Editorials and Opinion
Editorial: Taking note of a judge’s gender (Concord Monitor [NH] , 02/26/14)
"Dismissing the happy milestone, however, obscures two still-important points: First, it has taken New Hampshire women a long, long time to achieve anything close to parity in the legal world – and they’re not there yet. Second, it makes an important difference to have women among the state’s top jurists. ... Does it make a difference to have women sitting on the bench? There are all sorts of studies that attempt to glean gender differences in how judges judge. Interesting, perhaps, but less important than this: Judges are among the most powerful members of our community. Women deserve to be among them in big numbers. When women are in the mix, the courts are more reflective of the nation’s diverse population and no doubt better able to understand the real-world implications of their rulings. And that, in turn, breeds confidence in the court system among those who must interact with it."
http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2014/02/11/pryor-urgency-on-vote-on-judicial-nominations (Arkansas Times, 02/11/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is pressing for a Senate vote this week to confirm two non-controversial judicial appointees in Arkansas — Circuit Judge Jay Moody for a district judgeship in Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a seat in the western district of Arkansas.... It won't be easy, unless John Boozman puts his weight behind it. Republicans haven't been allowing floor votes on judicial nominations. 32 are in waiting. Only one vote so far this year."
Senate Judiciary Republicans blame a lawyer (Adegbile) for a client (Abu-Jamal (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 02/07/14)
Bob Egelko: "The same question arose last year when Vince Chhabria, a deputy San Francisco city attorney, was nominated for a federal judgeship. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who led the opposition, said Chhabria had a “long record of liberal advocacy.” But he cited only Chhabria’s work as a lawyer — for example, his representation of the city in a suit by Catholic organizations over same-sex couples and adoption. The Judiciary Committee has twice approved Chhabria’s nomination, on divided votes, and he’s likely to win Senate confirmation in the near future."
Editorial: The Homogeneous Federal Bench (New York Times, 02/07/14)
"[A] judge’s experience and personal history are, at times, critical to how she or he approaches the job. Given this reality, the makeup of the judiciary should reflect as much as possible the public whose cases come before it. For a long time, most of the attention to increasing diversity has focused on race, ethnicity and gender, where progress has been slow but incremental.
Equally important is diversity of professional experience ... Recently, Mr. Obama has worked to strike a better balance."
A woman for judge (Chicago Tribune, 02/06/14)
Letter to the Editor: Michelle Kohut, President, Women's Bar Association of Illinois: "The Women's Bar Association of Illinois encourages Sen. Kirk and the committee to recommend a qualified woman to fill the vacancy left by Judge Holderman. ... Of the current 20 active judges presiding over this court, six are women, equaling only 27 percent. ... The quality of justice is improved when women are fairly represented on the bench, as it better reflects the diverse nature of the population over which it resides."
Editorial: No more delays Senate should not let federal judicial nominations languish (Miami Herald, 02/06/14)
"No one has ever accused Judge Thomas of bias on the bench. But once Sen. Rubio dropped his support, Judge Thomas’ nomination was doomed. It was an embarrassment for Florida in every way.... Sen. Rubio issued a statement after the announcements, saying he welcomed the nominations and doesn’t “anticipate having an objection to moving forward” on them. That’s good to know, and we’ll hold him to his word.... Sen. Rubio, again along with Sen. Grassley, did hold up the confirmation of another Obama appointee from Florida who is African American. Nassau County Circuit Judge Brian Davis waited almost two years before his nomination was finally confirmed last December. Again, Sen. Grassley accused the judge of bias. There’s nothing in Judge Davis’ public record to back up these accusations.... The delays are driven, almost entirely, by crass partisanship. The result is U.S. District Court vacancies that go unfilled, literally, for years. That’s justice delayed, justice denied. And it’s entirely the fault of the U.S. Senate."
PICKING NEXT FEDERAL JUDGE; World-Herald editorial: Court vacancy needs attention (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 01/29/14)
"The current list of federal court vacancies is long — 79 U.S. district court judges and 16 more on appeals court benches. Only 55 replacements have been nominated to fill those 95 openings.
Another 19 vacancies will occur this year, including one in Nebraska ... Filling these vacancies is important. Crowded federal court dockets increase the caseload for sitting judges and slow citizens’ access to justice. ... Nebraskans can hope this process moves efficiently, so this vacancy doesn’t linger on that list."
