Editorials and Opinion
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."
Editorial: Overdue progress on U.S. judges (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 09/25/14)
"Three nominations to the U.S. District Court in Texas' Southern District last week could further signal a welcome end to the state's judicial logjam. Judicial advocates have labeled Texas as the epicenter of a crisis in filling federal judicial vacancies — with the state containing too many of what were labeled judicial emergencies.... Pitman and two other nominees for Texas judgeships had their hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. At that hearing, the state's two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, supported the nominees.
That same kind of support came after the presidential nominations last week.
This is a good sign that both GOP senators are taking their roles seriously.... Even when all vacancies are filled, however, another task remains. That would be acting on the certainty that one of the fastest-growing states lacks enough federal judges in the first place."
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."
Marco Rubio Fails Florida, Doesn't Help Florida Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 05/01/14)
"Last week, we asked if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would step in to prevent his party from needlessly delaying committee approval of four highly qualified district court nominees, all of whom he recommended to the White House. All four vacancies are judicial emergencies, with a caseload so high that even if every vacancy were filled today, the districts would still need several additional judges to ensure timely access to justice for those in Florida to protect their rights."
West Texas Judges Talk About the Need for More Judges (People For blog, 03/18/14)
"Judge Ferguson discussed the importance of creating new judgeships and filling vacancies in existing ones ... He also described how the enormous caseload harms the deliberative process we expect from judges ... Chief Judge Fred Biery of the Western District discussed what it was like not having enough judges to handle the caseload:"
Severe Conditions in Texas Courts (People For blog, 03/17/14)
"The Judicial Conference asked Congress to create two new judgeships and make permanent a temporary judgeship in the Eastern District, create two new judgeships in the Southern District, and create four new judgeships in the Western District. They also asked that a fifth, temporary judgeship be created for the Western District. Districts listed in the Conference's request are among those most in need. But even within that group, Texas districts stand out for the severity of the crisis. In its cover letter to Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Conference urged immediate action on the five worst districts, two of which were in Texas"
Editorial: Burden of the filibuster (Akron Beacon Journal [OH], 12/15/13)
Judicial "nominations also deserve to move forward at a reasonable pace, again the will of voters in play, the courts reflecting the presidency changing between the parties.... federal courts have a job to perform, and that becomes more difficult when vacancies run at higher levels and the workload increases on judges.... the Brennan Center points tellingly at “the vacancy gap.” Obama began his presidency with fewer vacancies than George W. Bush faced at the same point. Soon the district court vacancies climbed higher, and there they have remained, while Bush settled into a vacancy rate about half the size. The vacancy rate has translated into higher caseloads for current judges. ... the Judicial Conference, the policymaking body for the federal courts, has recommended the addition of 85 judgeships, the first large-scale increase in two decades. It further explains that if all the vacancies were filled, and the new judgeships added, the pending cases per district judge would be similar to the rate in the late 1990s....Thus, from the perspective of the federal district courts, and those they serve, it is good to see the confirmation process beginning to pick up pace, the consequences of an abused filibuster having rippled far beyond the Senate chamber."
Idaho gets new chief federal judge — in Rhode Island (Idaho Statesman, 12/04/13)
Idaho Politics blog by Dan Popkey: "Idaho’s struggle to address booming caseloads got a boost last month when Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson introduced a bill to add a third U.S. district judge.... Judge Smith leads a Rhode Island bench with four U.S. District judges: ... By contrast, Idaho has just two U.S. district judges, ... Rhode Island’s population is 1.1 million; Idaho has 1.6 million souls. Rhode Island, the nation’s smallest state, covers 1,545 square miles; Idaho, the 14th largest, has 83,570 square miles. Idaho’s proportion of federal lands — which generate a considerable number of cases with federal jurisdiction — is also a bit larger than Rhode Island. About 62 percent of Idaho is in U.S. ownership; in Rhode Island the figure is 0.4 percent."
Stapilus: Idaho Needs a Third Federal District Judge (Times-News [ID] , 11/25/13)
Randy Stapilus: "Representative Mike Simpson might not get a lot of attention for his proposal of last week — one that may be the most specifically useful to Idaho that any of the delegation offers this term. And a repeat from 2010, at that. But Idaho does need a third federal district judge. ... He said that, “I recently met with Idaho’s federal judges and heard directly from them about the serious impact budget cuts, sequester, and the lack of an additional judge are having on the federal courts in Idaho. While I am fully cognizant of the budget crisis facing our country, I share the judges’ concerns about delays in the administration of justice and the impact that has on the Constitutional role of the courts.”... The understaffing has led to inefficiencies and, ironically, extra costs."
People in Silicon Valley yawned at the shutdown. They shouldn’t have. (Washington Post, 10/17/13)
Timothy B. Lee, The Switch blog: "Shutdowns, poorly-targeted spending cuts, and filibusters are preventing the government from performing basic services that they've performed without difficulty for decades. For example, a recent analysis by the Brennan Center finds that Congress has not only failed to fill judicial vacancies in a timely fashion, it's also failed to create new judgeships to keep up with population growth. As a result, federal judges are facing "unprecedented workloads." The resulting delays drive up the cost of litigation for technology companies along with everyone else."
