Skip Navigation
Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

Editorials and Opinion


Opinion Type


Items 1 - 30 of 8717  12345678910Next

Senate Gets Around To Filling Court Vacancy After 1,069 Days: One down. Dozens more to go. (Huffington Post, 10/05/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "-- It took them nearly three years to do it, but the Senate on Monday confirmed a desperately needed judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Senate voted 69 to 21 to confirm Dale Drozd. The seat he fills has been empty for 1,069 days and is a judicial emergency, meaning the workload exceeds 600 cases or has totaled between 430 and 600 cases for more than 18 months. Drozd was easily confirmed, yet he waited 327 days for a vote. Why? Because Republicans are intentionally slow-walking President Barack Obama's judicial nominees. ... Judge Lawrence O'Neill may be the happiest person of all about Drozd's confirmation. He serves on the busy Fresno court that Drozd now joins. In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, O'Neill described the work schedule he keeps in order to juggle his more than 1,000 cases: 75-hour weeks, at least one full day every weekend and no breaks on holidays. He credits the media for keeping pressure on the Senate not to blow off the entire judicial branch of government.... Judge Lawrence O'Neill may be the happiest person of all about Drozd's confirmation. He serves on the busy Fresno court that Drozd now joins. In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, O'Neill described the work schedule he keeps in order to juggle his more than 1,000 cases: 75-hour weeks, at least one full day every weekend and no breaks on holidays. He credits the media for keeping pressure on the Senate not to blow off the entire judicial branch of government."

The Disgraceful State of Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 10/05/15)
Nancy K. Kaufman: "This year the capacity of the federal court system to keep up with its caseload is seriously in question. Judicial vacancies are rising and the Senate is likely to confirm the smallest number of nominees since 1953. ... ll six were voted out of committee with bipartisan support and ultimately confirmed unanimously on the Senate floor, and yet were forced to wait an average of 80 days for a floor vote.... wo judicial nominees pending for over six months have not yet had a confirmation hearing -- although if confirmed, both would end a judicial emergency."

Tennessee judicial nominees caught in Senate logjam (Knoxville News Sentinel [TN], 10/05/15)
Michael Collins column: "Judicial nominee Edward Stanton III of Memphis sailed smoothly through his confirmation hearing last week, with both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators extolling his qualifications for the federal bench and calling for speedy confirmation of his nomination. But the Senate has been anything but speedy when it comes to confirming judicial nominees. Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. has been waiting eight months for the Senate to confirm him as the newest federal judge in Tennessee’s Middle District. Travis McDonough has been waiting even longer. President Barack Obama nominated the Chattanooga attorney last November for a judgeship in Tennessee’s Eastern District, but the Senate has yet to put his nomination to a vote. Crenshaw and McDonough are caught in a logjam of judicial nominees awaiting a vote by the Senate. Only six judicial nominees have been confirmed since Republicans regained majority control of the Senate last January."

Tennessee judicial nominees caught in Senate logjam (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 10/04/15)
Michael Collins column: "the number of vacancies on the courts has increased from 43 to 67 since January. The number of “judicial emergencies,” meaning the remaining judges can’t keep up with the caseload, has more than doubled, jumping from 12 to 31 since January. By comparison, during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 judges. Similarly, the Republican Senate confirmed 73 judges during President Bill Clinton’s final two years in office."

How Republican obstruction is destroying the third branch of government (Daily Kos, 10/03/15)
Joan McCarter: "Their obstruction of judges is wrecking that branch, too, and the individual judges.... there's an empty seat in that California district that's been open for more than 1,000 days; judges normally take 500-600 cases annually, but have more than 1,000 in this district; reaching that average caseload would require six new judgeships. That's just one district. The same problems are playing out across the whole of the federal judiciary and what it means for the American people is justice delayed.... Part of the problem is that Congress has stopped creating judgeships—it hasn't done it since 1990, and there's been a 39 percent increase in cases filed at district and circuit courts. The other, massive, problem is Republican obstruction of nominees to existing vacancies, from refusing to work with President Obama to name nominees at all, to refusing to allow them to reach the Senate floor for confirmation."

