Editorials and Opinion
POINT OF VIEW: Florida shows bipartisan support for judicial nominees (Palm Beach Post [FL], 05/17/17)
Linda Geller-Schwartz, National Council of Jewish Women: President Donald J. Trump ... can act on an appeal from our two U.S. senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, to fill vacant seats in our federal courts.
These two senators have jointly asked the president to re-nominate three of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees to Florida’s federal courts who had been vetted and approved by both senators, but left waiting for hearings .... Nelson’s and Rubio’s rare show of bipartisanship couldn’t come at a better time for Florida’s federal courts. There are currently seven federal judicial vacancies in Florida and five of them are formally classified as “judicial emergencies” ... With our courts already stretched razor thin, it only makes sense to move these qualified bipartisan nominees through the process rather than starting over from scratch. To underscore this point, Nelson and Rubio made clear in their letter that “timely action is needed as the two vacancies in the Middle District are considered judicial emergencies.”
The letter also refers to the failure of Senate leaders to take “timely action in the last Congress.”
Trump has pivotal job ahead in selecting Keeley's replacement (Exponent Telegram [WV], 05/15/17)
Managing Editor Matt Harvey column: Trump’s replacement for U.S. District Judge Irene M. Keeley — who takes senior status Aug. 12, opening up her seat — could be pivotal to the future of North Central West Virginia. ... The president would do well to listen closely to recommendations from U.S. senators Shelley Moore Capitol, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, because judicial appointments must be confirmed by the Senate, which already is fractured on many issues along party lines.
Keen observers of the court have pointed out some of the best qualities about Keeley.
Though she’s a Republican, she doesn’t let her party affiliation cloud her judgment when it comes to the law.
Keeley also has done a fine job of balancing compassion with protecting the public and sending policy messages through sentencing.
This is not the place for a purely political appointment.
While that could also be said about appointments for U.S. marshals and U.S. attorneys, it’s even more pivotal for a federal judge, who handles civil and criminal cases of the gravest importance.... Those who have practiced routinely and admirably in federal court on either side of the aisle also should receive ample consideration
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
Fill judicial vacancies [Letter to the Editor] (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 05/03/17)
Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter-Pennsylvania: vacancies on our federal courts leads to large caseloads for sitting judges, which impedes the judicial process, and denies Pennsylvanians access to justice.
A district court seat in Erie has been vacant for nearly four years, although the Senate Judiciary Committee had unanimously approved nominee Susan Baxter to advance to a full Senate vote in 2015. Baxter's nomination languished for nearly a year on the Senate floor, and eventually expired.
Now is the time for Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to continue their highly touted bipartisan relationship as it relates to filling Pennsylvania's federal court seats.
Both senators must ensure the Trump administration renominates their agreed-upon nominees, including Pennsylvania Judges Susan Baxter, Robert Colville, Marilyn Horan and John M. Younge.
If Toomey and Casey want to work effectively on behalf of their constituents, they'll ensure the Trump administration moves quickly to fill these seats with the consensus nominees.
Federal court seats remain open (Bucks County Courier Times [PA], 05/02/17)
Letter to the Editor by Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter-PA: Having vacancies on our federal courts leads to large caseloads for sitting judges, which impedes the judicial process and denies Pennsylvanians access to justice. A district court seat in Erie has been vacant for nearly four years, although the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved nominee Susan Baxter, a United States magistrate judge from the Western District of Pennsylvania, to advance to a full Senate vote in 2015. ... Now is the time for our home state senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, to continue their highly touted bipartisan relationship as it relates to filling Pennsylvania's federal court seats. Both senators must ensure the Trump administration renominates their agreed-upon nominees, including Pennsylvania Judges Susan Baxter, Robert Colville, Marilyn Horan and John M. Younge. If Sens. Toomey and Casey want to work effectively on behalf of their constituents, they'll ensure the Trump administration moves quickly to fill Pennsylvania's vacant federal judgeships with the consensus nominees, which they've already agreed on.
Casey, Toomey should push to renominate judges (Erie Times-News [PA], 05/02/17)
Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter, Letter to the Editor: In Pennsylvania, there are nine open federal courts seats, two of which are on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Having vacancies on our federal courts leads to large caseloads for sitting judges, which impedes the judicial process and denies Pennsylvanians access to justice. A district court seat in Erie has been vacant for nearly four years although the Senate Judiciary Committee had unanimously approved nominee Susan Paradise Baxter, a United States magistrate judge from the Western District of Pennsylvania to advance to a full Senate vote in 2015. Baxter’s nomination languished for nearly a year on the Senate floor, and eventually expired.
