Editorials and Opinion
Community Board: Midland needs a new federal judge (Midland Reporter-Telegram [TX], 03/30/15)
Community Editorial Board: "Midland-Odessa and Pecos Divisions are presided over by a single judge, and this one person presides over an area that covers 16 counties in West Texas, stretching from Midland to the edge of El Paso -- from the New Mexico border to the Rio Grande. Not surprisingly, criminal activity in this area is large and growing ...But, now West Texas sits with no federal judge appointed to serve our citizens -- no one permanently assigned to preside over the tremendous number of federal cases that need prosecution.... West Texas needs a full-time federal judge to be appointed -- and sooner, rather than later.
I ask my fellow citizens to contact our senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and urge them to begin the process of filling this important judicial position as early as possible. West Texas deserves nothing less."
How Harry Reid Changed the Federal Courts (New Yorker, 03/27/15)
JEFFREY TOOBIN: "The Senate had confirmed only five Obama appointees to the federal appeals court in the election year of 2012, but Reid moved to double the pace in 2013. Republicans responded by filibustering almost every judicial appointment to the appeals court and slow-walking appointments to the district court, which had been routine and uncontroversial under earlier Presidents. ... With Reid’s blessing, Senate Democrats changed the rules so that only a majority would be required to move lower-court judgeships to a vote. Freed from the threat of filibusters, Reid pushed through thirteen appeals-court judges in 2013 and 2014, a group of exceptional quality. They included Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins on the D.C. Circuit. For the first time in decades, that court now has a majority of Democratic appointees. Other confirmations included such luminaries as Pamela Harris (a noted professor and advocate) on the Fourth Circuit, ... and David Barron (a Harvard law professor and Obama Administration lawyer) on the First. ... At the same time, Reid pushed through more than a hundred district-court judges in his last two years as majority leader."
PFAW Edit Memo: Senate Republicans' Failure to Confirm Obama Nominees — By the Numbers (People For blog, 03/27/15)
"A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when his judicial nominees were considered by a newly-Democratic Senate. ...by end of March 2007, the Senate had confirmed 15 new judges.
The Senate ended up confirming a total of 68 circuit and district court judges during that two-year period....Today, in stark contrast, the number of vacancies is climbing steadily, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 51 today. We see the same thing with judicial emergencies, which have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 23 today."
Reid and the Federal Judiciary (Washington Monthly, 03/27/15)
Ed Kilgore: "That Reid, a big-time Senate traditionalist, let himself be convinced this harvest of judges was worth the trouble and controversy of changing the rules on filibusters was a sign he understood his particular challenge and met it."
EDITORIAL: Uphold EPA’s mercury rule; Supreme Court to hear challenge by industry, states (Register Guard [OR], 03/25/15)
"At the direction of Congress, which felt strongly enough about the problem that it amended the Clean Air Act in 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency has studied the environmental effects of mercury and other toxic metals on public health. ... but the work was compromised during the George W. Bush administration, which disregarded science in ways that showed more concern for the health of the energy industry than for that of children. The Bush administration’s version of the rules was so diluted that environmental groups successfully sued, arguing that the toxic metals regulations failed to satisfy the minimum requirements of the Clean Air Act.... It’s worrisome that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., rejected the industry’s challenge, and most observers expected the high court to refuse an appeal. ... The Supreme Court should uphold the EPA’s authority to put in place the new mercury rule."
EDITORIAL: Open secret; Texas is not the focus of the state's junior senator. (Houston Chronicle, 03/23/15)
"Trade, NASA, hurricane protection, immigration, education, energy policy, federal judgeships and a host of other issues important to Texans will have, at best, the senator's distracted attention.... we look to his senior colleague, John Cornyn, to address Texas-related needs."
Now In Charge, Senate Republicans Slow To Move Forward With Obama's Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 03/18/15)
"Republicans haven't confirmed a single one of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees since taking control of the Senate in January. In total, there are 16 judicial nominees waiting in the Senate. Nine of them haven't moved at all since being nominated in early January or early February. Five have made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have been waiting weeks for a floor vote. The remaining two had hearings last week, but the committee hasn't scheduled any votes yet.
There's a particular urgency to confirming some of these nominees. Eight are slated to fill empty seats on courts that are facing "judicial emergencies,"... By this point in Bush's seventh year in the White House, Democrats had confirmed 13 of his judicial nominees."
Down one judge and deserving another (NC Policy Watch, 03/18/15)
"The federal courts in eastern North Carolina have been operating under a state of judicial emergency for years now, though you wouldn’t know it given the lack of a sense of urgency exhibited by the state’s United States senators.
