Editorials and Opinion
Republicans are Hijacking the Courts. Will Senate Democrats Let Them? (Huffington Post, 02/22/17)
Algernon Austin: Many have called the theft of the Judge Merrick Garland’s appointment unprecedented, but this statement is not quite correct. It is unprecedented only if one ignores the fact that several of President Obama’s judicial appointments to lower courts were also blocked. Because Republicans blocked the appointment of Garland and many other judicial appointments, they have now delivered all of those seats to Trump.
What will Democrats do about this? Will they allow Trump to stack the judiciary or will they insist that these are stolen seats and therefore they do not belong to Trump?
In my view, a reasonable Democratic response would be to work to block Trump judicial appointments in proportion to the degree that Obama’s appointments were blocked.
Mitch McConnell Marvels At The Judicial Crisis He Created: After years of blocking Barack Obama’s court picks, Republicans now have “an excellent chance of clearing the deck of all the vacancies,” says the GOP leader. (Huffington Post, 02/05/17)
Jennifer Bendery: If there is a hallmark issue that defines Mitch McConnell’s time as Senate majority leader under President Barack Obama, it was his obstruction of judicial nominees....But he did so at the cost of driving up judicial vacancies around the country, so much so that the federal bench is now emptier than it’s been in decades and the number of judicial emergencies ― when a court is so overburdened it can barely function ― spiked from 12 to 43 in the two years since Republicans retook control of the Senate.... There’s a federal appeals court in Wisconsin that’s been waiting 2,586 days for a vacancy to be filled ― looking at you, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). A district court in North Carolina has had a vacancy for 4,054 days ― hi, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). That’s more than 11 years.... The thing to watch now is whether Republicans use their control of the White House and the Senate to push through nominees who aren’t just conservative but have extreme right-wing ideologies.
Democrats are limited in what they can do to stop them from doing that. But they aren’t helpless. If they’re prepared to play hardball, like Republicans did with Obama’s judicial nominees, they could lean on a judiciary committee rule to unilaterally block any nominee from their state from moving forward.
Trump’s judicial picks will affect far more than the Supreme Court (McClatchy newspapers, 01/23/17)
Michael Doyle: “Based on . . . Trump’s cabinet nominations, I am very concerned that he will try to advance judicial nominees that are outside the mainstream and that they will not reflect the diversity of the people they serve,” said former White House Deputy Counsel Christopher Kang.... “I think . . . Trump will be surprised to learn how much power home-state senators wield in the judicial nomination process,” Kang said.
Democrats Must Do What They Can to Protect the Supreme Court and the Nation (People For blog, 01/19/17)
Paul Gordon: In a sharp departure from the norm, Trump last year essentially delegated authority for selecting potential justices to right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.... Yes, there is a vacancy on the Court, but there shouldn’t be. ... It exists only because Senate Republicans took the unprecedented step of refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland. ... During Obama’s first term and into his second, the number of judicial vacancies skyrocketed, not because there weren’t nominees, but because Republicans blocked votes indiscriminately. ... Majority Leader McConnell ended the year without allowing the Senate to vote on the 23 circuit and district court nominees who had been languishing on the Senate floor for many months, sometimes for over a year, after having been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts (The Hill, 01/13/17)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Inga Bernstein, a longtime private practitioner, for a judicial vacancy on the District of Massachusetts. Bernstein is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Bernstein on May 19, 2016 without dissent. Nonetheless, she languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Ms. Bernstein is an experienced, moderate nominee and the District of Massachusetts needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly hold her final debate and vote.... Warren and other Democratic senators requested unanimous consent to vote on Bernstein and nineteen remaining district nominees who need floor votes, but the GOP objected.
How Barack Obama Transformed The Nation’s Courts: He filled two SCOTUS seats and made the judiciary more diverse than ever. But the GOP stopped him from doing more. (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Jennifer Bendery: Obama will leave office with 329 of his judicial nominees confirmed to lifetime posts on federal courts. That includes two U.S. Supreme Court justices and four judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the two most powerful courts in the nation. Because of Obama, Democratic appointees now have a 7-4 advantage on the D.C. panel, and those judges will play a major role in deciding cases during the Trump administration related to environmental regulations, health care, national security, consumer protections and challenges to executive orders.
Obama also tilted the partisan makeup of circuit courts. Nine of the country’s 13 appeals courts now have majority Democratic appointees, compared with just one when he took office in 2009.
