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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Recalibrating Judicial Renominations in the Trump Administration (Washington and Lee Law Review, 05/30/17)
Prof. Carl Tobias: Republican obstruction meant that the upper chamber approved only twenty jurists during the whole 114th Congress, leaving 105 unfilled positions and fifty-one expired nominations upon its end. ... Several persuasive reasons can support renominating many of the accomplished, mainstream candidates whose nominations did expire in early January. First, renomination would preserve scarce time, money, and energy, which must be devoted to restarting the nomination process. For instance, the twenty district court candidates already have American Bar Association (ABA) evaluations with ratings, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks and committee investigations, hearings, and voice vote approvals without dissents, so that nearly all of the picks will only require chamber debates, when merited, and floor ballots.... President Obama correspondingly selected the twenty fine, mainstream trial level nominees principally for their intelligence, diligence, ethics, independence, and balanced judicial temperament, especially their capability to manage and resolve substantial caseloads, rather than ideology.33 GOP lawmakers concomitantly suggested and powerfully supported a majority of the nominees. Even the three very competent, moderate appellate designees were nominated mainly for reasons divorced from ideology, phenomena witnessed in bipartisan support for their committee approval. Renomination would correspondingly diversify the federal judiciary, because five of the twenty renominees will bring ethnic diversity while ten comprise women and two in three circuit renominees would provide ethnic or gender diversity.... [President Trump] can seat many jurists by renominating numerous impressive, mainstream Obama nominees, whose efficient appointments will permit the courts to better deliver justice.

Why Aren't There More Black Federal Judges in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia? (Atlantic, 11/12/13)
Andrew Cohen: "Obama now is nominating women, and minorities, at a pace almost exactly double that of his immediate predecessor. It's quite laudable. But this column isn't about either one of those things. It's about the dismal record this president has in successfully nominating black men and women to the federal courts in three states in the Deep South—Florida, Georgia and Alabama—which have significant minority populations that are grossly underrepresented on the federal benches there. Coming from a president who has nominated more women and candidates of color than any of his predecessors, this is both surprising and disappointing. It is more so because President Obama has had success in nominating black candidates to the federal bench in Mississippi, as "Deep South" as America gets. ... In 2009, President Obama nominated Abdul Kallon, a black man, to a federal district spot in Alabama. Kallon was quickly confirmed on a voice vote in the Senate and would make an excellent appellate judge. The president has not had an opportunity to nominate a black candidate from Alabama to the 11th Circuit. But he'll now have his chance. Two weeks ago, 11th Circuit Judge Joel Dubina, an appointee of George H.W. Bush, announced that he was taking senior status—another opportunity to recast the racial makeup of the federal appeals court."

Glenn Sugameli: Johnson is only freshman GOP senator blocking own state’s judicial nominees (Cap Times [WI], 08/10/11)
Your recent editorial, “Ron Johnson represents Alabama better than Wisconsin,” aptly compares obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees by Republican U.S. Sens. Johnson of Wisconsin and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Johnson’s extremism, however, is worse than implied by the editorial’s comparison to “Sessions and his allies from the states of the old Confederacy.” In general, GOP senators from those states have strongly supported Obama’s Circuit Court of Appeals and district court nominees from their home states. For example, Mississippi’s GOP senators repeatedly pressured Senate leaders and publicly denounced lengthy delays to confirm James E. Graves Jr. (5th Circuit) and Carlton Reeves (district court). North Carolina senators’ bipartisan pressure secured delayed approvals of their state’s district court and two 4th Circuit nominees, James Wynn and Albert Diaz. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s speech urging a floor vote led to Jane Stranch’s 6th Circuit confirmation. In January, President Obama resubmitted 12 nominees for judgeships from six states with freshmen Republican senators. Not only is Johnson the only one who has not supported his state’s nominees, he is preventing the Senate from even considering both Victoria Nourse (7th Circuit) and Louis Butler (Western District of Wisconsin)."

More Asian judges nominated {More Balance on the Bench] ( [CQ-Roll Call], 05/11/11)
Seth Stern: "The eight Asian-Americans nominated by President Obama to be federal judges equal the total number on the federal bench the year he took office. Six have been confirmed, more than during the entire two-term presidency of either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Even with these additions, though, advocacy groups say 13 Asian-Americans among roughly 800 federal judges — fewer than 2 percent — is far below the rightful share for the country’s fastest-growing minority, which expanded to 14.7 million in the past decade, or just under 5 percent of the population. The White House has put a priority on greater ethnic, gender and racial diversity in the federal judiciary. Nearly half of Obama’s nominees have been women, 21 percent have been African-American and 10 percent Hispanic, according to statistics compiled by the Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group. But the contrast with prior administrations is most pronounced when it comes to Asian-Americans, who make up 7 percent of Obama nominees."

