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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


Opinion Type


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 ....

‘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.

GOP moving Trump's judges too SLOWLY? Hardly. (People For blog, 05/31/17)
Paul Gordon: Conservatives are in such a rush to shift America’s judiciary rightward that they’ve lost all sense of perspective. ... Like Trump, President Obama’s first lower court judicial nominee was for a circuit court. Due to constant GOP obstruction, it took 247 days for him to be confirmed. In contrast, Trump’s first lower court nominee—Amul Thapar, for the Sixth Circuit—zipped from nomination to confirmation in just 65 days.... 65 days for Trump’s first nominee vs. 247 days for Obama’s, and Republicans say the process is moving too slowly??

Coalition Raises Money in Politics Concerns About Thapar Nomination (People For blog, 05/18/17)
Rio Tazewell: Yesterday a letter signed by 24 organizations was delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which today approved the nomination of Judge Amul Thapar, President Trump’s pick to fill a seat on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on a party line vote. In addition to being a co-author and signatory of the letter, PFAW delivered more than 25,000 petition signatures asking senators to reject this nomination given Thapar’s troubling views on the issue of money in politics. Judge Thapar has gone beyond the Supreme Court’s directives in his antagonism toward rules governing the financing of political campaigns, raising alarm among groups advocating for equality in our electoral process.

Trump has just begun massively reshaping American appeals courts (Vox, 05/08/17)
Dylan Matthews: By putting Larsen (who’s only 48), Stras (42), and Thapar (48) on appeals courts, Trump is further burnishing their credentials for future Supreme Court vacancies. ... Make no mistake: Larsen, Stras, and Thapar are all reliable conservatives. Larsen served in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2002-’03, when Jay Bybee and his deputy John Yoo were laying the groundwork for the Bush administration's torture regime. She also clerked for Antonin Scalia, and praised him in a eulogy for his conservative, textualist insistence that “statutes, cases and the Constitution were to be read for what they said, not for what the judges wished they would say.” Stras's campaign site for reelection to the Minnesota Supreme Court stressed that he thought judges should "faithfully interpret and apply the Constitution and laws passed under the political process, not follow their own political leanings or personal preferences." Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt Law, who researches federal courts, told Bloomberg BNA that Thapar was "very Scalia-like and Thomas-like" in his jurisprudence. And all three, tellingly, were included on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist, which was compiled by the conservative Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo....There are now more than twice as many district and appeals court vacancies as when President Obama took office

Trump’s first lower court nominee would nuke campaign finance laws: Anyone want to buy an election? (Think Progress, 04/28/17)
Ian Millhiser: Thapar authored an opinion suggesting that he would eviscerate what remains of the law limiting the influence of money on politics. Indeed, Thapar’s decision in Winter v. Wolnitzek reached so far beyond existing precedent that much of it was reversed by a panel that included two conservative George W. Bush-appointees. [His] analysis isn’t just wrong — it is obviously wrong under well-established Supreme Court precedent.... Thapar’s logic is that speech is identical to spending for purposes of the First Amendment. But if that were true, individual contribution limits would be unconstitutional.

[Sens.] Klobuchar & Hirono Probe Thapar on Money in Politics (People For blog, 04/26/17)
Paul Gordon: One of the several concerns that have been raised about Sixth Circuit nominee Amul Thapar centers on a case in which he used a severely flawed First Amendment analysis to strike down Kentucky’s ban on state judicial candidates contributing money to political organizations or candidates. In Winter v. Wolnitzek, Thapar applied strict scrutiny (the highest possible standard) to the prohibition, even though the Supreme Court has stated repeatedly that restrictions on campaign contributions are subject to a lesser level of scrutiny. (His opinion was reversed by a unanimous three-judge circuit panel.)... Sens. Klobuchar and Hirono are to be commended for asking Judge Thapar about this important issue. Unfortunately, his response is less deserving of commendation.

Deep Concerns Regarding Thapar Nomination for 6th Circuit (People For blog, 04/25/17)
Marge Baker: People For the American Way sent the following letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members to express our deep concerns regarding the nomination of federal district court judge Amul Thapar to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.