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Another aspect of a presidential legacy: the courts (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 09/16/14)
Steve Benen: "the direction of the federal judiciary can and does have a considerable impact on the direction of the nation. ... ince Republicans effectively forced Senate Democrats to go “nuclear,” the irony is GOP senators have helped ensure an important aspect of Obama’s presidential legacy.... At least for now, this means Obama and Senate Democrats have created a more progressive and more diverse judiciary. Sahil Kapur added there are currently 50 vacancies on the district courts and 7 vacancies in the appeals courts, probably with more on the way. There may even be a Supreme Court vacancy in the near future."

Confirm Leeson, other U.S. judicial nominees (Morning Call [PA], 09/16/14)
Christine Stone, co-chair of Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "With just a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, Sen. Toomey must play a leadership role in discouraging his party from delaying and obstructing federal court judicial nominees just because they can. Sen. Toomey understands the importance of addressing the nation's judicial vacancy crisis. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon their obstruction and delay of judiciary committee votes and instead send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald Pappert, Joseph Leeson, Jr. and Mark Kearney to the full Senate for a vote. When these jurists were nominated, both Sens. Casey and Toomey publicly voiced their strong support. Sen. Toomey also noted that a vote on Mr. Leeson's nomination would mean that for the first time the Allentown courthouse would have two sitting federal district court judges."

ISSUE | JUDICIAL VACANCIES: Sen. Toomey can help fit these robes (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 09/15/14)
Christine M. Stone and Jodi Hirsh, cochairs, PA Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "Pennsylvanians can't afford to let the U.S. Senate play politics with eight federal judicial vacancies. Unnecessary delays on judicial nominations cause real, lasting consequences for Americans seeking justice. With a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, partisan politics need to be put aside. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) must play a leadership role, having publicly committed to working with Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) to fill the vacancies. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon its obstruction and delay of Judiciary Committee votes and send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald J. Pappert, Joseph F. Leeson Jr., and Mark A. Kearney to the full Senate for a vote."

Editorial: Restoration pays off in record salmon returns (Daily Astorian [OR] , 09/15/14)
"[I]t must be noted that little of this would have been achieved without the strong pressure provided by the Endangered Species Act and the determined legal wits of federal Judge James Redden. And though the term “environmental group” is seldom one that engenders warm feelings in the rural Pacific Northwest, the advocacy and legal muscle provided by groups such as Earthjustice have been key in maintaining agency focus on salmon survival."

It's taken 2 decades for Congress to do right (Des Moines Register [IA] , 09/13/14)
Rox Laird, Opinion column: "On July 16, Ronnie White was confirmed as a federal trial judge in Missouri by the U.S. Senate 17 years after he was first appointed by President Bill Clinton. The appointment of White — an African-American lawyer and former Missouri Supreme Court justice — to the federal court is an important symbol of the progress blacks have made in a city where the slave trade once flourished. Yet, White's backers saw racism in the campaign by Senate Republicans to reject his nomination nearly two decades earlier. ...Iowa's Sen. Chuck Grassley voted against White both times and delivered a lengthy statement giving his reasons. ... the progress from slave trade to a black man sitting on the federal bench is a long distance. Sadly, whether because of race or the Senate's broken confirmation system, Ronnie White almost did not make the trip."

EDITORIAL: The making of a federal judge; OUR OPINION: Fifteen candidates were grilled Thursday to take seat on the bench (Miami Herald, 09/04/14)
"Despite accusations that the nominating process is highly political depending on whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House and that the confirmation process can also lead to rejection or drag on for months, Mr. Fitzgibbons said that’s not the case at this selection level."

‘Obamacare’ Challengers Lose Again (New Bedford Standard Times [MA] , 09/04/14)
JESSE WEGMAN, Editorial Page Editor's Blog: "On Thursday morning, as almost everyone predicted it would, the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., voted to toss out a three-judge panel’s ruling upholding the latest attempt to kill “Obamacare.” ...a key reason for the current makeup of the D.C. appeals court is the Senate’s reform of the filibuster process last fall, which was triggered by Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on any of President Obama’s three nominees to that court. After the reform, all three nominees were confirmed. If anyone was wondering what the hue and cry over filibuster reform was really about in practice, the Halbig case is Exhibit A."