Editorial: Justice will be served, eventually (Standard Speaker [Hazleton, PA], 09/18/13)
"Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
EDITORIAL: Civil litigants also deserve timely justice (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 09/16/13)
"Justice delayed is ... routine. Even though the legal maxim holds that justice delayed is justice denied, criminal defendants are the only people involved in the federal court system who can expect speedy access to the courts. ...The judicial conference, headed by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, has recommended the creation of 65 permanent and 20 temporary district court judgeships and five permanent and one temporary circuit appellate judgeships to relieve the backlog .... Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
Editorial: jeers to slow justice (News Item [PA], 09/16/13)
"[D]elays can be life altering for an individual in a dispute, or highly disruptive for a business involved in a commercial or proprietary property case. Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
Editorial: Ease federal caseloads (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA] , 09/15/13)
"According to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the median time for a federal civil case to proceed from filing to trial has increased by more than 70 percent since 1992, from 15 months to 25.7 months. Since 2000, the number of cases in the system that are more than three years old has increased to 12 percent of the total federal civil docket, up from 5 percent between 1992 and 1999.
Those kinds of delays can be life-altering for an individual in a dispute, or highly disruptive for a business involved in a commercial or proprietary property case.... Less political obstructionism by Republicans holding up appointments to current seats would help, but the judicial conference and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law have calculated that, even if every existing seat were filled, judicial caseloads still would produce delays because new filings have increased by more than 40 percent since 1992. Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
Editorial: Justice delayed is ... routine (Daily Review [Towanda, PA], 09/15/13)
"Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
Editorial: When justice delayed is unnecessarily denied; More judges need in Delaware, other states (News Journal (DE), 09/10/13)
"What good is it to have a “model judiciary” respected the world over, but yet its reputation is hindered by the everyday reality of understaffing that creates an oppressive federal case load?
This question arises from the failure of Congress to “comprehensively address judicial staffing levels” since 1990. In the 23-year interim, individual judges’ caseloads have increased by 38 percent. ... they are valid reasons that led Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy to sponsor the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013. ... Most important, it also would be constitutionally compliant by assuring defendants and plaintiffs a fair hearing and review of the evidence by a justice who is not overwhelmed by a heavy case load."
Considering comprehensive federal judgeships legislation (The Hill, 09/10/13)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Today, the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts will conduct a hearing on Senate Bill 1385. If passed, the Federal Judgeships Act of 2013 would authorize the establishment of 70 new federal appeals and district court judgeships.
Congress last enacted comprehensive judgeships legislation in 1990, and federal civil and criminal appellate and district caseloads have grown significantly since then..... If work and case loads do require more judges, Congress should promptly enact the bill."
Democrats Introduce Judges Bill Based on Non-Anonymous Public Statements (People For blog, 07/30/13)
"The Coons-Leahy bill, following the non-anonymous public recommendation of the Judicial Conference, would make two proposed changes to the circuit courts: The Sixth Circuit would get one new judgeship, and the Ninth Circuit would get five new judgeships (one of which would be temporary). This is a contrast to Sen. Grassley's misnamed Court Efficiency Act, which would strip three currently vacant judgeships from the DC Circuit so that President Obama could not fill them, while adding unneeded and un-requested seats to the Second and Eleventh Circuits. The Grassley bill is a transparent partisan effort to rig the DC Circuit."
The district court disaster (Washington Post, 07/02/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Republicans, in January 2009, extended the war over the judiciary down to the bottom level.... Republicans have not been unified against all district judges, but they have made confirmation a much more difficult hurdle, with most Republicans requiring 60 votes for confirmation (even if there’s not actually a cloture vote in most cases.) ... It’s not only about obstructing existing vacancies; but also about the total number of federal judges. ... from 1961 through 1990, Congress regularly added seats to keep up with the population, but that slowed during the Clinton presidency and ground to a complete halt after 2002. The result is justice delayed … and delayed … and delayed....Republicans should really return to a time when district court vacancies are filled quickly and relatively easily."
The Register's Editorial: Grassley's 'court-packing' analogy goes astray: An independent commission, not politics, should guide the distribution of federal appeals judges (Des Moines Register [IA] , 06/17/13)
"Rather than adding judges to the federal appeals court, Obama is proposing to fill three existing vacancies on the appeals court, which is allotted 11 full-time judgeships by Congress.
Filling vacancies on the federal courts is the president’s constitutional duty. Unless any of the three is found to be unsuited for the bench, the Senate should confirm them....U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, an alumnus of the D.C. circuit, explained in a law review article that, because of the nature of the cases the D.C. circuit hears, the court is unique among the appeals courts. In any case, if there were a workload imbalance, you might think the federal judges who administer the appeals courts would have recommended this change. But they have not. ... Grassley voted with the majority to confirm all three of Bush’s appointments to the court during his presidency, bringing the court to its full complement of 11 judges."