Now is the time for our home-state senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, to continue their highly touted bipartisan relationship as it relates to filling Pennsylvania’s federal court seats. Both senators must ensure the Trump administration renominates their agreed-upon nominees, Pennsylvania Judges Baxter, Robert Colville, Marilyn Horan and John M. Younge.
Why Trump should fill all of Texas' judicial vacancies with women (Dallas Morning News, 05/01/17)
Commentary by Amanda Sharp Hinson, former aide to Sen. Cornyn: Trump will rely on Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, in consultation with the state's bipartisan Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, to recruit, vet and propose Texans suitable for lifetime appointment to the federal courts.
They should choose women, so that justice is dispensed from a bench that looks more like the population of lawyers and litigants it serves. ... in Texas today, women hold only 23 percent of federal district court seats. Even if Trump filled every single vacancy in Texas district courts with a woman, women would still make up only 44 percent of active Texas federal judges.
Choose women to demonstrate that the legal profession is not an ossified "old boys" club .... There is no better way to fuel the opposition's fire than to insult half of the population — and half of the party — by not proactively correcting the gender imbalance in the courts.
Toomey, Casey must work to fill vacant judgeships | Letter (Express-Times [PA], 04/28/17)
Kadida Kenner, Why Courts Matter/PA: In Pennsylvania, there are nine open federal courts seats, two on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Vacancies on our federal courts leads to large caseloads for sitting judges, which impedes the judicial process and denies Pennsylvanians access to justice. A district court seat in Erie has been vacant for nearly four years although the Senate Judiciary Committee had unanimously approved nominee Susan Baxter, a federal magistrate judge from the Western District of Pennsylvania .... Now is the time for Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to continue their highly touted bipartisan relationship as it relates to filling Pennsylvania's federal court seats. They must ensure the Trump administration renominates their agreed-upon nominees including Pennsylvania judges, Baxter, Robert Colville, Marilyn Horan and John M. Younge.
If Toomey and Casey want to work effectively on behalf of their constituents, they'll ensure the Trump administration moves quickly to fill Pennsylvania's vacant federal judgeships with the consensus nominees, of which they already agreed upon.
My Trump agenda for Day 101: ... federal judge vacancies (Idaho Statesman, 04/28/17)
Robert Ehlert, Idaho Statesman's editorial page editor, column: Idaho federal judge ‘emergency’ On April 5, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated 6th District Judge David Nye to serve on the federal court in Idaho. That was over a year ago .... Under the supportive sponsorship of Crapo and Risch, Nye was later approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Crapo serves. But neither Nye nor any of the other 127 federal vacancies got filled by the end of Obama’s term due to partisan squabbling that included Republicans’ refusal to even consider Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. ...Crapo and Risch said Thursday that they had received assurance that Nye would be among the first judges nominated by Trump. ... We still need to see the official nomination, and then see Nye navigate the process to confirmation. Until then, any idea of prompt federal justice in Idaho suffers because Judge B. Lynn Winmill can handle only so many cases.
Many believe Idaho is deserving of a third federal judge position, but that expansion would have to be approved by Congress. Given how long it has taken so far to replace just one judge, I’ll settle for putting Nye to work for now.
Trump Vetting Extremist Judges to Fill Record Number of Empty Seats (Center for American Progress, 04/27/17)
Billy Corriher: President Donald Trump has a chance to nominate 127 federal judges to seats that are now empty. This is an astounding number of vacancies—amounting to one-seventh of the total federal judiciary and more than twice the number of vacancies that President Barack Obama inherited. The White House is vetting nominees for courts around the country, including extremist nominees from Texas for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has four vacant seats.... The administration’s current crop of nominees suggests that Trump will nominate pro-corporate judges who will consistently rule against American workers and the environment.
