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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Readers forum: Keep judicial qualification top priority (Tulsa World [OK] , 04/23/14)
Op-Ed by Rich Fisher, general manager of Public Radio Tulsa, served on Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission from 2009-2011: "But imagine a day under this proposed arrangement with divided government, with one party able to control a majority of appointments and the other in the Governor's Mansion. Do you think that would be political, much? One quick look at the federal judiciary and its dozens of vacancies, and dozens of road-blocked nominees, as well as a sampling of the rhetoric surrounding any Supreme Court appointment should put that issue to rest."

Editorial: Two wins for the Everglades; OUR OPINION: Protecting region’s clean water supply remains a challenge (Miami Herald, 04/15/14)
"The first decision came from U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in the Southern District of New York in a case involving regulations for “water transfer” practices throughout the country. Part of the federal Clean Water Act case involves a decade-long suit filed by environmental groups against the South Florida Water Management District’s occasional back-pumping of polluted farmwater runoff from canals into Lake Okeechobee.... Judge Karas ruled that back-pumping that jeopardizes the supply of drinking water can be construed as a violation of the Clean Water Act. That includes actions that affect Lake Okeechobee. It’s a good decision.... In all likelihood, the district, the state of Florida or even the EPA will appeal the ruling, though it would be better for everyone, taxpayers especially, if the district were to accept the decision and end the costly litigation."

BuzzChatter Tuesday  (Kansas City Star, 04/08/14)
Steve Kraske: "Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft derailed White 15 years ago for being — in Ashcroft’s words — soft on crime. Many viewed that attack as unfair and a political ploy connected to Ashcroft’s intense re-election fight against Gov. Mel Carnahan in 2000. Now White is getting a rare second chance, although Jason Rosenbaum reports his prospects remain uncertain."

Congress: Republicans Create Excellent Roadblocks (Bloomberg News, 04/07/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Republican obstruction has been a lot worse during the Obama years than Democratic obstruction was during the Bush years. We don’t need the numbers to know this. Senate Republicans established a new 60-vote standard for all judicial branch nominees at the beginning of the Obama presidency; they have repeatedly chewed up floor time even when they didn’t have the votes to block nominations; and, in an unprecedented step, they blockaded three D.C, Circuit Court seats by filibuster.... If Republicans claim a Senate majority next year, they’ll have the votes to back up opposition to many of Obama’s picks. Even in that circumstance, they’ll have the (shared) responsibility to cut deals. It would be totally reasonable for them to defeat some solidly liberal judges, but hugely irresponsible for them to shut down all confirmations (or to attempt to dictate to the president who he should nominate)."

‘Blue slips’ carry out constitutional duty (Times Argus [VT] , 04/06/14)
Senator Patrick Leahy: "I cannot recall a single judicial nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home-state senators. The blue slip process reflects this reality, and those who care about the courts and who want qualified judges confirmed should not overlook this fact. Those who believe that doing away with the blue slip process will bring only positive change are also forgetting that the like-minded will not always occupy the White House or control the Senate. ... I have long made clear that I would not rule out proceeding with a nomination if the blue slip is abused."

EDITORIAL: Texas needs U.S. judges nominated, confirmed (Beaumont Enterprise [TX], 04/05/14)
"The crisis has hit Texas particularly hard, with 10 vacant federal judgeships that are contributing to a backlog of 12,000 cases statewide. The overall vacancies average two years, but a slot in Texas' Western District has been vacant for more than five years. A Southern District Court based in Corpus Christi has been open for almost three years. Only six federal judges have been appointed in Texas since Obama became president, as compared to 17 at this point in President George W. Bush's second term. This bickering hurts taxpayers. Compromise is possible, and both sides should pursue it."

Editorial: Victory for clean water (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 04/04/14)
"A federal judge brought long-awaited clarity and common sense last week to the state's age-old practice of pumping polluted water into South Florida's Lake Okeechobee. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas' finding that the practice violated the Clean Water Act is a victory for public health and Florida's environment"

A Commendably Speedy Process for a Vermont Judicial Recommendation (People For blog, 03/24/14)
"The senators of Vermont, and especially Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, have shown the country what an exemplary process for identifying potential district court judges looks like. ... Just a little over two months after senators became aware of the vacancy and nearly three months before the vacancy actually becomes open, the White House has received a recommendation and can start the vetting process. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy knows how important this is. Senators in Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado have also moved quickly to make timely recommendations for recent vacancies in their states. Would that every senator did."

