Editorials and Opinion
Letter to the Editor: Functioning again (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 12/02/13)
Eleanor Levie, National Council of Jewish Women: "Because of the necessary reform of the filibuster, the Senate's next session should mean confirmation of three, highly qualified nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ... After that, we should see an end to the judicial vacancy crisis here in Pennsylvania, with the confirmation of nominees to the federal district courts in the state that both Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Bob Casey (D., Pa.) have championed ... Courts matter: Their decisions impact our religious freedom, our voting rights, our air and water, the safety of the products we buy, and more."
The Filibuster and the Environment (Legal Planet: The Environmental Law & Policy Blog, 11/25/13)
Prof. Dan Farber: "In the short run, at least, EPA and other environmental agencies will benefit by having a more sympathetic bench and by filling executive branch positions that have been blocked by the threat of filibuster. In the long run, whenever the same party controls both the Senate and the White House, it will have more ability to control judicial and executive nominations. This will favor environmentalists if that party is the Democrats; industry when that party is the Republicans."
Editorial | Filibusted: GOP had it coming (Lancaster Eagle-Gazette [OH], 11/24/13)
"Republicans already had taken filibuster obstruction to new levels during the administration of President Barack Obama. The final straw for Democrats last week came after the GOP blocked the third of three appointments to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
Not because the three highly regarded nominees were controversial. They aren’t.
Not because they aren’t eminently qualified. They are. The Republican minority in the GOP blocked the nominees simply to obstruct the president’s constitutional right to appoint members to a court considered enormously powerful, especially when it comes to considering policies and regulations of Washington. The GOP hates the idea of judges on that court who might be friendly toward the Obama administration when it comes, say, to tougher environmental regulations."
Editorial | Filibusted: GOP had it coming (Courier-Journal [KY] , 11/24/13)
"But the only regret here is that Democrats didn’t act sooner to end unprecedented obstruction by a minority of Republicans when it comes to the president’s right to appoint federal judges and officials to numerous executive positions that require Senate confirmation.... Republicans already had taken filibuster obstruction to new levels during the administration of President Barack Obama. The final straw for Democrats last week came after the GOP blocked the third of three appointments to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Not because the three highly regarded nominees were controversial. They aren’t. Not because they aren’t eminently qualified. They are. The Republican minority in the GOP blocked the nominees simply to obstruct the president’s constitutional right to appoint members to a court considered enormously powerful, especially when it comes to considering policies and regulations of Washington.
The GOP hates the idea of judges on that court who might be friendly toward the Obama administration when it comes, say, to tougher environmental regulations."
Editorial: The filibuster falls, a victim of abuse (St. Louis Post-Dispatch [MO] , 11/23/13)
"Now, with political partisanship as deep as it has been since Reconstruction, the abuses reached the point where Mr. Reid decided to pull the trigger.... The upshot was that the ability of the courts and the executive branch to do business has become severely compromised.... The proximate cause of the rule change was the GOP refusal to let three of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., come to a vote. That court, because it generally has jurisdiction over regulatory agencies, is regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in the impact of its deliberations. The current appeals court has done great damage to environmental and financial regulations.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, himself an alumnus of the D.C. Court of Appeals, has written that at least a third of the cases that come before the Supreme Court deal with regulatory challenges. That’s one reason why judges from that appeals court often find their way to the Supreme Court. Currently there are four judges on the appeals court appointed by Democrats (including one of Mr. Obama’s nominees who was confirmed after a long delay earlier this year) and four appointed by Republicans. Five of the six senior judges, who are semiretired, are Republican appointees. Republican senators did not want the court’s overall conservatism diluted by Mr. Obama’s appointees, no matter how qualified they are. Republicans are correct that the Democrats played this game, too. But this year there have been an average of 69 vacant judicial seats, creating long delays and heavy caseloads. The highest number of vacancies during the Bush administration was 35."
Editorial: "Nuclear option" was inevitable (Denver Post [CO] , 11/22/13)
"When Senate Republicans this week blocked a vote on President Obama's nominee to an important federal appeals court — the third such maneuver in a month — it was apparent lawmakers had hit a point of no return....The D.C. Court of Appeals, which was the flashpoint for the rule change, isn't your ordinary federal appeals court. The 11-member court has three vacancies. Of its active judges, four were appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans. The court is unique because its caseload is loaded with claims against the federal government.