If Florida can do it, why not Colorado? (Huffington Post, 04/27/17)
Peg Perl, Colorado Ethics Watch: Florida U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R) & Bill Nelson (D) came together and made a bipartisan appeal to the White House as it embarks on filling over 120 judicial vacancies on the lower federal courts. Dozens of President Obama’s nominations for these lower courts expired when the new Congress started this January, but many of them were the result of bipartisan selection committee processes and joint recommendation lists from home state Senators to the White House.... Senators Rubio and Nelson have asked the White House not to reinvent the wheel and start over, but to just re-nominate these qualified bipartisan nominees for Senate confirmation in the new Congress.... In 2016, Regina Rodriguez was nominated by the White House after both Senators recommended her from parallel bipartisan selection committee processes. Both Senators Bennet and Gardner enthusiastically supported her nomination and committed to working to push for a speedy confirmation given the backlog of cases in Colorado’s federal court. ...Colorado would be right to look to Florida’s bipartisan delegation as a model for handling this process and together urge the White House to re-nominate Ms. Rodriguez
After years of obstructing judges, Republicans anxious to pack the courts with extremists (Daily Kos, 04/24/17)
Joan McCarter: Senate Republicans used every trick in the parliamentary playbook—and invented a few new ones—to keep President Barack Obama from appointing federal judges. ... the lion's share of the blame for the judicial crisis across the country rests on Mitch McConnell and crew. That's all changed, though, with popular vote loser Donald Trump in office. Here's their chance to pack the courts with ideologues, in the mold of new Supreme Court associate justice Neil Gorsuch.
Editorial: Expect new fear mongering as gun lobby works to prop up sales (St. Louis Post-Dispatch [MO], 04/23/17)
"Get ready for a new onslaught as the gun industry zeroes in on its next whipping boy: the federal courts system. During the Obama administration, Senate Republicans moved at a deliberate snail’s pace to fill the growing list of federal court vacancies. Obama inherited 54 vacancies when he assumed office in 2009. Today, more than 100 vacancies exist, lending Trump enormous potential power to reshape the federal bench.... The Second Amendment Foundation recently launched a “Black Robes Matter” campaign to alert members about the high stakes in Trump’s court appointments.
“It is estimated that President Trump will appoint 38 percent of all judges on the federal bench. … We must make sure that he nominates only people that will respect, preserve and expand our Second Amendment rights,” foundation founder Alan M. Gottlieb wrote to members this month.
Speaking after Trump’s election, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre warned, “More than 300 Obama-appointed anti-gun judges present an infection for which there is no cure, other than time and vigilance.”... Lobbyists’ thinly veiled attempt to stoke public fear is little more than a cynical marketing ploy to boost sagging sales by creating controversy where none exists."
Senators Want President Trump to Re-Nominate their Judicial Nominees: Both Democrats and Republicans think the president should select nominees who never got a vote in the last session of Congress. (Medium, 04/21/17)
"These judicial nominees were all unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but none received a vote on the Senate floor before their nominations expired. Now, their home-state senators want Trump to re-nominate them.
“Sen. Toomey believes it is crucial to place a sitting judge at the federal courthouse in Erie, which has remained vacant for years,” his spokesman said in February. “He believes that Judge Baxter has the intellect, experience and integrity to serve as a federal judge.” A spokesman for Minority Leader Schumer said of Sweet that “Sen. Schumer continues to support her candidacy.” And a spokesman for Sen. Mike Crapo, who now sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said earlier this year that “We’re really going to work hard on Nye.”... Senators who had nominees pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee would also like to see their nominees re-nominated. In Florida, Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, want their three nominees to the Northern and Middle Districts re-nominated by Trump. In Washington, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell want the president to choose from nominees put forward last April by a bipartisan judicial selection committee comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans. Obama nominated three of the committee’s five picks to the Western District of Washington, and Murray and Cantwell, both Democrats, want the same list used this time around.... And there’s certainly precedent for re-nominating.
In March 2009, all 41 Senate Republicans wrote a letter to President Obama about the judicial nominations process. “First, in the beginning of his Administration, your predecessor demonstrated his desire to improve the judicial confirmation process by nominating to the circuit courts two of President Clinton’s previous judicial nominees, Judge Barrington Parker to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Roger Gregory to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the Senate Republicans noted to Obama. “It would help change the tone in Washington if your Administration would take the same bipartisan step.” ... Obama did work closely with Republican senators to fill judicial vacancies, and Chairman Leahy, without exception, required that both home-state senators return their blue slips before moving forward on any lower court nominee. He even did this against the wishes of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev., when Sen. Dean Heller, R. Nev., refused to return his blue slip for a district court nominee named Elissa Cadish.
“Despite press reports that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee now may be considering changing the Committee’s practice of observing senatorial courtesy, we, as a Conference, expect it to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation,” the Republicans wrote in 2009."
Editorial: Trump needs to break deadlock on WNY judgeship (Buffalo News [NY], 04/20/17)
"The federal court vacancy is especially vexing. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo is the only full-time district judge in Buffalo.