U.S. Senate schedules confirmation vote for Fresno judge nominee (Fresno Bee [CA] , 10/02/15)
John Ellis: "Just a few days ago, Drozd’s confirmation vote was languishing along with other federal judicial nominees.... The caseload crunch in Fresno is so bad that attorneys in civil actions are asked if they will allow a magistrate judge to hear the case. ... The Fresno court sends 3 of every 4 civil cases where parties don’t agree to be heard by a local magistrate judge to Sacramento."

Republican Senate accused of 'slow walking' Obama's judicial nominees (Los Angeles Times, 10/02/15)
Timothy M. Phelps: "Mary Barzee Flores, a former public defender and state court judge in Miami, was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Obama in February on the recommendation of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. But since then, Rubio, in consultation with Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), has blocked Flores from even receiving a hearing in the Judiciary Committee pending “a full review” of her record. Luis Felipe Restrepo, a former U.S. magistrate and currently U.S. District Court judge in Pennsylvania, was nominated for a powerful circuit court judgeship in Philadelphia in November with the strong endorsement of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of his home state, who said Restreppo would “make a superb addition” to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. But then Toomey blocked progress on Restrepo’s nomination for seven months, and the former civil rights lawyer and native of Colombia is still awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.... There are 11 nominees to lifetime judgeships who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. Twenty-one more Obama nominees, including Flores, have not had committee hearings. Thirty-eight judicial vacancies are yet to be filled, most of them because Republican senators in their home states — who are accorded a veto by Senate custom — have refused to approve any candidates for the job. There are vacancies that have remained open for four, five, and even nine years, all in states with at least one Republican senator."

More criticism of the Restrepo-confirmation delay (CA3blog, 10/02/15)
Matthew Stiegler: "The Los Angeles Times has this story [LINK] today (headline: “Republican Senate accused of ‘slow walking’ Obama’s judicial nominees”) that features the delay in confirming Judge Restrepo to the Third Circuit. Yesterday, Paul Gordon of People for the American Way posted this informative analysis [LINK] of the current delays in federal judicial confirmations, also featuring Restrepo.... It’s becoming increasingly clear that, when Senator Toomey’s office said way back in May that he was confident Restrepo would be confirmed “by year’s end,” Toomey knew already the Third Circuit would suffer from this inexplicable delay."

Senator’s claim about judgeships won’t wash (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 10/02/15)
Vanzetta Penn McPherson, retired U.S. magistrate judge for the Middle District of Alabama: "Sen. Shelby’s recent statement that he has “negotiated in good faith to find nominees that will serve our state well” is an absurdity. And here is why. Two years ago, the state’s lone congressional Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, established screening committees for federal district judges in Alabama. ... our two senators have opposed all of the lawyers considered by the president from the committee’s recommendations, and have sought instead to “pick” candidates (as they have in the past) for the federal bench, without regard for a transparent process and with due regard for opposing the president’s prospective choices. Neither senator can cite a single reason for opposing or rejecting the committee’s recommended candidates that is grounded in legitimate questions about an individual’s judicial temperament, character and integrity, legal and/or judicial experience, or commitment to equal justice.... I served on both of the judicial selection committees"

More than 70 PA Editorial Board opinions

Dozens of Editorial Board opinions

Editorial: Cruz, Cornyn dragging feet on crisis-level judicial vacancies (Dallas Morning News, 10/01/15)
"When you go to federal court, you expect to have a judge. But in Texas, vacancies in the federal judiciary remain unfilled for months, sometimes years. The system is operating under emergency status from the crush of too many cases and too few judges. And Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, the men empowered to recommend candidates to the president, haven’t moved quickly enough to address crisis-level vacancies in a timely manner. Right now, there are nine Texas vacancies — two on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and seven on its district courts. ... There are only two fewer district court vacancies now than a year ago, and the same number of Circuit Court of Appeals vacancies. The crisis likely will worsen before it improves.... Cornyn and Cruz need to do better. Most of these vacancies were created by judges who left after giving months of advance notice. Yet the senators just now are beginning to formally seek replacements for some of these positions. ... shouldn’t replacements have been agreed upon months, if not years, ago?... It is most likely foot-dragging on the part of the senators .... Crowded courts and long waits mean higher costs and justice delayed. As lawyers, Cornyn and Cruz know what is at stake. Now they need to fix it."

