Today, bar associations from across the state of California sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Senate leaders urging them to heed their constitutional duty to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. The bar associations, representing more than 30,000 lawyers throughout the state, called on the president to quickly nominate a qualified candidate to the Supreme Court, and for the Senate to consider that nominee without delay. The effort, spearheaded by the California Employment Lawyers Association, brings together the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Alameda County Bar Association, the Lake County Bar Association, the Yolo County Bar Association and more than a dozen other statewide and local bar associations. California State Bar President David Pasternak also signed on to the letter in his individual capacity.
Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Senate Republican leaders stated that they would refuse to even consider the president’s nominee. Nearly a month later, Senate Republican leaders have held firm to the position that they will refuse to hold hearings or a floor vote for any nominee put forward by this president. With few exceptions, Senate Republicans support this position.
“The implications of this course of action would be significant, subjecting people in different regions of the country to different legal standards on matters of constitutional importance and leaving open the specter of an unresolved constitutional crisis,” the letter warns.
“[T]he framers placed in the hands of the executive and legislative branches of our government a duty to ensure that the third pillar of our democracy, our courts, would be protected from entanglement in partisan politics,” the letter explains. “While careful evaluation and reasoned debate regarding the qualifications of the nominee are central to the Senate’s role to advise and consent, it would undermine the rule of law and risk nullifying the Supreme Court’s power to serve its constitutional role as arbiter of disputes, were the confirmation process to be delayed until a new president is inaugurated.”
Bar associations representing the two most populous cities in the United States have now called on the Senate to consider a nominee to the Supreme Court without delay. The letter, sent today, comes on the heels of similar calls by the New York State and New York City Bars respectfully requesting the Senate to reconsider its refusal to consider a nominee put forward by the president. Constitutional law scholars at universities around the country have also weighed in via a joint statement, pointing out that the Constitution “has no exception for election years.”
The letter signed by the California bar associations does not mince words. “We ask that you carry out your constitutionally prescribed roles with full fealty to the oaths you have taken so that our Supreme Court is returned to its full membership,” the signers write.