Politics on the U.S. Courts of Appeals: Unpacking the DC Circuit and Obama tries a blitz

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Court packing " scheme in which he tried to add members to the Supreme Court, "for every justice over the age of 70" is well known.  There, in an overtly partisan move, FDR grew tired of the "nine old men with old ideas" who kept invalidating his New Deal legislation and sought to expand the Court's size and by adding to it justices who would be sympathetic to his legislation.

That sort of overtly politically move has been more rare at the federal courts in contemporary times and today takes the form of of delay and blockage of the President's (of both parties) picks for the federal court during Senate confirmation hearings and floor debates, as candidates that the opposition party finds objectionable are "Borked".  Both parties of guilty of this tactic and Obama is now facing the recalcitrance of the GOP who have blocked several of his nominees to the DC Circuit, a special circuit given the number of judges that circuit has elevated to the Supreme Court.  The Senate has also blocked others of Obama's nominees to the federal courts.

Now comes news that Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has a plan to increase court "efficency" on the DC circuit.  Grassley notes the lower caseload of the DC circuit compared to other U.S. Courts of Appeals and says the number of judges on that court should be reduced accordingly.  A NYT editorial published yesterday notes the special nature of the DC circuit.  It notes that the Chief Justice himself has noted that it is not the number of cases on that docket that require 11 judges; it's the difficulty and complexity of those cases.  Grassley's court efficiency plan is a transparent attempt to "unpack" one of the most powerful Court of Appeals in the hopes of reducing Obama's influence to appoint judges there who later may head to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, tired of having his nominees to the DC Circuit shot down one by one like sitting ducks, Obama has decided that this morning, he will attempt the equivalent of a blitz and launch three nominees to the DC Circuit all at once.  He dares the Republican Senators to reject all of them and believes he will win the PR battle if they are.