Editorial: Senate should confirm Drozd as federal judge in Fresno (Fresno Bee [CA] , 09/30/15)
"[T]here are other less attention-grabbing partisan disputes that also tear at the fabric of our country. One of them is the U.S. Senate’s failure to confirm federal judges.... What a shame it would be for justice if the Senate continues to ignore its responsibility to evaluate the judicial nominees and then vote them up or down.... Clearly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has failed to fulfill his promise of showing that the GOP can govern. ... cases in federal courts throughout the land stack up higher and higher. Witnesses die. Memories get fuzzy. And people lose faith in both Congress and the legal system. Fresno’s federal judges handle one of the nation’s highest caseloads. It’s Leahy’s opinion that Drozd is a “noncontroversial” nominee. He should be confirmed immediately. No wonder Congress has 15.2 percent job approval rating. It can’t even get the easy stuff done."

Federal Judges Are Burned Out, Overworked And Wondering Where Congress Is: The people hearing your cases are drowning in work because the Senate isn't filling vacancies. (Huffington Post, 09/30/15)
Jennifer Bendery: For many district and circuit court judges, going to work means doing their job -- plus the jobs of other judges who are supposed to be there, but aren't. That's because federal courts are full of vacancies that aren't being filled by the Senate, and Congress hasn't created new judgeships in many states for decades, despite skyrocketing caseloads. Litigants are waiting years for their civil cases to be heard because criminal cases take precedence. Judges are struggling with burnout.... The Huffington Post talked to half a dozen federal judges about how court vacancies and the lack of new judgeships affect their workloads. All of them said they feel like they're underwater and desperately need more judges"

EDITORIAL: Sea life dying from human failures (Virginian-Pilot, 09/29/15)
"According to a study this month by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, half of the ocean's vertebrate population has disappeared in just four decades....Whether it's through overfishing, pollution or carbon dioxide emissions that cause the oceans to warm and acidify, humans are harming the planet and its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The decline has been significant across most species, but it's worse for animals we rely on for food or income.... One in four species of sharks or rays is now under threat of extinction.... Protecting the oceans from exploitation should be part of a worldwide solution .... Reducing pollution and run-off will help take environmental pressure off the oceans' coastal species. So will reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are changing the composition of the oceans themselves. There is undoubtedly time to reverse the oceans' declines, but only if humans have the will."

Vermont senator calls for confirmation of new Fresno federal judge (Fresno Bee [CA] , 09/29/15)
John Ellis: "The crushing workload isn’t getting any lighter, and still there’s no sign that Dale A. Drozd is close to winning U.S. Senate confirmation as a federal judge in Fresno....Leahy says the Senate can “alleviate the considerable backlog of cases in the Eastern District of California by confirming (Drozd),” whom he called a “non-controversial pending nominee.”"

EDITORIAL Our view: Let the wolves into the wild (Santa Fe New Mexican, 09/28/15)
"Releasing more wolves into the wild is essential in adding genetic diversity to the wild population.... Commissioners’ decisions have made it easier to hunt and kill cougars and bears. They denied a permit to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch to aid in the federal wolf recovery program by providing pen space — a reversal of 17 years of a program that worked. This clearly is a Game Commission hostile to wild animals. Should the commission not allow the release of additional wolves, we trust that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bosses will use the Endangered Species Act to force New Mexico’s hand. Under federal law, the United States is charged with protecting the endangered wolves and striving to ensure their survival. ... Such short-sightedness on the state level must be fought by aggressive federal action. If the states won’t do the right thing by wolves, the federal government must act, using its authority under the Endangered Species Act."

Judicial vacancies (Durango Herald [CO], 09/26/15)
Matt Kenna: "This caseload backlog problem will only get worse if one of those seven seats on the trial court is left vacant in April. The entire Colorado congressional delegation has introduced legislation to add two new seats to our federal court for a total of nine for the state. Both Gardner and Bennet are co-sponsoring the Senate companion bill. This is commendable, but they should also work together to prioritize filling the vacancy to be created by Blackburn before he leaves the bench. Colorado businesses need this for economic growth, and individuals need this to protect their rights."