Editorial: Don't weaken laws to protect Florida waters (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 09/03/14)
"The proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would establish more clearly which waters deserve protection under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Two U.S. Supreme Court opinions have for the past decade clouded the issue of whether the federal law applies only to navigable waters. ... The federal rule merely clarifies what streams and wetlands would be protected.... Florida Republicans used the same tactic of misinformation several years ago on behalf of the state's biggest polluters to fight the federal government over clean water standards. They had the wrong allegiance then and they have the wrong allegiance now. Florida's congressional delegation should be the last ones urging Congress to weaken a law that protects some of this state's most precious resources."

Catch of the Day: Redefining Obstruction (Bloomberg News, 08/25/14)
Jonathan Bernstein column: "even after the "nuclear option" reform in the Senate last fall, President Barack Obama's federal court nominees still wait longer for confirmation than their predecessors under previous presidents....I should stress that these are in many cases delays of non-controversial nominees.... Unfortunately, Republicans simply haven’t abided by longstanding Senate norms. After Obama's election, they suddenly insisted that every nomination required 60 votes -- an unprecedented hurdle. They blockaded multiple nominations to the DC Circuit Court. They have, before and after filibuster reform, used Senate rules to delay even nominations that they have intended ultimately to support. Since reform, they have imposed the maximum delay on every single judicial nominee.... if Republicans win a Senate majority in November, they may simply shut down all nominations for two full years. That would be absolutely outrageous."

Yes, Republicans Really Are Unprecedented in Their Obstructionism (Mother Jones, 08/25/14)
Kevin Drum: "for Obama. His numbers for his first five years are far, far higher than Bush's even though Bush's are inflated by delays during his final year in office. It's just another example of the fact that, no, both parties aren't equally at fault for the current level of government dysfunction. Republicans greeted Obama's inauguration with an active plan of maximal obstruction of everything he did, regardless of what it was or how necessary it might be in the face of an epic economic collapse. No other party in recent history has done that."

EDITORIAL: Clean water not something to be taken for granted (Observer-Reporter [PA], 08/09/14)
"Responding to court decisions that weakened the Clean Water Act during the last decade, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now attempting to close loopholes in the law that prevents it from protecting 2 million miles of streams and at least 20 million acres of wetlands around the country. Of course, these wetlands and streams feed into rivers that are our primary sources for drinking water, so conservation efforts aimed at these tributaries would be good for us all and a boon to fishermen, since many fish spawn in small streams."

EDITORIAL: Congress and its unearned vacation (Kansas City Star, 08/08/14)
"Then there are all of the long-term challenges that Congress won’t confront in any serious way:... Many of the president’s nominees to be judges and ambassadors remain in limbo."

EDITORIAL: As Arcara prepares to scale back, Washington needs to do its job (Buffalo News [NY], 07/30/14)
"[L]et us urge the U.S. Senate to move swiftly in confirmation of two new judges desperately needed, one of whom has already been recommended.... And to make matters worse, if the Senate drags its collective feet too long, say until 2015, there is a chance that the entire landscape could have changed if Republicans regain control of the Senate in the November election. There’s a good chance Republicans will reject all of Obama’s judicial nominees. Time is of the essence. But the dockets are choked with cases....There is an opportunity here, as Arcara has noted. With two new judges, along with his and Skretny’s willingness to continue hearing cases, it is possible to significantly reduce the backlog of cases."

Opinion: The absurdity of [appeals] court’s health care ruling (Record [NJ] , 07/28/14)
Prof. Frank Askin: "the two Republican judges sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia blindly adopted the bizarre argument of the law’s challengers that under a literal reading of the statute only state enrollees were entitled to the subsidies. On the same day, another federal appeals court sitting in Virginia unanimously ruled the other way. In that decision, Judge Andre Davis ridiculed the argument adopted by the two majority judges in D.C."

Sentinel Editorial: Two federal appeals panels diverge on health care reform (Keene Sentinel [NH], 07/28/14)
"Judge Thomas B. Griffith, in the D.C. ruling, guessed that Congress failed to include the federal exchange in the wording of that key clause intentionally, as an incentive to states to form their own exchanges. That seems quite a leap in logic. What the Democratic-controlled Congress unquestionably intended in 2010 — what was the very reason for constructing the law in the first place — was to provide affordable health care access to all Americans in every state. Any other interpretation of its intent is ludicrous."

