Editorials and Opinion
The Climate-Change Wars Begin This Summer (New York Magazine, 05/22/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Bush’s judges on the D.C. Circuit have inserted themselves even more heavily into the policy debate by striking down a slew of regulations in health care, pollution, labor, and other areas, turning the court into one of the right’s most potent weapons during the Obama era.
Since President Obama took office, four vacancies have opened on the D.C. Circuit Court, and Obama has not managed to seat a single justice to fill any of the slots. Republicans have displayed a willingness to filibuster even mainstream nominees, like Caitlin Halligan, who recently withdrew ... The Republican line has been set out most enthusiastically by the comically mendacious Wall Street Journal editorial page, which has long recognized the primacy of the D.C. Circuit and fervently taken up whatever procedural stance is required to increase the court’s Republican tilt. ... The most recent Journal editorial is the most unbelievable of them all. Its primary contention is that the D.C. Circuit is filled with underworked slackers, thus rendering any additional nominees unnecessary. The Journal never mentioned this during the Bush years, when it was urgently demanding that Republican judges fill every last vacancy (“it's time for the remaining nominees to have the up-or-down floor votes they deserve”). But having suddenly discovered the plague of slothfulness on the D.C. Circuit, it has embraced the cause of shrinking the court as a first-order principle.
In actual fact, the D.C. Circuit is actually so overloaded with cases — its heavy policy load makes its docket especially technically demanding — that it has leaned on a panel of retired judges to hear its overflow cases. ... The Republicans don’t have the votes to actually pass their plan to eliminate all vacancies. Its function is to serve as justification for filibustering any nominees at all, however moderate or well qualified, for the remaining three vacancies."
David Sarasohn: On U.S. Senate rules, a prospect of a nuclear July (Oregonian, 05/22/13)
"Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed him to a seat on the federal district court for Oregon, a mere eight months after he was nominated. Considering that he sailed through both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate on voice votes, you might wonder why it took that long.... Rosemary Marquez of Arizona was nominated in June 2011 and hasn't been voted on yet."
Party opinion usurps public opinion (Reuters, 05/21/13)
Bill Schneider: "Right now, Senate Democrats are preparing to launch “the nuclear option” to break the partisan gridlock in Congress. This would change Senate rules to allow presidential nominations be confirmed by majority vote. A radical concept ‑ majority rule! Democrats are enraged because Republicans are using the filibuster to block Obama’s nominations for Cabinet positions and federal judgeships."
Quick and decisive action needed to resolve judicial emergencies (Progressive Pulse [NC], 05/21/13)
Sharon McCloskey: "Close to 100 attorneys, progressive advocates and Triangle-area residents gathered today to discuss the continuing judicial vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, growing numbers of federal judicial vacancies elsewhere, delayed U.S. Senate confirmations of presidential nominees, and the ongoing need for increased diversity on the bench.
Speakers at the event, “Why Courts Matter,” included 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. and Andrew Blotky, director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress ... Wynn and Blotky called for the quick confirmation of fair, impartial, clear-thinking and diverse judges to fill those vacancies ... the U.S.District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ... has the dubious distinction of having the oldest federal judicial vacancy in the country. The seat, opened up on Dec. 31, 2005 when Judge Malcolm J. Howard took senior status, has been unfilled for more than 2500 days."
WSJ Supports Dismantling Federal Court In Order To Block Obama Nominees (Media Matters for America, 05/20/13)
Sergio Munoz: "The Wall Street Journal is endorsing Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's absurd claim that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit doesn't need to fill its judicial vacancies, a position the senator didn't take when he was helping confirm former President George W. Bush's right-wing judges. Despite the newspaper's own reporting on the rampant GOP obstructionism that has prevented President Obama from easing the judicial emergencies caused by vacancies in the federal courts, the editorial page of the WSJ continues to applaud Republican filibusters of the president's nominations....The editorial - like Grassley's plan - is extremely inaccurate"
Barnett: The real scandal: Political gridlock (News and Observer [NC] , 05/18/13)
Editorial page editor Ned Barnett: "The obstructionism has been relentless. Senate Republicans have used the threat of filibuster to hold up nominees for federal judgeships and key administration posts. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that 85 federal judgeships are vacant. That’s 10 percent of the judiciary not functioning at a time when caseloads show the need for adding even more judicial posts. Some nominees have been waiting nearly 700 days. Another gave up after waiting two and a half years."
