Just days before a high-profile Senate confirmation hearing to fill a vacancy on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the court’s chief judge has opened the door to an inquiry into whether ethical improprieties occurred in the creation of the coveted opening.
In an order dated May 1, Judge Sri Srinivasan asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to assign another circuit to look into a complaint filed by the progressive advocacy group Demand Justice, which questioned the timing and circumstances of Judge Thomas B. Griffith’s retirement announcement in early March.
With the number of federal judicial vacancies to fill nearly exhausted, Mr. McConnell has been urging those contemplating retirement to step aside this year if they want to assure that their successors will be nominated by a Republican president and confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate.
In his order, Judge Srinivasan, who was placed on the appeals court by President Barack Obama, said he decided to request “review and disposition” of the complaint by a judicial council in another circuit to avoid any question of bias about the outcome.
“The organization’s request for an inquiry concerns the decision of a judge of this court to retire from service and the resulting creation of a vacancy on this court, which would be filled by a future colleague on this court,” the judge wrote. He said the circumstances made it obvious that it should be reviewed outside the D.C. circuit court.
Judge Srinivasan said he made his ruling without “any inquiry by this court into the statements contained in the unverified correspondence or the questions posited by the organization in the correspondence about the possibility of judicial misconduct.” He said he decided to make his order public to show that the accusations were not being ignored since the questions raised by the group “about the possibility of judicial misconduct have been reported in various major news outlets.”
The organization, formed to raise liberal consciousness about the importance of judicial nominations, appealed to Judge Srinivasan after The New York Times published an article on the judicial efforts by Mr. McConnell.
“The coordinated manner of Majority Leader McConnell’s involvement in the judges’ decision-making is quite unprecedented and raises significant ethical questions for the judges who heed his advice,” the group said in its letter requesting an investigation. It said a “thorough inquiry into the judge’s announcement and scheduled retirement, including when and how the decision to retire was made, and with whose input, is crucial.”
It appears that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was pressuring federal judges to retire so that he could appoint more while Trump is still in the White House:
I really want Moscow Mitch to end his life in a jail cell.