Editorials and Opinion
Senate’s unfinished business: Fill judicial vacancies (The Hill, 09/17/14)
Raymond M. Lodato: "While several bills are making their way through the upper house, the arena in which it can have the most impact is in confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees. So far this year, the upper house has filled 68 vacancies on the Federal bench, more than in all of 2013. However, even with the increased pace, 60 vacancies remain on Federal district and appellate benches.
Each vacancy in the Federal courts increases the burden on active and senior judges (who work a reduced number of cases in semi-retirement) and delays the administration of justice for individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups seeking resolution of their claims. Nearly two dozen of the vacancies have been classified as “judicial emergencies” because of the length of time they have been unfilled and the number of cases in their jurisdictions."
Confirm Leeson, other U.S. judicial nominees (Morning Call [PA], 09/16/14)
Christine Stone, co-chair of Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "With just a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, Sen. Toomey must play a leadership role in discouraging his party from delaying and obstructing federal court judicial nominees just because they can. Sen. Toomey understands the importance of addressing the nation's judicial vacancy crisis. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon their obstruction and delay of judiciary committee votes and instead send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald Pappert, Joseph Leeson, Jr. and Mark Kearney to the full Senate for a vote. When these jurists were nominated, both Sens. Casey and Toomey publicly voiced their strong support. Sen. Toomey also noted that a vote on Mr. Leeson's nomination would mean that for the first time the Allentown courthouse would have two sitting federal district court judges."
ISSUE | JUDICIAL VACANCIES: Sen. Toomey can help fit these robes (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 09/15/14)
Christine M. Stone and Jodi Hirsh, cochairs, PA Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "Pennsylvanians can't afford to let the U.S. Senate play politics with eight federal judicial vacancies. Unnecessary delays on judicial nominations cause real, lasting consequences for Americans seeking justice. With a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, partisan politics need to be put aside. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) must play a leadership role, having publicly committed to working with Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) to fill the vacancies. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon its obstruction and delay of Judiciary Committee votes and send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald J. Pappert, Joseph F. Leeson Jr., and Mark A. Kearney to the full Senate for a vote."
It's taken 2 decades for Congress to do right (Des Moines Register [IA] , 09/13/14)
Rox Laird, Opinion column: "On July 16, Ronnie White was confirmed as a federal trial judge in Missouri by the U.S. Senate 17 years after he was first appointed by President Bill Clinton. The appointment of White — an African-American lawyer and former Missouri Supreme Court justice — to the federal court is an important symbol of the progress blacks have made in a city where the slave trade once flourished. Yet, White's backers saw racism in the campaign by Senate Republicans to reject his nomination nearly two decades earlier. ...Iowa's Sen. Chuck Grassley voted against White both times and delivered a lengthy statement giving his reasons. ... the progress from slave trade to a black man sitting on the federal bench is a long distance. Sadly, whether because of race or the Senate's broken confirmation system, Ronnie White almost did not make the trip."
A New Reason to Confirm Texas Judicial Nominees This Fall (People For blog, 09/08/14)
"The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts this morning formally reclassified a longstanding judicial vacancy in southern Texas as a judicial emergency... Of the Lone Star State's 11 current vacancies, eight of them are judicial emergencies, and eight of them have no nominees. Those numbers are too high.
Fortunately, nominees for three of the state's emergencies are having hearings before the Judiciary Committee tomorrow: Amos Mazzant, Trey Schroeder, and Robert Pitman. They have the support of the White House that nominated them and the two Republican senators who recommended them. ... If the Judiciary Committee can vote them out before leaving town later this month, the Senate should be able to hold a confirmation vote before the election. Otherwise, senators will need to come back to approve them in a lame duck session."
Opinion The new battle over Blair Mountain -- with lawyers instead of guns (Los Angeles Times, 09/01/14)
Scott Martelle: "Last week in a 2-1 vote, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the judge’s dismissal, deciding that the plaintiffs did have standing, in part because removing the surface of Blair Mountain would create a landscape where widely appreciated beauty now exists. In dissent, the lone “no” vote questioned whether anyone has a legal right to enjoy the view of another’s property, despite a litany of prior cases the majority cited."
