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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

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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,"

EDITORIAL: Count the votes (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 10/07/14)
"North Carolina voters are apt to be confused by changes they’ll see at the polls starting later this month. But don’t blame U.S. Court of Appeals Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd. “Our decision today acts as a safety net for voters confused about the effect of House Bill 589 on their right to vote while litigation proceeds,” Wynn wrote in a footnote to his ruling last week that stopped two parts of the law. ... The court drew an obvious conclusion: “The election laws in North Carolina prior to House Bill 589’s enactment encouraged participation by qualified voters. But the challenged House Bill 589 provisions stripped them away.”

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.”

Vacancies must be filled on Alabama's federal bench: guest opinion ( [AL], 10/04/14)
Leslie M. Proll, director, DC office, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.: "Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby should use the Congressional recess before the November elections to help fill the vacancies on Alabama's federal bench.... Three vacancies currently exist -- one on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and two on Alabama's federal district courts. Each pending for more than a year ... Promoting racial diversity must be a top consideration in selecting the next nominee for the Eleventh Circuit. This Circuit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (25%) of any circuit in the country, yet only one of its twelve judges is African-American.... Since 1891, only white males have represented Alabama on its federal appellate court."

Editorial, Our View: Little upheaval from voting ruling (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 10/02/14)
“[T]hose 1,850 affected Mecklenburg ballots far outnumber the cases of in-person voter fraud, which that same year amounted to zero and which were the supposed impetus for the legislation. Most important, as appeals court Judge Jim Wynn said in the majority opinion, is “the basic truth that even one disenfranchised voter – let alone several thousand – is too many.”

Editorial: NC GOP leaders push law that suppresses voting (News & Observer [NC], 10/02/14)
"Appeals court Judges James Wynn and William Floyd said Schroeder’s ruling wrongly ignored the “basic truth that even one disenfranchised voter – let alone several thousand – is too many.”... The state’s petition may well succeed, not because of its legal merits, but because the high court is captive to partisan zeal, and nowhere is it more so than in cases involving elections."

The totality of circumstances (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 10/01/14)
Off the Record blog by editorial writer Doug Clark: “U.S. Court of Appeals Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd saw North Carolina's voter reform act for what it is: a mechanism to deny equal access to the polls."

Editorial: Defending a bad NC law exacts a high cost (News & Observer [NC], 10/01/14)
[Judge James Wynn opinion] "The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that parts of the law ending same-day registration and keeping people from casting provisional ballots out of their own precincts could not be instituted during the upcoming November election. … What a misadventure this has been, and an expensive one to boot. Voter ID was sold as a measure to prevent voter fraud. But voter fraud in North Carolina has been virtually nonexistent. Other changes were nothing more than an attempt to suppress Democratic votes.”

EDITORIAL: Brad Weinreb for San Diego Superior Court judge (San Diego Union-Tribune [CA] , 09/26/14)
"Three justices of the California Supreme Court, Goodwin Liu, Kathryn Werdegar and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, also will appear on the ballot for voter confirmation ... The editorial board recommends confirmation of each of them."

Editorial: Overdue progress on U.S. judges (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 09/25/14)
"Three nominations to the U.S. District Court in Texas' Southern District last week could further signal a welcome end to the state's judicial logjam. Judicial advocates have labeled Texas as the epicenter of a crisis in filling federal judicial vacancies — with the state containing too many of what were labeled judicial emergencies.... Pitman and two other nominees for Texas judgeships had their hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. At that hearing, the state's two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, supported the nominees. That same kind of support came after the presidential nominations last week. This is a good sign that both GOP senators are taking their roles seriously.... Even when all vacancies are filled, however, another task remains. That would be acting on the certainty that one of the fastest-growing states lacks enough federal judges in the first place."

EDITORIAL Endorsement Strong reasons to retain state justices (Los Angeles Times, 09/21/14)
"Goodwin Liu is already serving on the court, having been appointed and confirmed in 2011.... Liu, like Cuéllar, is a liberal academic, although a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate scuttled his appointment by President Obama to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Liu became better known to some Californians in recent weeks because he authored a statement attached to a state Supreme Court order removing Proposition 49 from the ballot. That was the advisory measure calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the controversial campaign finance decision by those other justices — the ones on the U.S. Supreme Court. It may seem odd that a state justice formerly blocked by politicians on the right should write an opinion that so antagonized people on the left. But good justices — and Liu is one of them — routinely write controversial opinions that reach their conclusions based on the law as written and understood by the entire court, and not on a single justice's ideology. Liu, like Cuéllar, should be retained."

Senate’s unfinished business: Fill judicial vacancies (The Hill, 09/17/14)
Raymond M. Lodato: "While several bills are making their way through the upper house, the arena in which it can have the most impact is in confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees. So far this year, the upper house has filled 68 vacancies on the Federal bench, more than in all of 2013. However, even with the increased pace, 60 vacancies remain on Federal district and appellate benches. Each vacancy in the Federal courts increases the burden on active and senior judges (who work a reduced number of cases in semi-retirement) and delays the administration of justice for individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups seeking resolution of their claims. Nearly two dozen of the vacancies have been classified as “judicial emergencies” because of the length of time they have been unfilled and the number of cases in their jurisdictions."

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."

‘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: 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."

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."

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."