John Cornyn Complains About Judicial Nomination Process He's Blocking (Huffington Post, 05/10/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) ranted Thursday that President Barack Obama hasn't put forward judicial nominees for vacancies in Texas, some open and without a nominee for more than 1,000 days. But he got schooled by his Democratic colleagues, who reminded him he's responsible for recommending nominees to the White House in the first place -- something he hasn't done for years."
VIDEO INTERVIEW: [FEDERAL CIRCUIT] JUDGE PAUL MICHEL ON USPTO AND CONGRESS (Managing Intellectual Property, 04/15/13)
Transcript: "In terms of what could Congress have done more constructively? it could have filled 100 judicial vacancies in the District Court; it could have increased the number of judgeships which the judiciary has been asking for for over 20 years and which Congress has refused to do so the mismatch between the workload of judges and the number of judges is severe and has grown worse over time. Cases, filings go up; complexity goes up. The available resources get further and further out of line - that's what Congress should be concentrating on."
Editorial: Not enough judges, not enough justice (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 02/16/13)
"The Republicans, though a minority, have been able to block or slow many of President Obama's nominations. Fortunately, recently enacted filibuster reform has reduced the length of time that delaying tactics can be employed in district court appointments.
Feinstein has reintroduced legislation to add four judgeships in the overworked eastern district courts of California. And the logjam shows signs of breaking up a little - several California nominations have emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee in recent days. Still, the system is agonizingly slow. ... This shouldn't be a matter of politics. It's a matter of justice."
Docket Is Full, but Judges Are Few: Federal judges see a jump in cases as court vacancies go unfilled (Austin Chronicle [TX], 07/27/12)
Jordan Smith: "So far, it seems neither of the Texas senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, has done much to ease the burden on the bench – despite the fact that the Western District of Texas, which includes Austin, has had a judgeship open since 2008, when San Antonio federal Judge Royal Furgeson retired to senior judge status. Indeed, the vacancy created by Furgeson's departure nearly four years ago is considered a judicial "emergency," as are two other vacancies in Texas' Eastern District, in part because the case load in each district is nearing 800 cases per judge.... few recommendations have come from Hutchison and Cornyn during the four years Obama has been president. ... Still, even in cases where the home-state senators have made recommendations accepted by both the White House and the Senate's Judiciary Committee, the full Senate has been stalling, declining in even noncontroversial situations to confirm new judges – as is currently happening in Maine, where the Republican senators support nominee William Kayatta for a circuit court seat, but the Senate has failed to back the Maine delegation and get him onto the bench. ...Moreover, the Judicial Conference of the U.S. – the judiciary's policy-making arm, chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts – has recommended expanding the courts to incorporate 53 new permanent district judgeships, including four permanent seats in Texas' Western District, four in the Southern District, and one in the Eastern District. Hutchison and Cornyn sponsored legislation that calls for expansion of the courts"
Why Judicial Vacancies Matter, Part II (Appellate Strategist, 04/30/12)
Kirk Jenkins, Sedgwick LLP: "Congress has failed for a generation to keep up with the fast-growing dockets in the Federal courts. ... Federal judges see the harm done by this crisis firsthand. “I have my own standards,” said Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the District of Idaho late last year, “but it’s getting very, very hard to meet my standards.... Civil litigation has ground to a halt,” said Chief Judge Michael McCuskey of the Central District of Illinois ... Ultimately, I think people will lose faith in the rule of law,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit"
Senators must push for judges (Yuma Sun [AZ] , 04/10/12)
Glenn Sugameli letter: "both vacant Arizona district judgeships and all four empty 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals seats are still among 34 vacancies that the U.S. courts have officially designated as “judicial emergencies.”
A solution depends upon Arizona's Republican U.S. senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain. They are responsible for what the editorial refers to as one of President Obama's nominees who “has been hung up in Congress.”
Sens. Kyl and McCain must help identify a nominee for Arizona's other district vacancy and convince their GOP colleagues to allow floor votes on other nominations. These include Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz's 9th Circuit nomination, which they strongly support.
As the editorial states, court officials explain that Arizona “needs far more” than the currently authorized 13 district court judgeships. Arizona's senators could also push the Emergency Judicial Relief Act they sponsored which would create more judgeships in Arizona and other border states."
Editorial: District courts need long-term help with cases (Yuma Sun [AZ] , 04/01/12)
Chief Judge Rosalyn Silver said the district courts here — which had the highest number of felony cases in the nation last year — are still struggling. “We are still in dire circumstances. We are underwater.”
The state is authorized to have 13 district court judgeships, although really it needs far more than that, according to court officials ...
But the court system remains short of even the 13 authorized positions. One judgeship has been hung up in Congress. The U.S. Senate has yet to approve a nomination made by President Obama.
When a court system is as overwhelmed by cases as are the federal district courts in Arizona, it can lead to a lower quality of justice. There is less opportunity for trial preparation, less opportunity for careful judicial consideration and more possibility that justice will not be done as the courts struggle to push cases through the system in a timely manner.
A long-term solution is needed rather than visiting judges and temporary emergency declarations."