And that's likely to include cases challenging Obama administration regulations stemming from Environmental Protection Agency actions, and the implementation of Dodd-Frank financial reforms."
Filibuster demolition could clear the air for greener rulings (Grist Magazine, 11/22/13)
Ben Adler: "the D.C. Circuit Court and its makeup. Currently, there are four Democratic appointees on the court, one of whom was appointed by Obama. There are four Republicans. Three seats are empty, and six semi-retired judges are brought in periodically to alleviate the workload. Five of those stand-ins are Republican appointees. You can see the results of their handiwork. Putting Obama’s appointees in their place would make a big difference. Circuit court cases are heard by a three-judge panel chosen at random, so it matters a great deal which judges you pull....Historically, filibusters of judicial nominations were reserved for unqualified cronies and ideological extremists, but that just isn’t the case here.... The D.C. Circuit is the highest-profile arena to feel the impact of the Senate’s filibuster busting, but the move will help fill critical judicial vacancies throughout the federal bench."
Filibustering Clean Air and Climate Action (Huffington Post, 11/13/13)
Courtney Hight, Director, Sierra Club's Democracy Program: "extremists in the U.S. Senate blocked yet another highly-qualified nominee to the federal judiciary, filibustering the appointment of law professor Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court. ... It is no surprise that many reckless Senate Republicans will do anything it takes to keep seats on the D.C. Circuit Court vacant: If they were filled, it could bring balance to the court and ensure our most important laws are enforced fairly."
EDITORIAL: Waste, waste everywhere in water bill before the House (Washington Post, 10/23/13)
"Also, the bill would limit environmental review and public comment on corps projects, even though activists insist that poor project planning and the cumbersome authorization and funding process are much more responsible than environmentalists for delaying worthy construction. Instead of constraining environmental reviews, lawmakers should fix the big problem: the failure of the authorization system to sort out good projects from the merely mediocre, or even the plainly bad."
Sierra Club Entitled to County’s GIS Database Under California Public Records Act, Says California Supreme Court (Legal Planet: The Environmental Law & Policy Blog, 07/10/13)
Richard Frank: "Both the trial court and California Court of Appeal agreed with Orange County’s non-disclosure and exemption claim. However, California Supreme Court Justice (and former U.C. Berkeley Law School Professor) Goodwin Liu and his judicial colleagues disagreed. ... The decision in Sierra Club v. Superior Court (County of Orange) appears to this observer to be well-reasoned, absolutely correct on the merits and grounded in sound public policy. But it’s also a most significant ruling when it comes to environmental law and policy"
Editorial: Court ruling a blow to land use collaboration (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 06/28/13)
"State and local governments widely condition permit approvals on some kind of "mitigation" – changing the design, enhancing some other piece of land or paying a mitigation fee. But in a narrow 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has now made such negotiations much less likely, making it easier for landowners to challenge these kinds of conditions and fees and leading to more litigation. ... It also means, as California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued in an amicus brief for 19 states, that local governments to avoid lawsuits "would be encouraged to choose one of two extremes: denying development, or approving it without addressing its impacts." ...Further, instead of appealing permit conditions to local boards, landowners can now go directly to court, which California argued is essentially "converting the federal courts into land use boards of appeal." ... The decision allows landowners to issue lawsuit threats in order to extort permit concessions."
3 More about political appointees, the GOP and the environment (Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader [WA], 06/08/13)
Tom Camfield column: "The GOP has long blocked all manner of appointments in attempts to maintain the Republican rich-man way of life. Judicial appointments in particular, as judges rule on all manner of such things as environmental, health and labor issues . . . society's well-being in general.
A notable instance was the case of Caitlin Halligan, whose 2010 nomination to the D. C. Circuit court was blocked by Senate Republicans for more than two years!
And now, the beleaguered Prez is trying to fill three vacant seats on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has nominated an African-American man and two women. This short-handed court has, for some time, persistently blocked proposed environmental rules and dozens of labor cases."