Tonyaa Weathersbee: There are lots of black robes on Florida's bench - but few black people (Florida Times-Union, 03/19/14)
"There were plenty of spectators on hand during the recent investiture of the newest federal judge, Brian J. Davis. They came to witness Davis ascend to a judgeship in the Middle District of Florida — two years after President Barack Obama chose him and three months after the Senate finally approved his nomination. But while Davis’ appointment was a step forward for diversity on the federal bench, his vacancy on the circuit bench marks a step backward."

THE SUPREME COURT FARM TEAM (New Yorker, 03/18/14)
JEFFREY TOOBIN: "Sri Srinivasan, age forty-seven, D.C. Circuit. ...Paul Watford, age forty-six, Ninth Circuit. ... David Barron, age forty-six, nominated to the First Circuit. ... The next two prospective nominees are more likely if Republicans take control of the Senate ... Jane Kelly, age forty-nine, Eighth Circuit. ... Patricia Ann Millett, age fifty, D.C. Circuit."

Editorial: Taking note of a judge’s gender  (Concord Monitor [NH] , 02/26/14)
"Dismissing the happy milestone, however, obscures two still-important points: First, it has taken New Hampshire women a long, long time to achieve anything close to parity in the legal world – and they’re not there yet. Second, it makes an important difference to have women among the state’s top jurists. ... Does it make a difference to have women sitting on the bench? There are all sorts of studies that attempt to glean gender differences in how judges judge. Interesting, perhaps, but less important than this: Judges are among the most powerful members of our community. Women deserve to be among them in big numbers. When women are in the mix, the courts are more reflective of the nation’s diverse population and no doubt better able to understand the real-world implications of their rulings. And that, in turn, breeds confidence in the court system among those who must interact with it."

Editorial: Clean water vs. 21 dirty states (Virginian-Pilot, 02/26/14)
"It's not enough that 21 states have polluted their creeks and rivers - their political leaders now want to keep other states from cleaning up their own waters.... The Dirty 21 have joined the American Farm Bureau Federation - and builders; chicken, turkey, pork and corn producers; as well as fertilizer makers - in opposing a pollution-reduction plan finalized only after a lawsuit by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.... it took another decade - and a lawsuit by CBF - for the EPA and the states (which now include New York, Delaware and West Virginia) to arrive at a real plan to tackle everything else polluting the Chesapeake.... the attorneys general are battling in the U.S. Court of Appeals to protect the pollution in countless other dirty rivers and creeks, and the threat it all poses to their people." (Arkansas Times, 02/11/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is pressing for a Senate vote this week to confirm two non-controversial judicial appointees in Arkansas — Circuit Judge Jay Moody for a district judgeship in Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a seat in the western district of Arkansas.... It won't be easy, unless John Boozman puts his weight behind it. Republicans haven't been allowing floor votes on judicial nominations. 32 are in waiting. Only one vote so far this year."

Senate Judiciary Republicans blame a lawyer (Adegbile) for a client (Abu-Jamal (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 02/07/14)
Bob Egelko: "The same question arose last year when Vince Chhabria, a deputy San Francisco city attorney, was nominated for a federal judgeship. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who led the opposition, said Chhabria had a “long record of liberal advocacy.” But he cited only Chhabria’s work as a lawyer — for example, his representation of the city in a suit by Catholic organizations over same-sex couples and adoption. The Judiciary Committee has twice approved Chhabria’s nomination, on divided votes, and he’s likely to win Senate confirmation in the near future."

Editorial: The Homogeneous Federal Bench (New York Times, 02/07/14)
"[A] judge’s experience and personal history are, at times, critical to how she or he approaches the job. Given this reality, the makeup of the judiciary should reflect as much as possible the public whose cases come before it. For a long time, most of the attention to increasing diversity has focused on race, ethnicity and gender, where progress has been slow but incremental. Equally important is diversity of professional experience ... Recently, Mr. Obama has worked to strike a better balance."

