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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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[Editorial] No to Gorsuch (Rutland Herald [VT] , 04/05/17)
"Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders are willing to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, offended by the candidate’s evasiveness and alarmed by his ideological rigidity.... If they give in to McConnell they will have retained the right to filibuster but would have lost the power to exercise it. Instead, they would have surrendered to one of the most egregious power grabs in the nation’s history, allowing the Republicans to place their stamp on the judiciary in order to impose an agenda on the nation that the nation has shown no indication it supports.... The refusal of the Republicans to allow even a hearing on President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court showed that they were willing to scoff at their own constitutional obligations in service of their ideological and economic loyalties. Gorsuch’s refusal to answer even the most basic questions about his thinking was an expression of the same contempt for Congress that McConnell displayed in refusing to allow a hearing for Garland. Gorsuch’s affable muteness sent a message: I am above the people and their concerns. I have no responsibility to anyone but the narrow band of millionaires and ideologues who have advanced my nomination and to the president who has declared war on the American government. Much is at stake with the Gorsuch nomination. His own rulings suggest he adheres to a view that the high court went astray in the 1930s in decisions allowing the federal government to give rule-making power to agencies established to protect workers, consumers, investors, air, water, the purity of food and drugs.... Leahy and Sanders are taking a necessary and principled stand against the Republican effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court.

[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."

EDITORIAL: Neil Gorsuch, the Nominee for a Stolen Seat (New York Times, 01/31/17)
"It’s been almost a year since Senate Republicans took an empty Supreme Court seat hostage, discarding a constitutional duty that both parties have honored throughout American history and hobbling an entire branch of government for partisan gain. President Trump had a great opportunity to repair some of that damage by nominating a moderate candidate for the vacancy, which was created when Justice Antonin Scalia died last February. Instead, he chose Neil Gorsuch, a very conservative judge from the federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit whose jurisprudence and writing style are often compared to those of Justice Scalia.... The seat Judge Gorsuch hopes to sit in should have been filled, months ago, by Merrick Garland .... He is even more conservative than Justice Scalia in at least one area — calling for an end to the deference courts traditionally show to administrative agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, that are charged with implementing complex and important federal laws. Given the events of recent days, senators should press Judge Gorsuch on how he would approach constitutional questions that have already arisen out of Mr. Trump’s actions as president"

Editorial: Sessions’ right-wing values sure to follow him as AG (Chicago Sun Times, 01/11/17)
"In response to questioning during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sessions .... avoided potential conflicts by soft-pedaled reality. In truth, every attorney sets priorities, informed by his or her own values, because there’s no way around it .... Even a big federal bureaucracy has a limit to its resources. A nominee might say “I’ll enforce the law” — they all do say that — but every attorney general is afforded huge latitude as to which laws to enforce aggressively. ... It matters, then, that Sessions holds unfortunate views on many of the big issues of the day. It matters that he has a retrograde public record on voting rights, climate change, same-sex marriage, the environment, immigration, incarceration, free speech and religious freedom. We are a nation of laws, but men and women enforce those laws. Or they do not."

Editorial: Team of friendlies (Daily Press [VA] , 12/26/16)
"One of Donald Trump's cabinet picks thought the department he is slated to run ought to be done away with.... The one who would oversee enforcement of civil rights law (among other things) was rejected for a judgeship because of questions about his attitude toward minorities. It's an interesting way to "drain the swamp." ... The president-elect is not exactly filling us with confidence as he names the men and women who will be surrounding him in Washington.... To head the Environmental Protection Agency, President-elect Trump selected Scott Pruitt, another climate change denier who has a long history of filing lawsuits to block environmental regulations. In fact, he is currently part of a group suing the EPA. Thirty years ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship amid multiple credible allegations of racially charged comments. As Mr. Trump's choice for attorney general, he is now in position to be the head of the Department of Justice."

Editorial - Donald Trump's curious cabinet picks (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 12/22/16)
"Trump’s picks fall into three categories: the good, the alarming, and the unproven.... The unproven: ... the question for attorney -general designate Jeff Sessions is whether he truly has overcome his once-bigoted views."