Catch of the Day: Redefining Obstruction (Bloomberg News, 08/25/14)
Jonathan Bernstein column: "even after the "nuclear option" reform in the Senate last fall, President Barack Obama's federal court nominees still wait longer for confirmation than their predecessors under previous presidents....I should stress that these are in many cases delays of non-controversial nominees.... Unfortunately, Republicans simply haven’t abided by longstanding Senate norms. After Obama's election, they suddenly insisted that every nomination required 60 votes -- an unprecedented hurdle. They blockaded multiple nominations to the DC Circuit Court. They have, before and after filibuster reform, used Senate rules to delay even nominations that they have intended ultimately to support. Since reform, they have imposed the maximum delay on every single judicial nominee.... if Republicans win a Senate majority in November, they may simply shut down all nominations for two full years. That would be absolutely outrageous."
Yes, Republicans Really Are Unprecedented in Their Obstructionism (Mother Jones, 08/25/14)
Kevin Drum: "for Obama. His numbers for his first five years are far, far higher than Bush's even though Bush's are inflated by delays during his final year in office. It's just another example of the fact that, no, both parties aren't equally at fault for the current level of government dysfunction. Republicans greeted Obama's inauguration with an active plan of maximal obstruction of everything he did, regardless of what it was or how necessary it might be in the face of an epic economic collapse. No other party in recent history has done that."
EDITORIAL: Congress and its unearned vacation (Kansas City Star, 08/08/14)
"Then there are all of the long-term challenges that Congress won’t confront in any serious way:... Many of the president’s nominees to be judges and ambassadors remain in limbo."
EDITORIAL: As Arcara prepares to scale back, Washington needs to do its job (Buffalo News [NY], 07/30/14)
"[L]et us urge the U.S. Senate to move swiftly in confirmation of two new judges desperately needed, one of whom has already been recommended.... And to make matters worse, if the Senate drags its collective feet too long, say until 2015, there is a chance that the entire landscape could have changed if Republicans regain control of the Senate in the November election. There’s a good chance Republicans will reject all of Obama’s judicial nominees. Time is of the essence. But the dockets are choked with cases....There is an opportunity here, as Arcara has noted. With two new judges, along with his and Skretny’s willingness to continue hearing cases, it is possible to significantly reduce the backlog of cases."
Do Republicans Warrant Being the Majority Party in Both Houses? (Huffington Post, 07/24/14)
Byron Williams: "Utilizing the rules of the Senate, Republicans have succeeded in blocking more of President Obama's judicial nominations than the combined total of his predecessors. Elections have consequences; at least they should, but not in the current GOP world."
Brent Budowsky: Cruz could destroy GOP (The Hill, 07/23/14)
"The Cruz influence is almost entirely negative. For example, senators can prevent judicial vacancies from being filled by a practice called the blue slip. While Texas litigants have an urgent need for vacant judgeships to be filled, because of immigration and many other pressing matters, Cruz has abused the blue slip practice and kept many judicial chambers empty."
No Winners, Only Losers, When it Comes to Judicial Vacancies (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 07/21/14)
Andrew Cohen: "What the conversation about judicial nominations sorely lacks is a broader look at the constitutional responsibility of the executive and legislative branches to consistently ensure that the third branch, the judiciary, has enough judges to ensure that the nation’s rule of law is fairly and evenly administered....there is no equal justice under law if people in this jurisdiction are treated differently from people in jurisdictions whose federal courts are fully-staffed. In this respect, the Brennan Center report also is important because of the candor it includes from judges most directly impacted by the nation’s empty benches."
EDITORIAL: Only Senate can fix broken process of confirmations (Dubuque Telegraph Herald [IA], 07/09/14)
"It’s up to the Senate to reform the broken confirmation process. ...The gamesmanship to avoid appointing qualified nominees has real negative consequences for government agencies and by extension, the American people. The Senate should expedite decisions, especially on noncontroversial nominees, and keep the nominating process moving. President Obama reached too far in making appointments without Senate approval. But it’s the Senate that created the backlog in the first place."
145 Nominees Still Can’t Do Their Jobs Because Republicans Won’t Do Theirs (Nation, 07/08/14)
George Zornick: "So why are these nominees waiting so long? Routine obstruction by Republican senators who are deliberately stretching out the confirmation process for virtually every nominee to come through the Senate. ... A report by Common Cause in May found nineteen examples of Republican senators chewing up cloture time on judicial nominees who were later confirmed unanimously by the Senate."
EDITORIAL: Some real movement on that judicial appointment (Daily News [Galveston County, TX], 07/05/14)
"Here’s some good news: Texas’ two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, are moving quickly to fill judicial vacancies, including the one in Galveston....Cornyn and Cruz established a bipartisan panel to help identify the most qualified candidates.
