Editorials and Opinion
Bill Straub: McConnell, Trump appear headed for a showdown — and it could come sooner than later (Northern Kentucky Tribune, 09/28/17)
"Every time McConnell is reminded if he were a Broadway show he would have closed opening night, he repeats his mantra – Justice Neil Gorsuch, expressing great pride in cheating and stealing to get his man on the U.S. Supreme Court over a more qualified candidate, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington DC, nominated by then-President Barack Obama. But Republicans, while they appreciate the diabolical steps Ol’ Root ‘n Branch finagled, are now taking a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately stand, and the majority leader is coming up empty."
Seventh-Circuit Shakedown: Myra Selby Deserved Her Day in the Senate (Commonweal, 09/25/17)
Cathleen Kaveny: hen law professor Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by Donald Trump, her friends and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame rallied to her cause.... Indiana Senator Joseph Donnelly ... sent in his “blue slip” authorizing the hearings to go forward.... But here’s the thing: Barrett was not the first candidate from Indiana for the vacant spot on the Seventh Circuit. In January 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Myra Selby .... Selby herself was a justice on the Indiana Supreme Court—in fact, she was the first woman and the first African American to hold that position. During her five years on the court, she wrote more than a hundred majority opinions.... Despite her qualifications, Selby, unlike Barrett, never made it to Washington for a Senate hearing. While Senator Donnelly sent in his blue slip, Dan Coats, the Republican senator at the time, flatly refused to do so.... What happened to Merrick Garland, Obama’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, happened to Selby—as well as many other judicial nominees whose appointments were deliberately stalled by Republicans in Obama’s last year of office.... Yet not one of the many Notre Dame Law School faculty members who are members of the Federalist Society or active in Republican politics put the same type of pressure on Coats that McAward exerted on Donnelly.
America's Red and Blue Judges: Justice Neil Gorsuch exemplifies how the Supreme Court has become fully enmeshed in the rankest partisan politics. (Atlantic, 09/25/17)
Garrett Epps: Asked to explain to his party’s base the Senate’s lack of legislative accomplishment, McConnell said, “Well, we have a new Supreme Court justice.”
Gorsuch hasn’t commented on that statement. But he was quite happy to appear with McConnell Thursday on what veteran Supreme Court correspondent Kenneth Jost called a “victory lap” to the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky law schools last week. ... Not since the New Deal crisis of 1937 has the Supreme Court been so clearly revealed to the world as fully enmeshed in the rankest partisan politics. ... McConnell had announced a new rule. The sitting president could not name a justice .... with McConnell’s announcement, and the Republican caucuses compliance in what they knew was grievously wrong, judicial nominations reached the last stop on the highway to hell.... It might have been seemly not to appear with McConnell; it might be even seemlier to refuse a speaking engagement at the Trump Hotel. That kind of reticence, however, is apparently not to be expected from our newest justice. He will not even pretend to care about how the losers in the process see either him, or the Court.
Supreme Court case over a wedding cake could mark an erosion of LGBT rights (Baltimore Sun, 09/25/17)
David Placher: Mr. Trump’s position in support of the baker and his determination to make the judiciary more conservative means that LGBT rights will continue to be under attack by opponents of same-sex marriage who want to use the courts to roll back protections for the LGBT community.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, made the situation worse for the LGBT community when he stole a vacant Supreme Court seat from President Barack Obama by refusing to so much as hold a vote on any nominee for Mr. Obama’s last 11 months in office. He destroyoed the long standing opportunity to filibuster Supreme Court nominees and ignored Democrats’ concerns to confirm ultra conservative activist Justice Neil Gorsuch in just three months. ... With the Democratic Party in the minority unable to stop the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate from confirming conservative judges and Supreme Court nominees, and Mr. Trump’s determination to fill judicial vacancies with conservatives, the LGBT community may lose all protections, including the right to marry, by the time Mr. Trump’s first or second term ends.
