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Editorial: Time for Senate to end the theatrics and do its job on nominations (Los Angeles Times, 01/28/15)
"These nominations — and others that will follow — will be a test of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to restore what he calls “regular order” to the proceedings of that body.... Even after Democrats abolished the filibuster for most presidential appointments in late 2013, Republicans used other parliamentary stratagems to delay votes even on uncontroversial nominees to federal courts and ambassadorships....when the hearings are finished, the Senate should move expeditiously to an up-or-down vote focused solely on the nominees’ qualifications. That should be the rule not only for Cabinet nominations but for those to the federal bench, to ambassadorships and to regulatory agencies. The dysfunction of the confirmation process in recent years has been a national scandal."

Fill judicial vacancies, including the one in Tennessee (Tennessean, 01/21/15)
Opinion by Tommy Tobin: "With more than 40 vacant seats on the federal bench, our judicial branch is under substantial strain.... One of those vacant seats is in Chattanooga, ... Travis Randall McDonough, Mayor Andy Burke’s chief of staff and counselor, has been nominated for the post.... Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, a former mayor of Chattanooga and an attorney, respectively, should recognize the contribution that McDonough could make to the bench in East Tennessee. Even with our divided government, let’s push our politicians to govern responsibly and consider judicial nominees on their merits."

Citizens deserve to have judicial vacancies filled (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/15/15)
JOHN NEUROHR letter: "On Jan. 8, the Post-Gazette editorial board wrote, “The legislators, who are paid by the public, need to do their jobs. For senators, an important part of that is to act on presidential nominations” (“Congress Returns”)....Locally, there are three long-standing Western District of Pennsylvania vacancies for which Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey should recommend nominees right away. But good nominees with bipartisan support are already waiting for confirmation. One example is U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, who has been nominated and now renominated by President Barack Obama to join the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Toomey made public his support for Judge Restrepo, saying he would be a “superb” federal judge. Sen. Casey also called Judge Restrepo an “excellent choice.” Not only is Judge Restrepo qualified, but also he brings much-needed diversity to the bench."

Grassley gets fine start on judiciary (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/11/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "The Register's rose to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (Jan. 4 Roses & Thistles) is correct. The new Senate Judiciary Committee chair deserves much credit for expressing his willingness to work cooperatively with Democrats and President Barack Obama on filling the many federal judicial vacancies. The vast majority of Obama nominees have easily satisfied Senator Grassley's criteria, such as competence and moderation, for appointment to the bench. Grassley's Jan. 7 issuance of a checklist of committee priorities, which includes prompt hearings for judicial nominees who did not receive them last year, is also heartening."

EDITORIAL: Drillers’ duty (Toledo Blade [OH], 01/09/15)
"Nine environmental groups filed suit this week to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add gas and oil extractors to the list of industries that must report emissions to the federal toxic release inventory.... after trying for 2½ years to get the agency to change its mind, the environmental groups are suing to force a change. ...If the EPA won’t impose the reporting requirement on gas and oil extractors, the court should."

EDITORIAL: Emissions reporting: Drillers have the same duty as other industries (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/09/15)
"A coalition of nine environmental groups filed suit Wednesday to force the Environmental Protection Agency to add gas and oil extractors to the list of industries that must report emissions to the federal Toxic Release Inventory....In 1997, the EPA unwisely decided to exempt the industry from the emissions reporting requirement. Now, after trying for two and a half years to get the agency to change its mind, the environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to force a change....If the EPA won’t impose the reporting requirement on gas and oil extractors, the court should."

EDITORIAL: Congress returns: And there may be cause for cautious optimism (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/08/15)
"Although many Washington political players are pondering what Americans should expect of this Congress, it can be summed up fairly simply: The legislators, who are paid by the public, need to do their jobs. For senators, an important part of that is to act on presidential nominations. It is up to Mr. Obama to propose capable professionals as judges, Cabinet heads, ambassadors and other important officials, avoiding controversial nominations that will provoke serious opposition. It is then the Senate’s duty to act quickly on the appointments."