6 New Year Nomination Battles for Obama’s Native-Focused Nominees (Indian Country Today, 01/16/14)
Rob Capriccioso: "Diane Humetewa– This Hopi citizen was nominated by the president last September to serve on the federal bench for the U.S. District Court for Arizona. She’s received strong backing from Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) from her home state, as she previously did when she served as a U.S. attorney during the George W. Bush administration in Arizona, and given this support, she’s expected to be confirmed once considered by the Senate. Indian country has long been pushing for Indian-focused nominees to the federal bench. If Humetewa is confirmed, she would be the only American Indian to serve on the federal bench and only the third Native on the federal bench in history. New information has recently been reported indicating that when she was being considered to become a U.S. attorney during the Bush administration, one of President George W. Bush’s top advisors, Karl Rove, came out against her, reportedly writing in an e-mail, “Replace Blanquita.” The publication Main Justice says this slight was “an apparent racial epithet for the Latina-looking Humetewa.”
Lack of black Ala. judges indefensible (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 01/14/14)
Vanzetta Penn McPherson, retired U.S. magistrate judge: "In October 1980, the second of the first two African-American federal judges in Alabama was sworn into office. ... In the ensuing 33 years, 26 new judges have been appointed in Alabama, including only one African-American who was appointed to replace the African-American judge for whom he clerked, resulting in the same number of black federal judges in Alabama today as in 1980. Notably, the third black judge, appointed in 2010 by President Obama, was recommended by a screening panel appointed by Congresswoman Terri Sewell.
Thus, for more than two decades, the five men who represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate did not identify or recommend a single black lawyer for the 24 appointments available to them during that period. ... This is the 21st century. We cannot ignore the ignominy of excluding African-Americans from 25 judicial appointments over as many years. And one or two new black judges — especially if they merely replace other black judges — are not enough."
Filling judicial vacancies to protect the progressive legacy (Reuters, 01/13/14)
Prof. Herman Schwartz: "vacancies have risen to more than 65 percent; at a comparable point in the Bush administration, vacancies had fallen by 39 percent. As of January 7, there were still 16 appellate and 77 trial court vacancies, with 9 pending appellate and 44 district court nominees. In total, roughly 11 percent of all federal judgeships are still vacant, with 36 judicial emergencies. Before the Democrats’ filibuster repeal, the Senate had confirmed only 76 percent of all Obama nominees, compared to 90 percent during a comparable period in the Bush administration. ... In an unparalleled abuse of the blue slip privilege, 90 percent of the federal court vacancies that Obama is now unable to fill are in states with a Republican senator."
Facts show filibuster letter was all wrong (Pocono Record [PA] , 01/10/14)
GLENN SUGAMELI Letter to the Editor: "Facts and history dispel the arguments in a Jan. 2 letter, "Filibuster change will haunt Democrats."... Patricia Millett was praised by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce's chief litigator. The second nominee was endorsed by arch-conservative Viet Dinh, and the third was previously confirmed unanimously by the Senate as a federal judge....The recent Senate rules change, however, was triggered by Republican senators' repudiation of that compromise. Unprecedented filibusters had the declared intent and result of blocking votes on any possible Obama nominee to fill three D.C. Circuit vacancies, after Senate Democrats helped confirm four President George W. Bush judges to the court. ...Bipartisan Senate simple majority votes rejected Bork and confirmed Thomas, Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court."
Republicans Obstruct Judicial Nominees They Supported Last Year (People For blog, 01/09/14)
"Among the 29 nominees delayed for no reason this morning are nine nominees who were approved by the committee last year but were denied a confirmation vote due to GOP obstructionism. All nine had been approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, eight of them unanimously....Another 15 of the nominees delayed today were scheduled for committee votes last year, but those votes were repeatedly delayed by the GOP."
President Obama Renominates Judge Torpedoed By John Ashcroft (Think Progress, 01/06/14)
Ian Millhiser: "President Obama took an important symbolic step on Thursday to undo part of Ashcroft’s legacy as a United States senator. In 1997, President Clinton nominated Missouri Supreme Court Judge (and, later, Chief Justice) Ronnie White to a federal trial court. Then-Senator Ashcroft led a successful effort to torpedo White’s nomination, however, largely by relying on doubtful claims that White is “pro-criminal.”"
Burr’s silent blockade continues (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/06/14)
Rob Schofield: "speaking of why courts matter and why progressives need to a do a better job of fighting back against the right-wing stranglehold on judicial nominations, today marks the 3 1/2 month mark since NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey first reported on Senator Richard Burr’s silent and unexplained blockade of Federal District Court nominee Jennifer May-Parker. That such an important elected official has been allowed to take this action without any explanation to his constituents and not yet received universal condemnation from every news media outlet in the state is a continuing outrage."
Editorial: Thumbs down (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/03/14)
"Thumbs down to the Obama administration for failing to nominate a replacement for U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, who moved to senior status 14 months ago. Meanwhile, Fresno's federal courthouse labors under one of the highest caseloads in the nation and, as The Bee's John Ellis reported on Dec. 28, judicial employees there anxiously await Ishii's replacement. Don Fischbach, a Fresno attorney who chaired a screening committee of potential nominees set up by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, told Ellis that the committee long ago finished its work."
