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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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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: 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 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."

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."

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: 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."

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."

Editorial: Subsidies essential to health care reform (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 07/22/14)
"It defies logic that Congress intended only to provide the premium subsidies in states that created their own marketplaces, and the courts should keep them in place.... Yet two conservative judges on a three-judge federal appeals court panel in Washington concluded Tuesday that the federal law only allows the subsidies to be offered in states with their own exchanges. They focus on one poorly worded provision in the complicated law and ignore its overall intent, rejecting the government's argument that their narrow reading would produce absurd results.... If the full appeals court panels examine fairly the intent of the Affordable Care Act, they will conclude the subsidies are legal and this issue will never reach the U.S. Supreme Court."

No Winners, Only Losers, When it Comes to Judicial Vacancies (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 07/21/14)
Andrew Cohen: "What the conversation about judicial nominations sorely lacks is a broader look at the constitutional responsibility of the executive and legislative branches to consistently ensure that the third branch, the judiciary, has enough judges to ensure that the nation’s rule of law is fairly and evenly administered....there is no equal justice under law if people in this jurisdiction are treated differently from people in jurisdictions whose federal courts are fully-staffed. In this respect, the Brennan Center report also is important because of the candor it includes from judges most directly impacted by the nation’s empty benches."

Diversity Milestone for Obama's Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 07/21/14)
"Ronnie White is the 100th person of color that President Obama has made a federal circuit or district court judge. That is more than twice the number at the same point in the George W. Bush Administration, and far exceeds Bush's total for his entire eight years in office. In fact, President Obama has had more minority judges confirmed than any other president."

EDITORIAL: At Long Last, Justice for Ronnie White (New York Times, 07/19/14)
"Mr. White’s well-deserved approval for the federal bench was at least 15 years overdue.... Republicans joined in partisan lockstep to block his confirmation after a smear campaign led by Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri. Mr. Ashcroft depicted Mr. White’s reasoned refusal to rubber-stamp prosecutorial calls for the death penalty in every case as evidence of “a tremendous bent toward criminal activity.” At the time, Mr. Ashcroft was facing a tough re-election fight and seized on the death penalty as a wedge issue. His strategy included trumped-up charges against Mr. White, which culminated in the Senate’s vote to kill the nomination in October 1999."

Print headline: 15 years later, justice is served (Washington Post, 07/16/14)
Paul Kane: "By 2013, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who holds Ashcroft’s old seat, pushed White for another nomination. After his 2001 testimony, some Republicans apologized to him, and Hatch told reporters at the time that Republicans wished they could “revisit” the White vote....On Wednesday, just one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), supported White’s nomination. Hatch, again voting no, saw no sign of easing tensions on nomination fights for the rest of Obama’s term."

145 Nominees Still Can’t Do Their Jobs Because Republicans Won’t Do Theirs (Nation, 07/08/14)
George Zornick: "So why are these nominees waiting so long? Routine obstruction by Republican senators who are deliberately stretching out the confirmation process for virtually every nominee to come through the Senate. ... A report by Common Cause in May found nineteen examples of Republican senators chewing up cloture time on judicial nominees who were later confirmed unanimously by the Senate."

Editorial: No judge, no justice (Dallas Morning News, 07/04/14)
"In the current hyper-partisan gridlock of Washington, however, the nomination and confirmation process has virtually ground to a halt, leaving Texas with more unfilled seats on federal benches than any other state. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz need to pick up the pace in nominating applicants to fill these seats. ... In the current hyper-partisan gridlock of Washington, however, the nomination and confirmation process has virtually ground to a halt, leaving Texas with more unfilled seats on federal benches than any other state. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz need to pick up the pace in nominating applicants to fill these seats....Why aren’t the names of nominees to fill the other vacancies already on the president’s desk, especially since many of those seats came open more than two years ago?"

Texas’ judicial backlog is finally being addressed (Dallas Morning News, 07/02/14)
Ashley Croswell, Letter to the Editor: "It is exciting to see that the judicial vacancy crisis in Texas is beginning to be remedied. Those vacancies have created a 12,000-plus-case backlog, totaling 19 years’ worth of work not done in our federal courts. Our federal courts are often the principal protectors of our natural resources. Defenders of the environment turn to federal courts to hold accountable those that jeopardize our health and the health of our planet. Federal courts can be the last resort for environmental justice. That is why judges who enforce laws that protect the environment are indispensable."

Remarks by the President at Pride Month Celebration (The White House, 06/30/14)
President Obama: "We also have three judges that I was proud to name to the federal bench: Todd Hughes, Judy Levy, and Nitza Quinones Alejandro. Give them a big round of applause. Before I took office, we had only one openly gay federal judge to be confirmed by the Senate. Now, along with Todd, Judy, and Nitza, that number is 11. So we’re making some progress."

Court rulings: It's GOP v. Democrats (CNN, 06/30/14)
Jeffrey Toobin: "Elections have consequences. That's the message of Monday's rulings from the Supreme Court -- and, indeed, all decisions by nine justices whose ideologies reflect, with considerable precision, the views of the presidents who appointed them.... When it comes to the most fundamental issues before the court, the most important factor is not the legal arguments but the identity of the judges -- and the presidents who appointed them."

