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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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The Unheralded Death of the Blue Slip: Republicans appear poised to break one of the Senate’s oldest, and finest, traditions. (Daily Beast, 09/26/17)
Eleanor Clift: This is particularly grating to Democrats who dutifully deferred to Republican home state senators when President Obama was in the White House. McConnell personally blocked Obama’s choice of Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes because he wanted someone else. ... After benefiting enormously from the blue slip tradition, McConnell had a change of mind when Democratic senators from Minnesota and Oregon did not return their blue slips for two Trump picks for the Court of Appeals. ... The blue-slip tradition has been violated only three times, most recently in 1989 and 1983 when California Democrat Alan Cranston refused to return his blue slip when President Reagan and then President George H.W. Bush were in the White House. Before that, you have to go back to 1936 .... No judge has ever been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators .... Former Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy never once deviated from the blue slip tradition, and 18 Obama appointees never got hearings. All but one was a woman or a minority, part of Obama’s commitment to bring more diversity to the courts. Leahy took heat for that from fellow Democrats, and had to fend off then Senate leader Harry Reid, who wanted him to suspend the blue slips so Obama could get more judges. Leahy fiercely defends the blue slip as vital for the senate to advise and consent. He believes Grassley will honor his pledge, saying that in their 30-year relationship, Grassley has never broken his word.

While You Weren’t Looking, the Senate Has Been Rubber-Stamping Trump’s Extreme Judicial Picks: Senate Judiciary committee chair Charles Grassley has abandoned Senate custom to push through Trump’s extreme nominees. The worst may be yet to come. (Daily Beast, 09/21/17)
Jay Michaelson: Contrary to rumors about a rift between Trump and Senate Republicans, every nominee thus far has won the party’s unanimous support. ... Sen. Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who chose not to give a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland or 59 other Obama nominees, has again departed from decades of Senate practice to expedite the hearing process for circuit court appointees. First, Grassley has stacked multiple nominees together into a single hearing, making it extremely difficult to properly vet and question any of them.... nominees had been “stacked” previously only when the minority party agreed to do so. ... But Grassley’s most audacious move may be yet to come. Rumors have circulated that he is considering doing away with so-called blue slips, the customary requirement that senators from a nominee’s home state both agree to the nomination. Like most rules of the Senate, blue slips are only a custom—but it is a custom that dates back over a century and is an important part of the system of checks and balances.... Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General Jeff Sessions withheld blue slips frequently during the Obama years to block judicial nominees they didn’t like ... the nominees Grassley is rushing through the Senate were chosen by Trump’s outsourced ideologues at the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation ... a nominee who called Justice Anthony Kennedy a “prostitute.” These aren’t conservatives—they’re wing nuts.... Finally, these ideologues’ motives are entirely explicit. Leonard Leo, Trump’s adviser on the judiciary who is managing the think-tank-to-court pipeline, said in May that “I would love to see the courts unrecognizable.”

Respect Prerogative of Home-State Senators: President Obama nominated Justice Hughes. Sens. McConnell and Paul did not return their blue slips, and Justice Hughes never received a hearing. (Wall Street Journal, 09/19/17)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, Letter to the Editor: The editorial board completely discounts the history of the blue slip, which requires both home-state senators to sign off on judicial nominees from their state ("The Al Franken Standard," Sept. 13). Here are the facts: In 2016 alone, President Obama's nominations of Judge Abdul Kallon for the 11th Circuit, Justice Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit and Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit did not move forward because they didn't receive two blue slips. Trump nominees have been confirmed to two of these vacancies, and nominees for the two other vacancies are pending. Consider the specifics of the Sixth Circuit vacancy in Kentucky: In March 2016, after the vacancy had been open for almost 1,000 days, President Obama nominated Justice Hughes. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul did not return their blue slips, and Justice Hughes never received a hearing. Their prerogative as home-state senators was honored, and the prerogative of home-state senators should continue to be honored. The editorial board was silent when these highly qualified nominees were blocked ....