Down a judge since December 2005, the courts in this largely rural part of the state have managed one of the heavier district caseloads in the country ... The Eastern District has a good case for an additional judgeship, given caseload numbers already on the higher end, even if the vacancy is filled."
Why Only Two Judges for Hearings This Week? (People For blog, 03/10/15)
"Good news: For the first time since January, the Senate Judiciary Committee is allowing a hearing on judicial nominations. The bad news: Although seven nominees have been waiting since last November, Chairman Chuck Grassley is only allowing a hearing for two of them.
That's right … although the number of circuit and district court vacancies has increased from 39 to 51 since the beginning of the year, and even though the number of judicial emergencies has jumped from 12 to 22 in that time, and even though there are numerous nominees who could have a hearing this week ... . But why only two nominees on the agenda? Dale Drozd would fill a judicial emergency in California's Eastern District. LaShann DeArcy Hall and Ann Donnelly would serve in New York's Eastern District. Travis McDonough has been nominated for a seat in Tennessee's Eastern District. And L. Felipe Restrepo would fill a judicial emergency on the Third Circuit, where a second vacancy will be opening up in July. They all have to wait."
McConnell Should Let Senate Confirm Judges (People For blog, 03/10/15)
"Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to schedule a confirmation vote on the four district court nominees who cleared the Judiciary Committee without opposition nearly two weeks ago:... Texas in particular is in desperate need of more federal judges. The Lone Star State has a shocking 11 judicial seats currently vacant (with a twelfth one opening this spring). ... Of those eleven vacancies, seven have been designated judicial emergencies. That's nearly one third of all the judicial emergencies nationwide. Confirming the three Texas nominees who have been waiting for Senator McConnell to schedule a floor vote would help alleviate this problem.... The Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to create an additional two judgeships in the Southern District of Texas. In other words, even if all three pending nominees were confirmed today, and the other two vacancies were magically filled tomorrow (even though they don't have nominees), the crushing caseload burden on the Southern District is so bad that at least another two judges would be needed to ensure that the people of Texas have access to a fair and efficient federal court system."
GOP Senate Moving Obama's Judges Slower than Democrats Moved Bush's (People For blog, 03/05/15)
"Two months into the new 114th Congress, it's a good time to take stock of how the Republican-controlled Senate is doing when it comes to processing circuit and district court judicial nominations. So far, the Judiciary Committee has held only one hearing to consider such nominations ... current vacancies has climbed from 39 at the beginning of the year to 47 today, and the number of judicial emergencies has jumped from 12 to 21.... Considering that there are seven circuit and district court nominees who were nominated back in November, they should all have hearings as soon as possible."
More Delay on the Restrepo Nomination (People For blog, 03/04/15)
"Qualified jurists nominated for federal judgeships way back in November are still waiting to have a committee hearing scheduled. They include Kara Farnandez Stoll, who would be the first woman of color on the Federal Circuit, and L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, who would be the first judge on the Third Circuit with experience as a public defender. The Third Circuit vacancy has been designated a judicial emergency, and with another vacancy on that court opening on July 1, it is even more important not to keep delaying Restrepo's already overdue hearing.
Yet a Grassley spokeswoman told The Legal Intelligencer ... that she "couldn't even estimate" a timeframe for Restrepo's hearing.... when the Democratic Judiciary Committee considered Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general.... the committee was able to hold confirmation hearings on six judicial nominees and advance two to the full Senate. It was also able to advance an additional four judicial nominees the week after voting on Mukasey."
EDITORIAL: NC wildlife officials abandon their duties by abandoning the red wolf (News & Observer [NC], 02/28/15)
"The red wolf population is now estimated at about 100, down from 130 in 2003, a decline caused mostly by hunting.
To stop the toll on red wolves, the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of conservation groups sued the Wildlife Resources Commission seeking a ban on coyote hunts in the recovery area. Last May, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ordered a stop to the hunts until the case could be heard. Meanwhile, the Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to work together to manage coyotes and protect the red wolves. The SELC later settled its lawsuit with an agreement that would ban night coyote hunting in the recovery area.
But rather than find a way to cull coyotes and save wolves, the Wildlife Resources Commission now wants to abandon the red wolf recovery effort.... The commission’s proposal contradicts its mission and the settlement agreement. The Southern Environmental Law Center representing groups supporting the red wolf recovery – Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Welfare Institute – has sent the commission a letter calling on the commission to rescind its resolutions and abide by its agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to promote the recovery of the red wolf.
