selected as the previous Governor’s deputy, Governor Stanley Fischer, and has been acting governor of the Bank of Israel since Governor Fischer’s resignation in June (which he announced six months before his resignation).
Many people focused on the long, drawn out process of nominating a new person for the position of governor of the Bank of Israel. While the cabinet still needs to confirm Flug in order for her to be named the new governor of the Bank of Israel, most are optimistic that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet will do so.
Perhaps one of the biggest pieces of news to go along with this announcement is that, if confirmed, Flug will be the first woman to hold her position in Israel. Flug is the most recent woman to be named to a position as the head of a central bank in past months; President Obama named Janet Yellen as his nominee for the head of the Federal Reserve and President Vladimir Putin of Russia named Elvira Nabiullina as the head of Russia’s central bank. This is an exciting time for woman on the financial world stage!
Image courtesy of Sason Tiram/Bank of Israel via Bloomberg
Today the five Eisendrath Legislative Assistants say goodbye after an amazing year representing the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. We have worked on nearly 70 different legislative issues, represented the RAC in countless coalitions, seen some bills signed into law and others tragically defeated, said goodbye to one Congress and welcomed the next. All in all it has been an incredible year.
As part of the deal reached in the Senate to prevent changing the rules for attaining cloture and the ability of the minority to filibuster, a number of President Obama’s nominees for various executive offices were confirmed last week. One of those is Gina McCarthy.
On Thursday the Senate voted 61-39 to confirm McCarthy as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As you may recall, a group of senators marched out of the Environment and Public Works committee hearing on her confirmation, in an effort to block her confirmation and to protest the very existence of the EPA. Her confirmation finally gives the EPA an executive who can oversee the agency, which will be primarily responsible for implementing the President’s new climate change effort.
President Obama’s proposal includes limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, the completion of overdue emissions standards for new power plants, support for energy efficiency programs, and implementation of strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. Such programs will help ensure that those who are least responsible for climate change and who remain most vulnerable to its effects receive assistance to lessen its impact on their lives. McCarthy will be responsible for carrying out this illustrious goal. Here’s to hoping that we’ll finally start to see the implementation of world-saving policies that we so desperately need.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last month the Supreme Court ended its term with a flurry of landmark decisions, including overturning DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) in Windsor v. United States and substantially limited the effects and power of the Civil Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. The Supreme Court may be the highest court in the land, but there are other layers of the federal judicial system that play equally powerful roles: Circuit Courts and District Courts. Filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court is very public news that catches the attention of most Americans, and vacancies are never left open for very long. However, vacancies on these lower courts often remain under the radar of the general public (including, until last week, me!).
If there’s any month when the eyes of the country are on the judicial system, it’s June. This is the month when the Supreme Court’s term ends, and therefore is when a lot of the year’s big decisions come down. This year is no exception – we have all been waiting with baited breath for the Court to release its decisions on the landmark cases of the year: the future of affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the legality of gay marriage in Windsor v. the United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry and the validity of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.
Gridlock in Congress has been the topic of many articles, blog posts, angry rants and headaches for a long time. Setting aside the many legislative issues that are hotly debated and brought to a halt for one reason or another, the confirmation process for judicial and Administration nominees has shown less movement than a pond of stagnant water. On Thursday a group of senators marched out of the Environment and Public Works committee hearing, effectively blocking the nomination of Gina McCarthy to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The McCarthy example is just that—an example. For the past several congresses under the leadership of both parties, the confirmation process for many important positions in the judicial and administrative branches of government has been unbelievably slow. There are currently 82 vacant positions for federal judges. According to a CRS report, non-controversial circuit court nominees take, on average, 227 days to be confirmed after they are nominated. Under the Reagan Administration the average wait time was 64.5 days. While the wait time has been growing steadily since 1981, the fact that almost 64% of nominees now wait for over 200 days for confirmation now, when only 5% waited that long in the ‘80s, spells out just how unreasonably slow the confirmation process has been.
Jewish tradition teaches the necessity of fair, just and impartial courts. In Exodus 18:21, for example, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, advises him to choose capable, trustworthy and law abiding members of society as judges. We are also taught of the ethical obligation to oppose unjust persons and unfair judgments; judges should neither “favor the poor nor show deference to the rich” (Leviticus 19:15). The importance of justice is, thus, a key part of Jewish tradition. When nominees to our courts and other key government positions are unreasonably held up, it can cause significant repercussions for the effectiveness of our public institutions; in truth, justice delayed is justice denied.
Image Courtesy of Times Higher Education (THE).