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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


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Jeff Sessions Has a History of Blocking Black Judges: "The senator has a problem putting African Americans on the federal bench in Alabama." (Mother Jones, 01/09/17)
Pema Levy: Alabama is nearly 30 percent black, but only three African American judges have ever sat on a federal bench there. Advocates for judicial diversity in the state say that in recent decades, that's thanks largely to Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama whom Donald Trump has nominated to be his attorney general. During his 20 years in the Senate, they say, Sessions has used his perch on the judiciary committee to block nearly every black candidate for a judgeship in his state.... The only exception to this pattern was the confirmation of Abdul Kallon, a black lawyer, to a federal district judgeship in 2009. But because Kallon replaced retiring Judge U.W. Clemon, a Jimmy Carter appointee and the first African American federal judge in Alabama, the diversity of the state's bench didn't change. ... Sessions' support of Kallon only went so far. When Obama nominated Kallon to the vacant 11th Circuit seat in February 2016, Sessions opposed his confirmation.

Did Jeff Sessions block integration of south Alabama federal courts? (AL.com [AL], 01/06/17)
John Archibald column: Sessions in the latter 1990s - for the entire second term of President Bill Clinton - was able to keep a federal judgeship in Mobile vacant, rather than to allow it filled with someone he found objectionable. And some say Sessions - who has been hounded by decades-old comments that have been seen as racist - wasn't just blocking nominees of a different political stripe. Those involved say he blocked the integration of the federal bench in the Southern District of Alabama. Birmingham lawyer John Saxon was part of a Bill Clinton patronage committee that decided it was time to integrate the federal courts in Mobile. The Northern and Middle districts had already seen black judges and magistrates, but the Southern District remained lily white.... Saxon said the group sent name after name of candidates - at least two judges and three lawyers - to the White House for vetting. But Clinton's people hit a wall every time. It was Sessions - then a still-new junior senator but a member of the Judiciary Committee. He opposed every one of them. "Sessions told the White House he couldn't accept any of those people," Saxon said.... He said he asked Sessions to "tell us the name of any African-American anywhere in the state that you find acceptable." It's not as if there were no qualified candidates. ... Sessions didn't budge .... "We gave him the opportunity to put forth the names of African Americans, but he wouldn't do it," Saxon said. "It was the single most frustrating thing I've ever done."

Editorial: Will Grassley pick up speed on Trump nominees? (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/01/17)
"The Senate confirmed 20 lifetime judicial appointments to district and appeals courts in the two years Republicans were in charge. That’s the lowest number in 28 years, according to a Congressional Research Service report and Politico. (It’s not even close: The next fewest number was 51, during the Republican-led Senate of 2005-06.) The result of that inaction? There are about 100 vacancies in federal district and appeals courts, plus the opening on the U.S. Supreme Court that Grassley stood in the way of filling. Grassley and his fellow Republicans have handed an inaugural gift to President-elect Donald Trump, who can shape the federal courts in his image. He’ll have almost double the number of openings to fill than Barack Obama did eight years ago.... Republicans successfully ran out the clock on 54 of Obama’s nominees. Of those, 25 made it out of Grassley’s committee, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold votes on them. These 25 were thoroughly vetted and won bipartisan support, yet McConnell shamelessly prevented any votes for more than a year. In addition, eight nominees were waiting to be reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and 21 were waiting for committee hearings.... Grassley has considered only nominees who had won support from both of their home-state senators. Both parties have used that practice, he points out. But this practice has contributed to gridlock. An opening on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has been vacant since 2010, because Republican senators have blocked Obama’s appointees. A district judge position in the Eastern District of North Carolina has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006. More than a quarter of the district’s population is African-American, but it’s never had a black federal judge, according to Raleigh News & Observer. Obama had nominated two African-American women to the eastern district, but Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., supported neither. Obama made it a priority to bring diversity to the courts. Those who weren’t confirmed by the Senate included several Latino, Asian-American and black judges and one who would have been the nation’s first Muslim federal judge. If our courts are to reflect and represent those whom they serve, then Trump should continue Obama’s efforts. The new president should seek racial, ethnic, religious and gender balance when he searches for nominees.... The gears of justice grind more slowly when judicial positions remain open. This has a real impact on people and businesses waiting for their cases to be heard. The U.S. court system now counts 38 judicial emergencies, based on the volume of cases in front of a court. There were 12 such emergencies at the beginning of 2015."