Judges as job creators: Expanding economic growth by filling judicial vacancies (Justice Watch, 09/25/15)
"We also know that vacancies mean long delays for the people and businesses who need the courts to protect their rights and resolve disputes—delays that often mean justice is denied entirely. Now a new study sheds light on another real-world impact of judicial vacancies—the economic harms they cause not just for individual litigants, but for entire communities. The new study from The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm, focuses on the Eastern District of Texas,... According to the report, compared to the current baseline, filling the two current vacancies would create 78,188 jobs and an $11.7 billion increase in “real gross product”—the output of goods and services in the region—by 2030. If the vacancies are filled and two judgeships are added, 148,398 jobs would be created and real gross product would shoot up by $22.1 billion."

Editorial: The greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken: let science decide (Los Angeles Times, 09/25/15)
"The chicken is one of several species that lawmakers want to pluck out from under the Endangered Species Act through language inserted into the Interior bill, in effect seeking to dismantle the law one species at a time. It also would take gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states off the list of threatened species and prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Sonoran desert tortoise. Even more troubling is a provision that would halt the service's efforts to tighten restrictions on the importation and sale of ivory in the U.S. as part of a global effort to stop the slaughter of African elephants. Meanwhile, another House bill — to reauthorize defense programs — would de-list the American burying beetle .... decisions about their conservation shouldn't be made by members of Congress and corporate interests. Whether a species is so robust that it does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act must ultimately be a scientific call, not a political one."

COMMENTARY: The federal judiciary, hampered by that other branch of government; Consider the example of Minnesota's own Judge Wilhelmina Wright (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 09/25/15)
Editorial writer and Columnist Lori Sturdevant: "It isn’t the fault of the Minnesota Supreme Court associate justice that the U.S. Senate’s requisite vote confirming her appointment to the U.S. District Court for Minnesota has not yet happened, though President Obama sent her name to the Hill more than five months ago.... Wright won the judiciary panel’s approval on Sept. 17 on a voice vote with no dissent. She faces no discernible Republican opposition.... only six federal judges have been confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate so far in 2015. That’s the slowest pace in six decades. It’s allowing a buildup of caseloads in federal courts all over the nation. The number of vacancies on the federal bench has increased from 43 to 67 this year .... When the nation’s pols mess with the courts, people in my profession ought to report it and voters ought to listen up."

Protecting Endangered Species Under the Commerce Clause: People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/25/15)
Jason Rylander, Defenders of Wildlife: "Every single court to consider the question – including the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits – has upheld the federal government’s constitutional authority to protect wildlife through the ESA. But last year, District Court Judge Dee Benson of Utah disagreed, and so the Tenth Circuit will weigh in on what had, until now, been settled law. As I argued in an amicus brief for Defenders of Wildlife and five other national conservation groups, the Tenth Circuit should reverse."

Playing Whack-a-Mole with the Endangered Species Act (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/24/15)
Bruce Myers & Jay Austin, Environmental Law Institute: "To date, a wolf, a toad, two fish, a fly, and a collection of “cave bugs” have successfully carried the banner of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) against a series of constitutional challenges. On Monday, the Tenth Circuit will hear oral arguments ... on whether the Act is unconstitutional as applied to the endangered Utah prairie dog. PETPO has implications for nearly every federal environmental law, and for other laws enacted on the basis of Congress’ authority to pass legislation that is necessary and proper for regulating interstate commerce.... From 1997 to 2011, six appellate cases spanning five circuits rejected similar challenges. ... What remains crystal clear, however, is that Congress is owed a great deal of deference when it enacts environmental or other legislation under its commerce power. ... it is difficult to see how any fair measure of deference afforded to Congress would result in anything other than a reversal of the district court’s anomalous decision."

Montez: Colorado can’t afford a vacancy on our overworked federal court (Colorado Statesman, 09/24/15)
Guest Commentary By Dave Montez: "In a refreshing moment of bipartisan unity, the entire Colorado congressional delegation — all seven members of the House and both U.S. senators — support legislation introduced this summer to add two new judgeships to the District Court for Colorado. ... The District Court’s caseload backlog problem will only get worse if one of the current seats is left vacant in April."

