Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Judicial Roulette (America, 05/02/16)
"Senate Republicans’ steadfast refusal to hold hearings ... has no constitutional merit—the president has a clear duty to nominate and the Senate to “advise and consent” or refuse a nominee .... President Obama has shown admirable restraint in his nomination. Though he leans left, Judge Garland is much closer to the center of the ideological spectrum than the man he would replace and, at 63, is 13 years older and closer to eventual retirement than Justice Scalia was at his nomination.... Responding to the fight over Robert Bork’s nomination in 1987, the editors of America ... argue[d] that “it would be silly to maintain that politics or ideology should have nothing to do” with such a decision. ... That recognition should also move Senate Republicans to hold hearings on the nomination."
Richard Burr extends judicial blockade to longest-standing vacancy in the courts (Daily Kos, 04/29/16)
Joan McCarter: "The federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina features the longest-standing vacancy in the nation—a decade-long vacancy. Federal District Court Judge Malcolm Jones Howard semi-retired on December 31, 2005, and the seat hasn't been permanently filled since. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, Republican, wants to keep it that way.... the only agreement that was ever made public, one that Hagan agreed to, was to nominate Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District. Hagan submitted a "blue slip" for May-Parker, the courtesy that the Senate Judiciary Committee extends to home-state senators to put forward candidates they support. Burr refused to give her a blue slip and because then-chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) honored those blue slips, the nomination stalled. this is who the current nominee is: Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former state Supreme Court justice and vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. So Burr has decided now, when his state is on the verge of completely blowing up over civil rights issues, to block this nominee."
Commentary: President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/29/16)
Rob Schofield: "Ho hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it. ... Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina. Judge Timmon-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent."
Bill Kirby Jr. column (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 04/29/16)
"U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of our state calls President Obama's nomination of Patricia Timmons-Goodson for a federal judgeship in the Eastern District of North Carolina a political ploy and says he'll not support the Fayetteville native's nomination, which tells some of us Burr has no idea about the integrity and character of Patricia Timmons-Goodson."
North Carolina judicial nomination shot down immediately (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 04/28/16)
Editorial writer Doug Clark's blog: "President Barack Obama today nominated former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a long-vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Eastern North Carolina.
And Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina immediately shot her down. ... This is very disappointing because Timmons-Goodson is a well-qualified judge who has served on many levels in the North Carolina court system. ... I think he is also being very disingenuous. ... Burr himself has blown up credibility he previously earned in these matters by joining other Republican senators in stonewalling the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court. It was absolutely inexcusable for Republicans, including Burr, to declare they would not consider any nominee.
To call it a "stunt" for Obama to nominate a qualified jurist for an open court seat is nonsense. The president has every right to do so."
EDITORIAL: Our view: Senate blows chance to bolster Erie court (Erie Times-News [PA], 04/28/16)
"U.S. District Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter is not an ideological abstraction.
Neither is the criminal and civil caseload in Erie's U.S. District Court. ... None of that apparently matters in the U.S. Senate, where those elected to do the job have delayed a critical constitutional task, seating a candidate to fill the vacancy created nearly three years ago .... President Barack Obama nominated her in July to fill McLaughlin's seat, with support from both Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Baxter breezed through a Dec. 9 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.... On Tuesday, ... Senate Democrats in Washington sought to gain confirmation on 11 noncontroversial judicial nominations, including Baxter's.
Senate Republicans blocked the move. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., invoked math: Obama already had more judicial confirmations than President George W. Bush did at this stage in his presidency.
Granted, both sides have played the obstruction game. But that still seems to us a meaningless number, because the vacancies confronting Obama, including Erie's, have been more numerous.
Justice is supposed to roll like water, not be counted out like beans. The Senate needs to do its job."
Editorial: Democracy was the big winner on Tuesday (Delaware County Daily Times [PA], 04/27/16)
Sen. "Toomey will be dogged by several factors. First there is his alliance with Republican Senate leaders in denying a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Polls have shown Pennsylvanians increasingly are tired of that kind of obstructionist governing."
