President Donald Trump has announced his seventh wave of judicial nominees to fill vacancies in federal courts across the United States. And for the first time that includes Texas – which has 11 District Court openings.
“What is interesting is that out of the five nominees the President re-nominated two individuals who had been nominated last year by President Obama,” says Hugh Brady, Director of the Legislative Lawyering Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin.
He says that because these nominees already made it to a Senate Committee hearing last year, the process of getting them into the courts should be quicker. In contrast to these moderate picks, Trump has also selected two nominees with ties to a Plano group, First Liberty Institute, that says it advocates for religious freedom.
“I think the questions are going to be during the confirmation hearings, you know exactly how are they going to reconcile their personal beliefs with the requirement that a judge be fair and impartial in every case,” Brady says.
Why is it a problem to have so many judicial vacancies in Texas?
“Well, Texas is a large state and there’s a lot of litigation and if you want – the old saying is ‘justice delayed, is justice denied’ and the longer someone who has to wait to have their case resolved, it works a hardship on at least one side, and perhaps both.”
Now these judicial nominees must be confirmed by the full Senate. Once that happens, they can be sworn in for what is essentially a lifetime appointment.
Starting in 2016, the Texas Department of Agriculture – under the leadership of commissioner Sid Miller – rolled out new, higher fees for a variety of services the agency offers.
“For instance renewing a grain warehouse license cost 500 dollars now and it used to be 235 dollars,” says Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune. “There are also per-acre prices for field inspections that increased anywhere from a few cents to a dollar per acre – so those are the sorts of things we were dealing with.”
He says a recent audit reveals that these rate hikes for farmers and ranchers raised an extra $6 million for the agency that year. Technically that isn’t okay – the state agency is only supposed to charge what it costs to cover those services.
“So, the audit pointed that out and suggested the agriculture department wasn’t properly running its numbers and didn’t have proper procedures for evaluating how much things cost and what it should charge,” says Malewitz.
While Miller did take issue with parts of the audit, Malewitz says there are already signs that the Agriculture Department will lower fees.
Grants for cultural institutions impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are now available. The National Endowment for the Humanities is providing a total of 1 million dollars in emergency funds. Individual organizations can apply for up to $30,000 of that money.
It can be used to help preserve things like photographs, sculptures, and books damaged by the hurricane and flooding.