Editorial: A push for federal court diversity No woman of color has ever been a federal judge in Minnesota (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 01/06/15)
"The advisory panel’s review will be only the start of what has become in too many cases a slow, arduous and politically charged appointment process. An applicant who passes muster with the panel must still win the favor of the two senators themselves, receive Obama’s nod and then survive a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate, now controlled by Republicans. Politically motivated delays have become all too commonplace in recent years, to the detriment of smooth-running courts. They could become more prolonged with the White House and the Senate majority now at political odds. This newspaper is rooting for the appointment of a highly qualified candidate who carries little, if any, partisan baggage, and for a fair and expeditious confirmation process. And, like the Infinity Project, we’d welcome an appointment that adds to the diversity of this state’s federal court."

EDITORIAL: A rose to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley  (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/04/15)
"A rose to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley for a move suggesting he wants to help President Barack Obama fill vacancies in the federal judiciary rather than continue the acrimonious confirmation process when Republicans take over the Senate. Grassley's office issued a press release in December inviting lawyers interested in two openings in the federal trial courts in Iowa to submit applications to his office. ... Grassley's invitation is a good omen that he wants the Senate to act on the president's nominees. As well he should. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley will be in a position to make that happen, and he should make it happen for all states where judicial vacancies exist, not just his own."

EDITORIAL: The EPA’s move to regulate ‘coal ash’ is a step forward (Washington Post, 01/02/15)
"EPA’s latest move to regulate huge accumulations of “coal ash” is, if anything, too modest.... coal ash pits saw major spills — one in Tennessee in 2008 and one in North Carolina in 2014 — that fouled rivers and endangered people and wildlife. Environmentalists report dozens more instances of air or water contamination ...Environmental activists warn that the EPA declined to classify coal ash as hazardous waste, a designation that would have triggered stricter federal oversight. ... EPA is largely leaving enforcement to the states, which have been the only overseers before now, though private citizens and environmental groups will be able to sue to demand adherence to the rules. The regulations leave room for extremely lengthy delays"

EDITORIAL: Six-year judicial saga finally ends (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 12/29/14)
"The Senate this month confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Robert Pitman, who has been serving as U.S. attorney for the region, to fill the bench vacated by Senior Judge Royal Furgeson in 2008. Because of the heavy caseload in the Western District of Texas, the vacancy was classified as an emergency. Still, the dysfunctional environment in Washington led to a six-year vacancy.... the appointments process would be a lot better with less partisan gamesmanship. And the truth is that even without any vacancies in the Western District of Texas, the state is growing rapidly and needs additional federal judges. Drug and immigration cases along the border continue to increase, and the justice system needs to keep up with the pace."

McCain and Flake's '14 (Arizona Republic, 12/27/14)
Dan Nowicki: "The Senate in 2014 also confirmed six long-awaited U.S. judicial nominations for Arizona that McCain and Flake helped usher through. The group included Diane Humetewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe and the first Native American woman to serve on the federal bench."

EDITORIAL: EPA falls short on coal-ash rule (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 12/26/14)
"Regulations issued last week by the Environmental Protection Agency for waste from coal-fired power plants are welcome but fall short of fully protecting the public. Coal ash — the residue left over after coal is burned to produce electricity — contains varying amounts of carcinogenic and toxic metals ....The EPA, which was under a federal court's deadline to issue a regulation by Dec. 19, decided not to classify coal ash as hazardous, categorizing it instead as solid waste, the same as household garbage. That decision, which disappointed environmentalists and will save utilities billions, means there still will be no direct federal scrutiny of coal-ash landfills and impoundments. Instead the new federal rules will be enforced by state environmental agencies and, more likely in Kentucky, which has a high tolerance for coal industry shortcuts, by citizen lawsuits."

EDITORIAL: Chance missed (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 12/26/14)
"Federal regulators considered classifying coal ash a hazardous waste that requires special disposal. Instead, they will consider it no different than the banana peels and candy wrappers you put out in a can at your front curb. EPA passed up a chance to set high standards. The Obama administration took far too long to produce the rules, only publishing them under court order.... The biggest shortfall of the federal rules is that they will not be actively enforced. ...self-compliance seems dubious. More likely, it will be up to citizens to take them to court to enforce the law."

Editorial: EPA's decision on coal ash rule is a disappointment (Knoxville News Sentinel [TN], 12/22/14)
"Under a court-ordered deadline, the EPA announced Friday it would implement the less stringent of two options for regulating coal ash. Essentially, the agency's choices were to treat coal ash as hazardous waste or as little more than municipal garbage. The EPA chose the latter, a keen disappointment.... The adopted rule establishes minimum standards for impoundments but leaves regulation up to the states and citizen-initiated lawsuits. While it is much better than having no restrictions at all, the rule risks uneven enforcement between states and encourages costly and time-consuming court battles. The new federal rule is a welcome alternative to the status quo, but the EPA missed an opportunity to provide the highest level of protection for communities where coal-fired power plants operate."