The Judicial Confirmation Crisis: The Threat to Diversity  (Huffington Post, 03/16/11)
Leslie Proll, Director, Washington Office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund: "President Obama should be commended on his record of diversity in federal judicial appointments. Over forty percent of his nominees are racial or ethnic minorities. Yet the diversity of the federal bench will be impacted only if these candidates are confirmed by the Senate. This session, the Senate should dramatically speed up the pace on confirmations. By considering judicial nominations as part of regular order, the Senate can reduce the acute staffing shortages which now jeopardize the effective operation of our legal system. And just as importantly, a timely confirmation process would help ensure that the face of the federal judiciary reflects our nation's broad diversity."

EDITORIAL: Graves' confirmation (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal [Tupelo, MS], 02/15/11)
"In these intensely partisan political times, it's uplifting to see an effort that not only is bipartisan but that produces an historic outcome.... Graves becomes the first African-American judge from Mississippi on the 5th Circuit bench, which is the historic part. The bipartisan element is that Graves was nominated last year by President Obama and his nomination was shepherded through the Senate by Republican Mississippi Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran."

A test of the Senate (Times Record [ME], 02/08/11)
Glenn Sugameli Letter to the Editor: "partisan obstruction reduced confirmations of President Obama’s trial and appeals court judges to 60. In contrast, a Democratic Senate confirmed 100 in President George W. Bush’s first two years. Last year, floor votes were even denied to 16 judicial nominees whom the Judiciary Committee had approved on unanimous or bipartisan votes. Court cases face massive delays as federal judicial vacancies have soared to more than 100, including 49 judicial emergencies designated by the U.S. Courts. Bipartisan calls to solve the judicial vacancy crisis pose a clear test of whether the Senate can still function."

Grassley's action to be put to the test (Dubuque Telegraph Herald [IA], 02/08/11)
Now, as the committee's new ranking Republican, Grassley will help determine whether the secret hold change makes a difference. An early test will be bipartisan calls to reduce massive federal court delays caused by more than 100 judicial vacancies, including 49 court-designated judicial emergencies. Much could depend on what Grassley meant when he recently said that he wants to move "consensus nominees" after "a thorough review." Glenn Sugameli Letter to the Editor

Get nominees into courts (Palm Beach Post [FL], 02/07/11)
Prof. Carl Tobias Letter to the Editor: "The Senate at least was right to begin abolishing secret holds, which partially precluded the 2010 confirmation of 19 judicial nominees whom President Obama proposed. The chamber should then promptly confirm the 42 nominees whom President Obama renominated on Jan. 5, while he must swiftly propose nominees for the remaining 58 vacancies, and the Senate must expeditiously process them. The 100 current vacancies prevent the courts from delivering justice."

Commentary: Lower federal court vacancies need filling (McClatchy newspapers, 02/07/11)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "the judiciary has 101 openings out of the 858 appeals and district court judgeships. These vacancies undermine the delivery of justice."

Editorial: OK U.S. judges, end emergency (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 02/07/11)
"A perfect test of that environment would be the early confirmation of scores of federal judicial nominees - the vast majority of whom are well-qualified and noncontroversial. The administrative office of the United States Courts classifies 49 of 102 federal judicial vacancies as "judicial emergencies," ... Two of those judicial emergencies are in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ... During the Obama presidency, the Senate has had a dismal record of moving nominations, due largely to unwarranted minority obstruction. Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, should begin pushing as many nominations as possible as a test of the supposed bipartisan commitment to actually conduct business."

Editorial: Judges: Senate should confirm Graves (Clarion-Ledger [MS] , 02/07/11)
"The judicial nomination process has become a frustrating exercise in partisan politics that is a disservice to the bench, the Senate and especially to the men and women named by the president to the federal judiciary. In Graves case, he was nominated last June, went through all the process and was approved by the committee in early December. But Congress adjourned without confirming Graves and 18 other nominees who had been voted on after the Nov. 2 election, when Republicans made gains and, apparently, resulted in having to start over again.... The Senate should not make judicial nominees part of its internal partisan games, of which both parties are guilty. The Senate should confirm Judge Graves to the 5th Circuit."