Heller’s Obstructionism On Full Display (Desert Beacon blog [NV], 05/17/13)
"Perhaps the most under-reported scandalous behavior in Washington, D.C. is the continual obstruction of Presidential nominations to fill vacancies in administrative and judicial posts, and Nevada junior Senator Dean Heller has been right in the middle of it.
First, he opposed the nomination of Elissa Cadish, refusing to sign the paperwork necessary for her candidacy as a judicial nominee to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he was miffed by her position on guns. Now, he’s opposing the nomination of Jennifer Dorsey because her previous law firm made a major donation to the PAC associated with Senator Harry Reid."
Time for Some Nominations. A Lot of Nominations (A plain blog about politics, 05/17/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "If Harry Reid is willing to spend serious floor time on nominations, he needs more nominees. Lots more nominees. In particular, he really needs those three DC Circuit Court selections ... in the last couple of weeks the White House really has been starting to roll out more judicial picks -- one circuit court selection and three district court selections yesterday, on top of a few last week. That's good! But there's a lot more to go."
President Obama Nominates Four Distinguished Women to Serve as Federal Judges (The White House, 05/17/13)
White House blog by Chris Kang, Senior Counsel to the President: " If confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Carolyn McHugh would be the first woman from Utah to serve on that court. Currently, the Tenth Circuit only has one woman judge serving among its nine active members.
· Pamela Reeves and Elizabeth Wolford would be the first women to serve as district court judges in the Eastern District of Tennessee and Western District of New York, respectively, if confirmed.
· Debra Brown would be the first African-American district court judge to serve in the Northern District of Mississippi and the first African-American woman to serve as an Article III judge in the entire state of Mississippi, if confirmed.
President Obama’s judicial nominees already have broken the gender barrier in circuit courts in six states, as well as nine district courts, and have shattered dozens of glass ceilings for minorities. ... for the first time, President Obama has nominated more district court judges than President George W. Bush had at the same point in his presidency. While a faster pace of judicial retirements has led to a greater number of vacancies—many still without nominees—this record demonstrates the strength of the President’s commitment to addressing the judicial vacancy crisis in our country. He will continue to work with home state Senators from both parties to identify and consider candidates for the federal judiciary. We urge the Senate to consider yesterday’s nominees—and all judicial nominees—without unnecessary delay."
Obama Says ‘Check’ to GOP in Confirmation Chess Match (Roll Call, 05/17/13)
David Hawkings column: "Srinivasan is about to become the first federal appeals judge of South Asian heritage and, at 46, the youngest judge on the D.C. Circuit. Of more consequence, he’ll be the first newcomer to that court in seven years. Since 2006, the number of vacant seats has grown to four. Of the seven full-timers on the bench, four were nominated by Republicans and three by Democrats, so Srinivasan will make it an even split.
That simple math helps explain why all those seats have stayed vacant since long before the election — and why that situation is about to change, although only a little bit. ...a roster of three D.C. Circuit choices to be nominated in coming weeks as a slate — challenging the Senate, in effect, to embrace at least one of them because surely they can’t all be activist leftists.
The Republicans know this is coming and have their counter-programming planned out: There’s no need to seat anyone else, they’ll insist, because the court’s caseload is not big enough to justify the eight judges on the job.
The Srinivasan confirmation will shift the judicial wars into something more like a chess match."
White House Press Secretary on need to fill four D.C. Circuit Vacancies (The White House, 05/16/13)
"The D.C. Circuit is often considered the nation’s second-highest court, but it has twice as many vacancies as any other court of appeals, and its workload has increased by over 20 percent since 2005," Carney said. "Srinivasan’s confirmation will be an important first step to filling this court’s four vacancies, and the full Senate should act without unnecessary delay."
Obama needs a fresh approach to naming judges (Politico, 05/15/13)
David Fontana: "Obama’s judicial nominees have waited three times longer on the floor of the Senate than did those of President George W. Bush.
These issues are crucially important, to be sure. But all of this attention on delays in nominations and obstructions after nominations largely ignores what happens in the Senate before a nomination, when much of the groundwork is laid for determining whom the president can nominate and how the Senate will treat his nominees. Senators from the state where judicial openings arise play a large role in indicating to the president which potential nominees they would support. Sometimes these senators do not even get around to suggesting names to the president."
Cornyn should shoulder blame for judicial vacancies (Fort Worth Star-Telegram [TX], 05/15/13)
Judith E. Schaeffer: Sen. "Cornyn’s efforts to shift the blame to the administration for the lack of judicial nominees and portray the judicial nominations process as operating by some sort of unilateral White House fiat is belied by the Republican senators’ 2009 letter.