Opinions: Despite a tough year, an optimistic mood in the White House, (Washington Post, 12/19/14)
Ruth Marcus: "On judges, the most lasting impact of any president’s tenure, Obama won confirmation of 307 federal judges, including 53 on the courts of appeal. I worried about Senate Democrats’ deployment of the “nuclear option” to end the filibuster for almost all nominations, but the move spurred the confirmation of 134 judges in the 113th Congress, the most since 1979-1980. As the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin observed, “When Obama took office, Republican appointees controlled 10 of the 13 circuit courts of appeals; Democratic appointees now constitute a majority in nine circuits.” That alone reflects a quiet, and lasting, revolution.”

EDITORIAL: Keep nominations rule in U.S. Senate (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 12/17/14)
"When U.S. Senate Democrats, after much provocation, changed the rules on most judicial and executive nominations in late 2013, Republicans cried foul. Conveniently ignoring their obstruction for the sake of thwarting all things Obama, the Senate GOP caucus insisted that Democrats were trampeling traditions of comity, deliberation and respect for the minority party’s rights. ... All it should take is a simple majority — not 60 votes — to get to confirmation of most judicial and executive nominations.... Leadership can simply refuse to allow floor votes and schedule hearings, for instance. It’s difficult to envision such a course gaining any public favor — much less sending any message about Republicans’ ability to govern."

Judicial Nominations: Accomplishments and the Work That Lies Ahead (The White House, 12/17/14)
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston: "When President Obama took office, there were 55 vacancies in the federal judiciary. With the Senate’s recent confirmations, we have reached a milestone—fewer vacancies than when we began. Today, there are only 42 judicial vacancies, for a decrease of 25%. But by way of comparison, at this point in their administrations, President George W. Bush had decreased vacancies by almost 40%, and President Clinton had cut them in half. Furthermore, Chief Justice John Roberts and the Judicial Conference of the United States have recommended that Congress create 90 new permanent and temporary judgeships to address increasing caseloads across the country. Finally, President Obama’s judges have waited, on average, almost two-and-a-half times longer to be confirmed after being reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee than President Bush’s judges did at this point his administration—even though the vast majority of our judges are confirmed with overwhelming bipartisan support."

A whole new day on filling the federal courts (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 12/16/14)
Steve Benen: "It wasn’t too long ago that judicial vacancies had reached a crisis level, and the problem seemed intractable with dozens of qualified Obama nominees stuck in Senate quicksand. Slowly but surely, however, there’s been some amazing progress on the issue.... this is the part of a president’s legacy that will matter long after he or she has left office."

Democrats push to get judicial vacancies down to Bush-era levels (Daily Kos, 12/16/14)
Laura Clawson: "It's been two decades since the Senate confirmed as many judges as it is currently on track to do in 2014. If Democrats succeed at confirming the 12 judges Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to get votes on before the Senate goes home for Christmas, the year's total will be 88, the highest since 1994. That's in large part because by the time Democrats changed filibuster rules to break through Republican obstruction of President Obama's nominees, there was a major backlog ... the fact that now, six years into Obama's presidency, we are just getting back to the vacancy level that existed under George W. Bush right before Obama took office should show how ridiculous those Republican arguments are. And Bush was able to confirm judges for his last two years in office despite Democrats controlling the Senate,"

Editorial | Welcome judicial appointments (Courier-Journal [KY] , 12/12/14)
"Washington gridlock cleared briefly last week to allow Kentucky to fill two important federal judicial vacancies.... Federal judicial candidates, nominated by the president, have become particularly contentious duing the current partisan conflict between President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans. Kentucky still has three vacancies, two at the district court level and one on the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals. Who knows? Maybe more candidates can slip through the gates of gridlock."

Editorial: New top environmental regulator should work for citizens, not ‘customers’  (Gaston Gazette [NC], 12/11/14)
"And three times the state stepped in to halt environmental groups’ lawsuits aimed at forcing Duke Energy to clean out its ash ponds. Under federal law, a lawsuit headed for the courts may be delayed if the state announces its intent to take action. But in North Carolina’s case, that action was much less than the environmentalists were seeking. Questions about the cozy relationship between DENR staff and the businesses they regulate did not originate with this administration; it has been an ongoing issue. Regulators do not have to be unnecessarily obstructionist."