There is a caveat to his judicial success, however: When Republicans regained the Senate majority two years ago, they ground judicial confirmations to a halt. That has left 86 district court vacancies and 17 circuit court vacancies for President-elect Donald Trump to fill. That’s a huge number of court seats to fall victim to partisan politics. For some context: Obama inherited 59 district and circuit court vacancies when he became president. Trump is inheriting 103.
[Editorial] Cheers and Jeers ... (Butler Eagle [PA], 01/07/17)
"Jeer: As the U.S. Senate embarks upon a new session, it continues to fail to live up to one of its basic duties: staffing the federal courts that deal with everything from criminal to civil concerns in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s Western District court has struggled since 2013 with vacant judicial posts. There are now four vacancies — the most of any federal district court system in the country.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The district has two nominees (Butler County Judge Marilyn Horan and U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Baxter) who have already cleared committee votes in the Senate. Another jurist, Robert Colville, is also ready to step up to the federal bench.
But now there are questions as to whether they are too moderate for President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to appoint right-wing judges to the bench.
This is a ridiculous and harmful state-of-affairs, and the Senate should be ashamed of itself. They need to do their jobs and fill these district court vacancies with all possible haste."
Fix nation's judicial staffing crisis (Detroit Free Press [MI] , 01/07/17)
Carl Tobias, Op-Ed: On Tuesday, when the 114th Congress adjourned, the nominations of 51 individuals whom President Barack Obama selected for the circuit and district courts expired. Now that the new Senate has convened, Obama should attempt to fill some of the 104 vacancies, 42 of which are “judicial emergencies,” by renominating numerous well-qualified, mainstream nominees and urging their prompt Senate confirmation.... Obama must quickly renominate the 20 well-qualified, mainstream district nominees the Senate Judiciary Committee approved without dissent. GOP senators proposed and supported most, and they have languished for months. Obama should also seriously consider renominating the three outstanding circuit nominees who earned panel approval. If renominated, the chamber must promptly vote on all of these nominees.
The Senate lacks time to process the remaining 28 nominees before Trump’s inauguration, but he must consider nominating again strong, consensus nominees who possesses GOP support.
Lowry: Make Jeff Sessions wait a little bit (Record [NJ] , 01/07/17)
Column by Bruce Lowry, an editorial writer for The Record: the painfully long wait that Bergen County counsel Julien Neals – nominated to the federal bench by President Obama – was forced to endure by the Republican-led U.S. Senate. By last year’s end, Neals, a man Sen. Cory Booker has described as one of the “most impressive people” he has met in professional life, had waited 674 days without being given a vote by the full Senate.
Now contrast that, along with the Senate’s refusal last year to hold hearings on Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, against Republicans’ 180-degree turn toward expediency on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be the next U.S. Attorney General.... it should be alarming for anyone who cares about this nation or its laws that he is being fast-tracked, despite deep concerns about his civil rights record, while Neals, an African-American championed not only by Booker but many in the New Jersey legal community, was made to wait … and wait … and wait.... Julien Neals had to wait 674 days for no good reason. There is plenty of reason to make Jeff Sessions wait
Opinion: Anti-Obama Republicans have created a judicial emergency (Los Angeles Times, 01/07/17)
Carl Tobias: The Times editorial board accurately describes the severely deteriorated state of federal judicial selection and suggests that Republican obstruction during President Obama’s two terms in office is substantially responsible for the 100-plus current vacancies.... Indeed, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals currently has four openings, all of which have been declared judicial emergencies. The editorial astutely states that Democrats could retaliate by similarly obstructing President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees. It also correctly observes that Trump could and should “make a significant gesture toward restoring a measure of normality” to the selection process by renominating the Obama nominees left stranded by GOP obstruction to be confirmed with bipartisan approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, Obama can and should re-submit those nominees now, and the Senate should confirm them immediately.
[Editorial] Will Trump try to stack the courts? (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 01/06/17)
"It’s no mystery why nearly one in eight federal bench slots is empty. Republicans have refused to vote on dozens of President Obama’s nominees .... The vacancies are nearly double the amount that Obama inherited from George W. Bush. The unfilled posts have created a logjam .... By Senate custom, court nominees must pass muster with home state senators. In California’s case this process is especially weighty. The federal appeals court in San Francisco has four vacancies, and six district judgeships are empty across the state. ... Given this “blue slip” process of vetting, the state’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, can block a White House nomination. ... During the Bush administration, the differences were negotiated"
Did Jeff Sessions block integration of south Alabama federal courts? (AL.com [AL], 01/06/17)
John Archibald column: Sessions in the latter 1990s - for the entire second term of President Bill Clinton - was able to keep a federal judgeship in Mobile vacant, rather than to allow it filled with someone he found objectionable.