Why the Trump-Franken fight over a Minnesota judge is a bad omen for our political system (MinnPost [MN], 09/06/17)
Eric Black: the Republican leadership of the Senate, claiming a bogus historical precedent that did not exist, refused to even hold a hearing on the Garland nomination.... Rep. Erik Paulsen, a loyal Republican, wasted an entire Star Tribune commentary attacking his Senate colleagues for holding up the Stras nomination without mentioning the Garland case."
More than one side can play obstruct game (Mankato Free Press [MN] , 08/29/17)
Byron J. Nordstrom, Letter to the Editor: Minnesota senators. ... have failed thus far to “blue slip” the nomination of David Stras, currently an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, so that his confirmation can proceed in the U. S. Senate.... Aren’t those crying foul ignoring something? Aren’t their complaints just a bit hypocritical? What happened, for example, to Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nomination to the U. S. Supreme Court? His was just one of many of Obama’s nominations for judgeships and other offices that were never approved.
Didn’t Garland’s nomination sit idled at the will of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues for almost a year so that a Trump nominee (Neil Gorsuch) could win appointment.
Readers Write: U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and judicial nominations (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 08/25/17)
Brad Engdahl: I was left agape with incredulity by U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s Aug. 25 commentary criticizing Minnesota’s U.S. senators for delaying Justice David Stras’ nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.... I anxiously await his upcoming op-ed piece excoriating the Republican Senate majority for the “greatest” example of partisan game-playing in Washington: the failure to hold a hearing or vote on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Garland is a judicial moderate (unlike Stras) and undeniably qualified.
Or maybe Paulsen will pen a paean to the Senate Democratic majority that confirmed 68 of President George W. Bush’s nominees in the last two years of his term and will decry the partisan game-playing and obstructionism of his Republican brethren in the Senate who confirmed only 22 of President Barack Obama’s nominees in the last two years of his term.
Will Trump’s Enduring Legacy Be a Right-Wing Judiciary? The president is moving at a rapid clip to put ideological allies on the bench. (Moyers & Company, 08/25/17)
Susannah Jacob: Donald Trump chose Michael Brennan to fill an open seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In doing so, he broke with a 38-year-old Wisconsin tradition.
For decades, when the 7th Circuit seat meant for a Wisconsin judge opened up, a bipartisan state commission voted on a jointly agreed-upon list of judicial nominees for the president to consider.... Trump went ahead and selected Brennan, a former Milwaukee County judge who is a close ally of Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker. In 2011, while serving on a committee to help Walker select state-level judges, Brennan co-authored an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel supporting Republican efforts to block Obama’s nominee to the 7th Circuit Court — a nominee who would have sat in the very seat for which Trump has nominated Brennan.... Republican senators support Trump’s nominees, despite spoken hesitation.
For instance, during his nomination hearings, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) found 52-year-old judicial nominee John Bush problematic. “I’ve read your blog. I’m not impressed,” Kennedy told Bush. ... Schiff would oversee environmental and agency lawsuits. In the past, he’s accused the Environmental Protection Agency of treating Americans “as if they were just slaves” and recommended selling Yosemite National Park to the Walt Disney Company because they’d “do a damn better job, I think.”
He also moonlights as a blogger. In one post, he called Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute”
GOP Efforts to Break Up the Ninth Circuit Would Harm Justice (People For blog, 08/23/17)
Paul Gordon: The GOP’s current scheme to break up the Ninth Circuit is just the latest proposal to game the courts to get more rulings in their favor. Today’s Republican Party has developed expertise in this field. In the past year alone, they refused to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, they blocked confirmation votes on fully-vetted, uncontroversial, non-ideological Obama nominees to circuit and district courts, and voted in lockstep to confirm a far right Sixth Circuit Trump nominee who would not have passed the laugh test under a normal administration.... While conservative politicians try to break up the circuit, high-profile conservative judges have rejected the idea. Reagan nominee Judge Alex Kozinski testified ... On July 27, more than 30 current and former Ninth Circuit judges expressed their opposition to splitting the circuit .... PFAW joined more than 150 local, state, and national organizations in a letter to Grassley and Feinstein opposing efforts to divide the Ninth Circuit.