There is an enormous backlog of civil cases here, a bad situation .... President Barack Obama’s nomination of Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet for the vacancy sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee last year before being derailed by election year politics in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is sticking with Sweet for the opening, and he has the leverage to block any nominee of President Trump.
Senate traditions give senators the power to reject a court nominee from their home state. Schumer could use that “blue slip” veto to block a nominee until Sweet’s name is resubmitted.
If Trump refuses to do that, he would either have to negotiate some sort of deal with Schumer or hope the Senate removes the blue slip veto.... The federal judicial caseload here remains overwhelming. The backlog of civil and criminal cases makes this area among the worst in the nation. Because criminal cases receive priority, civil cases continue to get pushed back. On average, it takes five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo.... The unfilled judgeship is different – no one is doing that work, adding to the delays in administering justice. Trump needs to nominate an acceptable candidate as quickly as possible."
Editorial: Don't Shut Out ABA Review (New Jersey Law Journal, 04/17/17)
"Unfortunately the Trump administration has now advised the ABA that it will be breaking from this long-standing practice, and won't be inviting the standing committee to review the qualifications of potential nominees to provide the White House with a rating that flows from the investigation. Although the ABA president has stated that the standing committee will continue to provide its evaluation and rating to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the administration has shut the standing committee out of its process of evaluating prospective nominees.
We can only regret this action. It constricts the administration's ability to weigh an evaluation that is offered through the voice of outstanding members of the bar who have engaged in a lengthy, intensive investigation, including interviews of judges, attorneys and others with knowledge of the nominee. The ABA evaluation serves the public, as well as the executive and legislative branches of our government, by giving an assurance that the judicial nominee meets the high qualifications expected of a judge at any level of the federal court system."
The Third Circuit has 3 open seats. Who should fill them? (CA3blog, 04/17/17)
Matthew Stiegler: First, all three seats need to be filled. ... Second, at least two of the three seats should be filled by women. The Third Circuit has only two active judges who are women, the worst gender imbalance of any circuit in the country. Perpetuating that imbalance is unthinkable.
Third, both the Rendell seat and the Fuentes seat should be filled by consensus picks. The precedents here are Judges Greenaway and Vanaskie, both nominated by President Obama with a Democratic-controlled Senate to fill seats that opened during President Bush’s presidency. Both were moderate centrists — Greenaway was a federal criminal prosecutor and corporate counsel who clerked for a Republican-nominated judge, Vanaskie was MDPA chief judge with a decade and a half on the federal bench and was a Scranton commercial litigator before that. And both were over 50 when commissioned — Greenaway 52, Vanaskie 56.
Yes, Republicans may have stolen the Rendell and Fuentes seats from Democrats by obstruction .... Democrats may fight to fill the Rendell seat with a moderate Democrat, arguing that Republicans stole the seat by Toomey’s indefensible obstruction of Haywood and citing President Clinton’s compromise nomination of Republican Judge Barry as a precedent. That was my view before .... But if Trump tries to fill all three seats with young conservative partisans? Expect a war.
Why Opposing Trump Isn't Like the GOP Obstructing Obama: The political press won't stop gaslighting anti-Trump Democrats and progressives (Rolling Stone, 04/14/17)
Joshua Holland: In the 230-year period between the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and Barack Obama's election, opposition parties blocked a grand total of 68 presidential nominees. In the three years and 10 months between Obama's inauguration and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to eliminate the filibuster for lower court nominees, Republicans had blocked 79 of them – that's 54 percent of the historic total in just under four years. ... Mitch McConnell, moved to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees after the Democrats filibustered Donald Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch, who had come off as aloof and unresponsive during his confirmation hearings and offered no reason for refusing to meet with two (women) Democratic senators. ... Obama's nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland, is the only candidate in the history of the United States to be denied a hearing by the opposition. ... Democrats and progressives are outraged that Republicans effectively stole a seat that might have shifted the Court's ideological balance to the left for the first time since 1971. But the both-sides-do-it reporting we've seen makes their fury seem illogical, a simple case of sour grapes.