Guest opinion: Grassley now in a position to end gridlock on judges (Des Moines Register [IA], 02/02/11)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Senator Grassley has an excellent opportunity to set a bipartisan tone Thursday by voting for the eleven nominees held over last week and by agreeing at future meetings to votes on well qualified, noncontroversial nominees the first time they are scheduled, while he must facilitate those nominees' prompt committee review and floor consideration."

Filibuster Reform Is (Mostly) Dead. What Does It Mean For The Courts? (American Prospect, 01/27/11)
Adam Serwer: "No judicial nominees were part of the deal; in fact, this morning Republicans on the Judiciary Committee held over 11 judicial nominations that had previously passed out of committee by unanimous consent, setting back a floor vote on them by at least a week. ... The situation with judicial nominations remains pretty dire: Twenty-two states are facing "judicial emergencies," and lower courts are facing more than a hundred vacancies. Yet there are 42 nominees on the Senate floor awaiting confirmation. The situation is so dire that Republican-appointed judges, including Chief Justice John Roberts, have been reduced to begging the Senate to do something about it. The Obama administration has dragged its feet on putting forth judicial nominees, but the nominees they've put forth have been subject to unprecedented obstruction, and even the original proposal wasn't as ambitious as it should have been in reforming holds. Republican obstruction has meant that the courts have retained a partisan imbalance--almost 60 percent of federal judges are Republican-appointed."

Editorial: Graves deserves confirmation  (Enterprise-Journal [McComb, MS], 01/25/11)
"One would think that a federal appeals court nominee supported by President Obama and Mississippi Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker would easily win confirmation in the U.S. Senate. Maybe that will be the case with Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James E. Graves Jr. this year. It certainly wasn’t last year, as Graves, who seems to have no real opposition, saw his nomination to a federal appeals court post snagged in the perennial partisan wrangles over judicial nominees."

Prompt votes on judges  (Bucks County Courier Times [PA], 01/24/11)
"Those denied floor votes included 13 who were approved without dissent by Judiciary Committee members and an equal number who would have filled judicial emergencies designated by the U.S. Courts. New Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., recognizes that "there have been too many vacancies, and several of them have lasted for way too long." He could play a key role by insisting on prompt floor votes on these and other nominees to fill judgeships." Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor

Sen. Leahy: Bipartisanship needed to resolve the vacancy crisis in the nation’s courts (The Hill, 01/24/11)
The American people turn to our courts for justice. And the Senate, for its part, must return to the time-honored traditions of the Senate and work together to secure the confirmation of the president’s judicial nominations. Judicial vacancies hinder the federal judiciary’s ability to fulfill its constitutional role. Working together, we can restore the judicial confirmation process.

Confirm new judges (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 01/21/11)
"In the Judiciary Committee, Cornyn supported 15 of 18 Obama administration nominees, and Texas' senior senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, took issue with the Senate's rule that nominees are being held to a standard of requiring 60 votes instead of 51. “That is changing the Constitution of the United States,” she said. In spite of what Cornyn said, political wrangling did deny floor votes to Saldaña and 18 other nominees who were supported by both of their home state senators and approved by the Judiciary Committee.... A solution could emerge if Cornyn and Hutchison insist on prompt floor votes on Saldaña and other nominees to fill judgeships." Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor

Tenn. senators could help reduce huge court backlogs (Daily Herald [Columbia, TN], 01/20/11)
"Those denied floor votes included 16 who had bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee and 13 who would have filled judicial emergencies designated by the U.S. Courts. Tennessee’s Republican senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker supported home-state nominee Jane Branstetter Stranch’s confirmation to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in September 2010. Indeed, Sen. Alexander previously urged that a long-delayed vote be held on Stranch, explaining that “It has long been my position … that a president’s judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote.” Both senators could help reduce massive court backlogs by insisting that the Senate schedule prompt floor votes on committee-approved judicial nominees." Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor

