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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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[Editorial] Mitch McConnell, 1 Senate, 0 (Frederick News-Post [MD], 04/09/17)
"The senior Republican senator from Kentucky made good on his word when he authorized a move to end Senate Democrats’ filibuster of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch this week, effectively detonating the dreaded “nuclear option,” which required only a simple majority to approve Gorsuch’s appointment to the high court.... When Reid invoked the nuclear option, he did so because McConnell was leading the charge to filibuster even low-level appointments by Obama.... by giving up the filibuster on this case, McConnell has given away one of his best defenses against executive branch excess.... all sides agree, the biggest loser this time around is neither Democrats nor Republicans — it’s the U.S. Senate."

Editorial: McConnell’s cynical plan pays off (Kokomo Tribune [IN] , 04/09/17)
"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, broke two longstanding American political traditions during the last 13 months, and it will pay off for decades to come. The first attack on the rules began shortly after Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland .... Though many Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, president pro tempore of the Senate, had spoken highly of Garland just days before, there his nomination sat, untouched for 293 days.... The second custom to fall came after the newly minted Republican President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch .... McConnell and the GOP implemented the “nuclear option” for Supreme Court nominees for the first time. This meant that these appointments would no longer require a 60-vote supermajority to be confirmed, but instead a simple majority. And, with that, Gorsuch, not Garland, was confirmed .... Taken together, these moves represented the culmination of an incredibly cynical, and ultimately successful, plan by McConnell and the Republicans. ... Time will tell if the GOP will regret busting these norms. ... But, for now, they’ve played dirty pool and won."

Judge Gorsuch favors corporate goliaths over small businesses (The Hill, 04/09/17)
Amanda Ballantyne, Main Street Alliance: A closer look at his record suggests some bad news for the "mom and pop" shops struggling to get by; Judge Gorsuch is not their friend. Time and again, he’s favored corporations at the expense of small business owners, their employees and their customers. ... First, Judge Gorsuch could undermine regulations that protect small business owners.... Judge Gorsuch has shown a clear disdain for environmental regulations and has actively worked to weaken them. Weaker environmental regulations, however, jeopardize small businesses’ ability to operate, their security in the future and the confidence of their customers. Second, Judge Gorsuch has a strong record of corporate favoritism. This stacks the deck even further against small businesses

Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 04/08/17)
"Thumbs down to the "nuclear option." Republicans in the U.S. Senate dropped that parliamentary firestorm this week after Democrats vowed to block Judge Neil Gorsuch from the Supreme Court. The Democratic filibuster strategy dared Republicans to toss aside decades of precedent that required 60 votes to move on a Supreme Court nominee. The Senate has traditionally been the home of bipartisan compromise.... senators from both sides of the aisle lamented this week's upheaval. And that's because it's another step toward turning the Senate into just another destructively partisan legislative body."

Letter: Nuclear option works both ways (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/08/17)
Gary Miller: The Republicans blame the Democrats for filibustering a Supreme Court justice who sides with corporations over people. In fact, the biggest filibuster was when the Republicans refused to even give Judge Garland a hearing because he was nominated by a black man.

Tester takes courageous stand for Montana values (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 04/08/17)
James C. Nelson, retired Montana Supreme Court justice, Letter to the Editor: In 2012 the people of Montana, by a super-majority, adopted CI-166, (13-35-501-504), which requires this state’s Congressional delegation to support the adoption of a Constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous 2010 decision in Citizens United and to restrict our constitutional rights to natural human beings. Only one member of Montana’s delegation, Sen. Jon Tester, has complied with this law. ... Dark money organizations funded by the super wealthy (e.g. the Koch Brothers and those who profess that soulless corporations have the same fundamental rights as natural human beings) launched at multi-million-dollar campaign to pressure, among others, Tester, to cast an affirmative vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. But Tester was not intimidated. Tester announced his decision to vote against Judge Gorsuch, because of the nominee’s judicial record supporting giving corporations even more political power than even Citizens United allowed, his record giving some corporations the right to practice religion, and his abysmal record on women’s rights issues.

Letter to the editor: Senate has lost its mind (Post Register [ID], 04/08/17)
Shelton Beach: The U.S. Senate has lost its mind. The “nuclear” option has been invoked. The rules of the Senate have been changed, likely forever. Mitch McConnell portrayed himself as having no other option. Well, there was an option; the one that has always been used in the Senate. If a nominee for the Supreme Court cannot garner 60 votes that nominee steps aside and a new nominee is selected; one that can receive bipartisan support. Of course, Mitch McConnell has placed the blame for his “going nuclear” on the Democrats. It’s never his doing. It’s not his fault that he withheld hearings and a vote on Merrick Garland. ... This change of rules virtually assures that only extreme, partisan justices will be appointed and that the minority party will have absolutely no input into the confirmation process.

Letter: Taking long view on Gorsuch (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/08/17)
Lindy TIllement: This was about a stolen seat, and whether the GOP or any party can get away with an unprecedented partisan tactic in which they refused – for almost a year – to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, then tried to ram through Gorsuch’s nomination on a fast-track after an election whose legitimacy is in question. This also was about a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, possibly for decades, and some checks and balances on a right-wing Congress and administration.

