Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—November 6

Judge William Pryor Jr. (Photo: Wikimedia)

2003—Senate Democrats continue their unprecedented measures of obstruction against judicial nominees, as they defeat for the second time an effort to end their filibuster of President George W. Bush’s nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr., to a seat on the Eleventh Circuit. Only two Democrats—Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska—vote in favor of the cloture motion, and forty-three oppose it.

In February 2004, President Bush will recess-appoint Pryor to the seat. And in June 2005, after the Senate finally confirms Pryor’s nomination (by a 53 to 45 vote), President Bush will appoint him to a lifetime seat. In 2020, Pryor will become chief judge of the Eleventh Circuit.

2017—In a unanimous ruling in Kernan v. Cuero, the Supreme Court summarily reverses a ruling by Ninth Circuit judge Kim McLane Wardlaw that granted habeas relief to a state prisoner. Employing understatement, the Court observes, “There are several problems with the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning below.”

Summary reversals—that is, reversals without the Court’s seeing any need for briefing on the merits or oral argument—generally reflect very poorly on the judge who authored the opinion below. But Wardlaw seems to be competing for a Lifetime Summary Reversal Award, as this is at least the fourth time she has had a ruling summarily reversed by the Court.