And some say Sessions - who has been hounded by decades-old comments that have been seen as racist - wasn't just blocking nominees of a different political stripe. Those involved say he blocked the integration of the federal bench in the Southern District of Alabama.
Birmingham lawyer John Saxon was part of a Bill Clinton patronage committee that decided it was time to integrate the federal courts in Mobile. The Northern and Middle districts had already seen black judges and magistrates, but the Southern District remained lily white.... Saxon said the group sent name after name of candidates - at least two judges and three lawyers - to the White House for vetting. But Clinton's people hit a wall every time. It was Sessions - then a still-new junior senator but a member of the Judiciary Committee. He opposed every one of them.
"Sessions told the White House he couldn't accept any of those people," Saxon said.... He said he asked Sessions to "tell us the name of any African-American anywhere in the state that you find acceptable."
It's not as if there were no qualified candidates. ... Sessions didn't budge .... "We gave him the opportunity to put forth the names of African Americans, but he wouldn't do it," Saxon said. "It was the single most frustrating thing I've ever done."
Mitch McConnell's Political Moves Are Appalling, But Democrats Could Learn from Them (Esquire, 01/05/17)
Jack Holmes: The Lord of Obstruction had a message for Senate Democrats on Wednesday: No obstructing unless I'm the one doing it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, after Antonin Scalia died with nearly a year left in President Obama's term declared that he would refuse to give any Supreme Court nominee a hearing, held a press conference following Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's pledge to contest Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominations. McConnell had a stern message for his opponents in The World's Greatest Deliberative Body: "The American people simply will not tolerate" any attempt to block SCOTUS appointees. The cynicism here is breathtaking. ... To be clear, McConnell's rhetoric here was disingenuous.... Republicans embarked on an unprecedented campaign of obstruction, particularly with regard to judicial appointees,... If Democrats are going to survive, they need to ditch the weird worshipping of civility and learn to punch someone in the jaw. The Supreme Court nomination process—and the hearings for cabinet appointees like Jeff Sessions—would be a good place to start throwing a few jabs.
[Editorial] Fill the courts: Federal vacancies delay justice for all (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/05/17)
Editorial Board: the four vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania are the most anywhere. Across the nation, however, there are 112 vacancies, the highest profile being the empty seat on the Supreme Court left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. There are also 86 vacancies in district courts, 17 in circuit courts of appeals, six in the Court of Federal Claims and two in the Court of International Trade.
Worse, only 59 candidates have been nominated for the vacancies, meaning there would be no quick way to fill nearly half of those seats even if the partisan bickering were to cease immediately. Forty-one courts have what are called “judicial emergencies”.... None of that takes into account what some observers believe is a pressing need for additional judges in parts of the country.... In Pennsylvania, Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, are known for collaborating on the selection of judicial nominees — and they plan to continue their collaboration. Mr. Casey’s office said the nominees are in limbo because the GOP leadership wouldn’t bring them to a vote.
Vacancies slow cases, dragging out justice for victims and hampering the fortunes of companies involved in contract or intellectual property disputes.
What will Feinstein, Harris do on judicial nominees? (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/05/17)
Bill Whalen, Hoover Institution: Traditionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee gives “blue slip” privileges to each nominee’s home-state senators. Unless both senators support the pick, the nomination won’t go forward. That gives Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on Judiciary, and new Sen. Kamala Harris extraordinary sway on California judicial nominees.
Mitch McConnell Says Americans Won’t Tolerate Democrats Blocking Supreme Court Nominations: He blocked the president’s own high court nominee for 293 days. (Huffington Post, 01/04/17)
Cristian Farias: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a warning to Democrats on Wednesday, one day after the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland expired without any Senate action: Don’t consider staging a similar blockade on any of President-elect Donald Trump’s high court nominees.
“I think that’s something the American people simply will not tolerate and we’ll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it,” McConnell told reporters.... Garland ... was as mainstream a candidate as President Barack Obama could have offered. McConnell’s admonition that the American public may not put up with prolonged Democratic obstruction is curious in light of his own plan to not lift a finger on any of Obama’s nominees
Editorial: Julien Neals should be a federal judge (Record [NJ] , 01/04/17)
"[W]hat happened last year to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland – by all accounts, a qualified, centrist jurist who wasn’t even granted a hearing – was without precedent.
