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Our goal is to ensure a functioning federal judiciary that can act quickly and fairly to uphold core Constitutional matters as well as mobilize and educate citizens on matters of legal justice.

About

What We Do

The Courts Matter Coalition of Nebraska works to:

  • Educate the public and our elected officials about the importance of federal judges who sit on the U.S. District, Circuit and Supreme Courts.
  • Provide information about the judicial nominations process and the records of judicial nominees who will impact our Constitutional values and fundamental rights.
  • Mobilize our communities to speak out and take action on the President’s federal judicial nominees.

The Courts Matter Coalition of Nebraska monitors and takes action on federal judicial nominations because of the immense power held by the individuals who hold lifetime seats on the federal bench. The federal courts are the final arbiter when it comes to the rights of all Americans. Therefore, the composition of these courts, and the nominations process that determines this composition, affects every issue that is important to American citizens.

Why does this matter?

Much of our daily lives are affected by rulings that come down from federal courts. Our human rights, Constitutional rights, workplace rights, and so on can all be affected by these rulings.

What is the judicial emergency?

Currently, over 35,000 cases are in the federal court backlog due to the nationwide judicial vacancies. Texas and Pennsylvania have the largest amount of vacancies. Despite consistent nominations of judges to fill the vacancies, appointments aren’t taking place. In fact, many Senators are blocking their own judicial nominees. Republicans in general are the ones blocking these appointments – this is because they want to wait for a Republican to take the White House so that these cases are more likely to be ruled on in accordance with the Republican ideology. If Senators worked cooperatively, the judicial vacancies could be filled within a matter of months.

For more information, visit the national Courts Matter website: http://whycourtsmatter.org/

Who We Are

American Association of University Women in Nebraska
Anti-Defamation League – Plains States Region
B’nai B’rith – Henry Monsky Lodge, Omaha
Black Men United
Business and Professional Women in Nebraska
Center for People in Need
Citizens for Equal Protection
Latino American Commission in Nebraska
League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha
National Council of Jewish Women, Omaha Section
Nebraska Appleseed
Nebraskans for Civic Reform
Nebraskans for Peace
Northeast Nebraska Family Health Services
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland
Temple Israel – Social Justice Committee – Omaha

Resources

Confirmation Process

The President of the U.S. nominates candidates for the federal judiciary and the Senate “advises and consents” on each nomination.  When the Senate receives a nomination from the President, it is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which investigates the nominee’s background, holds a hearing, and votes to determine if the nomination should move forward to the full Senate for consideration.

When a nomination reaches the floor of the Senate, Senators who oppose the nominee may decide to debate the nomination indefinitely.  This means of preventing a vote is called a “filibuster”.  It takes 60 votes to end debate, or “invoke cloture”, or conversely, 41 votes to prevent a vote on a nominee. Confirmation of a nominee requires a simple majority, 51, of those present and voting.

In recent years, some members of the Senate have tried to change the rules to prevent a filibuster on judicial nominations, forcing a simple confirmation vote.  This effort, known as the “nuclear option”, was not employed, however, due to a compromise reached by the “gang of 14”, a group of Senators from both parties who agreed not to change Senate rules in exchange for the confirmation of several judges who had been filibustered.

The federal courts consist of three tiers: the district courts, also known as trial courts; the circuit courts, which are the courts of appeal; and the Supreme Court, which has the final say on any lower court decision.

District Court

The federal district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system.  Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil lawsuits and criminal matters.  There are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  Each judicial district has one or more federal judges. District court judges are appointed for lifetime terms and follow the same confirmation process as circuit court and Supreme Court nominees.