A woman for judge (Chicago Tribune, 02/06/14)
Letter to the Editor: Michelle Kohut, President, Women's Bar Association of Illinois: "The Women's Bar Association of Illinois encourages Sen. Kirk and the committee to recommend a qualified woman to fill the vacancy left by Judge Holderman. ... Of the current 20 active judges presiding over this court, six are women, equaling only 27 percent. ... The quality of justice is improved when women are fairly represented on the bench, as it better reflects the diverse nature of the population over which it resides."

Editorial: No more delays Senate should not let federal judicial nominations languish (Miami Herald, 02/06/14)
"No one has ever accused Judge Thomas of bias on the bench. But once Sen. Rubio dropped his support, Judge Thomas’ nomination was doomed. It was an embarrassment for Florida in every way.... Sen. Rubio issued a statement after the announcements, saying he welcomed the nominations and doesn’t “anticipate having an objection to moving forward” on them. That’s good to know, and we’ll hold him to his word.... Sen. Rubio, again along with Sen. Grassley, did hold up the confirmation of another Obama appointee from Florida who is African American. Nassau County Circuit Judge Brian Davis waited almost two years before his nomination was finally confirmed last December. Again, Sen. Grassley accused the judge of bias. There’s nothing in Judge Davis’ public record to back up these accusations.... The delays are driven, almost entirely, by crass partisanship. The result is U.S. District Court vacancies that go unfilled, literally, for years. That’s justice delayed, justice denied. And it’s entirely the fault of the U.S. Senate."

PICKING NEXT FEDERAL JUDGE; World-Herald editorial: Court vacancy needs attention (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 01/29/14)
"The current list of federal court vacancies is long — 79 U.S. district court judges and 16 more on appeals court benches. Only 55 replacements have been nominated to fill those 95 openings. Another 19 vacancies will occur this year, including one in Nebraska ... Filling these vacancies is important. Crowded federal court dockets increase the caseload for sitting judges and slow citizens’ access to justice. ... Nebraskans can hope this process moves efficiently, so this vacancy doesn’t linger on that list."

6 New Year Nomination Battles for Obama’s Native-Focused Nominees (Indian Country Today, 01/16/14)
Rob Capriccioso: "Diane Humetewa– This Hopi citizen was nominated by the president last September to serve on the federal bench for the U.S. District Court for Arizona. She’s received strong backing from Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) from her home state, as she previously did when she served as a U.S. attorney during the George W. Bush administration in Arizona, and given this support, she’s expected to be confirmed once considered by the Senate. Indian country has long been pushing for Indian-focused nominees to the federal bench. If Humetewa is confirmed, she would be the only American Indian to serve on the federal bench and only the third Native on the federal bench in history. New information has recently been reported indicating that when she was being considered to become a U.S. attorney during the Bush administration, one of President George W. Bush’s top advisors, Karl Rove, came out against her, reportedly writing in an e-mail, “Replace Blanquita.” The publication Main Justice says this slight was “an apparent racial epithet for the Latina-looking Humetewa.”

Lack of black Ala. judges indefensible (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 01/14/14)
Vanzetta Penn McPherson, retired U.S. magistrate judge: "In October 1980, the second of the first two African-American federal judges in Alabama was sworn into office. ... In the ensuing 33 years, 26 new judges have been appointed in Alabama, including only one African-American who was appointed to replace the African-American judge for whom he clerked, resulting in the same number of black federal judges in Alabama today as in 1980. Notably, the third black judge, appointed in 2010 by President Obama, was recommended by a screening panel appointed by Congresswoman Terri Sewell. Thus, for more than two decades, the five men who represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate did not identify or recommend a single black lawyer for the 24 appointments available to them during that period. ... This is the 21st century. We cannot ignore the ignominy of excluding African-Americans from 25 judicial appointments over as many years. And one or two new black judges — especially if they merely replace other black judges — are not enough."

Filling judicial vacancies to protect the progressive legacy (Reuters, 01/13/14)
Prof. Herman Schwartz: "vacancies have risen to more than 65 percent; at a comparable point in the Bush administration, vacancies had fallen by 39 percent. As of January 7, there were still 16 appellate and 77 trial court vacancies, with 9 pending appellate and 44 district court nominees. In total, roughly 11 percent of all federal judgeships are still vacant, with 36 judicial emergencies. Before the Democrats’ filibuster repeal, the Senate had confirmed only 76 percent of all Obama nominees, compared to 90 percent during a comparable period in the Bush administration. ... In an unparalleled abuse of the blue slip privilege, 90 percent of the federal court vacancies that Obama is now unable to fill are in states with a Republican senator."