Garland’s time in nomination limbo was small compared to the experience of another Obama court nominee – Julien Neals, .... Booker has described Neals as one of the “most impressive people” he has met in professional life and said that Neals’ “skill, aptitude, and unique perspective are needed on the federal bench now more than ever.” Neals and Edward Stanton III, a U.S. attorney from Tennessee, both of whom are black, have waited the longest among nominees who have come out of committee.... New Jersey federal judges are needed more than ever since they carry a workload of roughly 700 cases per year. The failure to fill that vacancy says much about our politics today, and provides evidence of why our judicial system is not working as efficiently as it should."
Reshaping the courts: Donald Trump is poised to paint America’s judiciary red, Democrats may soon lose their dominance in district courts (Economist, 01/03/17)
"Trump’s quest to hold back liberal-leaning courts faces potential stumbling blocks. With Republican intransigence over Merrick Garland, Mr Obama’s Supreme Court pick, leaving a bad taste in Democrats’ mouths, the minority party is likely to use any and all obstructionist tactics available to them under obscure Senate rules to delay or thwart votes on judicial nominees. One possibility is that Democrats may weaponise the norm of senatorial courtesy, an unwritten but well-entrenched principle preventing the Senate from acting on any nominee who does not enjoy the support of both senators from his or her home state.
This courtesy, in one form or another, “has persisted since the presidency of George Washington”, according to Tonja Jacobi, a law professor at Northwestern University."
Editorial: Another judicial dirty trick from Senate Republicans (Los Angeles Times, 01/03/17)
"One of 2016’s most spectacular examples of government dysfunction was the U.S. Senate’s outrageous refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. ... the Senate also failed to hold floor votes on  Obama nominees for lifetime federal judgeships who had been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee. ... Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused Senate Republicans of setting a “record for inaction on judicial nominations.” Whereas a Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees in the last two years of his presidency, only 22 Obama nominees have been confirmed in the comparable period, ... As with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stonewalling of the Garland nomination, the failure to act on these lower-court nominations is extreme and inexcusable.... It would be utterly understandable if Senate Democrats now retaliated by making it difficult for President-elect Donald Trump to win confirmation for his judicial nominees, especially those slotted for seats that Obama had every right to fill. ... Trump can make a significant gesture toward restoring a measure of normality to the confirmation process. He should resubmit the names of the nominees who received bipartisan support on the Judiciary Committee but were left stranded because of the delaying tactics of his fellow Republicans."
Confirm Judges Horan and Baxter for the Western District of Pennsylvania (The Hill, 01/03/17)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Susan Paradise Baxter, who has served as a Magistrate Judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania for more than twenty years, and Marilyn Horan, who has served as a Court of Common Pleas Judge in Butler County since 1996, for vacancies on the Western District. The jurists are highly qualified, mainstream nominees, who possess the strong support of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R). The Senate Judiciary Committee reported both on Jan. 28 voice votes with no dissent. Nonetheless, they languished on the floor since then, primarily because Republican leaders refused to grant them final debates and ballots. Since Judges Baxter and Horan are experienced, moderate nominees and the Western District of Pennsylvania requires all of its vacancies filled, the Senate must expeditiously arrange their confirmation debates and votes.... Democratic senators proffered analogous requests on nineteen remaining district nominees who required final votes, but other members objected.
What Democrats Must Do To Stop A Right-Wing Hijacking Of The Judiciary (Huffington Post, 01/02/17)
Robert Creamer: when the Senate left Washington for the holidays, 25 Obama court nominees were actually pending on the Senate floor, after having been approved out of committee with bi-partisan support, but none got a vote before the Senate adjourned.
Most outrageous, the right is trying to steal a Supreme Court seat that should have been filled by President Obama and hand it to Donald Trump.... For any nomination to the Garland seat on the Supreme Court, and for the first 100 vacancies to the lower courts, Democrats should use one simple criterion for approving any nominee:
Would the nominee be similar to those who would have been proposed by Barack Obama?
If the answer is no, Democrats in the Senate should simply refuse to vote yes – ever.... under the Constitution, these vacancies should have been filled by President Obama, and were instead, stolen by the GOP leadership through unprecedented obstruction and refusal to do their job.