Judicial architects (Idaho State Journal, 04/27/16)
Randy Stapilus Op-Ed: "Idaho may soon fill a critical job vacancy that opened when Edward Lodge announced in September 2014 his intent to “assume senior status” — more or less, semi-retire — the following July. That would allow a deep breath of relief on the underpopulated Idaho federal bench, which long has sought more judicial help. The Obama White House and Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both lawyers by profession), have agreed on David Nye of Pocatello, a 6th district judge, to fill the job. Kudos all around.... Crapo and Risch are asking the Senate to push his confirmation through.... Would Nye and Merrick [Garland] be fair judges? That would seem to be the relevant question at hand."
EDITORIAL: OUR VIEW: Political courage shouldn't be situational (Times [Ottawa, IL], 04/27/16)
"Well, congressman, the hurry is that the Supreme Court is supposed to have nine members. Antonin Scalia died in February, and whomever is elected president won’t take the oath of office until Friday, Jan. 20. No one can say with a straight face the American public is better served missing 11 percent of the most important court in the land for a year or more.... Garland deserves a hearing and a Senate vote. The timing of the election is irrelevant. Kinzinger and his sort know this, they just won’t admit it to their constituents. That’s neither grown up nor courageous. It’s just plain sad."
Ongoing Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 04/26/16)
"In 2007, the first year as the majority, the Democratic Senate confirmed 40 of President Bush’s circuit and district court nominees (with a total of 68 by the end of 2008). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has confirmed only 17 judges during this congress.... At the beginning of 2007, there were 56 circuit and district court vacancies. Throughout the next two years, the number of vacancies generally remained at 50 or fewer, getting as low as 34 in the early fall of 2008.... Today, in stark contrast, the number of circuit and district court vacancies is climbing, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 74 today, an 85% increase.... Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the new congress"
Salamon | McConnell harms democratic process (Courier-Journal [KY] , 04/25/16)
Beth Salamon: "There are close to 100 current and future vacancies and 28 judicial emergencies, up 43 and 12 respectively since the beginning of this Congress. In Kentucky alone, there are two district court vacancies with no nominees, and one seat has been vacant for more than 1,000 days.... Our judicial vacancy problem extends beyond the Supreme Court and Judge Merrick Garland; it is the result of a systemic, politically motivated effort to deny President Obama his constitutionally mandated power to nominate federal court judges.... The Senate has held a mere 15 confirmation votes since January 2015, compared to the 111, 97 and 44 votes held by the previous three Congresses respectively.
McConnell has the power to fix this problem, but he regularly fails to do so, despite having publicly spoken about the constitutional need to vote on nominees at least two dozen times over the course of his career.
Only five judges have been confirmed in 2016. Fifteen district judicial nominations are currently languishing on the Senate floor for a vote, and 34 others await hearings in the Judiciary Committee. ... The 114th Congress is on pace to have the lowest number of judges confirmed in six decades.... This bottlenecking keeps our American court system from functioning as it was intended. Justice delayed is justice denied for everyone in the United States."
Editorial: Hatch should reciprocate and consider Garland nomination for Supreme Court (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/25/16)
"Now might be the time to ask Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee what they really think of the dysfunctional Congress that they helped create and continue to abet.... Last week, Utah's senators made the case for the confirmation of Ronald G. Russell to the U.S. District Court for Utah. President Barack Obama, after consulting with Hatch and Lee, nominated the former Centerville mayor in December.
Now, Russell is stuck is a queue behind 20 other judicial nominees, not to mention Obama's choice to the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Judge Merrick Garland.
It could be called hypocritical arrogance ... for Hatch and Lee to refuse to consider the president's Supreme Court choice while pressing their own nominee to a federal judgeship.