Senate Republicans Changed the Playbook on Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 12/22/16)
Paul Gordon: We should never forget why there are so many vacancies, because that affects how the Senate should act with regard to President Trump’s nominees. Unfortunately, over the course of Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans changed the playbook. They refused to consider a Supreme Court nominee, and they extended their partisan fights over nominees to include district court nominees, who had generally not found themselves victims to such partisan mistreatment before.

Dozens Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees, Including Historic Picks, Won’t Make It Onto The Bench: Fifty-two of President Obama’s judicial nominees didn’t get a vote in the Senate. They include lawyers and judges who would have added new diversity to the federal bench. (BuzzFeed, 12/20/16)
Zoe Tillman: Qureshi is one of 52 nominees for federal district and appeals courts and the US Supreme Court who won’t make it onto the bench, at least for now. That group includes more than a dozen nominees who, like Qureshi, would have broken racial, gender, and religious barriers.... Other nominees who would have been firsts if confirmed include Rebecca Haywood, a federal prosecutor who would have been the first African American woman to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; US District Judge Lucy Koh of California, who would have been the first Korean American federal appeals judge; and US District Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama, who would have been the first African American from the state to serve on the Eleventh Circuit.... The Senate confirmed 20 judges to federal district and appeals courts during Obama’s final two years in office, and left for the holiday recess with 99 court vacancies. More seats are expected to open up by the time Trump takes office in January. Of the vacant seats, 38 are considered “emergencies” by the judiciary because of the caseload. Those numbers don’t include the US Court of International Trade and the US Court of Federal Claims, where there are also open seats. By comparison, the Senate confirmed 68 federal judges during President George W. Bush’s last two years, according to the judiciary. By the end of December 2008, there were 26 nominees pending and 53 vacancies.... Democrats could hold up nominees through a senatorial courtesy system known as the “blue slip”

Sessions cannot do justice as head of justice dept. (Selma Times-Journal [AL], 12/13/16)
Hank Sanders: When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the city of Baltimore for police brutality. She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Sen. Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights?... Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Sen. Jeff Sessions to allow some black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts. During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American. That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon.

Op-Ed: U.S. Senate should act on court nominees (News & Observer [NC], 12/13/16)
Rob Schofield: As outrageous and destructive as the Garland blockade has been, the growing possibility that Senate leaders may also choose to block a raft of lower court nominees in the closing weeks of the 114th Congress is utterly beyond the pale.... 25 lower court nominees have been fully vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee and have the support of their home state senators. This includes three Court of Appeals nominees, 20 District Court nominees and two nominees to the International Trade Court. All that is necessary is for the Senate’s leader, Mitch McConnell, to allow confirmation votes that could take just a few minutes to complete.... Another 28 nominees (four Court of Appeals and 24 District Court nominees) have been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee for months. This includes Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who was nominated to fill the nation’s longest standing judicial vacancy in North Carolina’s Eastern District almost eight months ago.... there were 105 federal court vacancies across the country. Two years ago, when Republicans were preparing to take over the Senate there were only 40. “Judicial emergencies” – which by rule only occur when there are several hundred pending cases per judge on specified courts – have skyrocketed. At the start of the present Congress, there were 12. Now there are 38. The highest number of such emergencies that ever occurred during the George W. Bush presidency – even when Democrats controlled the Senate – was 15. During the last two years, Republicans have only allowed 22 judicial nominees to be confirmed. These figures are the lowest for any Congress since the 1950’s – a time when the nation’s population was barely half its present size. In contrast, Democrats confirmed more than three times the number of Bush nominees in 2008 and left no nominations pending on the Senate floor when Congress adjourned. The current situation is unprecedented and outrageous.

Letter: Senate should move on Garland (Columbus Dispatch [OH], 12/11/16)
Carolyn Casper: More troubling than the unprecedented obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, who should be afforded an immediate hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the blockade of every judicial nominee currently pending. Our federal courts continue to be in a state of crisis because more than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. Because of these vacancies, cases go unheard, issues unresolved, and American people and businesses are without the justice they deserve.... Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, just won an overwhelming victory from the voters following a campaign during which he marketed himself as an “independent voice’’ in the U.S Senate. ... I urge Portman to show his independence and urge Senate leaders to schedule up-or-down votes on Garland and the other pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.