Our View: Some Trump picks not fans of their agencies [Editorial] (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 12/14/16)
"Perry favors investment in fossil fuels and natural gas, and, like Trump, has expressed deep skepticism about the reality of climate change. Other proposed cabinet members whose careers seem at odds with the agencies Trump chose for them include Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked to head the Justice Department and whose regard for civil rights, or lack thereof, was sufficient to kill his 1986 nomination for federal judge; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, another climate skeptic, who has been tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite having sued the agency over its regulations;"

Editorial: Economic elite dominate Trump cabinet nominations (Herald Bulletin [IN] , 12/11/16)
"And why would any sane president-elect nominate for U.S. attorney general a person who was denied a federal judgeship because of racism allegations? Again, no good reason, yet Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Perhaps the most disheartening Trump Cabinet nomination is that of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is a staunch supporter of the fossil fuel industry and denier of climate change. It's no exaggeration to say that placing someone like Pruitt in that position literally threatens the long-term health of the planet."

Gazette editorial: Pollution’s champion to head EPA (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 12/10/16)
"Incoming President Donald Trump chose some abominable appointees: racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general .... now Trump has veered back to the abominable in choosing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — a fierce enemy of pollution controls and the Environmental Protection Agency — to head the EPA."

Editorial: For America, a test like no other (Concord Monitor [NH], 11/09/16)
"The biggest threat, other than the possibility that Trump will be too quick to respond with military force when provoked by foreign leaders, lies with his ability to determine the composition of the Supreme Court for a generation or more. A more conservative court could mean an end to a woman’s control of her reproductive future and less rather than more protection for the rights of minorities and workers. A failure to act, by the United States and thus the world, to take steps necessary to slow global warming could lead to the drowning of major cities, famine, drought and the mass migration of hundreds of millions of people."

Perfect storm on climate [Editorial] (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 10/06/16)
"[S]ince Senate Republicans have refused to carry out their own constitutional duty by declining to conduct a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, the D.C. appellate decision could be definitive because the Supreme Court might deadlock, 4-4, on a further appeal."

Perfect storm on climate [Editorial] (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 09/28/16)
THE EDITORIAL BOARD: "since Senate Republicans have refused to carry out their own constitutional duty by declining to conduct a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, the D.C. appellate decision could be definitive because the Supreme Court might deadlock, 4-4, on a further appeal."

End logjam of gridlock, fill federal court slots: Where We Stand [Editorial] (Orlando Sentinel [FL] , 08/21/16)
"An emergency exists in Florida's federal court system and the group responsible for fixing the problem — the U.S. Senate — just yawns and shrugs its collective shoulders. .... And it's not just Florida that is suffering. More than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida, five of 37 district judge slots, 14 percent, are unfilled. ... With a smaller number of judges taking on the growing responsibility, workloads increase, delays lengthen and costs rise.... "It's like an emergency room in a hospital," said Southern District Chief Judge Federico Moreno. " ... Eventually you burn out."... justice delayed is justice denied. It's now so bad in Florida that four of the vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies." ... in states that have both a Republican and Democratic senator, it is easy for one of them to stop such a vote, which in Florida is what Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did on Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores"

Editorial: Extreme partisanship blocks judges, cripples federal courts (Palm Beach Post [FL], 06/27/16)
"Think it’s bad that we have an empty seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Senate Republicans have been so successful in their strategy of obstructing any nominees by President Barack Obama that there are now 89 vacancies in the federal courts system. Waiting to fill those spots are 58 nominees, the limbo for some going back almost a year and a half. That includes South Florida attorney Mary Barzee Flores, whose nomination 16 months ago has been blocked by her own senator, Marco Rubio. ... federal courts are where citizens go to protect important constitutional rights on voting access, the environment and discrimination. It’s where consumers and workers go to hold corporations accountable. With those courts crippled, essential liberties may be eroded."

EDITORIAL: Our Opinion: Bad SJC decision casts bright light on vacancy (Berkshire Eagle [MA] , 03/04/16)
"The Supreme Court's chief justice has at least slowed the damage done by a recent Court decision related to climate change. And he has emphasized the importance of filling the vacant seat with the right choice. Justice John Roberts refused to block an EPA regulation limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants without referring it to the entire court. Justice Roberts may not want the Court buried in such requests following a 5-to-4 decision three weeks ago blocking the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan reducing such emissions.... this ill-considered decision offers a reminder that the next justice — who should be nominated by President Obama — must acknowledge the importance of legal precedent and the responsibilities of the executive branch."