Editorial: U.S. Senate needs to quit stalling judicial appointments  (Pocono Record [PA] , 09/22/15)
"[J]ustice is not served when you can’t get a date to hear your case — when the backlog of cases is so huge that it could be months or even years before a judge hears your argument. That is the situation in the nation’s federal courts, where the vacancy rate is high, case loads are high, yet the pace of judicial appointments has fallen to a 60-year low.... This is not for lack of qualified candidates, mind you; it’s sheer politics in the U.S. Senate. Take Pennsylvania, which has six vacancies in the federal court and five nominees pending. One of them, Luis Felipe Restrepo of the U.S. District Court, has the support of both Democratic Sen. Robert Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for his nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet he waited nearly seven months before the Senate Judiciary Committee — unanimously — to advance his nomination to the Senate floor. More than two months have passed and nothing more has happened....As a Republican himself, Sen. Toomey should chastize his colleagues for playing politics and remind them of their obligation to appoint judges."

Republicans are clogging the judicial pipeline (Washington Post, 09/22/15)
Catherine Rampell column: "Motivated by a desire both to make President Obama look bad and to delay any judicial appointments until there’s (possibly) a Republican in the White House, GOP senators have thrown obstruction after obstruction in front of the judicial appointment process. As a result, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed only six federal judges in 2015.... It’s the slowest pace in over six decades .... The number of judgeships has not kept pace as the U.S. population has increased.... Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, publicly endorsed the nominee for the Southern District of Florida, but seven months later still hasn’t returned his blue slip. Without it, the nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, won’t get a hearing. In other cases, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), has received the relevant blue slips but delayed holding confirmation hearings and votes on the nominees. In still others, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delayed or outright refused to schedule floor votes for nominees. This happens, I should note, even when the judicial nominees are not the least bit controversial."

John Cornyn Blocks Judges From Getting Confirmed Because He's Mad About Other Judges He Confirmed: GOP senators want credit this year for judges they confirmed last year. OK! (Huffington Post, 09/18/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) blocked three of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees from getting votes Thursday because he said Democrats confirmed too many judges last year that Republicans wanted to take credit for this year.... But Cornyn glossed over the fact that everyone in the Senate, including him, voted to confirm those 11 nominees in the lame duck session. Three were from his home state of Texas and he had been pressing Democratic leaders to hold votes to confirm them -- in that lame duck session. "I certainly will be urging those Texas judges, including Judge Mazzant, to move through during the lame duck session so we can get these judges on the bench," Cornyn told a Texas newspaper in November. It's not unusual for the Senate to confirm judges in a lame duck session. Democrats held votes on 20 of Bush's judicial picks in the lame-duck after the 2002 elections. The Senate confirmed nominees in lame-duck sessions after the 2004 and 2006 elections. In the 2010 lame-duck, the Senate confirmed 19 judicial nominees. The bottom line is that Republicans just don't want Obama to fill court vacancies with his judicial picks."

Justice suffers (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 09/18/15)
Mardin Aminpour letter to the editor: "While Phillip Martin has rightly criticized Sen. Cruz for not fixing the emergency caused by the delay in filling the Texas judicial vacancies, Sen. John Cornyn’s role in creating this mess should not be overlooked. After all, Texas’ oldest vacancy dates back to 2011.... Sen. Cornyn should once again work across party lines. Both senators should right the wrong now by filling the vacancies."

Friday’s Mini-Report, 9.18.15 (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 09/18/15)
Steve Benen: "It’s not a bipartisan problem: Senate Republicans are confirming judicial nominees at a rate so slow, the current pace is unlike anything we’ve seen in more than six decades. When the Beltway assumes, “Both sides play the same partisan game,” that’s wrong."

2015-16 judicial confirmation slowdowns has little precedent in Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations (Brookings, 09/18/15)
Russell Wheeler: "Senate Republicans’ aggressive slowdown in judicial confirmations so far in 2015—and what is likely to be a continued slowdown through 2016—are contrary to the confirmation records in the final two years of the other two-term presidencies since 1961—Ronald Reagan, William Clinton, and George W. Bush.... Like President Obama, those presidents submitted nominations to a Senate controlled by the other party. In each of those president’s final two years in office, the Senate confirmed a fifth or more of their full eight-year complement of district and circuit judges.... Anticipated invocations of the mythical “Thurmond Rule”—dictating a shutdown of nominations at some point from early to the middle of a presidential election year—will not stand up well to these data."