If Obama were to nominate people to fill the vacancies on the federal courts in Texas without input from or the approval of the Texas senators, those nominees would go nowhere, and Cornyn knows it."
Why Just Fixing The Filibuster Is Not Enough To Unbreak The Senate (Think Progress, 05/14/13)
Ian Millhiser: "The Senate’s filibuster rules gave the minority party power to shut down all judicial confirmations for much of 2012, ... Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) unilaterally blocked Judge Elissa Cadish’s nomination to a federal judgeship last March by invoking a Judiciary Committee procedure that allows just one senator to block a judicial nominee so long as that nominee is from their home state. Heller objected to the fact that Cadish accurately described the state of Second Amendment law prior to a Supreme Court decision that made the law more favorable to the NRA’s views. So, while filibuster reform is essential in the wake of unprecedented obstruction of cabinet-level nominees and similar tactics, it is not sufficient in and of itself. The Senate’s rules and the rules governing its various committees are pervasively broken, and require a complete overhaul to prevent future obstruction."
John Cornyn Complains About Judicial Nomination Process He's Blocking (Huffington Post, 05/10/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) ranted Thursday that President Barack Obama hasn't put forward judicial nominees for vacancies in Texas, some open and without a nominee for more than 1,000 days. But he got schooled by his Democratic colleagues, who reminded him he's responsible for recommending nominees to the White House in the first place -- something he hasn't done for years."
11th Circuit (Southern District of Florida Blog, 05/07/13)
David Oscar Markus: “there are still two openings on the 11th Circuit and apparently no progress being made in moving those nominations forward.”
The Insiders: Some whiskey-talk suggestions for Obama and McConnell (Washington Post, 05/07/13)
Ed Rogers: "The whole process needs to be accelerated, which means the minority party — which is currently the Republican Party in the Senate — should agree to adhere to a tight schedule to vote on the president’s nominees, regardless of which party holds the White House. And the Senate needs to abolish the blatantly unconstitutional process of the anonymous hold on nominations. It’s insulting to taxpayers that one senator can, because of a grudge or on a whim, block the entire Senate from voting on a nomination....If senators want the power to handpick nominees, they should run for president. Otherwise, they should ensure nominees are qualified and not conflicted, and then vote their conscience. Above all, they should — wait for it — actually vote.... With these three modest reforms, Obama and McConnell could set the stage for Washington to fulfill two of the most basic responsibilities of our government: Confirming senior administration officials and judges ..."
CRS Confirms Historic Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees (Text & History, 05/06/13)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "In a report issued by the Congressional Research Service on May 2, 2013 analyzing and comparing the Senate fate of President Obama’s lower court nominees with those of all Presidents since Ronald Reagan (during their first terms), CRS confirmed what Constitutional Accountability Center has been saying for years – that Senate Republicans’ obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees during his first term has been unprecedented. In the past, partisan warfare over judicial nominees was confined to a relatively narrow category of nominees deemed controversial, while uncontroversial nominees voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee during prior Administrations could expect a quick confirmation on the Senate floor. That all changed with Senate Republicans’ treatment of President Obama’s nominees."
Editorial: Get federal judges into open slots (Longmont Daily Times-Call [CO], 05/05/13)
"Lawmakers are playing politics with federal judicial nominees, which means important cases get delayed, courts are overloaded, nominees endure months of waiting in limbo, judicial integrity is compromised, and the American people get poor service from one the country's three branches of government. Observers have a noted that the nominating process for federal judges has long been broken, but in some important ways the problem has gotten worse since President Obama took office. ...Some Republican senators under Obama simply refuse to recommend district court judges, which by tradition it's their prerogative to do. When judges have been nominated, their nominations are too often blocked in the Senate."
Iowa U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (Des Moines Register [IA] , 05/02/13)
"The average voter doesn’t appreciate the significance of federal judicial confirmations in their lives. The federal judges, the district court, the appellate level and the Supreme Court have an enormous impact on the lives of Americans and Iowans.... we’ve got this incredible backlog due to obstructionism by the Senate Republicans that’s keeping these nominees from getting an up or down vote. And so we have vacancies, and that denies people justice."