Editorial: Democrats should stand up to NRA and confirm Vivek Murthy (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 12/09/14)
" As Republicans prepare to take over, they ought to cooperate by allowing up-or-down votes on 130-plus nominees of President Barack Obama, including ambassadors to 16 nations, and a dozen judgeships. Judicial nominees include Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., who clearly is qualified to serve as a U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of California. Gilliam got his law degree at Stanford and spent seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco....The filibuster was undemocratic when Republicans used it to impede Democrats during the first six years of the Obama presidency. Similarly, Democrats should not gum up the works when they are in the minority. Elections matter, which is why Obama has the right to appoint ambassadors, judges, cabinet secretaries and thousands of other officials, including Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general."

The Senate Should Cancel Its Own Christmas and Stay in Session Until 2015 (The New Republic, 12/08/14)
Danny Vinik: "Reid should keep the Senate in session until Republicans take over next year in order to confirm as many executive branch and judicial nominees as possible. Consider the actions of Senate Republicans during the past six years. Led by Majority Leader-Elect Mitch McConnell, the GOP used the filibuster to block President Barack Obama’s nominations for key executive branch and judicial positions. ... it is too important for the functioning of the executive branch and the makeup of the courts to spend the entire time on holiday."

Waiting Game: Lame-Duck Dilemma: More Than 130 Obama Nominees Still Await Senate Action (Bloomberg News, 12/03/14)
Greg Giroux: "Judicial vacancies are a perennial cause of concern for court-watchers as caseloads clog federal dockets....Even some Republicans aren't happy with the backlog that's been building in the judicial ranks. “... vital resource needs include the appointment of an adequate number of judges to keep current on pending cases,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in his annual year-end report in 2012, ... “I urge the Executive and Legislative Branches to act diligently in nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates” to fill judicial vacancies, he said."

COMMENTARY: Middle District Judge nominee still awaiting confirmation (Progressive Pulse [NC], 12/02/14)
Chavi Khanna Koneru: "delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. There has been a long pattern of Republicans attempting to prevent the President from confirming judges ... delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. There has been a long pattern of Republicans attempting to prevent the President from confirming judges"

Editorial | Starving the beast (Courier-Journal [KY] , 12/01/14)
"Ruling in a case involving alleged violations by the Frasure Creek Mining Co., Judge Shepherd found that state cuts over the past 10 years have “drastically and adversely affected the ability of the cabinet to do its job in implementing the Clean Water Act.”...Even more troubling is that it took an outside group of citizens’ advocates to uncover the problems and bring them to the state’s attention. Groups including Appalachian Voices, Waterkeeper Alliance and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth found some coal companies falsified reports they are required to file with regulators. Prodded to act, state regulators ... did little to investigate the actual environmental harm, then attempted to enter into a modest settlement ... . Judge Shepherd rejected the settlement as one that sends the message that “cheating pays.” He also rejected the attempt of the state to cut the outside citizens’ groups out of its final settlement with Frasure Creek Mining, ordering they be included."

EDITORIAL: Coal's costs keep adding up (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 11/30/14)
"Judge Phillip J. Shepherd laid bare the charade that is Kentucky's enforcement of coal industry compliance with the Clean Water Act. The judge described a state agency that barely even goes through the motions of enforcing the law.... The massive violations were discovered by citizens who threatened to sue. The cabinet agreed to a consent decree under which Frasure Creek would pay $310,000. The cabinet also fought — and lost — all the way to the state Supreme Court to exclude citizens from any involvement in deciding the case. Shepherd ruled the penalties were too small .... coal. It's not cheap, though. The costs are high — they just get pushed onto someone else, the disabled or dead miners, or Kentuckians who depend on water, ruined by surface mining, that flows from the mountains across our state."

GOP has a golden opportunity during the lame duck session (Herald Sun [NC] , 11/29/14)
Rob Schofield: "One of the first indicators will be what happens with a slew of pending and stalled nominations to serve on the federal courts.... At her confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee just before the election, Biggs received a big “thumbs up” from senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr. While welcome and encouraging, Burr’s positive, “trains-on-time” stance on the Biggs nomination was enough to leave a sense of profound confusion given that it comes on the heels of an almost 18-month-long blockade of another Obama nominee – federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker,"