Tobias: Confirm Schott for 7th Circuit Court: Schott is an experienced, moderate nominee, and the court needs every jurist. The Senate must confirm him before it adjourns. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI], 12/08/16)
Carl Tobias: Schott is particularly qualified to fill a 7th Circuit Wisconsin vacancy, which has remained open for more than six years, denying the state full representation on the appeals court.... During Obama’s tenure, Republicans cooperated very little in the confirmation process. This was exacerbated once the GOP captured a Senate majority. The upper chamber approved only one circuit jurist all last year and one in 2016. That contrasts with the 10 appellate judges the Democratic majority helped appoint in 2007-’08 — the comparable juncture of George W. Bush’s presidency. This year, Obama has proffered seven highly qualified, mainstream circuit nominees, but none has been confirmed. That means there are 13 circuit, and 38 emergency, vacancies. Critical is another 7th Circuit opening in Indiana for which Obama nominated Myra Selby. Because Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) did not return a “blue slip,” the Senate will not consider Selby, which makes Schott’s confirmation even more important....Schott is an experienced, moderate nominee, and the court needs every jurist. The Senate must confirm him before it adjourns.

Tobias: Senate should confirm Judge Lucy Koh before adjourning (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 12/08/16)
Carl Tobias: In February, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Lucy Haeran Koh for an emergency Ninth Circuit vacancy, praising her “unflagging integrity and evenhandedness.” Since 2010, the jurist has ably resolved many critical disputes in the Northern District of California. However, 2016 is a presidential election year in which confirmations are delayed. Because Koh is an exceptional, mainstream nominee and the court needs its full complement, she warrants appointment before this Senate session ends.... This year, Obama has proffered seven highly qualified, mainstream circuit nominees, but none received a hearing until May 18 and none has realized appointment. That means the bench has 13 circuit, and 38 emergency, vacancies. Slow confirmations have adverse impacts, depriving courts of necessary resources and many litigants of justice.

Letter: Federal vacancies are concerning (Record [NJ] , 11/29/16)
Ellen Barocas: Beyond the Supreme Court there are currently over 100 federal court vacancies with 59 pending nominees. Thirty-eight of the vacancies represent “judicial emergencies.” NJ alone has three vacancies, with Judge Julien Neals of Bergen County waiting more than 19 months for a hearing following his nomination. These vacancies result in NJ’s federal judges juggling caseloads nearly double what is manageable. Sen. Cory Booker has lamented that “continued judicial vacancies means the American people must wait a year or two or longer to receive justice in a case," while reminding us that justice delayed is justice denied. In September, he called out Sen. Mitch McConnell for attempting to skip over long-standing nominees Julien Neals and Edward Stanton III.

Bloomberg Law Brief: Senate Leaves Judges Waiting (Audio) (Bloomberg News, 11/23/16)
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond, and Charles Gardner Geyh, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, discuss the ... pending federal judges, waiting to be approved by the senate.

Confirm Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl for the Eighth Circuit (The Hill, 11/21/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: This year, Obama has proffered seven highly qualified, mainstream circuit nominees, but none received a hearing until May 18 and none has realized appointment. ... The Judiciary Committee, which Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley chairs, has fully evaluated Puhl and conducted her hearing on June 21. When introducing Puhl, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) glowingly praised her excellent qualifications and emphasized Puhl’s long record of public service. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) similarly lauded Puhl’s lengthy experience in the U.S. Attorney’s office. ... The panel easily approved Puhl on a voice vote with no dissent.... Because she is an experienced, moderate nominee and the court needs every jurist, the Senate must promptly confirm her.

Confirming Judges in the 2016 Senate Lame Duck Session (U. Penn. Law School Journal of Constitutional Law, 11/14/16)
Professor Carl Tobias descriptively scrutinizes the nomination and confirmation regimes throughout the administration of President Barack Obama. The article critically evaluates selection, finding that persistent Republican Senate obstruction resulted in the greatest number of unoccupied posts for the longest duration, briefly moderated by the 2013 detonation of the “nuclear option,” which constricted filibusters. Nevertheless, the article contends when the Grand Old Party (GOP) attained a chamber majority, Republicans dramatically slowed the nomination and confirmation processes after January 2015. Therefore, openings surpassed ninety before Congress is scheduled to reassemble. Because this dilemma erodes rapid, inexpensive, and equitable disposition, the article suggests how the Senate should promptly reduce the multitude of unfilled judgeship once the lame duck session commences.

