Editorials and Opinion
The Judicial Policy Implications of Reckless Driving on Federal Land (Maryland Appellate Blog, 04/15/15)
Steve Klepper: "As of today, the U.S. Judicial Conference has identified 23 Article III vacancies as “judicial emergencies.” That includes five district judgeships within the Fifth Circuit. The Judicial Conference is requesting an additional eight permanent district judgeships for Texas; that proposal is going nowhere. I spent eight years of my career heavily litigating a case in the El Paso Division of the Western District of Texas, which shares a border with Mexico and includes the massive Fort Bliss. Every civil hearing required us to wait through multiple sentencing hearings for cross-border felonies. Imagine if misdemeanants were also entitled to trial or sentencing before an Article III judge.
Despite one longstanding vacancy (that finally has a nominee), the District of Maryland fortunately is devoid of emergency vacancies. ... But the situation would change in a heartbeat if traffic and petty misdemeanors were transferred from our magistrate judges to our district judges."
Here's A Look At The Most Ridiculously Long Judicial Vacancies The Senate Still Hasn't Filled (Huffington Post, 04/12/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Despite talk when they took charge of the Senate this year that they would move nominees at the same pace Democrats did when they controlled the Senate, Republicans haven't done much of anything to fill vacancies on federal courts. ... But Republicans slow-walking nominees through the Senate confirmation process is just one piece of a broader problem for the federal judiciary. Many district and circuit courts have judicial vacancies that don't even have nominees in the queue, and some spots have been open for an incredibly long time.... Court workloads have expanded so much that the Judicial Conference of the United States, led by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, recently recommended adding 68 judgeships to district courts around the country to keep pace."
In North Carolina’s Eastern District, population grows while number of judges stalls (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/09/15)
Sharon McCloskey: "Wall Street Journal weighed in on Tuesday on the growing backlog of civil cases in federal courts across the country .... But there’s another reason why the state’s U.S. Senators should act with a sense of urgency to get the Eastern District vacancy filled and perhaps also seek another judgeship for that court: The number of judges there hasn’t kept up with population growth in the region.
According to population data analyzed by the Journal and charted in its print edition (subscription required for online), North Carolina’s Eastern District is second only to California’s Eastern District in terms of number of residents per judgeship."
Down one judge and deserving another (NC Policy Watch, 03/18/15)
"The federal courts in eastern North Carolina have been operating under a state of judicial emergency for years now, though you wouldn’t know it given the lack of a sense of urgency exhibited by the state’s United States senators.
Down a judge since December 2005, the courts in this largely rural part of the state have managed one of the heavier district caseloads in the country ... The Eastern District has a good case for an additional judgeship, given caseload numbers already on the higher end, even if the vacancy is filled."
McConnell Should Let Senate Confirm Judges (People For blog, 03/10/15)
"Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to schedule a confirmation vote on the four district court nominees who cleared the Judiciary Committee without opposition nearly two weeks ago:... Texas in particular is in desperate need of more federal judges. The Lone Star State has a shocking 11 judicial seats currently vacant (with a twelfth one opening this spring). ... Of those eleven vacancies, seven have been designated judicial emergencies. That's nearly one third of all the judicial emergencies nationwide. Confirming the three Texas nominees who have been waiting for Senator McConnell to schedule a floor vote would help alleviate this problem.... The Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to create an additional two judgeships in the Southern District of Texas. In other words, even if all three pending nominees were confirmed today, and the other two vacancies were magically filled tomorrow (even though they don't have nominees), the crushing caseload burden on the Southern District is so bad that at least another two judges would be needed to ensure that the people of Texas have access to a fair and efficient federal court system."
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."
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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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."