Trump nominates hyper-partisan conservative activist to NC federal court vacancy: Why this is not “business as usual” and should not be condoned (NC Policy Watch, 07/18/17)
Rob Schofield: the GOP-dominated Senate is moving quickly to approve a bevy of new hardliners – including a conservative blogger from Kentucky named John K. Bush who authored scores of offensive posts under a pseudonym before Trump saw fit to nominate him to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.... Last week, the conservative courts putsch reached North Carolina when Trump nominated a right-wing activist lawyer named Thomas Farr to fill a seat on U.S. District Court for the Eastern District – the oldest vacancy in the federal system. As readers will no doubt recall, the Eastern District seat has stood vacant for more than a decade – including the entire Obama presidency – thanks to Senator Richard Burr’s stubborn refusal to allow either of President Obama’s two nominees to receive a hearing. ... Unlike both of the individuals advanced by President Obama (federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker and veteran state court judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson) Thomas Farr is not an experienced public servant. Rather, he is a lifelong partisan activist who has spent four decades advancing the hard right agenda.... the hard and striking reality that:
a) Farr is yet another white male being nominated in an region that has never, in the entire history of the nation, been served by a federal judge of color (both May-Parker and Timmons-Goodson are African-American),
b) the Eastern District includes all of the counties in the state that are greater than 50% African-American in population and has the greatest percentage of African-Americans of any region in the state, and
c) Farr has dedicated big chunks of his career to abetting controversial conservative efforts with respect to voting rights of African-Americans,
One of the Biggest Reasons Republicans Stick by Trump: They blocked Obama’s court nominees for years. Now they’re filling those seats, starting a huge shift rightward for the judiciary. (Bloomberg News, 07/10/17)
By Paul Barrett and David Ingold: this congressional pocket veto of Garland, a 64-year-old moderate and chief of the influential U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, was simply the most public manifestation of a longer-term strategy. After gaining control of the Senate in 2015, Republicans made it their mission to slow-walk Obama’s nominations for the lower courts. This effort contributed to the relatively large backlog of 107 vacancies on trial and intermediate-appellate courts that Trump inherited.... Two White House choices that have infuriated Democrats and could make moderate Republicans queasy are John Bush and Damien Schiff. Both men, who are scheduled for a vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee as soon as next week, have come under fire for hard-right views they’ve expressed as prolific bloggers.
[Editorial] Justice Gorsuch Delivers (New York Times, 07/01/17)
"Mitch McConnell ... has already won the biggest fight of all: the theft of a Supreme Court seat from President Obama, the installation of Justice Neil Gorsuch and the preservation of the court’s conservative majority for years to come.... McConnell demolished longstanding Senate tradition and denied a vote to one of the most well-qualified nominees ever: Merrick Garland .... Justice Gorsuch, who was confirmed less than three months ago, has already staked his claim as one of the most conservative members of the court.... The problem is that he’s sitting in the seat that by rights should be occupied by Judge Garland."
Trump’s Justice: Neil Gorsuch will be the enduring symbol of a disastrous presidency. (Slate.com, 05/17/17)
Mark Joseph Stern: Gorsuch will be around for decades, helping to shape American law. But no matter how long he stays on the bench, his legacy—and his court itself—will be permanently tainted by Trump’s turpitude.
No matter what happened during Trump’s presidency, Gorsuch was destined to go down in history with an asterisk next to his name. The justice assumed a seat Republicans stole from President Barack Obama by refusing to hold hearings, let alone a vote, for Merrick Garland. This unprecedented blockade was an appalling political heist, diminishing the court’s independence in an effort to preserve its conservatism. Anyone who agreed to take this stolen seat was bound to be viewed as illegitimate by a broad swath of the country.
Grassley signals he'll selectively allow Democrats to have a say on federal judges (Daily Kos, 05/12/17)
Joan McCarter: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is uniquely capable of revising history and norms and traditions to fit whatever partisan agenda he has. An unprecedented Senate blockade of a completely qualified and non-controversial Supreme Court nominee? Sure, we can do that, because this is the last year of the president's term in office. That's completely normal, said Grassley of the Merrick Garland blockade. He's got a new one now, this time how it's customary to let home-state senators weigh in on some federal judges, but not others. In other words, he's going to let Donald Trump have his key judges, and pretend like he's still recognizing Judiciary tradition.