Facts show filibuster letter was all wrong (Pocono Record [PA] , 01/10/14)
GLENN SUGAMELI Letter to the Editor: "Facts and history dispel the arguments in a Jan. 2 letter, "Filibuster change will haunt Democrats."... Patricia Millett was praised by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce's chief litigator. The second nominee was endorsed by arch-conservative Viet Dinh, and the third was previously confirmed unanimously by the Senate as a federal judge....The recent Senate rules change, however, was triggered by Republican senators' repudiation of that compromise. Unprecedented filibusters had the declared intent and result of blocking votes on any possible Obama nominee to fill three D.C. Circuit vacancies, after Senate Democrats helped confirm four President George W. Bush judges to the court. ...Bipartisan Senate simple majority votes rejected Bork and confirmed Thomas, Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court."

Republicans Obstruct Judicial Nominees They Supported Last Year (People For blog, 01/09/14)
"Among the 29 nominees delayed for no reason this morning are nine nominees who were approved by the committee last year but were denied a confirmation vote due to GOP obstructionism. All nine had been approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, eight of them unanimously....Another 15 of the nominees delayed today were scheduled for committee votes last year, but those votes were repeatedly delayed by the GOP."

Burr’s silent blockade continues (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/06/14)
Rob Schofield: "speaking of why courts matter and why progressives need to a do a better job of fighting back against the right-wing stranglehold on judicial nominations, today marks the 3 1/2 month mark since NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey first reported on Senator Richard Burr’s silent and unexplained blockade of Federal District Court nominee Jennifer May-Parker. That such an important elected official has been allowed to take this action without any explanation to his constituents and not yet received universal condemnation from every news media outlet in the state is a continuing outrage."

Editorial: Thumbs down (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/03/14)
"Thumbs down to the Obama administration for failing to nominate a replacement for U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, who moved to senior status 14 months ago. Meanwhile, Fresno's federal courthouse labors under one of the highest caseloads in the nation and, as The Bee's John Ellis reported on Dec. 28, judicial employees there anxiously await Ishii's replacement. Don Fischbach, a Fresno attorney who chaired a screening committee of potential nominees set up by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, told Ellis that the committee long ago finished its work."

Kudos for vote eliminating use of filibuster on judicial nominations (Dallas Morning News, 12/25/13)
Letter to the Editor by Julie Lowenberg, National Council of Jewish Women: "There are currently 93 judicial vacancies around the country, 38 of which have been designated “judicial emergencies.” In Texas, where there are 11 vacancies (including six emergencies), senators Cornyn and Cruz have been missing in action when it comes to sending to President Obama the names of potential judicial nominees. Their foot-dragging in carrying out a major responsibility of their offices is unacceptable."

22 months later, Davis wins Senate confirmation (Daily Record [FL], 12/23/13)
By Marilyn Young, Editor

Arkansas judicial candidates caught by Republican Senate blockade (Arkansas Times, 12/21/13)
Max Brantley: "Nine judicial nominations had cleared the committee and were on the Senate calendar for confirmation. The nine include two Arkansas nominees — Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a western district judgeship and Circuit Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock for a vacancy on the eastern district bench in Little Rock. Both Arkansas nominations are endorsed by both Sens. Mark Pryor and Republican John Boozman of Arkansas."

Editorial: Rightward shift; OUR OPINION: Sen. Rubio’s increasingly partisan political agenda disappoints (Miami Herald, 12/21/13)
"Yet he consistently seems to tailor his votes to suit a narrow partisan base. The nomination of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas to fill a federal judicial vacancy is illustrative. Mr. Thomas, if confirmed, would become the first openly gay black man to serve on a federal bench. After first recommending him, Sen. Rubio withdrew support, citing concern over two rulings — even though a prosecutor whom the judge ruled against in one case wrote the senator in support of Judge Thomas. Mr. Rubio’s office points out that he has supported some of President Obama’s judicial picks; critics say opposition to Judge Thomas is rooted in anti-gay politics."

Editorial: Fill judicial vacancies (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 12/21/13)
"Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey established a process to vet nominees,... Yet vacancies remain in the state's two other federal court districts that diminish the public's ready access to justice."