A Toxic Threat to Justice: Democrats must stop the GOP's Supreme Court salvo from also poisoning lower courts. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/07/17)
Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice: Senate Republicans deploying the so-called nuclear option to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch marks a sad day in history not only for the Senate, but also for justice.,,, Thanks in large part to GOP stonewalling of judicial nominees under Barack Obama, President Donald Trump already has a whopping 120 lower-court vacancies to fill, 19 on circuit courts. His administration has made clear it intends to appoint younger, conservative ideologues with many years to serve, and to jettison the role of the American Bar Association in evaluating candidates for the bench.... With a fired-up base, Senate Democrats have every reason to prioritize circuit court nominations now. They should insist the president avoid nominating judges whose philosophies are extreme.... The "blue-slip" process is a venerable tradition that gives home-state senators power to say whether nominees from their states will advance. Such tactics should not be abused, but they exist.... Obama regularly consulted with Republican senators on finding the best-qualified judicial nominees.
Bill Price: Sens. Manchin, Capito should vote no on Gorsuch (Gazette) (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 04/06/17)
Bill Price, Sierra Club: Judge Gorsuch appears to be as hostile to citizen enforcement as Scalia, if not more so. On three separate occasions, he has denied access to the courts for environmental groups to federal courts, relying on cramped views of what it takes to establish access to the federal courts. He has written about his disdain for public interest litigation, a dangerous view of the environmental laws that have safeguarded this country’s air, water and wilderness from devastating harms.
Ethics Forum: Age Should Not Be a Factor When Considering Federal Judicial Appointments (Legal Intelligencer, 04/06/17)
Samuel C. Stretton: there's been an informal understanding in Pennsylvania that no one would get appointed to the federal bench if they were older than 62. ... Of interest is President Donald Trump's administration which has at least informally lowered that age to 50.... There are many attorneys in their 50s and early 60s who would be excellent federal judges and who would be precluded if there is this arbitrary and informal understanding that 50 is the cut-off age. There appears to be no good reason to have such a low age cutoff. ... the political consideration of having a like-minded person on the court for 30 years is really not a valid good reason to support a cutoff of 50 years. ... Age 50 limitations clearly are a mistaken attempt to make these appointments political, i.e., I want someone who thinks my way and who will be there for the next 30 or 40 years.... The only considerations should be competency, experience, fairness and knowledge.
It's Hard Not To Hate Mitch McConnell: There's Main Street hypocrisy, there's Washington D.C. hypocrisy, and then there's Mitch McConnell in a category all of his own. (Daily Banter, 04/06/17)
Justin Rosario: On Thursday, McConnell finally took the penultimate step of stealing a Supreme Court seat from a Democratic president by doing away with the filibuster so the Democrats could no longer block the pro-corporate ideologue Neil Gorsuch. This move comes after McConnell refused for over 10 months to even hold hearings for Obama's nominee, the eminently qualified and very centrist Merrick Garland. Republicans also threatened to block any Justice then-presumed winner Hillary Clinton would nominate .... McConnell has been justifying his move to eliminate the judicial filibuster entirely because he previously forced the Democrats to eliminate it for federal judges: ... He is, of course, forgetting to mention that Republicans had made unprecedented, in over two hundred years of American history, use of the filibuster to block Obama's judicial nominees. And they did it under McConnell's direction
[Editorial] McConnell reaps harvest of division (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 04/05/17)
"During his years as minority leader, McConnell wielded Senate rules, such as the 60-vote requirement, like no one ever before. McConnell’s goal: block President Barack Obama’s appointments and legislative agenda. Last year, as majority leader, McConnell refused to give Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland so much as a hearing on the invented grounds that the appointment rightfully belonged to the next president.
Interestingly, McConnell refused during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” to support formalizing his invented rule .... he has only his past actions to blame for Democrats’ stubbornness. ... Democrats, logically enough, think that easing Gorsuch’s confirmation would reward McConnell’s intransigence on the Obama nominee.... McConnell was so effective at blocking Obama’s nominees that President Donald Trump inherited almost twice as many judicial vacancies (an estimated 103) as Obama did (53).
Eroding the 60-vote requirement, also known as the filibuster, does alter the nature of the Senate in ways that McConnell once decried. The Senate would become less consenus-oriented and deliberative .... The objections to Gorsuch are rooted in substance not politics alone. The Coloradan came off less qualified in person than on paper. His record reflects an intemperate zeal to dismantle protections for workers, consumers, clean water and air.... McConnell, who perfected the obstructionist model, is reaping what he sowed."
Letter: Mitch McConnell’s blame game (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/05/17)
Kendall Robins: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to exercise the nuclear option if the Democrats filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and then says it will be on the Democrats if he does so.
That's just like a kidnapper threatening to kill the kid if the parents don't pay up, and then saying that the resulting murder would be the fault of the parents.