[Editorial] Justice delayed: Our view; Gamesmanship on nominees extends well beyond the Supreme Court. (USA Today, 10/06/16)
"The Republican-led Senate sure knows how to make history, but not in a good way. By leaving town Sept. 28 without acting on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, it has left a nominee hanging for an unprecedented six-and-a-half-months without so much as a hearing — and left the Supreme Court limping along one justice short and vulnerable to more tie votes. The foot-dragging extends well beyond the Supreme Court to the rest of the federal judiciary, where more than 50 other Obama nominees await hearings or confirmation votes.... Republicans have extended the typical battles over nominees to the Supreme Court and influential appeals courts down to the trial courts. While these lower courts get less attention than the Supreme Court, they are the places where most people come in contact with the federal court system. Trial courts hear thousands of cases involving ordinary Americans: Entrepreneurs in contract disputes. Consumers targeted for fraud. Individuals arguing they’ve faced discrimination in seeking housing or a job. Yet the Senate adjourned with more than 90 judgeships vacant — more than 10percent of the federal judiciary. That’s the largest number since 1992 ... In the past two years, this Senate has confirmed just 22 of Obama’s nominees. When many seats on the bench are empty and caseloads are heavy, justice is delayed. One seat on the North Carolina trial court has been empty for 11 years. The problem is simple: Senate Republicans are shirking their constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on judicial nominations. Americans deserve enough federal judges to hear their disputes and a Supreme Court with a full complement of nine justices to rule on national issues."

Another View -- Elizabeth Wydra: The promise and progress of the U.S. Constitution (New Hampshire Union Leader, 09/23/16)
"The promise of justice, for example, is threatened by the unprecedented breach by Senate Republicans of their constitutional responsibilities regarding judicial nominations. Since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, they have confirmed just 22 judicial nominees — a record low since the 1950s when the judiciary was half its current size. That leaves 90 vacancies on federal courts around the nation, 35 representing judicial emergencies, meaning they are vastly overburdened. These vacancies don’t just affect the nominees. They affect everyone. The speedy trial rights of criminal defendants are threatened. Civil cases are delayed. And citizens are denied timely justice on a range of issues including civil rights, clean air and water, corporate responsibility and reproductive rights. Perhaps the most well known of those vacant seats is the one on the Supreme Court, rendering the Court unable to reach decisions in tied cases."

Bring on the judges [BY WJW EDITORIAL BOARD] (Washington Jewish Week [DC], 09/14/16)
"The Republican-led Senate, which had been dragging its feet in considering Obama’s federal court nominees, announced earlier this year that it will not act on any more appointments until the president’s term ends in January. That effectively put Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination as Supreme Court justice in deep freeze and does the same for every other judicial nominee. That makes no sense. There are 96 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 58 nominations pending. It is the Senate’s job to act on those nominations and not to use its constitutional role for political purposes. Each of the nominees deserves a hearing. The Senate should fulfill its mandate to advise and consent."

Bring on the Judges [Editorial] (Jewish Exponent [PA], 09/14/16)
"The Republican-led Senate, which had been dragging its feet in considering Obama’s federal court nominees, announced earlier this year that it will not act on any more appointments until the president’s term ends in January. That effectively put Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination as Supreme Court justice in deep freeze and does the same for every other judicial nominee. That makes no sense. There are 96 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 58 nominations pending. It is the Senate’s job to act on those nominations and not to use its constitutional role for political purposes. Each of the nominees deserves a hearing. The Senate should fulfill its mandate to advise and consent."

What happens when a Muslim judge turns out to be a Methodist? (McClatchy newspapers, 09/09/16)
Hannah Allam: "Interest this week in the first Muslim nominated to the federal bench has drawn attention to another judge facing a tough confirmation battle and whose background has prompted questions over Muslim identity. No sooner had Muslim advocacy groups sent out news releases praising the nomination Tuesday of Washington lawyer Abid Riaz Qureshi than a question arose among U.S. Muslims on social media: What about Judge Abdul Karim Kallon? Kallon left his birthplace of Sierra Leone when he was 11 and moved to the United States, where he would go on to graduate from two Ivy League universities, win confirmation for a federal judgeship and then become the first black nominee from Alabama for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Given Kallon’s accomplishments, it’s easy to see why Muslims would be eager to claim him as one of their own. The problem is, he’s Methodist. .... [Former Northern District of Alabama Chief Judge] Clemon recalled calling Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby about supporting Kallon in 2009. “He said, ‘Can’t you get him to change his name?’ ” Clemon recalled. Shelby and fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions ended up pushing through Kallon’s confirmation for a district seat. That support appears to have dried up, however, since Obama nominated Kallon for a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Atlanta-based court that considers cases from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. When asked for comment, spokespeople for both senators provided only a joint statement saying they’d withhold approval from any Obama nominee."