Mr. Wilkins goes to the Senate; Our view: The man who successfully fought against racial profiling in Maryland is now treated as a political pawn by Senate Republicans (Baltimore Sun, 06/04/13)
"Today, Mr. Wilkins faces a new kind of discrimination. Now employed as a federal district court judge, he was one of three people nominated to fill vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today by President Barack Obama. Republicans are already lining up to oppose those nominations with charges that Mr. Obama is "packing the court," even though he is merely filling three unoccupied seats on the 11-member bench.... But what's going on here appears to be an effort to keep power in the hands of conservative judges who can block the kind of federal regulations — those designed to keep the environment clean or perhaps protect consumers or prevent bank failures — that the GOP so often find distasteful.
That's shameful, and what an irony that this sort of discrimination is being perpetrated against Judge Wilkins."
President Obama Announces Three Nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court (The White House, 06/04/13)
White House Blog by Megan Slack: "Today, President Obama announced that he is nominating three candidates for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: Patricia Millet, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins.
As the President explained, one of his most important responsibilities is nominating qualified men and women to serve as judges on the federal bench. And the Senate has a constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation."
Editorial: To break D.C. logjam, Sen. Reid should revive the 'nuclear option'; The GOP is threatening to block Obama from filling three seats on a key appellate court in Washington. If it continues, Sen. Reid should revive the 'nuclear option' to halt judicial filibusters. (Los Angeles Times, 06/02/13)
"As President Obama prepares to nominate three new judges for what is probably the nation's most important federal appeals court, Republicans in the Senate are escalating their attempts to stand in his way.... Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has accused Obama of trying to "pack" that court and has introduced legislation to abolish the three seats Obama plans to fill and reallocate two of them to supposedly busier regional appeals courts. ... filling existing vacancies isn't "packing" the court. If anyone is emulating FDR it's Grassley: Like Roosevelt, he wants to manipulate the number of seats on a court as a way to shape its decision-making.... studies have shown that appellate judges are influenced toward moderation by their colleagues. One study found a "dampening" effect on the views of Republican-appointed judges in environmental cases when they served on a panel with one or two Democrat-appointed judges....If Obama nominates three qualified candidates for the remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit and Republicans filibuster or drag their feet, pressure will increase on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to revisit the issue of the "nuclear option." "
Editorial: What Makes the D.C. Circuit Different? (New York Times, 06/01/13)
"Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is pushing a bill misleadingly called the Court Efficiency Act, which would eliminate three unfilled seats on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Next week, President Obama is expected to nominate three highly qualified lawyers for those seats, to bring the court to its full complement of 11 active judges. The Senate should confirm them quickly.... In April, the Judicial Conference of the United States, which Chief Justice Roberts leads, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “based on our current caseload needs,” the D.C. Circuit should continue to have 11 judgeships. The Democrats should do everything they can to fill all open seats on the court. Senator Grassley’s blatantly obstructionist “efficiency” plan is an insult to the Senate as well as to the appellate judges. The Judiciary Committee should torpedo the plan now, before it does serious harm to this important court."
Editorial: Fill seats on key D.C. court (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA] , 05/31/13)
"The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit widely is considered to be the nation's second most important court, ... It has exclusive jurisdiction over certain national security matters, environmental regulations and law regarding workers' rights, consumer protections and other major aspects of federal domestic policy....In an extraordinary act of hypocrisy, Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has labeled as "court-packing" the president's intention to exercise his constitutional authority to appoint judges to existing open seats. He has introduced a bill to reduce the number of seats from 11 to eight, which would preserve the conservative majority now on the court - court-packing in reverse.... when the D.C. Circuit's caseload was lighter he vigorously promoted President George W. Bush's appointments to fill all 11 seats.
Caseloads aren't a matter of numbers alone. The D.C. Circuit handles some of the most complex cases in the federal court system and should have its full complement of judges to do so. The Senate should reject Mr. Grassley's court-packing bill and give a fair hearing to the nominees."
Our View: Sen. Collins, GOP colleagues trying to slow government; The D.C. Circuit court should be allowed to regain full strength without political maneuvering. (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 05/29/13)
"Sen. Susan Collins is in the center of a showdown between the White House and Senate Republicans over judicial nominations.
