Editorials and Opinion
LETTER: Senate should act on judicial vacancies now, not later (Erie Times-News [PA], 11/25/14)
Brenda Barron: "Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, along with their colleagues in the Senate, must make confirmation of judicial nominees a priority in the upcoming "lame duck" session....Republican obstructionism has delayed or derailed many of President Obama's judicial nominations. The resulting shortage of judges means our court system is now struggling to keep up with the growing backlog of cases."
Editorial: Fix the Senate (Boston Globe, 11/24/14)
"Increasingly, senators have been using their role of “advice and consent” to delay and refuse, not just controversial nominees, but everyone. Republicans are trying to run out the clock on Obama’s term.
This is abuse of power. Nominees, the vast majority of whom have put other professional responsibilities on hold to serve their country, deserve consideration. Now that the Senate is set to change hands, leaders should agree to hold up-or-down votes as soon as possible on these nominees.... Another change that should be made is the removal of anonymous holds....When Democrats were faced with near-universal obstructionism on their nominees, they changed the Senate rules to avoid filibusters and get more quickly to an up-or-down vote. Thanks to the so-called “nuclear option,” it only takes 51 senators to confirm a presidential nominee... Presidential nominees deserve consideration, and the public deserves a government that is able to break through gridlock."
Make sure federal courts fully staffed (Editor's Inbox) ( Mason City Globe Gazette [IA], 11/23/14)
Dean Genth: "I urge Sen. Chuck Grassley to use his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to make sure our federal courts are fully staffed.
Federal judges hear cases that directly affect the lives of everyday Americans, including cases addressing clean air and water,... Many of the pending nominees are the result of bipartisan agreement."
Letter: Terms up for Begich but work left to be done (Juneau Empire [AK] , 11/20/14)
John Dunker: "there is just enough time for the Senate to confirm the outstanding judicial nominations to our federal courts, so essential to our system of checks and balances (if the Dems have the will). Sadly, this is not likely to be bipartisan so expect loud howling, but the result of the Democratic majority’s inaction now would likely be two more years of partisan Republican blocking of judicial nominee confirmations, a growing number of vacant seats on the court bench, currently 64, and lengthening docket backlogs. Inaction would then be the Senate Democrats’ legacy as well as the Republicans,’ a legacy that could extend far beyond the next two years in its effect on how the courts help shape our society."
Senate Republicans Use Lame Duck To Block Their Own Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 11/18/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed Senate Judiciary Committee action by a week on nine judicial nominees for no evident reason. That group includes three Texas nominees with strong support from Texas Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R). Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is refusing to submit his so-called "blue slip" to advance a Utah judicial nominee he's previously praised as "well known and highly regarded." And Republicans are forcing four Georgia judicial nominees with strong support from Georgia's GOP senators to each wait an extra day before they can get confirmed."
Congress should fill judicial vacancies (Miami Herald, 11/18/14)
Letter to the Editor by Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida: "Currently, there are more than 60 judicial openings across the federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months, or even years, because of partisan gridlock and obstruction. All across the country, these vacancies are seriously hurting citizens’ ability to have their day in court. The lame-duck session in Washington provides senators, including Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, a chance to address this growing crisis. At least two dozen nominees are or will soon be awaiting confirmation votes. Senators need to act quickly and in a bipartisan spirit to make the most of the session by filling the judicial vacancies with qualified nominees."
EDITORIAL: President, Senate must begin filling federal court vacancies, including 2 in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 11/17/14)
"[T]here is a very real problem in filling vacancies to the lower federal courts. The issue is most pressing here in Western New York....Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has recommended that the president nominate Denise O’Donnell, a former U.S. attorney, to replace Skretny and Lawrence J. Vilardo, one of Western New York’s top litigators, to replace Arcara. The president has yet to nominate either one. Both are respected by Democrats and Republicans and, as such, deserve to be nominated and then confirmed. There are 62 vacancies on the federal courts, with 36 nominees pending, and 28 future vacancies, with two nominees pending. The vacancies only worsen delays in the federal court system. The president has a duty to nominate qualified people for the vacancies, and the Senate has a duty to investigate and vote on the nominees. Talk of Supreme Court vacancies is an argument for another day. The president and the Senate need to deal with the immediate problem in the lower courts."
The Register's Editorial: Nation needs Grassley's leadership (Des Moines Register [IA] , 11/15/14)
"One of the Judiciary Committee's most important duties is to recommend whether the Senate should give its blessing to the president's nominees to the federal judiciary. The confirmation process has become mired in partisan rancor ....