Editorial: Congress on vacation: When Congress begins a seven-week recess this afternoon, it will be finishing its shortest cycle of deliberations in 60 years. (El Diario, 07/14/16)
"Hundreds of judicial candidates waited for the Senate to bother considering them. Senators haven’t approved any candidates for ... appeals courts since January 2016. Court cases are piling up because there are no judges available to hear them. Senators refused to debate the appointment of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the court only has eight justices and rulings are often tied, forcing the judicial branch to become as paralyzed as the legislature. And now, they’re going on vacation."

Senate GOP Judicial Obstruction Simply Staggering (Tidal Soundings, 06/29/16)
"Senate Republicans refusal to actually fulfill their constitutional responsibilities just keeps on staggering me. Take a look at this article describing just how many judicial appointments Senate Republicans are holding up .... The level of obstruction is just staggering and the disregard for our judicial system is equally stunning. ... these are judicial vacancies that have been unfilled for two or three years already."

Republicans Aren’t Even Pretending They Want To Confirm Judges Anymore: They’re quietly blocking their own nominees and skipping votes for others. Because Obama. (Huffington Post, 06/28/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "Senate Republicans have never made it easy for President Barack Obama to put judges on federal courts. ... 15 Republican senators are quietly blocking their own nominees in the committee. Take Cruz and Cornyn. They’ve got 12 judicial vacancies in Texas — that’s the most in the nation — and all have been designated judicial emergencies, meaning the courts’ workloads are unmanageable. Both senators publicly supported Obama’s nomination of five people to those courts in March. In fact, Cornyn talked big about his commitment to getting them confirmed .... But none of those nominees has been confirmed, because Cruz and Cornyn won’t turn in their so-called “blue slips” .... Sen. Dan Coats (Ind.) hasn’t turned in his blue slip for his judicial nominee, Myra Selby. Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) haven’t turned in their blue slips for their nominee, Abdul Kallon. Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) haven’t turned in blue slips for their nominees, either. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t turned in his blue slip for his nominee, Lisabeth Hughes.... Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he no longer supports his nominee, Mary Barzee Flores,... Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) pulled his support for his nominee, Dax López"

Statement of ABA President Paulette Brown Re: Evaluation of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland (American Bar Association, 06/21/16)
"The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which is independent of the ABA’s policy-making and governing entities, has finished its intensive peer review of the qualifications of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and has rated him “Well Qualified.” It is now imperative that the Senate fulfills its constitutional responsibilities to consider and act promptly on the Supreme Court nominee.... While the Court continues to function, its 4-4 decisions do not establish precedent and leave open questions on issues that are vital to the lives of everyday people. The prospect of a deadlock also will result in more cases being returned unresolved to lower courts. Cases with controversial issues that need a decision will more likely be avoided by the court. The confirmation process must therefore continue to proceed with all deliberate speed. In addition to the Supreme Court seat, there are 83 current vacancies on the Courts of Appeals, District Courts and the Court of International Trade. Our nation is disadvantaged when the federal judiciary does not have enough judges to hear cases and resolve disputes in a thorough and timely fashion."

UPDATED: Editorial Boards Stress Urgent Need to Fill Federal Judicial Vacancies in 2016 (, 06/10/16)
The following editorials highlight the real-world impacts of the current federal judicial vacancy surge and the pressing need to fill those vacancies.

Senate obstructionism is snarling the federal trial courts (Washington Post, 06/10/16)
Kyle Barry, Letter to the Editor: "along with vacancies and “judicial emergencies,” the number of pending judicial nominees has spiked as a result of a stagnant confirmation process. There are 54 judicial nominees waiting for confirmation, including 46 to the trial courts, and hardly any are the least bit controversial. By contrast, in June 2008, President George W. Bush had only 22 trial court nominees awaiting action in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Second, the Republican leadership is blocking even nominees who have bipartisan support, including those selected and recommended by their home-state Republican senators. All 17 of the pending judicial nominees who have passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee did so by voice vote with support from the committee’s Republican members. Moreover, there are at least 25 trial court nominees who are both from states with at least one GOP senator and have home-state GOP support."

Editorial Boards Stress Urgent Need to Fill Federal Judicial Vacancies in 2016 (, 06/09/16)
The following editorials highlight the real-world impacts of the current vacancy surge and the pressing need to fill those vacancies.