EDITORIAL: WE SAY AFFORDABLE CARE ACT Subsidies clear intent of Obamacare (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 07/27/14)
"The 4th Circuit's reasoned view is that no one seriously can doubt the law intends for subsidies to be available for individuals whether they buy insurance on an exchange created by a state or by the federal government....If the D.C. court's view prevails, then Congress would have to rewrite the law to save the subsidies available on the federal exchange. That would appear to be an impossible order, given that Republicans want to see the law repealed and would resist squaring the law's language with its obvious intent."

EDITORIAL: Unhealthy sign: Federal courts differ on ACA insurance premiums (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA] , 07/27/14)
"On Tuesday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 2-1 that the IRS could not authorize payments of premium subsidies in states that use the federal exchange.... The wording is something of a drafting error, but the intention of the law is clear and supports a broader reading. If the D.C. court reconvenes at full strength it may reverse itself, but the U.S. Supreme Court may decide to intervene. That is cause for concern, given its reputation for judicial activism of a conservative stripe."

EDITORIAL: Court ruling threatens viability of Obamacare (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 07/25/14)
"If that ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals holds up through an appeals process that could end in the Supreme Court, millions of people with subsidized insurance could suddenly find their policies well beyond their means. ...Another circuit-court panel in Virginia on Tuesday on a similar challenge to Obamacare unanimously arrived at the opposite — and correct — conclusion that the law was not designed to limit subsidies to the state exchanges. ... The D.C. Court’s ruling is galling enough in that it likely was influenced by partisanship — the majority judges in the 2-1 vote were both Republican-appointed. ... It doesn’t deserve to die on a partisan judicial sword over an unintended language technicality."

EDITORIAL: Save the subsidies (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 07/25/14)
"The D.C. Circuit Court panel split hairs in its 2-1 ruling. ... Yet, Congress really did intend to offer subsidies to all Americans, not just to those in some states, according to a contrary ruling the same day by a unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond.... Politics seems to influence the courts as well. The three judges on the Richmond panel were appointed by Democratic presidents. The two who produced the majority opinion in Washington were nominated by Republican presidents. If the full D.C. court hears the case on appeal, a reversal is expected because most of the court’s judges are Democratic appointees....Whether the enrollment mechanism is a federal or state exchange shouldn’t matter, and judges should apply common sense to their final decision."

EDITORIAL Our View | Affordable Care Act Obamacare ruling is nonsensical, and so is Sen. Ron Johnson's quixotic lawsuit (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI], 07/24/14)
"The assault on Obamacare and common sense continues even as evidence piles up that the law is working for millions of Americans. But tell that to two Republican-appointed judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., who ruled this week that the Affordable Care Act only authorizes subsidies for customers of marketplaces actually run by the states. In other words, Judges Thomas B. Griffith and A. Raymond Randolph ignored the clear intent of Congress and of the law. ...The administration plans to appeal the decision of the three-judge panel to the full 11-member appeals court. A decision by another federal appeals court sitting just down the road in Richmond, Va., meantime, found that the subsidies can be applied in all states."

EDITORIAL: Fix, don’t gut, health-care law; Congress and the courts can’t allow a bad ruling to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans  (Toledo Blade [OH] , 07/24/14)
"A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that consumers who buy insurance from federal exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act are not eligible for income-based tax credits ... ruled the two GOP-appointed judges who formed the panel’s majority.... If the D.C. circuit’s ruling stands, millions of Americans would face a hopeless choice between paying premiums they can’t afford or remaining uninsured. ... The full D.C. appellate court — and if necessary, the Supreme Court — should reverse the panel’s excessively narrow opinion.... The D.C. circuit’s ruling is wrong and worrisome, but need not and should not be the last word. Avoiding that outcome will require higher courts and Congress to do their jobs, rather than kill successful health-care reform by default."

EDITORIAL: Obamacare ruling: 2 judges, 6 words and millions at risk (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN] , 07/24/14)
"[A] three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit struck down the federal exchange subsidies in a 2-1 ruling ... This conclusion flouts a respected legal precedent that gives federal agencies wide latitude in interpreting ambiguous legislative language. It also flies in the face of common sense."