The double standard is particularly troubling in Hatch's case, as he has been an enthusiastic advocate for Garland .... Utah's elder statesman has two good reasons to break from the pack, stop the partisan melodrama and show leadership, to spend some of the political capital that he has accumulated over four decades. Merrick Garland and Ronald G. Russell are nominees he admires. Instead of contributing to poisonous politics, he could actually do something to fix it, something to loosen the appointment logjam and help courts function the way they are intended.
After all, Sen. Hatch, you have a pair of dogs in this fight.
Obama acted on your choice to fill a federal judgeship in Utah. You should reciprocate. It is what Utahns elected you to do."
Portman, GOP should act on high-court nominee (Vindicator [Youngstown, OH], 04/24/16)
Op-Ed by Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (1979-2002): "To my sadness, Ohio Sen.Rob Portman joined with Majority Leader McConnell when he announced that filling the seat of the late Justice Scalia should await the election of the next president. ... I am compelled to remind Majority Leader McConnell and my good friend Sen. Portman that they are straying, not only from the Constitution but from the “strict construction” pledge of President Reagan as well."
EDITORIAL: Toomey needs to be accountable (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 04/23/16)
"Sen. Pat Toomey doubled down on his obstruction last week after meeting with Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
The Republican seeking his second term declared after the meeting that he continues to support his caucus’s decision not to do its constitutional duty. He opposes conducting the confirmation process .... there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes Toomey and his cohorts to invalidate the last year of a presidential term.... it is crucial that he endorse a fair confirmation process for Garland."
Editorial, 4/23: Rust in the system (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 04/22/16)
"In ways both big and small, the machinery of the federal government is slowly rusting shut.
Take, for starters, the judicial system.
The most glaring example is the refusal of the Republican majority in the Senate, including Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, to have a hearing or vote on President Barrack Obama’s appointment of federal Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the rust goes a lot deeper into the system.
Obama’s appointment of Omaha attorney Robert Rossiter to Nebraska’s federal District Court has been pending since June.... The Nebraska vacancy, created when U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon of Omaha announced his retirement, qualifies as a “judicial emergency.” ... There are almost a hundred judicial vacancies on lower federal courts. The Senate has confirmed only six federal judges this year.
There’s nothing controversial about Rossiter’s appointment. It’s just that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not allow the Senate to act.... 25 members of the Law College at the University of Nebraska urged confirmation hearings and a vote on Judge Garland, noting that Republican senators in past years have cited Judge Garland as an example of a nominee they could support.... The same scenario applies to Rossiter. If the Senate fails to act on his nomination during the current system of Congress, the whole process would restart next year when there is a new president in the White House."
JUDICIAL VACANCIES PRESENT A CRISIS—AND AN OPPORTUNITY (New America Weekly, 04/21/16)
"Unfortunately, if you’re one of the 66 nominees selected by President Obama, currently awaiting confirmation to serve in America’s judicial system, you could be twiddling your thumbs around for an indefinite amount of time.... national judicial emergencies throughout the country due to the slow pace of Senate confirmations to district and appellate courts. ... With an overwhelming number of vacancies within the lower courts, the ability of all Americans to secure justice is jeopardized .... the ability of lower courts to discharge their duties is severely impaired by the staggering number of vacancies that sitting Senators have refused to fill.... Our senators need to fulfill their constitutional obligations to provide their advice and consent, not partisan acrimony and obstructionism on judicial nominees."
EDITORIAL: Grassley keeping Senate from doing its duty (Independent [Grand Island, NE], 04/21/16)
A federal judgeship in Nebraska has been vacant since October 2014. In fact, there are 84 judgeships nationwide that are vacant, with 49 nominated judges awaiting the Senate’s consent function. In Nebraska’s case, with the support of former Sen. Mike Johanns, Sen. Deb Fischer and now Sen. Ben Sasse, President Obama nominated Robert [R]ossiter Jr. to fill the vacancy. A hearing was held in October 2015 by the Senate committee, with both senators from Nebraska giving their unqualified support and nobody on the committee making any objection to approval and consent.
Six months have passed since then. The federal court’s Nebraska caseload backlog grows. ...
