The Topeka Capital-Journal reports:
President Barack Obama has an opportunity that is stronger than ever to significantly shape the makeup of the federal appeals court that serves Kansas.
The president has four spots — a number larger than usual in one year — to fill in 2013 on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a tribunal one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.
By contrast, it took five years before Republican President George W. Bush had an opportunity to appoint five 10th Circuit judges.
One spot to be filled is the vacancy left when Deanell Tacha, of Lawrence, Kan., resigned in March 2011, to become dean of the Pepperdine University law school.
The president’s nominee for the Kansas seat, former state Attorney General Steve Six, never got a hearing in 2011 from the Senate Judiciary Committee because of opposition from the state’s two Republican senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.
Obama hasn’t yet submitted another nomination.
In addition, Obama will be filling openings on the six-state court from Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. The Denver-based court also serves Colorado and New Mexico.
Obama’s four picks will bring the Democratic president’s nominees for the court to five of its 12 full-time judges.
Of the 10 full-time spots now occupied, one was filled by President George H.W. Bush, three by President Bill Clinton, five by President George W. Bush and one by Obama. . . .
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who studies and comments on the federal judicial appointment process, thinks Obama will avoid potential obstacles from Republican senators this year.
For the president to have his nominees for the Kansas, Utah and Wyoming spots confirmed, White House consultation with Republican senators from those states prior to making nominations will be critical, Tobias said.
“I think that Obama can fill these vacancies,” just as he has filled large numbers of vacancies in other federal circuit courts, the professor said.
“Kansas may be tougher, but I think if the White House consults the senators they can find a consensus nominee,” Tobias said.
“The 10th Circuit court may change, because as Justice (Byron) White used to say of the United States Supreme Court, one new justice changes the dynamics,” the professor said.
Four new 10th Circuit judges would be a third of the active judges.
“So much will depend on who the appointees are,” Tobias said.