Republicans shouldn't play chicken with SCOTUS seat | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 02/16/16)
"Filling a vacancy in the Supreme Court is an affirmative duty: The president must nominate a candidate, and the Senate must confirm or reject that nominee. Simple. Both parties have blocked appointments, but the current Congressional leadership has decided to make a mockery of the process, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not even consider any nominee proposed by President Obama or hold confirmation hearings. This tramples on the Constitution that Antonin Scalia – the conservative deity who died Saturday – lived to defend. It also shows that GOP Senators, who have turned obstructionism into a dark art, would rather rewrite that Constitution than affirm their oath to uphold it....He argues that the "American people should have a voice in the selection" of the next justice, yet he forgets that they voiced their selection by electing Obama in 2012. By then, his agenda was going full tilt. Consider judicial appointments: The Senate confirmed only 11 federal judges in 2015, the fewest since 1960. Scalia's death leaves 76 vacancies, twice as many as there were before the McConnell took control of the Senate 13 months ago....He has nominated mostly moderates."

EDITORIAL: Justice Antonin Scalia's death should awaken, energize voters (Sun Sentinel [FL], 02/16/16)
"But the immediate question is whether today's president should nominate — and today's Senate hold confirmation hearings on — a replacement for Scalia. Without question, they should. Our Constitution prescribes a replacement process for a justice who dies, and our leaders should make it happen.... In arguing for a delay, Senate President Mitch McConnell says "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice." But the American people have spoken. Twice, they have elected Obama, the second time by more than 3 million votes. If another justice isn't chosen until after November, the Supreme Court's next term could easily be defined by 4-4 split votes. In other words, crucial court decisions could be put on hold, or lower court decisions upheld, for a year. The American people deserve better. Obama says that in due time, he will nominate someone. And if senators refuse to consider his pick, they risk awakening and energizing the electorate, including young people, on the critical role the court plays in everyday life."

EDITORIAL: Antonin Scalia, a giant, dies, clarifies stakes in 2016 (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 02/14/16)
"Scalia was confirmed by 98-0 vote in September 1986. ... Any 4-4 decisions would provide no precedent and lower court decisions would be left to stand. Among the cases pending or wending their way to the high court are ones that could unravel the world’s tenuous climate change agreement and restrict abortion rights. On Saturday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, echoed by the Republican presidential candidates debating in South Carolina, said President Barack Obama should not nominate a replacement, and should leave that decision to the next president. They are wrong. Obama was elected to serve until the next president is inaugurated Jan. 20, 2017, and should do so. As a student of the Constitution, Scalia would be the first to acknowledge that."

Editorial: The G.O.P.’s Worst Budget Riders (New York Times, 12/02/15)
"Many anti-environmental riders have been put forward by lawmakers in committees with jurisdiction over energy, water, air quality, public lands and endangered species. Arguably the most serious threat is one that would invalidate a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that clarifies which waters are protected under federal law from unrestricted dredging, filling and development.... The White House has said it opposes many of these riders, and has threatened previously to veto attempts to weaken the clean-water improvements. But in 2011, the administration caved on some environmental riders. ... Republicans in the House and Senate appear divided, with the House’s far-right caucus eager for a shutdown if it doesn’t get its way and the Senate leadership desperate to avoid one for fear it would hurt its party’s electoral prospects in 2016. That is an opening for Mr. Obama to do the right thing with harmful riders: Just say no."

EDITORIAL: Sea life dying from human failures (Virginian-Pilot, 09/29/15)
"According to a study this month by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, half of the ocean's vertebrate population has disappeared in just four decades....Whether it's through overfishing, pollution or carbon dioxide emissions that cause the oceans to warm and acidify, humans are harming the planet and its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The decline has been significant across most species, but it's worse for animals we rely on for food or income.... One in four species of sharks or rays is now under threat of extinction.... Protecting the oceans from exploitation should be part of a worldwide solution .... Reducing pollution and run-off will help take environmental pressure off the oceans' coastal species. So will reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are changing the composition of the oceans themselves. There is undoubtedly time to reverse the oceans' declines, but only if humans have the will."