Editorial: Will Grassley pick up speed on Trump nominees? (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/01/17)
"The Senate confirmed 20 lifetime judicial appointments to district and appeals courts in the two years Republicans were in charge. That’s the lowest number in 28 years, according to a Congressional Research Service report and Politico. (It’s not even close: The next fewest number was 51, during the Republican-led Senate of 2005-06.)
The result of that inaction? There are about 100 vacancies in federal district and appeals courts, plus the opening on the U.S. Supreme Court that Grassley stood in the way of filling.
Grassley and his fellow Republicans have handed an inaugural gift to President-elect Donald Trump, who can shape the federal courts in his image. He’ll have almost double the number of openings to fill than Barack Obama did eight years ago.... Republicans successfully ran out the clock on 54 of Obama’s nominees. Of those, 25 made it out of Grassley’s committee, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold votes on them. These 25 were thoroughly vetted and won bipartisan support, yet McConnell shamelessly prevented any votes for more than a year.
In addition, eight nominees were waiting to be reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and 21 were waiting for committee hearings.... Grassley has considered only nominees who had won support from both of their home-state senators. Both parties have used that practice, he points out.
But this practice has contributed to gridlock. An opening on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has been vacant since 2010, because Republican senators have blocked Obama’s appointees.
A district judge position in the Eastern District of North Carolina has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006. More than a quarter of the district’s population is African-American, but it’s never had a black federal judge, according to Raleigh News & Observer. Obama had nominated two African-American women to the eastern district, but Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., supported neither.
Obama made it a priority to bring diversity to the courts. Those who weren’t confirmed by the Senate included several Latino, Asian-American and black judges and one who would have been the nation’s first Muslim federal judge.
If our courts are to reflect and represent those whom they serve, then Trump should continue Obama’s efforts. The new president should seek racial, ethnic, religious and gender balance when he searches for nominees.... The gears of justice grind more slowly when judicial positions remain open. This has a real impact on people and businesses waiting for their cases to be heard. The U.S. court system now counts 38 judicial emergencies, based on the volume of cases in front of a court. There were 12 such emergencies at the beginning of 2015."
Roberts' 'Missed Opportunity' on Judicial Vacancies (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 01/01/17)
Kenneth Jost: When President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed his notorious court-packing scheme in 1937, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes delivered the fatal blow to the plan.... Eight decades later, Senate Republicans played politics with the court in a different way last year by refusing to consider President Obama's nomination of the veteran federal judge Merrick Garland .... But Roberts stayed completely silent even as the unfilled vacancy left four significant cases partly unresolved .... Senate Republicans extended their obstructionist policies to the lower federal courts by all but shutting down the confirmation process for Obama's nominees to district court and circuit courts of appeals. As the year ended, federal courts had an historically high number of 107 vacancies, including 84 district court judgeships and 14 on circuit courts. Obama had submitted nominees for 84 of the positions, and the Senate Judiciary Committee had approved 25 for floor votes. But all were left hanging as the 114th Congress was set to expire .... The year-long slowdown on Obama nominees for the lower federal court leaves almost exactly twice the number of vacancies that Obama inherited at the end of George W. Bush's presidency. Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the leading academic expert on federal judicial appointments, calls the Senate's record over the past two years "the worst in American history in terms of obstruction and delay."... Roberts might have said at least a word or two about the fighting over the vacancies, but never did
Ed Palattella: Federal judgeship delayed is justice denied (Erie Times-News [PA], 01/01/17)
"The history is worth revisiting because of the situation in U.S. District Court in Erie since Aug. 16, 2013. That's when Sean J. McLaughlin resigned his lifetime appointment as the only Erie-based federal judge.
The seat has been vacant ever since. And the Senate has been in no rush to fill it.
The endless delay is an affront to the city of Erie as well as Erie County and the other six counties in northwestern Pennsylvania served by the federal courthouse in Erie.... Today, not having an Erie-based federal judge for three years and four months could be considered a sign that Erie's significance, like its population, has waned.
Let's hope not. Let's hope that the failure to fill the judgeship is due not to insult, but solely to something only slightly less distasteful - congressional gridlock. ... President Barack Obama nominated someone for the seat. On July 30, 2015, he picked a fellow Democrat, Susan Paradise Baxter, an Erie resident who since 1995 has served as Erie's federal magistrate judge - a position just below a federal district judge.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, backed Baxter's nomination. So did Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, who has opposed Obama on so much else.