Kudos for vote eliminating use of filibuster on judicial nominations (Dallas Morning News, 12/25/13)
Letter to the Editor by Julie Lowenberg, National Council of Jewish Women: "There are currently 93 judicial vacancies around the country, 38 of which have been designated “judicial emergencies.” In Texas, where there are 11 vacancies (including six emergencies), senators Cornyn and Cruz have been missing in action when it comes to sending to President Obama the names of potential judicial nominees. Their foot-dragging in carrying out a major responsibility of their offices is unacceptable."
Arkansas judicial candidates caught by Republican Senate blockade (Arkansas Times, 12/21/13)
Max Brantley: "Nine judicial nominations had cleared the committee and were on the Senate calendar for confirmation. The nine include two Arkansas nominees — Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a western district judgeship and Circuit Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock for a vacancy on the eastern district bench in Little Rock. Both Arkansas nominations are endorsed by both Sens. Mark Pryor and Republican John Boozman of Arkansas."
Editorial: Rightward shift; OUR OPINION: Sen. Rubio’s increasingly partisan political agenda disappoints (Miami Herald, 12/21/13)
"Yet he consistently seems to tailor his votes to suit a narrow partisan base. The nomination of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas to fill a federal judicial vacancy is illustrative. Mr. Thomas, if confirmed, would become the first openly gay black man to serve on a federal bench. After first recommending him, Sen. Rubio withdrew support, citing concern over two rulings — even though a prosecutor whom the judge ruled against in one case wrote the senator in support of Judge Thomas. Mr. Rubio’s office points out that he has supported some of President Obama’s judicial picks; critics say opposition to Judge Thomas is rooted in anti-gay politics."
Editorial: Fill judicial vacancies (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 12/21/13)
"Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey established a process to vet nominees,... Yet vacancies remain in the state's two other federal court districts that diminish the public's ready access to justice."
Editorial: Makes sense to fix streets, find history, do one's job and be 'nice' (News-Leader [MO] , 12/20/13)
"Springfield attorney Douglas Harpool is ready to take the federal bench, but it looks like he will have to wait until 2014 for his new job as judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. Why? Because the politicians in Washington, D.C., still need time to play out their “it’s my ball, and I don’t want you to play with it” game. The Democrats got mad at the Republicans, so they changed the rules of the game. Now the Republicans are mad at the Democrats, so they are refusing to play. In the meantime, justice needs to be serviced. We need the Senate Judiciary Committee to do its job, not play games. It’s just common sense."
Barack Obama Is Not George W. Bush (New York Magazine, 12/20/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Obama’s prospects for executive action are actually stronger now. The main impediments to an aggressive regulatory agenda were twofold. First, Republicans could stop regulations by blocking nominees for major agencies. Second, they held a functional majority on the D.C. Circuit Court, and stood poised to block Obama’s environmental and financial reforms. Republicans understood full well the importance of that court to Obama’s second term. (McConnell, again, identified the crucial dynamic: Obama’s second-term agenda, he said, “runs straight through the D.C. Circuit.”) That’s why Republicans took the extraordinary step of declaring a full blockade on any nominee for the court’s three vacancies, however ideologically moderate. And it’s why the Senate Democrats’ decision to abolish the judicial filibuster looms so large. With a stroke, they eliminated the strongest leverage Republicans have to gum up the president’s second term. Obama has managed to seat nominees to the Federal Housing Authority and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And the odds that the court will overturn new regulations have diminished sharply."
Editorial: Casey, Toomey should keep up good work (Citizens Voice [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 12/19/13)
"Even before Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule to ease the confirmation of judicial and executive branch nominees, Pennsylvania's two senators had managed to find common ground. Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey established a process to vet nominees ... Yet vacancies remain in the state's two other federal court districts that diminish the public's ready access to justice.... Casey and Toomey agreed in August on two nominees - attorney Gerald McHugh and Judge Edward Smith - but the confirmation process has stalled and there has been no movement toward nominations for the other five seats.... Casey and Toomey agreed in August on two nominees - attorney Gerald McHugh and Judge Edward Smith - but the confirmation process has stalled and there has been no movement toward nominations for the other five seats."
Editorial: Fill judicial vacancies (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA] , 12/19/13)
"Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey established a process to vet nominees ... they have been able to end the "judicial emergency" of vacancies that long had plagued the Scranton-based U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania. Yet vacancies remain in the state's two other federal court districts that diminish the public's ready access to justice....the Philadelphia-based Eastern District has seven judicial vacancies. Mr. Casey and Mr. Toomey agreed in August on two nominees - attorney Gerald McHugh and Judge Edward Smith - but the confirmation process has stalled and there has been no movement toward nominations for the other five seats. The Western District, Pittsburgh, has three vacancies, for which 40 lawyers and judges had applied before the deadline nearly a year ago, but no names have been forwarded to the White House. The change in the filibuster rule should produce more confirmations to help get the courts up to speed. Nationwide there are 88 vacancies and 20 announced retirements. It's more important that Mr. Casey and Mr. Toomey continue their good work, in public, to get qualified candidates into the process."