Letter: Gorsuch’s is a stolen seat (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/08/17)
J. Scott Coatsworth: Sen. Mitch McConnell chose to block President Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy during Obama’s term in office. This action was unprecedented, and done for purely political purposes. This was a stolen seat.

Marc Perkel: It’s Garland’s seat (Vallejo Times-Herald [CA], 04/07/17)
Letter to the Editor: Democrats are right to filibuster [Gorsuch] for the Supreme Court because Merrick Garland, appointed by President Obama is the next nominee.

April 7 Letter: Gorsuch should withdraw his name from consideration (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 04/07/17)
Raúl Martinez: If Judge Neil Gorsuch had any integrity and self-respect, he would withdraw from consideration for the Supreme Court and condemn the GOP tactics that got him there. If he doesn’t, his tenure on the court will be forever tainted.

Why Republicans May Regret The Nuclear Option: Here are three big reasons why Sen. Mitch McConnell may wish he took his own advice. (Politico, 04/07/17)
Bill Scher: 1. Demands to end the legislative filibuster will only get louder... 2. No one knows who will own the next round of nominees ... 3. The next round of Democratic judges may be more notorious than Notorious RBG

Concerned by Senate Republicans using “nuclear option” (Denver Post [CO] , 04/07/17)
Marion Sills, Letter to the Editor: I am gravely concerned by the Senate’s action to support the rule change known as the “nuclear option.” The 60-vote threshold for confirming a Supreme Court justice was an important provision to ensure the selection of a consensus candidate who could win support from both sides of the aisle. By lowering the vote threshold to a bare majority to confirm a right-wing, anti-woman, anti-labor Supreme Court Justice to the seat stolen from Obama nominee Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans have opened the door for unprecedented partisanship in the Supreme Court justice selection process.

Justice Gorsuch Ushers In a New Era (Bloomberg News, 04/07/17)
Prof. Noah Feldman: The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch after the rejection of Merrick Garland marks the new high-water mark in the overt, partisan politicization of the U.S. Supreme Court. After the Democratic Senate rejected Bork 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan got to choose another appointee. After the Republican Senate refused to vote on Garland last year, President Barack Obama was denied the same chance.... I fully expect that, for the foreseeable future, if the president and the Senate majority don’t come from the same party, there will be no confirmations at all.

A Toxic Threat to Justice: Democrats must stop the GOP's Supreme Court salvo from also poisoning lower courts. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/07/17)
Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice: Senate Republicans deploying the so-called nuclear option to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch marks a sad day in history not only for the Senate, but also for justice.,,, Thanks in large part to GOP stonewalling of judicial nominees under Barack Obama, President Donald Trump already has a whopping 120 lower-court vacancies to fill, 19 on circuit courts. His administration has made clear it intends to appoint younger, conservative ideologues with many years to serve, and to jettison the role of the American Bar Association in evaluating candidates for the bench.... With a fired-up base, Senate Democrats have every reason to prioritize circuit court nominations now. They should insist the president avoid nominating judges whose philosophies are extreme.... The "blue-slip" process is a venerable tradition that gives home-state senators power to say whether nominees from their states will advance. Such tactics should not be abused, but they exist.... Obama regularly consulted with Republican senators on finding the best-qualified judicial nominees.

Mitch McConnell, the man who broke America (Washington Post, 04/07/17)
Dana Milbank: That McConnell did a 180 on the topic — going from the institutional defender of the filibuster to the man who destroyed it — is unsurprising. He has frequently shifted his views to suit the needs of the moment.... That McConnell did a 180 on the topic — going from the institutional defender of the filibuster to the man who destroyed it — is unsurprising. He has frequently shifted his views to suit the needs of the moment.... By 2013, for example, 79 of Obama’s nominees had been blocked by filibusters, compared with 68 in the entire previous history of the Republic. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed last year, it took McConnell less than an hour to say that the vacancy should be filled by the next president.

Letter: A stolen seat (Brattleboro Reformer [VT], 04/07/17)
Barry Bozetarnik: Neil Gorsuch should not have been confirmed.... since early 2016, there was a nominee to fill this position, Merrick Garland. ... Garland wasn't even granted the courtesy, the constitutional right to a hearing and a vote.a

Judge Gorsuch's strict 'originalism' puts justice itself at stake (The Hill, 04/07/17)
Ken Levy: if the ratifiers' understanding of cruel and unusual applied only to physical suffering, not purely psychological suffering, then the question of whether 90 days of solitary confinement for simple battery is cruel and unusual admits of two possible answers: (a) a backward-looking originalist interpretation with an unjust result and (b) a forward-looking pragmatic interpretation with a just result.... my point, which I develop more fully in "Why the Late Justice Scalia Was Wrong: The Fallacies of Constitutional Textualism," was that textualism contradicts itself. While it says that we shouldn't make any assumptions that are not explicitly stated in the Constitution, this assumption itself is not explicitly stated in the Constitution.