When recently asked about it, [Sen. Grassley] stated that President George W. Bush appointed 326 judges and President Obama has already appointed 324 judges.
That is not justification for inaction.
With this magnificent display of a lack of performance of duty and narrow-minded pettiness, it is time for Grassley to be moved down the road."
Editorial: People want Senate to act on Supreme Court vacancy (Savannah Morning News [GA] , 04/21/16)
"It turns out that Americans do care about the U.S. Supreme Court, and that a majority polled wants the Senate to decide this year whether to seat President Obama’s nominee.... Key Senate Republicans, Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, say they are determined not to move on Garland’s nomination. The chief reason given has nothing to do with his qualifications, his views on the law or his 19-year record as a federal judge. Nor does it matter that he drew substantial support from senators of both parties when he came up for appointment in 1997, or that another leading Republican, former Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, said Garland would be a “consensus nominee” who’d definitely be confirmed when his name was floated for a high court seat in 2010.... here’s the biggest reason why people should care about the Senate leader’s refusal to act on the nomination.
Americans are sick of the partisan fighting in Washington .... the Republican Senate has a chance to step above the fray. It could bring Merrick Garland up for confirmation hearings and then an up or down vote.
After all, that is what most Americans want."
On the Clean Air Act and the EPA, Justice Scalia Agreed with Judge Garland (Justice Watch, 04/21/16)
Kyle Barry: "things went from desperate to absurd when the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a front group for the Kochs and other corporate interests, went after Judge Garland over a case in which Judge Garland and Justice Scalia (along with every member of the Supreme Court at the time, including Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas) came out precisely the same way."
We need judges now (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 04/20/16)
Carol Bloch, Letter to the Editor: "The analogy used in the April 14 World-Herald editorial, “Senate ignores an emergency,” is appropriate. Just as we look to our government to provide emergency services, so, too, do we look to the judicial branch of government for justice.
In the case of the current judicial emergency in Nebraska’s federal district court, we have been without a judge for 18 months. Our federal court is overworked, and our citizens and businesses are being denied timely access to the resolution of their legal matters.
The president, as well as our U.S. senators from Nebraska, have done their constitutional duty in regard to identifying a nominee to fill this vacancy, Robert Rossiter Jr. Unfortunately, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has refused to call a vote on Rossiter."
Republican obstruction of courts could be the worst record since the 1800s (Huffington Post, 04/20/16)
Christopher Kang: "Since January 2015, Senate Republicans have confirmed only 17 judicial nominees.
In comparison, from January 2007 to April 2008, Senate Democrats confirmed 45 of President Bush’s judicial nominees.... with respect to circuit court confirmations, Chairman Grassley has work to do if he doesn’t want the worst record in almost 120 years.
So far, Chairman Grassley has held hearings on only two circuit court nominees—the last one was ten months ago—and he has not indicated whether he will allow any of the seven pending circuit court nominees to move forward, ....
By this point in 2008, Senator Leahy had held hearings for five of President Bush’s circuit court nominees, on his way to hearings for eight. There are three highly qualified circuit court nominees who could have been considered on today’s hearing because they have support from their home state Senators ... In May 2008, Senator Leahy held hearings for three circuit court nominees, and all three were confirmed that May and June. In fact, from 2007 to 2008, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed ten circuit court nominees. So far, Senate Republicans have confirmed only two. If the Senate does not confirm any more circuit court nominees, its two confirmations will be the fewest since 1897-98, when the Senate confirmed only one nominee—and there were only 25 such judgeships in the country."
“Free Pa’s federal judicial nominees from Senate limbo” (CA3blog, 04/19/16)
"The title of the post was the headline of an April 15 staff editorial on PennLive.com, criticizing Senate Republicans’ “absolute fetish of blocking President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments – an obstructionist posture that has burdened benches across the nation, particularly in Pennsylvania.” One of the obstructed nominations mentioned, of course, is that of Rebecca Ross Haywood to the Third Circuit."