How about nixing double-standard on Trump, Obama? (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 04/24/17)
Letter to the Editor, Kyle Johnson: So, Mr. Keane thinks it's "way past time for the Democrats and the people to put aside their differences and unite for the betterment of our country." That would have been so nice if Mitch McConnell would have done that very thing when President Obama nominated Justice Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans had simply done their jobs and confirmed him. Justice Garland was no less qualified than Justice Gorsuch. But the Republicans simply wanted to continue to obstruct. Finally, Republicans went "nuclear" to just to get their way.
Commentary, Chris Carlson: Idaho will regret 'nuclear option' (Lewiston Tribune [ID], 04/21/17)
"For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter, we have Idaho's senior U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product, no less, to thank.
In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama's nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, one of Crapo's expressed reasons was a perception on his part that Garland was weak on Second Amendment rights.
In voting to secure Court of Appeals 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don't see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning.
Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second Amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo's case, it is so ironic that he invoked Garland's perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the "nuclear option," which literally shatters Second Amendment protections.
All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and, in particular, Western states."
[Editorial] Neil Gorsuch and the State’s Power to Kill (New York Times, 04/21/17)
"In short, the first significant decision by Justice Gorsuch, who was sworn in to office less than two weeks ago, was the most consequential any justice can make — to approve a man’s killing by the state.
That man, like so many others condemned to die around the country, was a walking catalog of reasons the American death penalty is a travesty. Evidence that Mr. Lee was intellectually disabled and suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome was never introduced into court, mainly because he had egregiously bad representation.... That 4-to-4 split effectively gave the deciding vote over Mr. Lee’s life to Justice Gorsuch, sitting in a seat that by all rights should be occupied not by him but by President Barack Obama’s doomed nominee, Merrick Garland.
During his confirmation hearings, Justice Gorsuch talked a lot about his respect for the rule of law, and the importance of sticking to the plain text of the Constitution and of statutes. But he didn’t have to rewrite the Eighth Amendment to see, as Justice Breyer did, that Mr. Lee’s case exemplified “how the arbitrary nature of the death penalty system, as presently administered, runs contrary to the very purpose of a ‘rule of law.’ ”
Neil Gorsuch held the power of life and death in his hands Thursday night. His choice led to Ledell Lee’s execution, and gave the nation an early, and troubling, look into the mind-set of the high court’s newest member.
Letter: Gorsuch was confirmed by a shabby political maneuver Republicans will regret (TCPalm.com, 04/21/17)
Milton Weiss: Judge Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed ... the seat he is filling is not "the Scalia seat" but the one stolen by Republicans from its rightful occupant, Judge Merrick Garland. Through a shameful political maneuver, President Obama's nominee was not even given the courtesy of a Senate hearing, much less a vote. Instead we have Neil Gorsuch, the darling of the right-wing Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers, and other big money corporate interests. ... The shabby Republican political trick of refusing to consider President Obama's nominee for the last year of the Obama presidency, coupled with the nuclear option employed to break the Democratic filibuster will have significant future consequences. ... The day will come when Republicans will regret their clever but reprehensible action in having stonewalled the nomination of Judge Garland and in so doing damaged the reputation and future functioning of the United States Senate.
Clive McFarlane: Will of the people a relative concept? (Telegram & Gazette [MA], 04/21/17)
"That obstructionism culminated in these lawmakers denying Mr. Obama his constitutional obligation to appoint Judge Merrick Garland of the Washington D.C. Circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court following the untimely death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Republicans claimed that their 14-month strategy to block Judge Garland’s nomination was to let the will of the people speak during the 2016 elections. Of course, a combined 135.4 million people voted to elect Mr. Obama in 2008 (69.5 million) and to re-elect him in 2012 (65.9 million).