It’s taking place over the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ... This court has the final say on complex regulatory questions, affecting environmental policy, health and safety issues and financial regulations.... Earlier this year, Republican senators (including Collins) filibustered a nomination for a vacancy on the court until the candidate withdrew. ... Now some Republican senators, again including Collins, are proposing stripping those seats from the court completely. ... without acknowledging that the kind of cases the D.C. Circuit hears can be more time-consuming than the ones other judges see.
This is a move that would freeze in place the current political makeup of the court, which favors Republicans.... they should not filibuster these nominations. The Senate should be doing the people’s business, not blocking it."
Grassley aims for GOP political spin on federal judiciary (Reuters, 05/10/13)
Doug Kendall: "the D.C. Circuit’s stunning decision this week to strike down a National Labor Relations Board rule requiring employers to post signs reminding workers of their right to organize, is a clear indication of why this D.C. court has become an ideological battleground.... Republicans manufactured a controversy over Caitlin Halligan, President Barack Obama’s well-qualified nominee to the D.C. Circuit, and then torpedoed her confirmation through a partisan filibuster. Then the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by its ranking member, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), took a startling step: They introduced legislation that would eliminate three of the 11 judicial seats on the D.C. Circuit .... If Grassley were serious about his Orwellian-named “Court Efficiency Act,” he would not have ignored recent recommendations from the Judicial Conference,"
A Senate Republican Goal: Keep the D.C. Circuit Business Friendly (American Constitution Society Blog, 05/08/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "the D.C. Circuit has been controlled by conservative judges. There are four vacancies on the bench ... The D.C. Circuit has also proven hostile to environmental regulations that are often challenged by corporations."
How little-known judges could thwart Obama’s climate plans (Grist Magazine, 05/08/13)
Doug Kendall and Simon Lazarus: "there has been a concerted effort by conservatives to dominate the federal bench, and this bench in particular....Republicans have already led a successful filibuster against Caitlin Halligan, a highly qualified D.C. Circuit nominee who ultimately withdrew her nomination after more than two years of obstruction. Now they have introduced a bill to reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit from 11 to eight in a nakedly partisan attempt to maintain conservative dominance over the makeup of the court.... It is time for the environmental movement to involve itself more in the conversation about nominations."
On the Importance of Judges (Environmental Forum, 05/01/13)
John C. Cruden, President, Environmental Law Institute: "At a recent meeting for environmental leaders held at the White House, we were asked whether our organizations really understand the importance of judges. I responded for everyone that you could not be in the environmental community without recognizing the critical importance of a well-informed judiciary in the upward trajectory of environmental policy....the United States has a staggering number of federal court vacancies: 68 in district courts and 17 in courts of appeal. Some 29 of these vacancies are considered to be emergencies. ... While all federal courts are important to environmental practitioners, the D.C. Circuit has a special place in our history and future."
Broken Circuit: Obstructionism in the Environment’s Most Important Court (Environmental Forum, 05/01/13)
Doug Kendall and Simon Lazarus: "the D.C.
Circuit’s conservatives, particularly its farthest-right new members, Kavanaugh and Brown, may be responding to the signals sent by their allies on the Supreme Court ...Several recent decisions evince an uptick in the D.C. Circuit conservatives’ willingness to imperil major regulatory initiatives, and even undermine the institutional capacity of agencies to function ... There remain four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. Protracted struggle will determine how many of those seats President Obama fills in the nearly four years remaining in his second term."
Editorial: Earth Day (Darien Times [CT], 04/27/13)
"The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. ... So for the benefit of all living things, including humanity, let’s focus on giving back to our planet which has given to us in such abundance."
EDITORIAL: Earth Day unnoticed at our perilmad (Madison Eagle [NJ], 04/26/13)
"The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge gyre of plastic, chemical sludge and debris washed out to sea and concentrated by the North Pacific’s currents, is deadly to sea turtles and sea birds. ...A majority of biologists conclude that worldwide, a mass extinction of species is under way – due to human activity – that will dwarf the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.... That first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts ... Citizens who care about the Earth and future generations must redouble their efforts to make a difference."
Editorial; What We Think: A day to save the planet (Valdosta Daily Times [GA], 04/22/13)
"The first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
There are those who will claim these acts have hindered human ambition and endeavor rather than help the planet. But these acts may well save the life-support system for our children and their children and all of our descendants to come."