Editorials

Sen. Burr blocks federal judge nominee and slows justice in eastern NC

U.S. Senator Richard Burr has taken a hard line on President Obama’s nominees, including Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who would fill a long vacant federal judge post in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina.
U.S. Senator Richard Burr has taken a hard line on President Obama’s nominees, including Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who would fill a long vacant federal judge post in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Patricia Timmons-Goodson has served with distinction as a judge at all levels of North Carolina’s judicial system. She has an undergraduate and law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from Duke University law school. She was the first black woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, a term that lasted from 2006 to 2012, and is now vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

By any measure, Timmons-Goodson’s career has been distinguished, and her rulings and writings are available for all to see and judge. She is well-qualified to be a federal judge.

But Timmons-Goodson’s nomination to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina is being stalled by the simple stubbornness of Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. The judicial post, which has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006, is the nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy.

In opposing the nomination, Burr said he won’t submit the “blue slip” that’s needed from the home state’s senator to get a judicial nomination moving.

Burr’s opposition is unfair to Timmons-Goodson personally and unfair to the system running short of federal judges.

The senator said he’s blocking the nomination because the president made “a brazenly political nomination, and without consulting either of North Carolina’s senators.” By “brazenly political” he means that Timmons-Goodson shares the president’s view of the law rather than Burr’s.

This obstruction is hardly a first for the state’s senior senator. He also opposed North Carolina native Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be U.S. attorney general, and he has joined in the GOP charade of denying a hearing for the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland.

The Senate’s job in reviewing the president’s nominees is to advise and consent, not to pout and obstruct. That behavior is especially out of line when it comes to qualified nominees to the federal bench. It has been a long-standing custom that even when senators are philosophically different in terms of their views of the judiciary from the president, they recognize his right to place his choices on the judiciary.

Burr fails to recognize that right and in so doing is impeding the administration of justice for the people of Eastern North Carolina.

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