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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Justice denied because of so many vacant judgeships (Arizona Daily Star, 05/26/15)
Celinas Ruth Op-Ed column: Our federal court system is crumbling. It is being crushed by the weight of a case overload and a shortage of federal judges.... We, as a nation and in Arizona, are experiencing firsthand: “justice delayed is justice denied.”... uring most of President Obama’s term, a seriously high number of vacancies caused by the failure of the Senate to process Obama’s nominations has slowed the progress of civil cases ... On April 5, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended Congress add six permanent and four temporary district judges to the district of Arizona to help handle our state’s burgeoning caseload. A civil case familiar to me in Tucson’s Federal District Court has been stalled for three years,"

On the 7th Circuit, It's Time for Ron Johnson to Get Out of the Way (People For blog, 05/26/15)
"Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is once again playing politics with the nation's oldest appellate court vacancy. This time, he's changing the rules when they don't work for him, violating an agreement he previously made with fellow senator Tammy Baldwin. His latest efforts to delay filling a five year-old vacancy on the Seventh Circuit are absurd and should simply be ignored by the White House.... But to make sure he could keep the Seventh Circuit seat vacant for as long as possible, Johnson ensured that the commission not address that vacancy until it first made recommendations for two district court vacancies. Slowing the process even further, the commission was not allowed to work on the second district court vacancy until the president made a nomination for the first one. This meant that it was not permitted to even start looking for potential Seventh Circuit judges until last summer, 15 months after its formation.... The past few weeks have seen plenty of examples of Republican senators trying to keep circuit court vacancies open for as long as possible rather than let President Obama fill them. Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey blocked committee consideration of Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo for half a year, until the local press coverage became too much for him to bear. In Indiana, Republican Senator Dan Coats this month called for the creation of a nominating commission to fill an Indiana slot on the Seventh Circuit. This came as a surprise to Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, who noted that he's been working on identifying potential nominees for over a year consistent with an agreement he and Coats had reached.... President Obama and Senator Baldwin have gone to incredible lengths to accommodate Ron Johnson. Now that the system that he demanded and agreed to has fallen apart, it's time he got out of the way. If he has objections to whoever the president nominates, the proper place to air them will be at a Judiciary Committee hearing."

Who Caused the Senate Chaos? (Bloomberg News, 05/26/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... If the minority insists on fully exercising its right under current rules to require 60 votes for everything, the majority will eventually impose new rules -- as Democrats did in October 2013 on executive-branch and judicial nominations. ... McConnell as majority leader isn’t at fault for Senate dysfunction now, just as Harry Reid wasn’t responsible for Senate dysfunction in the previous few years. But McConnell can be blamed for abusing the rules when he was in the minority."

EDITORIAL: Our Views: Louisiana black bear makes remarkable turn exiting endangered species list (New Orleans Advocate, 05/25/15)
"One of our trademarks, the bear that inspired Teddy bears, is no longer an endangered species, according to federal authorities, although some longtime advocates for conservation dispute the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service....As few as 100 bears are thought to have been living in the 1950s. We don’t want to go back to that level, but we are reasonably confident that the plans by federal and state authorities will not allow that to happen. This has been in discussion for a long time. Still, it’s good that the Black Bear Conservation Coalition and other environmental groups will keep a close eye on this new development.... Nor could it have happened without private citizens like Harold Schoeffler, whose legal action prompted the settlement that listed the bear as a threatened species in 1991. He’s not entirely happy with regulators now and will doubtless be heard on this new step."

Highlights from the Law Blog; Senate Has Confirmed Just Four Judges in 2015 (Wall Street Journal, 05/25/15)
"The minuscule number of confirmations this year follows a burst of Senate approvals in the back half of 2014, a moment when Democrats still controlled the Senate"

Confirm Barzee-Flores (Miami Herald, 05/23/15)
MEENA JAGANNATH Letter to the Editor: "In February President Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill the vacancy for the Southern District Court of Florida. Barzee-Flores served as a circuit judge on Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami for almost a decade .... Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hasn’t called a hearing to confirm the president’s nominee. I hope Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson will put pressure on Grassley to call a hearing"

