Editorials and Opinion
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.”
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."
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."
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."
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."
Editorial: Justice denied by partisan gridlock (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 06/19/14)
"U.S. District Judge Royal Ferguson took senior status on Nov. 30, 2008, vacating his San Antonio-based bench. Today, more than five-and-a-half years later, the bench remains vacant. The situation illustrates the damaging results of partisan gridlock.
Work piles up in the Western District of Texas — a hot spot for drug cases and immigration matters — and the open San Antonio bench remains vacant, despite its official status as a judicial emergency. In 2011, Sen. John Cornyn co-sponsored legislation to add three judgeships in Texas. ...Texas still has eight district court vacancies and two 5th Circuit vacancies....Texans should hold their senators accountable for their part in the logjam."
Yes, Polarization Is Asymmetric—and Conservatives Are Worse; Don't be fooled by a new report from the Pew Research Center. Both sides are more politicized these days, but it's not equal. (Atlantic, 06/19/14)
Norm Ornstein: "If bad behavior—using the nation’s full faith and credit as a hostage to political demands, shutting down the government, attempting to undermine policies that have been lawfully enacted, blocking nominees not on the basis of their qualifications but to nullify the policies they would pursue, using filibusters as weapons of mass obstruction—is to be discouraged or abandoned, those who engage in it have to be held accountable. Saying both sides are equally responsible, insisting on equivalence as the mantra of mainstream journalism, leaves the average voter at sea, unable to identify and vote against those perpetrating the problem."
Great Progress in Judicial Nominations (People For blog, 06/19/14)
"With the Senate finally able to do its job, the number of current vacancies has gone down from 92 at the beginning of the year to 60 today....With the Senate finally able to do its job, the number of current vacancies has gone down from 92 at the beginning of the year to 60 today.... Every American has the right to protect their legal rights in a court of law, but judicial vacancies make that harder. Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy, and the Democrats are to be commended for making judicial confirmations such a high priority."
EDITORIAL: More judges seated, but need still great (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 06/17/14)
"Judicial vacancies burden a federal court system already dealing with a record caseload, and they delay justice for millions of Americans whose lives and businesses are put on hold when there are not enough judges to decide their cases....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.... We call on both senators to work with the White House on filling judicial vacancies in Texas. Beyond judicial vacancies, there also is a need for more federal judges. ... The Judicial Conference of the United States, chaired by John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has recommended increasing the number of federal judgeships in Texas by eight new permanent positions. The state's congressional delegation would do Texas well by supporting legislation to enact the conference's recommendations."
A Historic Day for Our Judiciary (The White House, 06/17/14)
Neil Eggleston, Counsel to the President: "Today’s confirmations also set historic milestones:
• For the first time in history, the Senate has confirmed two openly gay judges on the same day.
• President Obama has now appointed more female judges than any other President, breaking the record previously set by President Clinton.
• President Obama also has now appointed more Hispanic judges than any other President, breaking the record previously held by President George W. Bush.
As we’ve said before, these “firsts” — and these milestones — are important, not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system, and because these judges will serve as role models for generations of lawyers to come."
Remarks by the President at a DNC LGBT Gala (The White House, 06/17/14)
"And today, the Senate confirmed two openly gay judges in the same day. Before I took office, only one openly gay judge had been confirmed in history. We have 10 more."
Letter: Vetting judicial candidates (Ames Tribune [IA], 06/14/14)
Erv Klaas: "I wrote to my Iowa senators in support of President Obama’s nomination of Michele Friedman to the Ninth Court of Appeals.... Senator Grassley voted against. In his response to my letter of support, he stated, “Factors I consider important include intellectual ability, respect for the Constitution, fidelity to the law, personal integrity, appropriate judicial temperament, and professional competence.”
It seems these factors were not enough for Senator Grassley. He went on to say that he voted against her confirmation because he was “unconvinced that she would be able to set aside her advocacy for liberal causes and transition to the role of impartial jurist.” Would he say the same for a nominee who advocated for conservative causes? It is clear that the only factor that is important to Senator Grassley is whether a nominee is conservative or liberal and that he is unwilling and incapable of being an impartial senator."
Obama leaves his mark on the federal bench (MSNBC, 06/11/14)
Adam Serwer: "Alliance for Justice, a liberal legal group, released a report Monday ... The blue-slip is not quite as effective as the filibuster, but it has taken its toll. According to the report, “nine out of every 10 judicial vacancies without a nominee are in states with at least one Republican senator—and 55% are in states where both senators are Republicans.”"
LETTER: Toomey, Casey should act to fill judicial vacanciesexp (Express-Times [PA], 06/10/14)
Christine Stone, Co-Chairwoman, Pennsylvania Coalition of Constitutional Values: "There are eight vacancies on the U.S. Eastern and Western District courts in Pennsylvania. These openings erode justice and Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey each share responsibility. Constitutionally, the president nominates individuals for judgeship, but tradition holds that the two senators from the state with the vacancy — or, in this case, eight vacancies — are to offer up candidates for the president to approve. As seats remain unfilled, Pennsylvanians who rely on district courts are being denied the justice they deserve. With eight vacancies in Pennsylvania ranging in duration from two years to six months, Toomey and Casey must act now and suggest candidates for nomination to these openings."
First female American Indian federal judge quietly confirmed (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 06/01/14)
Elaine Ayala column: "it's important to celebrate the great news in the U.S. Senate's confirmation of Diane Humetewa to the federal bench in Arizona. A member of the Hopi Nation, Humetewa, 49, made history May 14 by becoming only the third American Indian federal judge in U.S. history, and the first woman....Observers noted Humetewa will be the only American Indian on a bench that has almost 900 federal judges. The National Congress of American Indians praised Obama and the Senate but noted many other “qualified, talented people like Diane Humetewa in Indian country ... able and willing to serve.”"