Columnist Ray Hill at The Knoxville Focus has been running an interesting multi-part series on the nomination of Judge John J. Parker to the Supreme Court in 1930. Judge Parker, who was serving on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, would narrowly lose his confirmation vote due to the complex political alignments of the era. He would continue to serve on the Fourth Circuit until his death in 1958.
Parker has long been an interesting character from the perspective of federal court organization and administration. A politician before he began his judicial career, Parker was very closely tied to the leadership of the American Bar Association, and was one of the principal architects of the “Queen Mary Compromise” which created the modern Judicial Conference of the United States. (Interested readers can learn more here.)
Ray Hill’s pieces paint a vivid history of the Parker nomination, from the surprise opening on the Court occasioned by Justice Edward Sanford’s untimely death (after a routine dental appointment), to the rift within the Republican Party, to the shifting political demographics of the South. Although all four parts collectively feel repetitive at times, it’s a valuable overview of a fascinating moment in history.
The four parts of the series can be found here, here, here, and here.
The White House recently announced that President Trump had nominated Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Quattlebaum currently sits as a federal district judge in South Carolina–a position he has held for only two months.
There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking to promote* Judge Quattlebaum to the appellate bench. But choosing a sitting district judge will once again create a vacancy in South Carolina, and that vacancy may take much longer to fill. Politics may well dictate filling appellate benches, especially in election years. But the trial courts, the place where the public most closely and commonly interacts with the judicial system, risk becoming the forgotten child. They deserve to filled as rapidly, and with as much care, as do appellate court vacancies.
* Many on the federal district bench would quibble with this term: the trial judges are the real judges! I use it here only in the sense that the Fourth Circuit is higher in the federal hierarchy.
The Fourth Circuit’s openness to live streaming comes in the wake of significant public interest in the Ninth Circuit’s live stream of similar arguments in February. More the 137,000 people logged on to hear those arguments.
From the National Law Journal story:
Rob Rosborough, a partner at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany, New York, added that he was “impressed by how accessible it made the proceedings seem in a highly technical case like that one.”
“You could hear phenomenal attorneys on both sides advocate for their clients on issues that had an impact on millions of people nationwide,” Rosborough said. “I do think that the Fourth Circuit, and all courts, should livestream arguments in all cases, especially in cases like the travel ban that have drawn such public interest.”
The Fourth Circuit has not live streamed arguments to date, although it does post audio files of arguments on its website the day after they are held.