10 Things You Need To Know About Blue Slips: Republicans repeatedly used the tradition to block President Obama’s judicial nominees. (Huffington Post, 09/13/17)
Christopher Kang, Former Deputy Counsel to President Obama: Both home-state senators receive a blue slip, and each senator must return a positive blue slip for a judicial nominee to be confirmed — with only three exceptions in 100 years, the most recent in 1989.... overriding negative blue slips would diminish every senator’s influence over his or her home-state’s judicial nominees.... A judge has never been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators.... Objections by Republican home-state senators have always been respected.... During the Obama administration, Republicans blocked 18 judicial nominees through blue slips.... he Judiciary Committee—under both Chairmen Leahy and Grassley—made zero blue slip exceptions during the Obama administration....When Republicans blocked nominees by withholding their blue slips, they often refused to examine or discuss a nominee’s record and based their objections solely on process — despite a record that suggests months or even years of consultation.... When Republicans returned their blue slips, it could take many months — or even years — to do so, undermining Republican whining now that Democrats are taking a few months to review nominees’ records.... There is no Democratic abuse of the blue slips, as Democrats already have returned blue slips on four circuit court nominees — including two on President Trump’s Supreme Court short-list.... We must uphold the Grassley-Leahy-Hatch blue slip standard.... According to Senator Leahy, “[Chairman Grassley] told me he was going to follow the same procedures as chairman. And I take him at his word…I’ve known him for over 30 years. He’s never broken his word to me.” Instead, Senate Republicans should heed the words of Senator Hatch — who also is the longest serving Republican senator: “I sincerely hope that the majority will not continue to sacrifice the good of the Senate and the good of the country simply to serve short-term political interests. I’m glad Chairman Leahy has preserved the blue slip process. It should stay that way.”

Right-Wing Pressure on Democratic Senators on Judges: “Do As We Say, Not As We Do” (People For blog, 07/31/17)
Paul Gordon: this pressure campaign—accusations of slow-walking combined with threats to make “exceptions” to the blue slip rule—can succeed only if Republicans hide two basic and indisputable truths: 1. Republican refusals to agree to hearings by submitting blue slips have been respected 100% of the time—regardless of the reason or lack thereof, regardless of the nominee, regardless of the party of the president or chairman, and regardless of the need to fill the vacancy as soon as possible; and 2. Republicans are demanding that Democrats submit blue slips much earlier for Trump nominees than was the case for Obama nominees.

To Ram Through Judges, GOP Senators Consider Yielding Power to Trump White House: The Republicans turning the Senate into the House, where the majority rules, are undoing the power of their own institution. (Daily Beast, 06/26/17)
Eleanor Clift: No Obama district or circuit court nominee in eight years even got a hearing before the Judiciary Committee unless both home-state senators returned blue slips saying “yea.”... Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee ... called the elimination of the blue slip “essentially a move to end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees, allowing nominees to be hand-picked by right-wing groups.”... In Pennsylvania, a vacancy has been open on the Third Circuit since July 2015 after the White House could not reach agreement with Republican Senator Pat Toomey on an acceptable candidate.... A Republican talking point claims that Democrats would do it if they had the chance, prompting Feinstein to point out that Democrats never waived the tradition even when they had the power.... President Obama left 17 district and circuit court nominations on the table, stalled by the refusal of Republican senators to return their blue slips. Of those 17, only one was a white man .... Among the justices now before the Senate, four are vying for seats that Republican senators used blue slips to hold open for an unconscionably long time, years in some cases. Former Alabama Solicitor General Kevin Newsom, who had a hearing before the Senate last week, is up for a seat on the 11th circuit only because Obama’s nominee, Judge Abdul Kallon, never had his blue slip returned by then Republican Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby. Born in Sierra Leone, Kallon was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the District court, and would have been the first African American nominated to the 11th circuit from Alabama.... why the Republicans might be bluffing on blue slips.... Why would any senator give up such undisputed power to this president, or any president for that matter?

The Consultation Double-Standard (Vetting Room, 06/09/17)
Harsh Voruganti: Let’s compare excerpts from the Senate Judiciary Questionnaires of ... judicial nominees: ... The contrast is stark. Compared to the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration has engaged in no pre-nomination consultation with Democratic Senators, instead cutting them out of the process. Now, Senate Republicans are debating whether to support their Democratic colleagues on this issue, or to cut off one of their only avenues for recourse: the blue slip.... On March 2, 2009, shortly after President Obama had been sworn into office with a large Democratic Senate majority, all 41 members of the Senate Republican conference sent him a letter with a clear missive: consult Republican home-state senators on nominees, or face a filibuster.... To his credit, President Obama worked assiduously to engage Republican Senators on judicial nominees, allowing them to name circuit and district court candidates from their states, and refusing to nominate judges when he could not reach an agreement with home-state senators. For his part, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) backed up his Republican colleagues by refusing to move forward with any nominee who did not have positive blue slips returned from both home-state senators, regardless of their party. In the six years that President Obama and Chairman Leahy served together, two circuit and seven district court nominees were blocked based on senatorial courtesy and blue slips .... When Republicans took over the Senate majority in 2014, new Chairman Chuck Grassley continued to strictly enforce senatorial courtesy and blue slips. During the last two years of the Obama Administration, blue slip use by Republicans ramped up, and the following nominees were blocked .... Tradition and principles aside, there are many practical reasons for keeping the blue slip.... While Senate Republicans may be able to muscle through a judge being blocked only based on ideology, it is hard to see them pushing a judge whose nomination was made with no consultation whatsoever. In other words, if the Trump Administration wants to see these nominees move, they’d do well to bring home state Democrats on board.