A year and five months later, the GOP-controlled Senate still has not moved to confirm Baxter. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has refused to call for a vote on her nomination. He and his fellow Republicans have stymied the process that has prevented Obama from filling 103 judicial vacancies, including the biggest of all - the ninth seat on the Supreme Court.
The local vacancy has strained the wheels of federal justice in Erie.... Trump could recognize Baxter's bipartisan support and renominate her. Then the Senate could confirm her.
That route would appear to make the most sense. It would quickly fill Erie's federal judgeship with a qualified person."
Here are New Year’s resolutions for the folks in charge as 2017 unfolds [Editorial] (Idaho Statesman, 12/31/16)
Editorial Board: here are a few of the New Year’s resolutions we propose for our community, state and nation as 2017 unfolds.... Resolutions at the federal level
▪ Federal judicial appointments for Idaho and elsewhere in the nation succumbed to gridlock politics last year and throughout the last Congress. Our senators must get to work and get Judge David Nye’s name before President-elect Donald Trump so he can again be nominated, and then confirmed by the Senate. While they are at it, our senators need to figure out how to get Idaho a badly needed third Article III judge. Justice demands it.
Commentary: Confirming judges in Congress’ lame duck session (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 12/30/16)
Carl Tobias: Texas is ground zero for the national judicial vacancy crisis. The state is experiencing 11 district openings, which the U.S. Courts have designated “judicial emergency” vacancies because of their protracted length or massive caseloads their judges address. In March, President Barack Obama nominated Scott Frost, James Wesley Hendrix and Irma Carrillo Ramirez for Northern District of Texas vacancies; Karen Gren Scholer for an Eastern District opening; and Walter Counts for a Western District vacancy.
All five are well-qualified, mainstream nominees, who have the powerful support of Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Sept. 7 for the nominees. However, all five languished since then, mainly because GOP leaders refused to grant them a panel or final vote. Because the nominees are experienced centrists and the districts need every vacancy filled, the committee must promptly report the five and the Senate swiftly grant them confirmation debates and votes.
Tribune Editorial: GOP Senate refuses to do its duty (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 12/30/16)
"This senatorial discourtesy was another example of the dereliction of duty exhibited by the World's Greatest Deliberative Body as its Republican majority dissed the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Antonin Scalia seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Senate Republicans were never shy about what they were up to. Gridlock. For its own sake.
Toward the end, of course, Republicans could claim, with no historical or legal basis, that what they were doing was holding those seats, along with more than 50 federal district and appellate judgeships, open for the next president. Who, they hoped, would be a Republican.... Trump won, and to the victor goes the spoils. Or at least the power to appoint. Democrats should consider those appointments seriously, rejecting those who are unqualified or extreme, approving those who make the grade.
Come 2020, the Trump administration should be judged in large part on the people it hired."
Wednesday letters: Federal judicial vacancies; Fill vacancies (Houston Chronicle, 12/27/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: Regarding "Fed cases mount in Texas courts" (Page A1, Dec. 21), the story accurately describes Texas, which is ground zero for the judicial vacancy crisis, because the state experiences 13 emergency vacancies. President Donald Trump and the Texas GOP senators must promptly cooperate to nominate and confirm well-qualified, mainstream judges.
The most efficient and least wasteful of scarce resources would be starting with the five experienced, moderate nominees who testified in a September hearing but have languished ever since. Indeed, President Barack Obama should renominate all five .... the Senate must quickly confirm them before Inauguration Day, so the judges can deliver justice to people and businesses engaged in Texas federal court litigation.
The Senate should confirm Stephanie Gallagher (Washington Post, 12/27/16)
Carl Tobias: In September 2015, President Obama nominated Stephanie Gallagher, who has been a U.S. magistrate judge in the District of Maryland for more than a half decade, for an opening on that court. Gallagher is an experienced, mainstream nominee whom Maryland Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin strongly support. In May 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported Gallagher with no dissent. However, she has awaited a final vote ever since, mainly because Republicans would not permit her floor debate and ballot. Gallagher is a talented, consensus nominee and the District of Maryland requires this vacancy filled, so the upper chamber must swiftly grant her confirmation debate and vote.... Democratic members have pursued unanimous consent to vote on Gallagher and 19 other district court nominees who require final ballots, yet Republicans objected. Had the GOP followed regular order, Gallagher would have been approved long ago.