And, it's ironic that McConnell is still seething over the Democrats going nuclear on federal judge nominations, which was in response to McConnell clearly declaring 100 percent obstruction to anything and everything Barack Obama wanted to do, even if it was a good idea. And, it was McConnell who denied Obama, our duly elected president, any consideration at all for his nomination of Merrick Garland.
Letter to the editor: Collins hypocritical in attacking Democrats’ filibuster (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/05/17)
Hani Jarawan: During the Obama presidency, the Republican Party ground the Senate to a halt by blocking everything. They left hundreds of lower court seats vacant. ... Not only did Susan Collins not criticize her party’s leadership for setting filibuster records, she also joined in that callow, historic obstruction. Her lame indignation about Democrats’ opposition to Neil Gorsuch is yet more evidence that decades of Washington partisanship have spoiled the senator’s moderation.
[Editorial] Filibuster Gorsuch to make a crucial point (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 04/05/17)
"South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, led the charge in denying Merrick Garland a hearing after then-President Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court seat that needed to be filled in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr underscored just how extreme the GOP has become when he declared that even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, he would “do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”
He also bragged that he was already responsible for the longest judicial vacancy ever by denying the confirmation of an Obama nominee in the eastern district of North Carolina, illustrating just why Democrats felt the need to use the nuclear option for lower court appointments when they were in control. They did so in response to a Republican Party that routinely filibustered Obama nominees. While they haven’t gotten as much attention, that tactic left dozens of empty judicial seats throughout the country that can now be filled by President Donald Trump.... If Democrats simply went along and acted as though the GOP’s purposeful decision to leave the Supreme Court short-handed for a year was a legitimate exercise of political power, they would unwittingly be codifying that extremism.
And that would not be good for either party – or the country."
Editorial: Toomey’s rule change proposal threatens bipartisanship (Pitt News [PA] , 04/04/17)
The Pitt News Editorial Board: If Congressional Republicans thought they had gained the power to disregard the rules with their victories in last November’s elections, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., just signed onto a rules change to the Supreme Court nomination process that ... will likely harm both parties. The Pennsylvania senator announced last week at a press conference that he would support a move to modify the upper Congressional chamber’s rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court .... The GOP notably refused to consider Merrick Garland last year for Scalia’s seat. However, Senate Republicans were using this tactic of ignoring nominees long before they won control of the chamber. The GOP’s efforts to block Obama nominees to lower federal judgeships led to Senate Democrats in 2013 removing the procedural rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to confirm presidential nominees to these positions.
Despite this change, more than 10 percent of these judgeships are now vacant, in large part because Democrats in the Senate have not held a 51-vote majority since the 2014 midterm elections.... a change to a 51-vote majority rule would erode several elements of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process that are vital to the institution’s integrity. Given Supreme Court justices’ power and long-term lengths, it’s important that individuals selected to be added both have majority support and appeal at least somewhat to citizens on both the left and right.... Toomey’s signing on to this proposed rules change is a short-sighted, lazy attempt to avoid doing the work of gaining bipartisan support for his party’s nominee, and will only contribute to the hyper-partisan atmosphere growing more and more omnipresent in Washington, D.C. If he is concerned about the integrity of the institution in which he serves, he will withdraw his support for this proposal.
How to End the Politicization of the Courts (New York Times, 04/04/17)
David Leonhardt, Op-Ed Columnist: Republicans have taken a much more aggressive, politicized approach to the courts than Democrats. The evidence:
Republicans have been bolder about blocking Democratic nominees than vice versa.... The gap between the parties would be even larger if Democrats hadn’t eliminated the filibuster on lower-court nominees in 2013, allowing Barack Obama finally to fill more judgeships. Even so, Trump has inherited a huge number of vacancies.... Republican nominees have been less centrist than Democratic nominees.... The Republicans’ strategy has been straightforward. They have tried to deny Democratic presidents a chunk of judgeships, hoping the nominations will roll over.... The strategy reached its apex last year, when the Senate blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, even with the highly qualified, and notably moderate, Garland. It was unprecedented. Republicans set out to flip a seat and succeeded. Now the Senate is preparing to confirm Gorsuch, likely to be another historically conservative justice.... Democrats are right to force McConnell to be the one who takes the partisan step of eliminating the Supreme Court filibuster. Likewise, Democrats should be aggressive in blocking Trump nominees to lower courts.... The country won’t return to a less politicized judiciary until both parties have reason to want it.
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.