Editorial: True conservatives support environmental protection (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 09/20/15)
"A Democratic president’s trip reminds Republicans of their historic ties to environmentalism. Theodore Roosevelt’s embrace of conservation planted the seeds for the environmental movement. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. New York Sen. James Buckley showed that certain “green” policies were compatible with conservative principles. Officials in Virginia and its neighbors have developed a heightened appreciation of the need for government intervention to save the Chesapeake. ... A faction among conservatives refuses, with sectarian zealotry, to concede the reality of climate change and the strong possibility than humanity has contributed to warming. A carbon tax deserves conservative support; cap-and-trade deserves serious debate. The Endangered Species Act has fallen under siege, too. Ideologues want to undermine its effectiveness and to limit its scope. This dismays.... the pope’s encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home,” takes a broad view of humanity’s gifts and obligations that conservatives ought to find congenial. ... It is time for conservatives to listen to what their better angels have to say about the environment. Obama went north to Alaska; conservatives can apply much of his message to regions south of the Last Frontier."

EDITORIAL: Court’s mercury rule hurts N.J. (Daily Record [NJ], 07/01/15)
"U.S. Supreme Court ... justices struck down U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for mercury pollution from power plants. The standards would have applied to roughly 600 plants, cutting mercury pollution up to 90 percent and preventing an estimated 11,000 deaths each year. Those standards would have been of great benefit to New Jersey, which has worked hard to reduce mercury pollution within the state but is still burdened burdened with pollution coming in from beyond our borders.... This decision — we hope — will only be a minor and short-lived detour."

EDITORIAL: A Divided Court on Three Big Rulings; Micromanaging the E.P.A. (New York Times, 06/30/15)
"Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia rejected the agency’s argument that it considered costs at a later stage.... The problem, as Justice Elena Kagan explained in a sharp dissent, is that the E.P.A. considered the costs connected to the emissions rule “over and over and over again.”"

EDITORIAL: Earth's warming is clear to Virginians (Virginian-Pilot, 06/15/15)
"On climate change, Virginians - and the people of Hampton Roads - are more likely than most other Southerners to recognize the perils of inaction. For good reason. Rising seas and sinking land pose a greater risk to people and businesses in this region than anywhere else on the East Coast. The trick, now, is to get more of the state's elected officials to come to terms with that reality and advance policies that both manage necessary adaptations and take advantage of potential opportunities.... Temperature data show close to unequivocally that the planet is getting warmer; the world's largest review of the science concludes that man is almost certainly causing it by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests; and a third large review of the literature shows that just about every climate scientist agrees."

EDITORIAL: G.O.P. Assault on Environmental Laws (New York Times, 06/08/15)
"President Obama has announced or will soon propose important protections for clean water, clean air, threatened species and threatened landscapes. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and other Republicans in Congress are trying hard not to let that happen ... the sage grouse initiative is a legitimate executive action aimed at carrying out Congress’s purpose in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which was to save a species before it disappears."

Editorial: Population peril (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 06/02/15)
"Population problems of many sorts are outlined in the latest Free Inquiry magazine. Some examples: ... “The rate of plant and animal extinction is about 1,000 times higher than the natural rate . ... Other species ... are going extinct at the highest rate since the extinction that wiped out most dinosaurs 65 million years ago.” • “For most of Earth’s recent history, our atmosphere has contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Today, we are at 400 ppm and climbing, a level that essentially locks in significant climate change ... . The increase of CO2 in the oceans is... the highest it has been in about 20 million years.” • “About 90 percent of the ocean’s population of large fish has been wiped out by overfishing and other human activity.”"

Editorial Gov. Brown's tough climate goals: Nation should follow California's lead (Los Angeles Times, 04/30/15)
"The world faces a terrible threat and is already seeing the effects, in more intense droughts and heat waves, diminished crop yields in some areas and floods from rising sea levels. Too few political leaders are willing to confront these realities or pay the price required to reverse or at least minimize them. It's time for other states, the U.S. government and more countries around the world to step up rather than foisting the problem onto the next generation."

EDITORIAL: No time to breathe easy on air quality (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/29/15)
"Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to propose more ambitious goals for the state’s reduction of greenhouse gases also will help, since most efforts to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change also will reduce the kind of emissions that pollute the air we breathe every day. So the bad news is that California’s air is still unhealthy by national standards, and compared to everywhere else in the country. The good news is that it is much cleaner than it used to be, thanks to regulation of polluters."