Editorial : Keep up the good work (Daily Review [Towanda, PA], 12/19/13)
"According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Philadelphia-based Eastern District has seven judicial vacancies. Mr. Casey and Mr. Toomey agreed in August on two nominees - attorney Gerald McHugh and Judge Edward Smith - but the confirmation process has stalled and there has been no movement toward nominations for the other five seats.
The Western District, Pittsburgh, has three vacancies, for which 40 lawyers and judges had applied before the deadline nearly a year ago, but no names have been forwarded to the White House."
A New GOP Stall Tactic in the War Over Judicial Nominees: With the filibuster removed from their toolkit, Republican lawmakers forced the cancellation of confirmation hearings, even for candidates with home-state GOP support. (Atlantic, 12/18/13)
Andrew Cohen: "filibustering confirmation hearings themselves—has no virtue other than political nihilism. It does not help fill the nation's empty benches. It does not help educate the American people about the backgrounds or qualifications of President Obama's judicial nominees. It does not even allow Republican senators to plausibly portray those candidates as "non-mainstream"—either because they demonstrably aren't (see below) or because no one has yet even alleged that they are.... Republican senators delayed the scheduled confirmation hearings for five strong judicial nominees, including two from the red states of Maine and Kansas whose experience and qualifications had earned them bipartisan support.... If the point is just to temporarily delay the hearing of these nominees it makes even less sense than if it it's part of a broader new tactic to stop nominees.... t is terribly rude to the men and women who were invited by their government to participate in a vital function—the confirmation hearing—only to discover instead that they were props in a partisan game. It will be a long, sad, surreal trip back home to Kansas and Maine and California for them."
More Senate drama (Washington Post, 12/18/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Republicans continue to obstruct; Democrats continue to threaten to eliminate obstruction. ... What’s different is that in November the Republicans either miscalculated or chose to deliberately provoke majority-imposed reform.
Once majority-imposed reforms begin, however, it gets easier and easier to continue. So we’ll see, but it’s hard to imagine that the “blue slip” procedure will last long if Republicans continue to use it as a tool for partisan obstruction, not as a way for individual minority-party senators to have influence."
Letter to the editor: Millett's confirmation was an important event (Des Moines Register [IA] , 12/15/13)
Donna Red Wing: "The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals 56-38. This vote should be celebrated as a defining moment that will help put the Senate back to the important work of vetting and voting for qualified judicial candidates to fill vacancies. It took rules reform to stop the gridlock that has been perpetrated by those who chose to block President Obama’s nominees. It’s imperative that we have a diverse, fair and functioning judiciary."
Editorial: Burden of the filibuster (Akron Beacon Journal [OH], 12/15/13)
Judicial "nominations also deserve to move forward at a reasonable pace, again the will of voters in play, the courts reflecting the presidency changing between the parties.... federal courts have a job to perform, and that becomes more difficult when vacancies run at higher levels and the workload increases on judges.... the Brennan Center points tellingly at “the vacancy gap.” Obama began his presidency with fewer vacancies than George W. Bush faced at the same point. Soon the district court vacancies climbed higher, and there they have remained, while Bush settled into a vacancy rate about half the size. The vacancy rate has translated into higher caseloads for current judges. ... the Judicial Conference, the policymaking body for the federal courts, has recommended the addition of 85 judgeships, the first large-scale increase in two decades. It further explains that if all the vacancies were filled, and the new judgeships added, the pending cases per district judge would be similar to the rate in the late 1990s....Thus, from the perspective of the federal district courts, and those they serve, it is good to see the confirmation process beginning to pick up pace, the consequences of an abused filibuster having rippled far beyond the Senate chamber."
GOP Blocks Judiciary Committee From Even Meeting (People For blog, 12/12/13)
"Senate Republicans have escalated their sabotage of the judicial nominations process this week, most recently by forcing the Senate to wait until 1:00 am this morning to hold a confirmation vote on Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit. ... The obstruction isn't just on the Senate floor: This morning, Republicans prevented the Senate Judiciary Committee from even meeting.... The committee has a busy schedule, with votes scheduled for 15 judicial nominees who have testified before the members and answered follow-up written questions. Among those are nominees for vacancies designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Each one of the nominees has been fully vetted and has the support of their home state senators, including Republicans Mark Kirk (IL), Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran (KS), Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (TN), Roy Blunt (MO), and Pat Toomey (PA)."