Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: The Report Card for May 3 (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 05/03/16)
"F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., for immediately shooting down the nomination of Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a federal court vacancy for the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina. Timmons-Goodson has served on the N.C. Court of Appeals, was the first black woman on the state Supreme Court and most recently served as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. There’s little debate regarding her qualifications. Still, Sen. Burr said he won’t submit the nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so the politics of gridlock will ensure that the Eastern District vacancy, a post that has gone unfilled since the first day of 2006, will continue."
EDITORIAL: Our Opinion: A Burr blockade (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 05/03/16)
"When Patricia Timmons-Goodson ran for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court in 2006, she polled 58 percent of the vote. ... she’d already proven her mettle on the state Court of Appeals and as a District Court judge in her native Cumberland County.
So it wasn’t surprising last week when President Barack Obama nominated Timmons-Goodson to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Raleigh. She is eminently well-qualified and owns a long record of service.... But Sen. Richard Burr’s immediate response to the nomination did come as a shock.... he blocked the woman previously nominated for this long-empty position, Jennifer May-Parker, an assistant U.S. attorney. She was nominated in June 2013 but never given a hearing.... There is no excuse for denying Timmons-Goodson a hearing, even if Obama failed to call him about the nomination. That might be a breach of protocol, but Burr is equally responsible because of his unreasonable positions on the Lynch and Garland nominations.... as an experienced, fair-minded judge, Timmons-Goodson doesn’t let political considerations dictate her conduct on the bench. That’s what makes her a good choice for the federal court seat.... Burr should reconsider and support her confirmation"
Time for McCrory and Burr to shut things down for the year? Under conservative standards applied to President Obama, they would have no other choice (NC Policy Watch, 05/03/16)
Rob Schofield: "One of the more important developments for North Carolina took place on Thursday when President Obama nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a decade-old vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the state’s Eastern District. If confirmed, Timmons-Goodson would be the first judge of color to ever serve in the Eastern District (a region of North Carolina in which the African-American population is higher than any other) in the history of the federal courts.
For those of you who are counting, that’s 237 years.
Unfortunately, ... Senator Richard Burr has announced that he will torpedo the nomination as the bizarre rules of the U.S. Senate all but guarantee him the right to do. As with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Burr apparently takes the view that federal judicial nominations during presidential election years are now a big no-no.... As with his Timmons-Goodson blockade, this is, of course, an utterly absurd position.... It’s hard to know what’s more maddening about Burr’s stance – the transparency of the senator’s hypocrisy and opportunism or his utter lack of transparency in espousing his position. ... In the case of the Eastern District seat (where Burr blocked a previous nominee for years) he has literally and repeatedly brushed off inquiries, stating that the public has no right to know his motives"
EDITORIAL: Our View: Burr plays politics with long-vacant judicial seat (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 05/02/16)
"We've heard a lot of descriptions of Judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson over the years. All of them were glowing.
So it's hard to swallow Sen. Richard Burr's tarring of her nomination to a federal judgeship as "brazenly political" and an "election season stunt." The brazen politics are all his.
The judge, a Fayetteville native, was the first black woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is currently vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The best word for her career is "distinguished."
But there's certainly been plenty of politics played with the Eastern District of North Carolina federal judgeship that President Obama has nominated her to. It's been vacant since the second term of George W. Bush's administration, .... Thanks to the arcane rules and traditions of the Senate, Burr can block Timmons-Goodson's nomination for as long as he chooses. We expect he will.
And that's a shameful disservice to the administration of justice in the state Burr serves."
STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD: THUMBS DOWN (Standard-Examiner [Ogden, UT], 05/02/16)
"THUMBS DOWN: To Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, who are demanding a quick approval process for Utahn Ronald G. Russell to the federal bench.
What hypocrisy. Hatch and Lee are two of the main voices denying Judge Merrick Garland a hearing on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
We suspect that Russell is well qualified for the post. But Garland is eminently qualified for the Supreme Court, too. It’s ridiculous for Utah’s senators to use an argument for Russell that clearly also applies to Garland, whom they’re blocking for political advantage.
Coherence is in short supply in D.C. If Russell’s nomination is held, Hatch and Lee have only themselves to blame."
EDITORIAL: Sen. Burr blocks federal judge nominee and slows justice in eastern NC (News & Observer [NC], 05/02/16)
"Patricia Timmons-Goodson has served with distinction as a judge at all levels of North Carolina’s judicial system. ... She was the first black woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, ... and is now vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
By any measure, Timmons-Goodson’s career has been distinguished, and her rulings and writings are available for all to see and judge. She is well-qualified to be a federal judge.
But Timmons-Goodson’s nomination to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina is being stalled by the simple stubbornness of Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. The judicial post, which has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006, is the nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy....Burr’s opposition is unfair to Timmons-Goodson personally and unfair to the system running short of federal judges.... This obstruction is hardly a first ... he has joined in the GOP charade of denying a hearing for the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland.
The Senate’s job in reviewing the president’s nominees is to advise and consent, not to pout and obstruct.... Burr fails to recognize that right and in so doing is impeding the administration of justice for the people of Eastern North Carolina."
PoliticsNC Editor's blog: Do your job (PoliticsNC, 04/29/16)
Thomas Mills: "I really don’t understand Republicans’ Congressional strategy. The whole country is mad at Congress for being ineffective and incompetent and they still won’t do their jobs. Instead, of announcing he’s doing something,Richard Burr yesterday told us he’s not going to do his job and he’s going to continue to leave the federal courts in North Carolina short-handed.
Yesterday, Obama announced he is nominating Patricia Goodson-Timmons, a former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, to the federal court in Eastern North Carolina. The news was barely out before Richard Burr announced he would block the nomination. The court has had the vacancy for more than ten years. That’s right. The seat has been vacant for a decade and Richard Burr has stood in the way of filling it.... If Burr were smart, he would schedule hearings. If Timmons-Goodson really has problems, they’ll come out then. Instead, Burr is now on record blocking nominees. He’s not only making Congress appear to be skirting its responsibilities, he’s hamstringing the court system, too. For people concerned that government is broken, Burr and the Senate are just confirming their fears."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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"
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."
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, 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."
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."
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."
“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."
Stapilus: Judicial Architects (Times-News [ID] , 04/18/16)
Randy Stapilus column: "Idaho may soon fill a critical job vacancy ... 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."
Relevant question should be whether judge would be fair (Idaho Press-Tribune, 04/17/16)
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: Judicial tussles can’t find audience (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 04/16/16)
"Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, worked with the White House to find Lodge’s replacement. Crapo tried to quell concerns that the Garland stalemate would hurt Nye’s chances for a speedy confirmation.
Speaking of Nye, he said: “The White House is strongly in support of their nomination, and Sen. Risch and I are strongly in support on the president’s nomination. There hasn’t been that consensus developed yet on the Supreme Court” nomination.
Well, consensus is impossible to achieve when the Senate majority leader declares the Supreme Court process to be shut down before anyone is nominated.... filling that position is far more important than tit-for-tat.
Last July, the feds declared a “judicial emergency” in Idaho ... Forty-nine of Obama’s nominees for federal judgeships were awaiting votes .... vacancies affect individuals and businesses with genuine concerns that need legal resolutions."