On the Importance of Judges (Environmental Forum, 05/01/13)
John C. Cruden, President, Environmental Law Institute: "At a recent meeting for environmental leaders held at the White House, we were asked whether our organizations really understand the importance of judges. I responded for everyone that you could not be in the environmental community without recognizing the critical importance of a well-informed judiciary in the upward trajectory of environmental policy....the United States has a staggering number of federal court vacancies: 68 in district courts and 17 in courts of appeal. Some 29 of these vacancies are considered to be emergencies. ... While all federal courts are important to environmental practitioners, the D.C. Circuit has a special place in our history and future."
Slowing Judicial Nominations Right from the Start (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/30/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Grassley and others, however, should take a look at the work of Jennifer Bendery at The Huffington Post, who notes, like other honest observers of the fight over judicial nominations, that the obstruction is and always has been the product of Republican senators. A careful look at the judicial nominations process reveals, she writes, “the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place.”
Make ‘Em Plead? The House's “Gang of Eight” immigration compromise may require 11 million court dates. (American Prospect, 04/30/13)
Harold Meyerson: "At a time when the backlog of cases before the courts has reached staggering proportions, Republicans on the House immigration working group have come up with a proposal to lengthen judicial waits beyond all imaginable horizons.... even if the number of immigrants who must show up is reduced by half, that’s still a lot of people who’ll be lining up at federal courthouses if and when a bill requiring such pleas is enacted. And this at a time when the courts are already swamped, and when Republicans are either taking forever to confirm, or using the filibuster to reject, President Obama’s judicial appointments.
So here’s my own proposed compromise, which I have vetted with absolutely nobody. If the price for a Republican sign-on to immigration reform is to drown the courts in pleading immigrants, Democrats should link that to the GOP agreeing to stop filibustering Obama’s judicial appointees.... You want ‘em to plead? Then give the courts enough judges they can plead to."
Senate Republicans totally boycott judicial nominee process (Daily Kos, 04/30/13)
Joan McCarter: "It's no secret that Senate Republicans have one purpose in political life: total obstruction of President Obama's and Senate Democrats' agenda. It's no secret that to do so, they've ground the work of the Senate to a halt with the filibuster, blocking an unprecedented number of bills and nominations, including judicial nominations. The judiciary crisis is no secret, either:... Republicans point the finger at President Obama, saying that out of the 82 vacancies, 61 don't even have a nominee. How, they say, can we be responsible for this crisis when the President won't even make the nominations. Well, it turns out, Republicans are even blocking that process: they're refusing to allow the simple process of nominations go forward."
Obama's Judicial Nominees Blocked On All Sides By Senate Republicans (Huffington Post, 04/30/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "It's bad enough that there are 82 vacant federal judge slots around the country, a level so high that many observers have deemed it a crisis situation.
But perhaps even more startling is the fact that of those 82 vacant slots, 61 of them don't even have a nominee....a closer look at data on judicial nominees, and conversations with people involved in the nomination process, reveals the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place....since Obama took office, senators from some states -- particularly those represented by two Republicans -- have simply refused to make recommendations"
Ongoing Obstruction in Senate Rekindles Calls for Filibuster Reform (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/25/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Republicans have crafted a new norm of requiring a supermajority to end debate and allow up-or-down votes on legislation and nominations. ... Since the deal Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, threatened to scuttle his nominations to the National Labor Relations Board and undermine the operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The lame filibuster deal and the ongoing obstruction by Republican senators have spurred a coalition of public interest groups to pressure the Senate to change its ways."
Why The Confirmation Of An Outstanding Judge Still Proves The Senate Is Terrible (Think Progress, 04/25/13)
Ian Millhiser: "It is fantastic news that Kelly is now a judge. Beyond the fact that she is talented and that she adds another name to the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees in a Democratic administration, former public defenders are very rare on the federal bench ... But a person shouldn’t have to be friends with a guy who is friends with Chuck Grassley in order to avoid a grueling confirmation process."
Confirm the judges (The Hill, 04/24/13)
Brent Budowsky: "It is time to end the obstruction against justice committed by Senate Republicans who first abuse the senatorial courtesy known as blue slips, which gives senators a voice in presidential nominations of federal judges, and then abuse the Senate filibuster rules, to obstruct confirmation of judicial nominees ... a growing number of Senate Republicans are abusing this extra-constitutional and non-statutory blue-slip practice with a contempt for courtesy that obstructs the pursuit of justice. They prevent the confirmation of federal judges with one-senator or two-senator vetoes. They willfully and deliberately keep large numbers of judicial posts vacant ... If this abusive contempt of senatorial courtesy does not end promptly, the blue-slip practice should be ended."