U.S. chief justice refuses to force vote
on Obama high court pick
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[December 20, 2016]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Chief Justice
John Roberts on Monday rejected a New Mexico lawyer's long-shot bid to
force a Senate confirmation vote on President Barack Obama's Supreme
Court pick, Merrick Garland, after Republican senators refused to act on
Steven Michel, a Santa Fe environmental attorney, filed suit in U.S.
federal court in August, arguing that the Republican-led Senate's
failure to act on Garland's nomination deprived Michel of his rights as
a voter under the U.S. Constitution's 17th Amendment, which outlines how
senators are elected.
The U.S. Constitution calls on the president to nominate Supreme Court
justices, with confirmation of the selection in the hands of the Senate.
The Senate, in a move with little precedent in U.S. history, simply
refused to consider Garland's nomination, saying the winner of the Nov.
8 presidential election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat
Hillary Clinton should make the pick.
Michel lost in lower courts before Roberts denied the emergency
application on Monday without comment.
Obama nominated Garland, a moderate appeals court judge, on March 16 to
fill the vacant seat on the high court created by the Feb. 13 death of
long-serving conservative Antonin Scalia. Trump, who takes office on
Jan. 20, will now make the appointment.
On Jan. 18, Garland will resume hearing cases in his current position as
chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit, according to the court's calendar. Garland had stepped aside
from hearing cases after Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court.
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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts departs after U.S.
President Barack Obama's State of the Union address to a joint
session of Congress in Washington, January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua
The court currently has four conservative justices and four
liberals. Scalia's replacement could tilt its ideological balance
for years to come, restoring the long-standing conservative majority
just at a time when it appeared liberals would get an upper hand on
This could be pivotal in a wide range of issues including abortion,
the death penalty, religious rights, presidential powers,
transgender rights, federal regulations and others.
Trump previously unveiled a list of 21 conservative jurists he would
consider for the job and said this month he had whittled the list
down to "probably three or four." Last week, Trump's incoming chief
of staff, Reince Priebus, said the announcement would be made close
the new president's Jan 20 inauguration.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
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