Bringing back the red wolf is challenging, and coyotes complicate the mission. But the answer isn’t to give up and start shooting."
Republican Inaction as Judicial Emergencies Jump (People For blog, 02/20/15)
"Texas now has seven judicial emergencies, more than a third of the national total. Two of them have nominees who should have advanced to the Senate floor last week, but were delayed when Republicans decided to delay the scheduled committee vote on four fully vetted district court nominees by two weeks simply because they could.
Another of the newly designated emergencies is in the Third Circuit. The good news is that district court judge L. Felipe Restrepo was nominated to fill this seat way back in November, and that he has the enthusiastic support of his home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey. The bad news is that Chairman Grassley continues not to schedule a hearing for this highly qualified nominee (or any other)."
Judicial Selection in Congress’ Lame Duck Session (Indiana Law Journal , 02/20/15)
Carl Tobias: This Article first scrutinizes the Obama Administration confirmation and nomination processes. It then critically explores selection and concludes that Republican obstruction instigated the most open positions the longest time. Because this deficiency undermines swift, economical, and fair case resolution, the Article suggests ideas to promptly decrease the remaining unoccupied judgeships after the session commences.
Republicans Should Move Judicial Nominations Next Week (People For blog, 02/19/15)
"With the Republican-controlled Senate returning to town next week, one of the things they should turn their attention to is moving judicial nominations. Because vacancies are always opening up on the courts, the Senate has to confirm a number of judges just to keep even. So far in the 114th Congress, we are not keeping even.... the Judiciary Committee should vote these four nominees out, and the full Senate should promptly hold a confirmation vote.
It is also past time to hold hearings for people who were nominated more than three months ago, like Third Circuit nominee Luis Restrepo (nominated November 12)."
Benched! The more things change… (Justice Watch, 02/12/15)
"In an interview with Iowa Public Radio, shortly after being named chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “I have no reason to believe that the future is any different” for the committee.... He was right. Even with Senator Grassley as chair, Republican obstructionism continues in the Senate Judiciary Committee.... Without explanation, Senator Grassley held over the nominations of four federal judges and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
All four of the judicial nominees are uncontroversial. They would fill district court seats in Utah and Texas, and have the support of their home-state Republican senators on the committee."
Thursday is Test Day for Senate Judiciary Republicans (People For blog, 02/11/15)
"Tomorrow morning, we will learn more about how Chairman Chuck Grassley will run the Senate Judiciary Committee ... and whether Republicans will continue one of the indefensible forms of obstruction that they engaged in for six years while in the minority.... Committee rules let senators "hold over" (i.e., delay) committee votes without explanation. This was done during previous presidencies when a nominee was controversial or when senators needed more time to evaluate the nominee. But during the first six years of the Obama presidency, Republicans exercised this right for all but 12 of his judicial nominees, which was an unprecedented abuse of the rules. ... It's one thing to always demand a delay when you're never the one to have scheduled the votes. It would be another thing altogether for Republicans to routinely ask for delay when they're the ones putting people on the schedule in the first place.... Two of the Texas nominees would fill vacancies that have been officially designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. ... As for the nominees themselves, all four have the strong support of their home state senators, which is not unusual. But in this case, each of those home state senators is a Republican who is on the Judiciary Committee."
Senate Democrats should be careful about their filibuster strategy (Washington Post, 02/04/15)
James Downie: "when President Obama took office, Republicans took obstruction to a new level, blocking even widely popular bills and judicial appointments. Then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was right to get rid of the filibusters for most federal nominees, allowing Democrats to finally fill long-vacant judgeships"
EDITORIAL: Out of the woods: Gov. Wolf revives sensible protection on drilling (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 02/02/15)
"Former Gov. Ed Rendell in 2010 banned drilling on 800,000 acres of the most environmentally sensitive areas, those that provide habitats for rare and endangered species, host fragile ecosystems or contain old-growth forests. ... Four years later, former Gov. Tom Corbett revoked the ban, saying the land could be drilled as long as there was no long-term disturbance on the surface. Naturally, that set off a debate over what constituted a long term, and a court fight meant the $75 million worth of new leases that Mr. Corbett had hoped to tap never came to be.
With Mr. Wolf’s order, a reasonable boundary has been re-established between what is and what is not suitable land for drilling."