As a member of the committee and as a rank-and-file senator, Grassley has done his part to perpetuate if not exaggerate those confirmation wars. In his new role as chairman, Grassley should work to end them. That would be a major accomplishment in the interest of improving the reputation of the Senate and the functioning of the federal courts. ... Every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote from the Senate with a simple majority prevailing. ... Senators should respect the president's constitutional appointment power by confirming even nominees they may disagree with. Grassley has a mixed record on that point. In the past he voted for nominees whose politics he opposed because he agreed with the principle of presidential prerogative. But in recent years he has become increasingly partisan, casting votes against otherwise highly qualified nominees he considers too liberal.... It is time for these destructive confirmation wars to end.
Now that he is to become chairman of the committee that acts as a gatekeeper for judicial nominees, Grassley has the opportunity to make that happen, and he should."
EDITORIAL: Grassley is a good fit for Judiciary (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 11/14/14)
"We’re confident that Grassley will treat judicial appointments and other nominees fairly, and resist pressure to delay and obstruct purely for political ends. We don’t want a “rubber stamp,” but we also don’t want competent, qualified nominees to be sacrificed to political brinkmanship."
Filling the federal court vacancies (The Hill, 11/14/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Obama has actually enjoyed remarkable success in nominating and confirming very qualified mainstream candidates while shattering all records for diversity vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and sexual preference. Because Republicans and Democrats agree that filling the 60 federal court vacancies with qualified consensus jurists is essential to delivering justice, they should promptly cooperate to propose and appoint excellent judges."
Saturday's Letters: ELECTION MANDATE (Florida Times-Union, 11/14/14)
Damien Filer: "Until the remaining vacancies are filled — and there are more than 60 of them — the shortage of judges will mean a backlog of cases that makes access to justice difficult for many Americans. If our Florida senators want to show they are in Washington to get the job done, then moving quickly to fill the remaining court vacancies is a good start. The Senate should remain in session until it has cleared its calendar of pending judicial nominees."
Letter of the Day: A chance to address judicial backlog (Tampa Tribune [FL] , 11/13/14)
Mark Ferrulo: "there is a critical opportunity for senators to demonstrate that they can set aside differences and get the people’s work done. How? By moving quickly to fill the remaining judicial vacancies that have hamstrung our court system. Federal courts rule on cases that directly impact our lives, including cases addressing pollution, immigration, bankruptcy, equal rights, access to health care and more. But without adequate staffing, cases get backlogged, and justice cannot be served. There are more than 60 judicial openings across our federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months or even years due to partisan gridlock and obstruction. Across the country, these vacancies are seriously impacting citizens’ ability to have their day in court."
Commentary: Addressing backlog of judicial nominees: A “must” for the upcoming lame duck session (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Rob Schofield: "Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. As we’ve detailed at length in this space previously, two of these vacancies are here in North Carolina and one has sat empty for eight years. In such an environment, it is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote....In the 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed."
Judiciary Committee hearing today for Middle District nominee Loretta Copeland Biggs (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Sharon McCloskey: "if confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.
Her addition to the court would be welcome news and would begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench.
But another nominee, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — chosen by the President to fill the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina — continues to languish. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold the “blue slip” indicating his support for her for, despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations."
Voters tired of inaction by officials, judicial vacancies (Tallahassee Democrat [FL] , 11/12/14)
Letter to the Editor by Damien Filer: "there is no reason for Congress not to get to work doing the people’s business. One area where critical work needs to be done is to fill court vacancies. All Americans deserve timely access to courts staffed with qualified judges to ensure justice is served on a range of important issues. The Senate’s failure to confirm nominees in a prompt manner has led to a crisis in our courts."
EDITORIAL: New GOP Congress and President Obama have a chance to break Washington’s gridlock (Kansas City Star, 11/09/14)
"On many issues, there is room for modest accomplishments, if not much more. Consider judicial appointments. For the last few years, Republican senators have delayed or blocked many of Obama’s nominees. They now have the power to do so more effectively, but they also have the obligation to ensure a functional judiciary. The same goes for other executive appointments, including the just-announced nominee for attorney general. Obama, for his part, must choose moderates whom Republicans can confirm. And cross your fingers that a Supreme Court vacancy doesn’t come up. That would almost certainly become a bitter partisan fight that could derail everything else."
The Parties Can and Should Come Together on Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: "vacancies can and should be filled during the lame-duck session. ...Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who faced opposition Senates, saw the confirmation of twenty percent of their total judicial appointments during the last two years of their second terms. There's no reason this can't hold true for President Obama."