Criticism Mounts for Senate GOP Obstruction of Judges (People For blog, 06/09/16)
"Republicans have done everything in their power to obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. ... The result is a substantial increase in the number of vacancies since the GOP took over the Senate, with the number of judicial emergencies (vacancies with overwhelming backlogs that impede access to justice) skyrocketing to 2½ times what it was at the beginning of this Congress.... They could start by holding a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. They could also stop delaying committee votes on nominees like Don Schott for the Seventh Circuit (whose vote today was delayed simply because committee Republicans could delay it). They could hold hearings for qualified circuit court nominees like California’s Lucy Koh for the Ninth Circuit and North Dakota’s Jennifer Kelmetsrud Puhl for the Eighth Circuit, both of whom have the support of their home state senators. Republicans could also stop blocking hearings for Indiana’s Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Alabama’s Abdul Kallon for the Eleventh Circuit, Kentucky’s Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit, and Pennsylvania’s Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit, all of whom are currently facing obstruction by Republican home state senators who simply want to prevent President Obama from filling these vacancies."

EDITORIAL: The Senate’s Confirmation Shutdown (New York Times, 06/09/16)
"The Republicans’ blockade of Judge Garland is shameful, but it is only the most glaring example of what has been a historic slowdown in filling federal court vacancies across the country. This has been enormously damaging to the district courts, which deal with hundreds of thousands of cases annually, and where backlogs drag out lawsuits and delay justice. It also harms the appeals courts, ... By June 2008, the Senate had approved 46 of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees; they confirmed a total of 68 by September. In contrast, Mr. McConnell’s Senate has confirmed only 20 of Mr. Obama’s judges since Republicans took control in January 2015, the slowest pace since the early 1950s. Appellate judges accounted for just two of those confirmations, fewer than at any time since the 19th century. As a result of the impasse, there are now 83 vacant federal judgeships nationwide — 30 of which have such overwhelming case backlogs that the court system has classified them as judicial emergencies. By comparison, there were only about half as many when the Democrats controlled the Senate in 2008. It would be easy to fill most of these vacancies if the Senate did its job. Currently, 37 of Mr. Obama’s nominees remain bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, 30 of whom are still waiting for their hearing; 17 more have been approved by the committee but have not been scheduled for a full Senate vote."

The "Thurmond Rule" and other advice and consent myths (Brookings, 05/25/16)
Russell Wheeler: "Grassley’s description of the paucity, since 2000, of presidential election year confirmations after the summer recesses obscures the amount of election-year confirmations prior to the recesses. The Senate confirmed from four to eight circuit judges in each of those four years (2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012), compared to only one so far in 2016. And it confirmed, before the recesses in those years, 27, 24, 14, and 28 district judges, compared to only six so far in 2016. (And, any Thurmond “rule” notwithstanding, in those four years the Senate confirmed 36 district judges after the recesses—not to mention ten post-August circuit confirmations in 1984, 1988, and 1992, during and immediately following Thurmond’s chairmanship.).... Those examples should motivate the full Senate to consider at least the 21 district and one circuit nominees who have had hearings. Doing so could help close the yawning gap between the 114th Senate’s record of 18 total confirmations and those of its recent predecessors—72 in 1999-2000 when Republicans controlled the Senate and 68 in 2007-08, when Democrats did.... McConnell’s comparison is akin to saying that Congress treated a hypothetical President X fairly by providing slightly more hurricane relief funds than it provided President Y, even though President X’s term saw twice as many hurricanes as did President Y’s. The judicial analogy to natural emergencies is vacancies.... The question, in other words, is not fairness to a president but fairness to litigants and judges. Section 2, Article 2 does not terminate the Senate’s “advice and consent” function once it confirms the same number of nominees as those of a prior president, or, despite any “Thurmond Rule,” once it leaves town in July for a month and a half of party conventions and presidential election year campaigning."

CAN SPLIT GOVERNMENT WORK? (Moderate Voice, 05/25/16)
ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Columnist: "The Senate’s refusal to confirm Obama’s candidate to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, a centrist judge with impeccable credentials, is another example of Republican partisanship, ignoring past precedent. ... As bad as the rejection of Garland by Republicans has been their obstructionism in filling federal court appointments recommended by Obama, causing difficulties in the courts’ ability to function, with heavy caseloads for justices and long delays in handling cases. ... Republican Senators blocked Obama’s attempt to fill vacancies on regional federal courts of appeal. The senators refused to approve of candidates for judgeships in their states ahead of formal nomination"