Did the Supreme Court Just Set Up a Constitutional Crisis? (Newsweek, 06/27/14)
Pema Levy: "Just when you thought Washington couldn’t become more dysfunctional, enter the Supreme Court....If Democrats lose control of the Senate after the November midterm elections, Republicans could now block every one of Barack Obama’s appointments, from Cabinet members to federal judges, in 2015 and 2016....Some of the first women, black and Jewish federal judges were recess appointments, which allowed presidents to sidestep prejudiced lawmakers."

World-Herald editorial: The right call by high court (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 06/27/14)
"Since 2012, Senate Democrats have ended the ability of Senate Republicans to filibuster nominations with fewer than 60 votes. But if Republicans take control of the Senate after this fall’s elections, the administration will likely face renewed GOP obstruction. The proper course for both sides is to move beyond Washington’s counterproductive gridlock and work toward agreement, however grumbling, on appointees and key policy choices."

EDITORIAL: A Unanimous Supreme Court: A Blow to Presidential Appointments (New York Times, 06/27/14)
"The effect of the ruling is reduced somewhat because the Senate, in overhauling its filibuster rules last year, ended the ability of the minority party to block appointments with only two-fifths of the chamber. For the moment, Republicans are no longer able to prevent the functioning of an agency they don’t like, such as the labor board, by refusing to make any appointments. But all that could change if Republicans take over the Senate next year and begin blocking all nominees with a simple majority vote, then refusing to allow recess appointments."

Presidential Appointments Were Already a Total Nightmare. Now They Just Got Worse; The Supreme Court's ruling in Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board hands a victory to government obstructionists. (Mother Jones, 06/26/14)
Patrick Caldwell: the Supreme Court's decision could essentially make it impossible for future presidents to use recess appointments when the minority party controls one section of Congress. While the Senate is technically in charge of appointments, the House still has a say; the Senate can't technically recess unless the House consents. It will always be in the opposition party's interest to prevent the president from filling federal vacancies or putting judges on the bench without their approval. That could spell trouble for President Obama in the final years of his presidency. While he's had an easier time getting his judges and staff confirmed since the Senate went nuclear on the filibuster, Republicans are projected to retake the Senate in the midterm elections. Obama better make sure he gets all of his staff in place before the end of the year if he doesn't want an empty White House as he winds down his final term in office."

I was a recess appointment. The court made the right call. Just because the Senate blocks your nomination doesn't mean you can ignore it (Washington Post, 06/26/14)
John R. Bolton: “The problem is that the Senate’s confirmation process, both for executive branch and judicial nominees, had deviated dramatically from what the framers originally intended. Now the Senate often obstructs confirmation votes for partisan reasons. This is terrible for policymaking and no fun for the nominee watching a president’s term slip away while the Senate dawdles…. The real answer is that the Senate should ultimately have up-or-down votes for nominees, whether from Republican or Democratic presidents.”

EDITORIAL: Our Voice: Thumbs up to the Senate for confirming Sal Mendoza (Tri-City Herald [WA] , 06/22/14)
"Judicious Senate vote: To U.S. Senate confirmed Sal Mendoza Jr. to become the first Latino federal judge in Eastern Washington. ... The breadth and depth of his judicial experience are good reasons to support Mendoza, but we're just as impressed by his embodiment of the American dream. "(It is) not every day that a man who is the son of migrant farm workers, and himself worked on farms in the Yakima Valley, is called on by the president of the United States to become the very first Latino federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Through his work ethic, commitment to his community and his belief in equal opportunity, he has been a leader and role model for families, particularly for young men and women born into poverty and difficult circumstances, Murray said. Mendoza was confirmed with a lopsided vote of 92-4. We're not surprised by the strong show of support."

Editorial: TURKEYS AND TROPHIES: Leeson a solid choice for federal judgeship (Express-Times [PA], 06/21/14)
"TROPHIES: A worthy candidate: Bethlehem attorney Joseph F. "Jay" Lesson Jr. was nominated this week for a federal judgeship by President Obama. Leeson has served in many roles in local government, including Bethlehem city council and city solicitor, and has a wealth of community experience. If confirmed by the Senate, Leeson would fill the vacant U.S. District Court seat in Allentown. Combined with the recent appointment of former Northampton County Judge Edward Smith to a federal court position in Easton, the elevation of Leeson would go a long way in tackling the federal case backlog in the Lehigh Valley."

It’s a wrap: Editorials, June 15-21 (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 06/21/14)
"Tuesday, June 17: Since late last year, when Democrats exercised some authority over the chamber they control and limited Republicans’ ability to filibuster judicial nominations, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 54 of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees. This accelerated confirmation pace has reduced the number of vacancies in the federal judiciary to their lowest level in more than five years. The reduction in the number of vacancies on federal courts of appeal and district courts is good news. But there still are too many judicial vacancies and the need to fill them remains urgent. The sense of urgency is especially acute in Texas."