Republican Claims About Judicial Nominations Combine Gross Inaccuracies With Banal Observations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "Hatch and Gray persist in their bizarre view that it was improper for President Obama to fill longstanding vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, and they complain that rules reform has led to "controversial judges." These claims ignore the fact that President George W. Bush filled exactly the same seats on the D.C. Circuit when they became vacant during his administration, and his appointees included controversial judges Janice Rogers Brown (confirmed by a vote of 56 to 43) and Brett Kavanaugh (confirmed by a 57 to 36 vote)....Of the 62 federal judges confirmed in 2014 so far, 45 -- or 73 percent -- were confirmed with 90 or more votes in favor; 56 nominees -- or 90 percent -- were confirmed with bipartisan support....Senate Republicans have relentlessly obstructed President Obama's judicial nominees"
Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges (Huffington Post, 11/05/14)
Paul Gordon: "During the upcoming lame duck session, the Senate has an opportunity to finish up a critically important task where they can act quickly by unanimous consent or voice votes: confirming two dozen judicial nominees....Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader.... Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader."
Judicial Confirmations (New York Times, 11/04/14)
Letter from Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "The last three presidents to serve two terms were confronted by a Senate controlled by the opposition party during their last two years in office. But in every case, of all the judges the three presidents saw confirmed, about 20 percent were confirmed during those two years. In other words, 20 percent of their total confirmations came during the last 25 percent of their time in office. Although it is safe to presume that confirmations would slow down in a Republican Senate, neither the White House nor Senate Democrats should yield to the narrative of an inevitable confirmation shutdown."
EDITORIAL: The dirty effects of mountaintop removal mining (Washington Post, 10/22/14)
"Burning coal has a host of drawbacks: It produces both planet-warming carbon dioxide and deadly conventional air pollutants. Removing layers of mountaintop in the extraction process aggravates the damage. The displaced earth must go somewhere, typically into adjoining valleys, affecting the streams that run through them. The dust that’s blown into the air on mountaintop removal sites, meanwhile, is suspected to be unhealthy for mine workers and nearby communities.... The Clean Water Act gives the government wide authority over industrial operations that change rivers and streams.... the Obama administration once again prevailed in court, beating back another industry challenge. ... The EPA is right to move more firmly to protect health and environment."
EDITORIAL: The Senate is unjustly delaying D.C. Superior Court nominations (Washington Post, 10/10/14)
"THERE IS no controversy over the nomination of William Nooter to be a judge on the D.C. Superior Court. His presentation before a Senate committee was so well-received that it took only 18 minutes for him to be unanimously approved. ... But almost a year after Mr. Nooter handily won committee approval, his nomination has yet to make it to the Senate floor."
EDITORIAL Endorsements: Three California Supreme Court justices deserve a thumbs up from voters (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 10/08/14)
"Also up for an initial retention vote is Justice Goodwin Liu, 43, who was appointed by Brown and confirmed in 2011. Liu, who is serving on the court, also comes out of academia, in this case U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school. Before Liu joined the court, voters might have known him as the liberal who was nominated to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Barack Obama and filibustered by Republicans in the U.S. Senate until he withdrew his name from consideration. Liu may be left-leaning on social issues, but calls them as he sees them. Most recently, he incurred liberal wrath with an opinion that blocked an advisory ballot measure aimed at the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling on campaign finance. He had no judicial experience before being appointed, but has shown himself to be more than able."
Editorial Word to the wise (voter): Register by Friday (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 10/07/14)
"The Fourth Circuit recognized, correctly, that the implications of some of the law’s provisions were so severe, especially for members of minority groups, that they could not allowed to remain in effect for the 2014 voting. “Once the election occurs, there can be no do-over and no redress,” wrote Judge James Wynn, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice and an African-American. “The injury to these voters is real and completely irreparable if nothing is done to enjoin this law.”"
Letter: Blaming Reid for congressional inertia is absurd (Salt Lake Tribune [UT] , 10/07/14)
Ray Worthen: "President Obama’s nominees were filibustered a total of 82 times, just 4 less than the total number of times that procedure has ever been used against appointments. ...Orrin Hatch, for his part, later contributed to this climate himself, blocking 45 of President Clinton’s appointments to 42 empty federal judgeships. Then, in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in 2002 , he shamelessly complained about a "vacancy crisis in the judiciary," a condition he himself created. Blaming Harry Reid for the state of Congress is absurd,"
Radical judge kneecaps clean electricity under cover of boringness (Grist, 10/07/14)
David Roberts: D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers "Brown is a far-right ideologue.... her ruling in the FERC case is just what you’d expect. She is implacably hostile to federal authority, eager to defend federalism and states’ rights, and has clumsily imposed that ideology on an ambiguous regulatory issue. It’s called “judicial activism” and it’s something conservatives claim to oppose, at least when liberal judges do it. Remarkably, none of the stories and blog posts I read about this case — not one — mentioned Brown’s record of reactionary radicalism. ... Meanwhile, it would be great if Obama, liberals, and everyone else concerned with the integrity of social democracy got a little more alarmed about the rightward trajectory of the U.S. judiciary. This is something the conservative movement has been focusing on for decades, and it’s paying grim dividends. Climate hawks should be alarmed too: “This month a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new climate rules under the Clean Air Act.”