Mitch McConnell's One-Man Shutdown (Bloomberg News, 05/22/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "As usual, the best comparison is to 2007, when a Republican was president and Democrats had a new Senate majority. In that year, 26 judicial or executive branch nominees were confirmed in May. The Senate has confirmed only 29 nominees this year – just three more than the Democratic Senate did in May 2007 alone. The 2007 tally reached 72 by the end of May. ... ; The committees are slow-walking dozens of judges, ambassadors, members of government boards and everybody else. There’s simply no precedent for the Senate flat-out refusing to act on (most) nominations. It means poor government, mismanagement, justice delayed -- and therefore justice denied. This isn't about the specific nominees. Mostly, this is just an expression of contempt for the man in the Oval Office -- and, really, contempt for the Constitution and the senators' oath of office. It is the Senate's duty to defeat judicial nominees it believes (within reason) are outside the mainstream, and it absolutely should exercise the leverage it is given by the Constitution to secure influence over executive branch departments and agencies through confirmations. That’s not what’s happening here. McConnell and the Republicans are undermining the constitutional order by simply ignoring their responsibilities."

EDITORIAL: Judicial vacancy highlights Washington dysfunction (Wisconsin State Journal, 05/22/15)
"The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has been waiting for more than five years for Washington to fill a vacant judicial seat. The empty post increases the workload for other judges and could delay court decisions affecting Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.... The vacancy predates Johnson. But when he took office in 2011, he blocked a nominee who President Obama had picked for the job. ... Johnson owns this embarrassing episode more than anyone because it has dovetailed with his nearly five-year tenure. ... Wisconsin’s U.S. senators should be able to get this important job filled without adding any more time to a five-year standoff that has weakened Wisconsin courts."

Justice delayed is justice denied (Palm Beach Post [FL], 05/22/15)
Jill Hanson: "In our hyperpartisan political atmosphere, where Washington appears incapable of accomplishing anything but bickering, access to justice should not be held up by political posturing. In February, President Barack Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Barzee-Flores is well-qualified for the position. ... For almost three months, justice has been held up for residents of South Florida, because Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not called a hearing to confirm the president’s nominee. I hope Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson put pressure on Grassley"

Rolly: Collateral damage (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/21/15)
Paul Rolly column: "Utah's federal court has had a vacancy for more than a year because the U.S. Senate cannot seem to get its act together to confirm Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish — even though President Barack Obama initially nominated her in September and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has had nothing but praise for the pick. When the Senate failed to vote on her last year, Obama renominated her in January. Hatch said he expected her to be confirmed within weeks. Finally, four months later, the vote on Parrish, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February ... The Senate finally confirmed her, unanimously, Thursday."

How long did it take a unanimous Senate to confirm two judges? (Washington Post, 05/21/15)
Al Kamen column: "The Senate Judiciary Committee approved both Parrish and Olvera without dissent back in February. The Senate, embroiled in a long-running, bitter and partisan battle over judicial confirmations, has, with Thursday’s votes, confirmed a total of four judges so far this year."

Senate Has Confirmed Just Two Judges in 2015 (Wall Street Journal, 05/20/15)
Jacob Gershman: "Even by the standards of Congress, that’s a remarkably slow pace ... One thing is certain, the trickle of confirmation votes this year isn’t helping the judiciary empty its backlog of civil cases. As The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo reported in April, more than 330,000 such cases were pending as of last fall—a record—up nearly 20% since 2004, according to judiciary data."


Want to be called ‘Your Honor?’ You may have to wait for that (Washington Post, 05/19/15)
Al Kamen: "The Senate, as it heads into the Memorial Day recess next week, has so far this year confirmed only two judges, both of them from Texas, home of GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Five other candidates have been awaiting a full Senate vote, and it’s not clear they’re going to get one this week. Three of them (including one from Texas and another backed by Utah GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee) have been pending since February. There are another 12 waiting in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eight still need a hearing, and another four have had their hearing and are awaiting a vote. That vote could come on Thursday — though probably not. As it stands, there are 57 federal judicial vacancies, up from 43 at the beginning of this year. In contrast, a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2007 had confirmed 18 nominees by now (though some were holdovers from 2006), and the vacancies had dropped from 56 at the beginning of the year down to 50 by mid-May"

Judicial nominee ignored by Congress (Sun Sentinel [FL], 05/18/15)
Letter to the Editor, by Mara Shlackman: "In February, President Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill the vacancy on the Federal Southern District Court of Florida. ... Even after the courts declared the vacant seat a "judicial emergency" (a sign that a judge is needed as soon as possible), for almost three months, justice has been held up for residents of South Florida, because Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not called a hearing to confirm the president's nominee. I hope Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson will put pressure on Grassley to call a hearing to confirm Judge Barzee-Flores. Justice for Floridians should not be delayed due to political obstructionism."