EDITORIAL: Offshore drilling would threaten the NC coast (News & Observer [NC], 02/01/15)
"The Obama administration’s plan to open the waters off the shores of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to offshore drilling puts North Carolina’s tourism and other industries at risk. There should be a strong legal and political push to keep oil rigs out of the Atlantic waters. Environmentalists and some communities on North Carolina’s coast will no doubt provide the legal objections.... Given the political clamor for drilling, North Carolina’s best protection from it happening may rely on the courts, findings that oil resources off the coast are scarce and a continuation of current low prices for oil. With those three factors involved, the drilling may never come to pass.... Given the reality of global warming and the memory of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill into the Gulf of Mexico, the time for such balance is past. The United States should be building to an energy future based on renewable sources without environmental hazards."
EDITORIAL: Tallahassee's views on conservation at odds: Battle over Amendment 1 money brewing (Herald [Bradenton, FL] , 01/30/15)
Gov. "Scott pledged to fully comply with the amendment, even including additional funding for such environmental initiatives as conserving land for the Florida panther and springs.... Legal action might be necessary should the Legislature attempt to divert this dedicated environmental money elsewhere -- particularly to programs that the state already funds, thus freeing up dollars for other projects."
Editorial: Time for Senate to end the theatrics and do its job on nominations (Los Angeles Times, 01/28/15)
"These nominations — and others that will follow — will be a test of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to restore what he calls “regular order” to the proceedings of that body.... Even after Democrats abolished the filibuster for most presidential appointments in late 2013, Republicans used other parliamentary stratagems to delay votes even on uncontroversial nominees to federal courts and ambassadorships....when the hearings are finished, the Senate should move expeditiously to an up-or-down vote focused solely on the nominees’ qualifications.
That should be the rule not only for Cabinet nominations but for those to the federal bench, to ambassadorships and to regulatory agencies. The dysfunction of the confirmation process in recent years has been a national scandal."
The Register's Editorial: Good things could flow from water lawsuit (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/26/15)
"The lawsuit the Des Moines Water Works contemplates filing against three Iowa counties is not a war against rural Iowa, as some would have it. Rather, it is a civilized approach to resolving a threat to public health.
The public utility that provides drinking water to a half-million customers in central Iowa has turned to the courts for a remedy for water pollution that the legislative and executive branches of Iowa government have failed to deliver.... the Water Works would be asking a federal court to declare that emissions from the drainage districts managed by the three named counties fall under the definition of "point sources" under the federal Clean Water Act. ... If Iowa farmers and state officials are serious when they say they are determined to clean up the state's water, then they have nothing to fear from a lawsuit that aims to make sure the steps they are taking are having a measurable effect."
EDITORIAL: Backtracking on the Bay (Baltimore Sun, 01/22/15)
"Baltimore County has no shortage of polluted water. ... it came as a bit of surprise to hear Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz offer ... that he'd like to see the timetable for court-ordered water quality improvements delayed beyond the current 2025.... Here's the real craziness of it all: No matter who serves as this state's governor, the EPA is going to hold Maryland accountable for these violations of the Clean Water Act.... it’s not even clear whether existing state standards are sufficient to meet cleanup goals. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental advocates are already in the process of taking the Maryland Department of the Environment to court on the grounds that subdivisions aren’t meeting the requirements of existing stormwater permits and won’t do enough to reduce polluted runoff.... it's been a tough week for the Chesapeake Bay and anyone who cares about its health — or the billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs that are associated with it."
Fill judicial vacancies, including the one in Tennessee (Tennessean, 01/21/15)
Opinion by Tommy Tobin: "With more than 40 vacant seats on the federal bench, our judicial branch is under substantial strain.... One of those vacant seats is in Chattanooga, ... Travis Randall McDonough, Mayor Andy Burke’s chief of staff and counselor, has been nominated for the post.... Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, a former mayor of Chattanooga and an attorney, respectively, should recognize the contribution that McDonough could make to the bench in East Tennessee.
Even with our divided government, let’s push our politicians to govern responsibly and consider judicial nominees on their merits."
Citizens deserve to have judicial vacancies filled (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/15/15)
JOHN NEUROHR letter: "On Jan. 8, the Post-Gazette editorial board wrote, “The legislators, who are paid by the public, need to do their jobs. For senators, an important part of that is to act on presidential nominations” (“Congress Returns”)....Locally, there are three long-standing Western District of Pennsylvania vacancies for which Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey should recommend nominees right away. But good nominees with bipartisan support are already waiting for confirmation. One example is U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, who has been nominated and now renominated by President Barack Obama to join the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Toomey made public his support for Judge Restrepo, saying he would be a “superb” federal judge. Sen. Casey also called Judge Restrepo an “excellent choice.” Not only is Judge Restrepo qualified, but also he brings much-needed diversity to the bench."