Donald Trump captured the White House with fewer than 63 million of the popular vote in 2016 (some two million fewer than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton), but according to the logic of the Republicans, Mr. Trump’s total is a better measure of the people’s will."
Printed Letter: Neil Gorsuch clearly lacks sense of justice (Daily Sentinel [CO], 04/21/17)
Rudolph J. Textor: The most striking disqualifying element of Neil M. Gorsuch’s character is that he has no sense of, and no interest in, justice.
If he did, he would have publicly stated that Merrick B. Garland was the legitimate candidate for the recent Supreme Court justice vacancy. Additionally, he would have publicly repudiated the past 13 months of vicious Republican Party machinations by which his illegitimate nomination and installation were engineered.
McConnell further divided Senate (Missoulian [MT], 04/20/17)
Chuck Aker, Letter to the Editor: I am disappointed in U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell! ... McConnell started this battle when he would not allow the Senate to reject or confirm President Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court. McConnell was more interested in further dividing the Senate, rather than allowing senators to work as statesmen/women. McConnell is not a statesman and his action invoking the nuclear option on April 6 has further created a Senate divided. McConnell has misused his Senate majority power and needs to be replaced.
Letter: Never forget the name Merrick Garland (Santa Cruz Sentinel [CA], 04/19/17)
Ronald T. Beebe: Now we have a Thief Justice, sitting in the stolen Supreme Court seat that should rightly have gone to Merrick Garland. Let us never forget his name, Merrick Garland. As for the new guy, don’t mention his name at all. For the rest of his life always refer to him as the Thief Justice and everyone will know exactly who you are talking about.
Letter on nuclear option: How it happened (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 04/18/17)
Wayne Powers: After five years of obstruction, including 79 of Obama’s appointments having been blocked, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed the rules of the Senate to require 51 votes instead of 60 for judges to be confirmed, not including Supreme Court justices.
Then Justice Antonin Scalia died, ...Immediately McConnell said there was not going to be an Obama Supreme Court nominee brought to the floor for a vote. Reason: He was in the last year of his presidency. Nowhere in the Constitution is this mentioned.
Obama nominates Merrick Garland, a judge who had been confirmed by a large, bipartisan margin ... And then President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. Democrats, possibly stinging from the treatment given by the Republicans to Obama’s nominee, did not get on board. So on April 6, McConnell launched the bomb that brought down the “greatest deliberative body in the world.”
Gorsuch is the face of the new not-normal (Philadelphia Tribune [PA], 04/17/17)
Rachel Sklar: when things are not normal, you cannot behave as though they are.
That is why Senate Democrats were right to filibuster the nomination and reject it
The Public Pulse: GOP has politicized the Supreme Court (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 04/16/17)
Marylyn Felion: I do not recall any time when Democrats stonewalled a Republican nominee until the Republican president was out of office, thereby stealing a Supreme Court seat. What was done to Merrick Garland was unprecedented and unfair. It may signal the end of securing politically nonpartisan Supreme Court justices. Very sad.
Letter: We have had quite enough of Hatch (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/16/17)
Ryan Hinkins: Hatch's efforts in concert with his party in denying a vote to Judge Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination was nothing short of denying the will of the people. President Barack Obama was elected for a four-year term and was expected to serve all of it, which he did. That included nominating Supreme Court judges.
Letter to the Editor by Benjamin Hollander (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"Surely there can be no other reason than that it was then-President Barack Obama making the nomination for Mr. McConnell himself to deny Mr. Garland those same basic considerations he now feels are so important, given Mr. Garland’s long history of bipartisan support in the Senate. Although Mr. McConnell would like to pretend that Mr. Gorsuch’s nomination happened in a vacuum, we must not forget Mr. McConnell’s reprehensible conduct in 2016, when he was presented with a true consensus candidate."
Letter to the Editor by Marijane Hynes (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"Sen. Mitch McConnell’s nauseating op-ed about Democrats needing to work with the Republicans came from the man who said in 2010 that his top priority in government was making Barack Obama a one-term president. ... McConnell will go down in history as one of the major stonewallers of government of our time."