Benched! National Review gets the history wrong on judicial confirmations (Justice Watch, 05/15/15)
"Severino makes the misleading claim that Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has “held five hearings and considered 14 nominees” this year, but fails to mention that only three of those hearings included nominees to Article III judgeships, for a total of 10 nominees. And for the hearing held on March 11, Grassley listed just two judicial nominees, passing over five nominees who had been nominated back in November 2014. Most egregiously, Grassley has forced Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo to wait (so far) more than six months for a hearing, even though Judge Restrepo has the support of Republican home-state Senator Pat Toomey, and was confirmed to a district court seat without opposition in 2013. With vacancies rising and qualified nominees pending, the Senate has a constitutional obligation to act, and that obligation does not depend on the historical pace of confirmations."

Sen. Pat Toomey flip-flops, lifts block on judicial nominee (Daily Kos, 05/15/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has been feeling some heat back home for blocking a judicial nominee for a seat that has been vacant long enough to create a judicial emergency in the third circuit U.S. court of appeals.... Miraculously, the minute that Toomey said he had to wait until the background check was done, the "new background check has been completed.""

Sen. Pat Toomey insists he's not blocking the judicial nomination he's totally blocking (Daily Kos, 05/14/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey inexplicably has been blocking a judicial nominee whom he actually endorsed and has been supporting since 2013....But now he's taking a new approach, by denying that he's holding up the nomination, while he's clearly holding up the nomination.... Except, as Huffington Post notes, that's not true. His fellow Pennsylvanian, Democrat Bob Casey, provided his blue slip back in November and the committee's investigation of Restrepo continued apace—the one thing has nothing to do with the other."

Nomination deserved (Williamsport [PA] Sun-Gazette, 05/14/15)
Alison Hirsch, Letter to the Editor: "More than six months ago, in a rare case bipartisanship, Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey both publicly supported the nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo for an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold a hearing for Judge Restrepo despite initially having support from both Pennsylvania Senators....Senator Toomey could be putting more pressure on Senator Grassley to move this nomination forward. When these kinds of vacancies go unfilled, court cases get backlogged and justice is unnecessarily delayed."

EDITORIAL: Toomey needs to explain himself regarding judge (Observer-Reporter [PA], 05/14/15)
"It’s not uncommon for a member of the U.S. Senate to put a temporary block on a judicial nominee over philosophical or political differences. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is doing that right now with President Obama’s nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. And on whose recommendation did the president make this nomination? Why, it was none other than Sen. Pat Toomey. We kid you not. Toomey is throwing a roadblock in front of his own judicial choice.... An aide to the senator said Toomey “hopes it gets done this year.” This year? It’s only May. One would hope that Restrepo’s nomination advances well before the end of 2015, considering that he already has been cooling his heels since last November."


Pat Toomey Insists He's Not Holding Up A Judicial Nominee He's Holding Up (Huffington Post, 05/13/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) insisted Wednesday that he's not blocking one of his own judicial nominees for political reasons -- even as he is still refusing to give the Senate Judiciary Committee the green light to give that nominee a hearing.... Toomey's reason for not submitting his blue slip doesn't really work, though. For starters, it wouldn't interfere at all with the committee's background review of Restrepo if the senator turned in his blue slip -- as Casey did.... Delays on Restrepo's hearing come at a time when Republicans are slow-walking Obama's judicial nominees. The Senate has confirmed only two district court judges this year. By contrast, Democrats had confirmed 18 district or circuit court judges by this point in President George W. Bush's seventh year in office.... It's not clear when Restrepo will get a hearing. He's already waited 182 days, as of Wednesday, which is more than double the amount of time that other recent nominees to the same Pennsylvania court have waited. Judge Cheryl Krause, confirmed in 2014, waited 34 days for a hearing after being nominated. Judge Thomas Vanaskie, confirmed in 2009, waited 90 days for a hearing. Casey spokesman John Rizzo said that his senator is ready to get Restrepo confirmed already."