Vote On Nomination Gets Closer‎ (Times Record [Fort Smith, AR], 01/18/11)
"Among the "unopposed but unconfirmed nominees is former Western District U.S. Attorney P.K. Holmes," whom the Judiciary Committee endorsed unanimously to fill a judgeship that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has declared a "judicial emergency vacancy." The Times Record's editorial discussed Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor's success in reaching across the aisle "to end filibustering on several Bush nominees." Now, Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman can help ensure the Senate will schedule votes to fill the 45 emergencies and nearly 100 total judicial vacancies nationwide. Indeed, even before Boozman was sworn in, his spokeswoman recognized that "The confirmation of P.K. Holmes is important to helping with the heavy caseload in the state,"" Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Coburn's promise (Tulsa World [OK], 01/16/11)
Glenn Sugameli: "Unfortunately, even if consensus federal judicial nominees emerge soon, floor votes could well be delayed indefinitely or blocked outright. President Obama just resubmitted 19 judicial nominees whose floor votes were blocked by Senate Republicans. Thirteen of these had been approved by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and other Judiciary Committee members without dissent. An equal number would have filled judicial emergencies designated by the U.S. courts. Chief Justice John Roberts' year-end report calls for urgent action to remedy the problem of vacant federal judgeships. Vacancies have risen to almost 100, nearly one half of which are emergencies. Coburn could make a difference by simply fulfilling his 2005 vow that: "I will continue to insist that the judicial nominations from any president - Republican or Democrat - receive the courtesy of an up-or-down vote.""

Justice delayed results in justice denied  (Oklahoman, 01/16/11)
"Senate Republicans blocked floor votes on 19 judicial nominees. Thirteen were approved without dissent by Oklahoma Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn and other Judiciary Committee members. An equal number would have filled judicial emergencies designated by the U.S. courts. In 2005, Coburn vowed that he would continue to insist that the judicial nominations from any president, Republican or Democrat, have the courtesy of an up-or-down vote. Now, Coburn can insist that floor votes be held on nominees to fill the 45 emergencies and nearly 100 total judicial vacancies nationwide." Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor

Confirmation of Judges (New York Times, 01/09/11)
Prof, Carl Tobias Letter: "The 112th Senate should return to the convention of confirming well-qualified, noncontroversial nominees, like the 15 whom the Senate Judiciary Committee approved and did not receive Senate floor votes before adjournment. The upper chamber should also grant thorough debate and yes or no votes for the four nominees, including Prof. Goodwin Liu and Magistrate Judge Edward Chen, whom the G.O.P. finds controversial. The Senate must vote on the 15 nominees as well as Mr. Liu and Judge Chen soon after it convenes."

Editorial: OK For Court Nominees Is Taking Too Long (Times Record [Fort Smith, AR], 01/09/11)
"Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts calls it a "recurring problem." Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski describes the situation as desperate. Former 3rd Circuit Appeals Court Judge Tim Lewis calls it a "national disgrace." Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institute identifies it as "broken government." And Stephan Zack, American Bar Association president, lists it as among his organization's highest priorities. The "it" in question is, in Roberts term, "the persistent problem of judicial vacancies."... As the ABA's Zack notes: "Quite a few nominees came out of committee with no record of opposition. That means neither side felt there was any reason for them not to be confirmed. So this is not a philosophical Republican/Democrat issue."... The delayed justice in too many of our courts, including the Western District of Arkansas, is no justice at all. It's time to get judges on the bench."

Editorial: Follow-up on Goodwin Liu, Edward Chen nominations (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 01/07/11)
"Bottom line: Obama was right to renominate these two fine candidates. Undue delays in the confirmation process are unfair to the courts and unfair to the nominees who have to put their personal and professional lives on hold while awaiting the outcome."

Editorial: A more democratic Senate (Toledo Blade [OH], 01/05/11)
Secret "holds are responsible for vacancies in dozens of federal judgeships and more than 100 top executive-branch positions. They often arise out of no loftier motive than a senator's personal pique or desire to extort pork-barrel concessions."

Where are all the federal judges? Why 90 empty seats threaten American justice (Christian Science Monitor, 01/05/11)
Op-Ed by Carl Tobias: "Partisan play – especially Republican obstinacy – has blocked judicial nominations at a record rate. President Obama and the 112th Senate must now quickly nominate and confirm judges for more than 90 lower court vacancies. The swift and fair delivery of justice hangs in the balance."

EDITORIAL: Fixing the filibuster; Senate should pass Merkley’s reform proposal (Register Guard [OR], 01/05/11)
"GOP lawmakers should keep in mind that Democrats can use the current rules to thwart Republicans when they have a majority and a president of their party is seeking swift confirmation of judicial and other appointments.... The Merkley-Udall proposal also would eliminate the secret hold, which allows a single senator to anonymously block bills and nominees. While both parties have abused secret holds, Republicans have made it an art form, using it to block dozens of President Obama’s judicial nominees and prompting an unusual complaint by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who recently cited “acute difficulties for some judicial districts.”"