‘TRIPLE THREAT’ Trump’s Terrible Judicial Trifecta: Passing on alt-right conspiracies. Railing about ‘teaching gayness.’ Arguing for leniency to sentence minors to death. And these three nominees are expected to be confirmed easily. (Daily Beast, 06/07/17)
Eleanor Clift: if there were a 60-vote threshold, they wouldn’t stand a prayer’s chance of getting a lifetime appointment to the Sixth or Eleventh Circuit, or in the case of 38-year-old Damien Schiff, a 15-year appointment to the Court of Federal Claims, positioning him for the Ninth Circuit.... Louisville lawyer Bush, slated for the Sixth Circuit, is the most problematic. ... Schiff called Kennedy “a judicial prostitute” for “selling his vote as it were to four other Justices ... Schiff has called Earth Day “a threat to individual liberty and property rights,” and blames environmental regulations for contributing to California’s drought. He favors selling off public lands and once suggested Yosemite be turned over to Disney.... Alabama’s Kevin Newsom ... is positioned for a lifetime appointment on the Eleventh Circuit is what rankles Democrats. The vacancy occurred in 2013, and in February 2016 Obama nominated U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon from Birmingham to fill the seat. He would have been the first African-American from Alabama to sit on the Eleventh Circuit. He never got a hearing. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is now attorney general, never returned the blue slip that would have facilitated Kallon’s confirmation.

Grassley Rewrites Senate History to Grease the Wheels for Trump’s Judges (Medium, 05/12/17)
Kyle Barry, LDF Policy Counsel: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has revealed that he is willing to trash longstanding Senate tradition and undermine his Senate colleagues to hand control of the federal courts over to President Donald Trump. Grassley said that he will allow Trump to go over the heads of Democratic senators to fill federal appeals court vacancies in their home states “because that’s the way it’s been.” Grassley’s statement is both historically inaccurate and dangerous .... Since 1951, only two judges have been confirmed despite a negative blue slip, and both were district court judges appointed by Republican presidents. Grassley’s predecessor, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, applied the rule strictly and never held a confirmation hearing unless both home-state senators approved.... Indeed, four of the current circuit vacancies exist only because Republican senators refused to return blue slips for Obama nominees .... of the 17 total Obama nominees blocked by blue slips, just one was a white man; 10 were women and 10 were African American.

Blue Slips and the Trump Administration: What to Expect in the Coming Months (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/04/17)
Harsh Voruganti: one Senate practice may work to constrain Trump’s more conservative nominees and encourage him to work with Democrats: the blue slip.... the Trump Administration should expect Democratic Senators to use the blue slip process to pre-clear judicial nominees for their state. Under the Obama Administration, Republican Senators took a similar stand, blocking nominees they viewed as insufficiently conservative.... Even if the Trump Administration chooses to pre-clear its nominees with home-state senators, Democrats may, consistent with the actions of Republican Senators, withdraw their support after nomination. In 2011, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) initially expressed support for the nomination of Steve Six to the Tenth Circuit. However, under pressure from conservative groups, he and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) came out in opposition to Six shortly after his hearing, essentially killing his nomination. Similarly, President Obama’s nomination to the Northern District of Georgia after Boggs, Judge Dax Erik Lopez, a Republican and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, was blocked by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) after conservative groups objected to Lopez’s membership in Latino civic organizations. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blocked two nominees to the Southern District of Florida, Judge William Thomas and Mary Barzee Flores, after initially indicating his support to the White House.

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], 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”

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.

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.

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: 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.

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.

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 [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."

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."

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."