Toomey's Explanation for Restrepo Delay Raises More Questions (Huffington Post, 05/13/15)
Paul Gordon: "Since Judge Restrepo already had a thorough background investigation for his confirmation to the district court in 2013, why does it take half a year to complete one that covers only the short interval since then? It took less time to do background checks and proceed to hearings for people nominated at the same time but who had not already been thoroughly vetted by the Judiciary Committee. And why didn’t Toomey make this simple and quick explanation when asked by the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery earlier this month? Instead, he took the time to say that he didn’t have time to explain, then he ducked into a senators-only elevator. And why didn’t Sen. Grassley mention this when asked by Bendery on the same day, before the crush of bad press that Toomey is now responding to? When asked when the hearing would be, Grassley cited only the blue slip and said nothing about an ongoing background investigation. (After the media scrutiny of Toomey began to mount, Grassley cited the background investigation rather than the lack of a blue slip as the cause of the delay.) And even if we accept the background investigation story, why hasn't Toomey been pushing the committee to hurry it up, considering this is to fill a judicial emergency on a court where a second vacancy will be opening in just a few weeks? Toomey says he fully supports the nomination. As Inigo Montoya might say, I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means."

Toomey Slow-Walking the Restrepo Nomination: If Senator Toomey Really Wants to Move Judge Restrepo’s Nomination Along, He Should be Writing to Senator Grassley, Not to a Newspaper (Constitutional Accountability Center, 05/13/15)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "Six months since the nomination and the background investigation has not been completed? This is hard to fathom, for several reasons. First, it appears that the investigation has been done -- Committee Democrats have completed their review of it. ... Second, ... Restrepo was confirmed to a seat on the District Court a mere two years ago, following a thorough background check. ... Finally, six other nominees who were nominated on or after Restrepo was nominated back on November 12, 2014 have had their hearings before the Committee. The Third Circuit seat to which Judge Restrepo has been nominated has been vacant for nearly two years and, as the Post-Gazette reported, has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of the “backlog of cases.” The inexcusable delay in filling this vacancy is hurting everyone within the court’s jurisdiction – individuals and businesses alike – who must depend on the court for justice.... [Sen. Toomey] should march into Sen. Grassley’s office and say that six months is more than enough time for Republicans on the Committee to have reviewed the background check of a sitting federal judge nominated for elevation to the Court of Appeals, particularly when the Committee conducted a full review of that same nominee two years ago."

EDITORIAL: Time to judge court nominee (Standard Speaker [Hazleton, PA], 05/12/15)

EDITORIAL: Time to move judicial nomination forward (Citizens Voice [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 05/12/15)
"No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Barack Obama submitted his name....No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Barack Obama submitted his name."

EDITORIAL: Confirm judge for 3rd Circuit (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 05/12/15)

Justice Denied: U.S. Appeals Court Seat Vacant More Than 5 Years (Constitutional Accountability Center, 05/11/15)
"In an attempt to break through obstruction of the federal judicial nominations process, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday submitted to the White House the names of eight possible candidates for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a seat that has been vacant for more than five years. At 1,950 days and counting, this this is the oldest vacancy on the Court of Appeals in the entire country, and the second oldest in the entire federal judiciary.... the President nominated Victoria Nourse in 2010.... Once he took office, Senator Johnson decided to oppose the Nourse nomination, blocking her from even receiving a hearing ... “This vacancy is an utter embarrassment,” said CAC Vice President Judith E. Schaeffer. “Senator Baldwin has bent over backward for years trying to accommodate Senator Johnson on filling this vacancy, but enough is enough""

Letter: Toomey changes view on judicial nominee (Reading Eagle [PA] , 05/11/15)
Michael Morrill: "Back in November, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa ...joined Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in recommending Judge Restrepo. More than six months later, the judge's nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, because Sen. Toomey is blocking his own nominee."

EDITORIAL: Unjust delay: Toomey is to blame for a stalled nomination (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/10/15)
"In November, Sen. Pat Toomey applauded the nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he would make a “superb addition” to the Philadelphia-based court. Six months later, Mr. Restrepo is not only unconfirmed, but has yet to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an interview, and Mr. Toomey appears to be the reason.... Mr. Restrepo, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2013, is well qualified for the post and the 3rd Circuit needs him. Its judges hear appeals from three states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware — and the district has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of its backlog of cases.... Enough with the games. The 3rd Circuit needs confirmation this month."