Do Republicans Warrant Being the Majority Party in Both Houses? (Huffington Post, 07/24/14)
Byron Williams: "Utilizing the rules of the Senate, Republicans have succeeded in blocking more of President Obama's judicial nominations than the combined total of his predecessors. Elections have consequences; at least they should, but not in the current GOP world."

Editorial: Administration can't afford to lose on Obamacare subsidies (Los Angeles Times, 07/23/14)
"The full D.C. Circuit should follow the 4th Circuit's lead and reject the first panel's ruling, which wildly misconstrues Congress' intent."

A conservative judiciary run amok (Washington Post, 07/23/14)
E.J. Dionne Jr.: "By effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, two members of a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals showed how far right-leaning jurists have strayed from such impartiality. We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government. Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is unlikely to stand. On the same day the D.C. panel issued its opinion, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously the other way, upholding the law. There is a good chance that the 11-judge D.C. Circuit will take the decision away from its panel — something it is usually reluctant to do — and rule as a full court to affirm the ACA as commonly understood."

EDITORIAL: Obamacare takes a hit; Conflicting rulings could end up in Supreme Court (Register Guard [OR] , 07/23/14)
"In the first ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the tax credits provided under ACA can be offered only to states that set up their own marketplaces ... A split between the two appeals courts over the question of Obama­care subsidies would lead to nearly certain Supreme Court intervention. It’s possible the full D.C. appeals court, dominated by Democratic appointees, will overturn its panel’s ruling. Even if both full appeals courts uphold the subsidies, the Supreme Court could still intervene, with the outcome anyone’s guess. ... If the ACA’s promising reforms fall prey to a legal challenge and millions of Americans lose their insurance, the blame will lie with Republicans in Congress who have blocked efforts to fix the glitches and the unexpected consequences that are inevitable in any legislation as large and sweeping as the ACA."

Obamacare subsidy rulings highlight GOP intransigence [Editorial]; Our view: Congress could clean up ACA ambiguity if Republicans put their constituents' interest ahead of politics (Baltimore Sun, 07/23/14)
"On Tuesday, one federal appellate court read the Affordable Care Act to, rather nonsensically, prohibit the federal government from providing subsidies to consumers in states that chose not to set up their own health insurance exchanges and to use the federal one instead.... In the end, we expect the reasoning of the Richmond court to prevail if and when the issue is decided by a full panel of the D.C. [Circuit] Court of Appeals and/or the Supreme Court."

They're Not Harry Reid's Judges (Bloomberg News, 07/23/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "the Senate minority blockaded three seats on the DC Circuit Court, and pledged to continue defeating any nominees for those positions for the duration of Obama's second term. Not only was this unprecedented, as far as I know the notion of reflexively blocking all presidential appointments had never occurred to a Senate majority before, let alone a minority. ...Given the election of a Democrat to the White House and a 55-to-45 Democratic majority in the Senate, Reid absolutely had to react. ...rom 2009 to 2013, Republicans began treating the routine nomination and confirmation of judges as some sort of extraordinary power grab. They accused Obama of “packing” the courts merely by exercising his constitutional obligation to appoint judges to vacancies. That intransigence made the filibuster untenable. When Republicans refused to abide by longstanding institutional norms, majority-imposed reform became necessary for the Senate to function at all."

EDITORIAL: Judges show partisanship in striking ACA subsidies (News & Observer [NC], 07/22/14)
"When the history of the Affordable Care Act is written, the figures who will look the most obstructive and shortsighted are not the tireless House Republicans who voted time and again to repeal the law or the state attorneys general who sued to block the law. The worst light will fall on those judges who failed in their duty to provide a fair reading of Congress’ intent and instead substituted their own personal and partisan views. First among this group will be the conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court who voted in favor of declaring the law unconstitutional. Now two Republican judges on the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court have added their names to the roster of future ignominy. Judge Raymond Randolph, and Judge Thomas Griffith formed the majority in a 2-1 ruling ... the judges in the majority in the D.C. Circuit decision contorted their judgment to fit that political aim. Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is likely to be reversed on appeal to the entire D.C. Circuit Court where Democrats hold a majority."