Circuit Court

The U.S. is divided into 12 circuits, or regions, each with their own court administered by judges who hold lifetime seats.  Collectively, these circuit courts, or appeals courts, hear about 30,000 cases per year, including those cases that are appealed from district-level courts. Because so few cases are taken for review by the Supreme Court, federal appeals court judges wield tremendous power.  If the Supreme Court turns down an appeal, the decision is left to the federal appeals court and judgments are applied to all the states in the circuit.  Since circuit court cases are typically decided by a three judge panel, the individual opinions of each judge on the circuit significantly impacts the outcome of a case.

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest of the federal courts and has the final word on appeals from the federal circuit courts.  The Supreme Court hears only about 80-100 of the roughly 7,000 cases appealed to it each year.  The Supreme Court’s nine justices are appointed for lifetime seats.  They are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, following the same confirmation process as that for the circuit and district court judges.


How can I find my federal courts?

Find federal courts near you

Map of US Circuit courts:
circuit_map

What are federal courts?

Introduction To The Federal Court System – US Department of Justice

About the Federal Court System – The Leadership Conference

U.S. Supreme Court – The Leadership Conference

Common ways individuals may interact with federal courts in their daily lives – US Courts

What are some major issues that the federal courts deal with?

Overview of LGBT – Center for American Progress

The Environment – Center for American Progress

National Security – Center for American Progress

Diversity in the judiciary – Center for American Progress

Diversity in the Judiciary – Minority Corporate Counsel Association

Latino & Immigrant rights – Center for American Progress


Elected Official Contact Information

Nebraska’s United States Senators

Senator Deb Fischer
825B Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-6551
Fax: 202-228-1325
11819 Miracle Hills Dr
Ste 205
Omaha, NE 68154
Omaha Office: 402-391-3411
Lincoln Office: 402-441-4600
http://fischer.senate.gov

Senator Ben Sasse
B40E Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-4224
287 Federal Building 100
Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, NE 68508
Lincoln Office: 402-476-1400
Kearney Office: 308-233-3677
Scottsbluff Office: 308-632-6032
http://sasse.senate.gov

The President of the United States

President Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Fax: 202-456-2993

Take Action!

Please consider taking a few minutes to write an email, postcard or letter to both Senator FIscher and Senator Sasse, to let them know you care about the federal courts and who sits on them.

As our U.S. Senators, Senator Fischer and Senator Sasse have a constitutional responsibility to “advise and consent” on the President’s nominations to the federal bench. But this is an issue they don’t hear about very often from their constituents — and it’s important that they know that we care!

Here are some of the messages our Senators need to hear from us:

  • The American judicial system is in crisis because of the high numbers of judicial vacancies.
  • The Senate has a constitutional duty to get the courts running at full capacity.
  • I urge you and your colleagues in the Senate to move quickly to confirm qualified judicial nominees, to ensure that Americans have meaningful access to justice.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has provided some additional talking points here you might consider including. But the most important thing is that you write what feels comfortable to you.

Be sure to print your name and address (so they know you’re a constituent). You can find the senators’ mailing addresses below.

Thank you for taking action!

Senator Deb Fischer
825B Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-6551
Fax: 202-228-1325
11819 Miracle Hills Dr
Ste 205
Omaha, NE 68154
Omaha Office: 402-391-3411
Lincoln Office: 402-441-4600
Kearney Office: 308-234-2361
Scottsbluff Office: 308-630-2329
http://fischer.senate.gov

Senator Ben Sasse
B40E Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-4224
287 Federal Building 100
Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, NE 68508
Lincoln Office: 402-476-1400
Kearney Office: 308-233-3677
Scottsbluff Office: 308-632-6032
http://sasse.senate.gov

President Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Fx: 202-456-2993

Blog

ABA rates Omaha Attorney Steve Grasz as ‘not qualified’ for 8th Circuit Court of Appeals & the Senate Judiciary Panel Splits Along Party Lines Over the Nomination

The American Bar Association has decided that Steve Grasz, the Omaha attorney, is “not qualified” for a seat on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  This rating reflected, with one abstention, a unanimous vote by the standing committee from the ABA that reviews judicial nominations. This is a notable decision because only two judicial …