They’ve put the word out, encouraging qualified candidates to apply. The notable thing is the application deadline: Aug. 1. The senators are moving."
Editorial: No judge, no justice (Dallas Morning News, 07/04/14)
"In the current hyper-partisan gridlock of Washington, however, the nomination and confirmation process has virtually ground to a halt, leaving Texas with more unfilled seats on federal benches than any other state. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz need to pick up the pace in nominating applicants to fill these seats. ... In the current hyper-partisan gridlock of Washington, however, the nomination and confirmation process has virtually ground to a halt, leaving Texas with more unfilled seats on federal benches than any other state.
Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz need to pick up the pace in nominating applicants to fill these seats....Why aren’t the names of nominees to fill the other vacancies already on the president’s desk, especially since many of those seats came open more than two years ago?"
Texas’ judicial backlog is finally being addressed (Dallas Morning News, 07/02/14)
Ashley Croswell, Letter to the Editor: "It is exciting to see that the judicial vacancy crisis in Texas is beginning to be remedied. Those vacancies have created a 12,000-plus-case backlog, totaling 19 years’ worth of work not done in our federal courts. Our federal courts are often the principal protectors of our natural resources. Defenders of the environment turn to federal courts to hold accountable those that jeopardize our health and the health of our planet. Federal courts can be the last resort for environmental justice. That is why judges who enforce laws that protect the environment are indispensable."
EDITORIAL: A Unanimous Supreme Court: A Blow to Presidential Appointments (New York Times, 06/27/14)
"The effect of the ruling is reduced somewhat because the Senate, in overhauling its filibuster rules last year, ended the ability of the minority party to block appointments with only two-fifths of the chamber. For the moment, Republicans are no longer able to prevent the functioning of an agency they don’t like, such as the labor board, by refusing to make any appointments. But all that could change if Republicans take over the Senate next year and begin blocking all nominees with a simple majority vote, then refusing to allow recess appointments."
Symposium: The Senate must act to end dysfunction (SCOTUSBlog, 06/27/14)
Alicia Bannon and David Earley: "The Senate already took an important step toward reform last fall by changing the filibuster procedure for most nominees to require only a majority vote for cloture. Yet further reforms are urgently required to ensure that executive and judicial nominees are considered in a timely fashion – including reducing opportunities to waste floor time and reforming the blue slip process, where home-state senators can keep judicial nominees from moving forward. Without such reform, yesterday’s decision has the potential to significantly hamstring the president’s power to execute our laws."
Presidential Appointments Were Already a Total Nightmare. Now They Just Got Worse; The Supreme Court's ruling in Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board hands a victory to government obstructionists. (Mother Jones, 06/26/14)
Patrick Caldwell: the Supreme Court's decision could essentially make it impossible for future presidents to use recess appointments when the minority party controls one section of Congress. While the Senate is technically in charge of appointments, the House still has a say; the Senate can't technically recess unless the House consents. It will always be in the opposition party's interest to prevent the president from filling federal vacancies or putting judges on the bench without their approval. That could spell trouble for President Obama in the final years of his presidency. While he's had an easier time getting his judges and staff confirmed since the Senate went nuclear on the filibuster, Republicans are projected to retake the Senate in the midterm elections. Obama better make sure he gets all of his staff in place before the end of the year if he doesn't want an empty White House as he winds down his final term in office."
It’s a wrap: Editorials, June 15-21 (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 06/21/14)
"Tuesday, June 17: Since late last year, when Democrats exercised some authority over the chamber they control and limited Republicans’ ability to filibuster judicial nominations, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 54 of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees. This accelerated confirmation pace has reduced the number of vacancies in the federal judiciary to their lowest level in more than five years. The reduction in the number of vacancies on federal courts of appeal and district courts is good news. But there still are too many judicial vacancies and the need to fill them remains urgent. The sense of urgency is especially acute in Texas."
Editorial: TURKEYS AND TROPHIES: Leeson a solid choice for federal judgeship (Express-Times [PA], 06/21/14)
"TROPHIES: A worthy candidate: Bethlehem attorney Joseph F. "Jay" Lesson Jr. was nominated this week for a federal judgeship by President Obama. Leeson has served in many roles in local government, including Bethlehem city council and city solicitor, and has a wealth of community experience. If confirmed by the Senate, Leeson would fill the vacant U.S. District Court seat in Allentown. Combined with the recent appointment of former Northampton County Judge Edward Smith to a federal court position in Easton, the elevation of Leeson would go a long way in tackling the federal case backlog in the Lehigh Valley."
Great Progress in Judicial Nominations (People For blog, 06/19/14)
"With the Senate finally able to do its job, the number of current vacancies has gone down from 92 at the beginning of the year to 60 today....With the Senate finally able to do its job, the number of current vacancies has gone down from 92 at the beginning of the year to 60 today.... Every American has the right to protect their legal rights in a court of law, but judicial vacancies make that harder. Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy, and the Democrats are to be commended for making judicial confirmations such a high priority."
Editorial: Justice denied by partisan gridlock (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 06/19/14)
"U.S. District Judge Royal Ferguson took senior status on Nov. 30, 2008, vacating his San Antonio-based bench. Today, more than five-and-a-half years later, the bench remains vacant. The situation illustrates the damaging results of partisan gridlock.
Work piles up in the Western District of Texas — a hot spot for drug cases and immigration matters — and the open San Antonio bench remains vacant, despite its official status as a judicial emergency. In 2011, Sen. John Cornyn co-sponsored legislation to add three judgeships in Texas. ...Texas still has eight district court vacancies and two 5th Circuit vacancies....Texans should hold their senators accountable for their part in the logjam."
EDITORIAL: More judges seated, but need still great (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 06/17/14)
"Judicial vacancies burden a federal court system already dealing with a record caseload, and they delay justice for millions of Americans whose lives and businesses are put on hold when there are not enough judges to decide their cases....But there still are too many judicial vacancies, and the need to fill them remains urgent. The sense of urgency is especially acute in Texas.... We call on both senators to work with the White House on filling judicial vacancies in Texas. Beyond judicial vacancies, there also is a need for more federal judges. ... The Judicial Conference of the United States, chaired by John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has recommended increasing the number of federal judgeships in Texas by eight new permanent positions. The state's congressional delegation would do Texas well by supporting legislation to enact the conference's recommendations."
A Historic Day for Our Judiciary (The White House, 06/17/14)
Neil Eggleston, Counsel to the President: "Today’s confirmations also set historic milestones:
• For the first time in history, the Senate has confirmed two openly gay judges on the same day.
• President Obama has now appointed more female judges than any other President, breaking the record previously set by President Clinton.
• President Obama also has now appointed more Hispanic judges than any other President, breaking the record previously held by President George W. Bush.
As we’ve said before, these “firsts” — and these milestones — are important, not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system, and because these judges will serve as role models for generations of lawyers to come."
Obama leaves his mark on the federal bench (MSNBC, 06/11/14)
Adam Serwer: "Alliance for Justice, a liberal legal group, released a report Monday ... The blue-slip is not quite as effective as the filibuster, but it has taken its toll. According to the report, “nine out of every 10 judicial vacancies without a nominee are in states with at least one Republican senator—and 55% are in states where both senators are Republicans.”"
LETTER: Toomey, Casey should act to fill judicial vacanciesexp (Express-Times [PA], 06/10/14)
Christine Stone, Co-Chairwoman, Pennsylvania Coalition of Constitutional Values: "There are eight vacancies on the U.S. Eastern and Western District courts in Pennsylvania. These openings erode justice and Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey each share responsibility. Constitutionally, the president nominates individuals for judgeship, but tradition holds that the two senators from the state with the vacancy — or, in this case, eight vacancies — are to offer up candidates for the president to approve. As seats remain unfilled, Pennsylvanians who rely on district courts are being denied the justice they deserve. With eight vacancies in Pennsylvania ranging in duration from two years to six months, Toomey and Casey must act now and suggest candidates for nomination to these openings."
Louisiana House should kill bill intended to nullify levee lawsuit against oil, gas: Editorial (Times-Picayune [LA] , 05/28/14)
"What the legislation does is severely limit which agencies can file suit and for what sort of damages....and would leave residents in greater New Orleans with no practical remedy for the increased risk of storm damage caused by coastal erosion....SB 469 would take away the rights of other local government entities to pursue "any right or cause of action arising from any activity" involving permitting under the Coastal Zone Management program and some provisions of the federal Clean Water Act and the federal Rivers and Harbors Act. ... Those residents and the levees and pumps built to protect them are threatened by the wetlands loss created by oil and gas pipelines. Why shouldn't the industry be asked to pay part of the cost to repair it?"