Do Republicans Have Amnesia Over How They Treated Merrick Garland? “We don’t conduct partisan filibusters of Supreme Court nominees,” said one GOP senator. (Huffington Post, 04/06/17)
Jennifer Bendery: There’s a surreal aspect to this week’s Senate confirmation fight over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch: The more reasons Republicans give for why he deserves a vote, the more they reinforce how badly they treated President Barack Obama’s pick for the court, Merrick Garland.... just swap in “Garland” for “Gorsuch” as GOP senators explain why Trump’s nominee deserves fair treatment.... They never gave him a committee hearing, yet some are mad that Democrats opposed Gorsuch in his. ... it was McConnell who led last year’s unprecedented and partisan effort to deny Garland a hearing or a vote ― a filibuster, in effect ― and argued that the next president should get to fill the court vacancy, even though Obama had a year left in his presidency.

It's Hard Not To Hate Mitch McConnell: There's Main Street hypocrisy, there's Washington D.C. hypocrisy, and then there's Mitch McConnell in a category all of his own. (Daily Banter, 04/06/17)
Justin Rosario: On Thursday, McConnell finally took the penultimate step of stealing a Supreme Court seat from a Democratic president by doing away with the filibuster so the Democrats could no longer block the pro-corporate ideologue Neil Gorsuch. This move comes after McConnell refused for over 10 months to even hold hearings for Obama's nominee, the eminently qualified and very centrist Merrick Garland. Republicans also threatened to block any Justice then-presumed winner Hillary Clinton would nominate .... McConnell has been justifying his move to eliminate the judicial filibuster entirely because he previously forced the Democrats to eliminate it for federal judges: ... He is, of course, forgetting to mention that Republicans had made unprecedented, in over two hundred years of American history, use of the filibuster to block Obama's judicial nominees. And they did it under McConnell's direction

Dark Justice: Gorsuch’s billionaire backers know what they are getting, and the American people should too (Huffington Post, 04/06/17)
Arn Pearson, People For the American Way: Judge Neil Gorsuch played a masterful game of hide-the-ball during his confirmation hearings .... Judge Gorsuch authored seven dissents in 2016 .... Those cases, along with his lengthy 2016 concurrence in Gutierrez v. Lynch—where he laid out his case for rolling back “Chevron” deference to government agency rules—let Gorsuch check off most of the boxes on the Right’s checklist for a Supreme Court nominee. ... Senate Republicans, backed by some very powerful special interests, blockaded Garland and are getting ready ram through Gorsuch, even if it takes a dramatic Senate rules change to do it. They know perfectly well why, and American voters deserve to know too.

Nuclear Irony: Ending the Supreme Court filibuster struck a blow for majority rule in service to a minority president. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/06/17)
Robert Schlesinger | Managing Editor for Opinion: the GOP's decision to push the Senate further down the road toward becoming a purely party-line institution like the House harms us all by diminishing our great system of governance.... the GOP's abuse of Garland required a response

Editorial: Mr. McConnell’s moment (Albany Times Union [NY], 04/06/17)
"So the burden is on Senate Republicans — whether to use power to further erode one of the last protections against the tyranny of the majority, or to resurrect the spirit of compromise. That’s what is at the heart of the “nuclear option” threat as the Senate considers President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yes, Republicans can stop a Democratic filibuster and confirm a Supreme Court nomination by a simple majority vote. But that would be a mistake. Democrats are right to try to block Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation. He is not the neutral referee of the law that supporters portray him to be; he is a partisan loyalist picked by Mr. Trump from a list compiled by right-wing groups .... Beyond specific rulings, like his absurd opinion supporting the firing of a trucker who left his disabled rig rather than freeze to death, is the concern over Judge Gorsuch’s affinity for originalism .... McConnell has another option: leave the filibuster intact, and take Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer up on his offer to work to confirm a more mainstream Republican nominee."

Editorial: ‘A body blow’ to the Senate (Addison Independent [VT], 04/06/17)
"Senate Democrats will oppose the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court for many good reasons. And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is to be believed, he will employ the “nuclear option,” perhaps forever changing the rules of the Senate to approve Gorsuch’s nomination by a simple majority vote. The Republican Party will then have successfully denied President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in an affront to Senate rules and tradition, while also changing Senate rules to put Trump’s first nominee onto the Court. To those who say it’s no big deal and is a “good thing” to employ the “nuclear option,” as McConnell maintains, Republican Sen. John McCain had this response: “Idiot, whoever says that is a stupid idiot,..." ... this significant change in the nation’s political discourse and function has been the extremism of today’s Republican Party. It started most recently with Republicans filibustering almost all of President Obama’s appointees to his administration, not because of their qualifications or conflicts of interests or any valid concern, but simply to slow down his agenda. That prompted Senate Democrats to employ the “nuclear option” for Obama’s appointments .... To think that this further blow to the institution will be “good” is to live in a world of falsehoods, afraid to speak the truth of the harm that is being done by their own actions. It will be McConnell’s legacy, much as Sen. Joseph McCarthy is a footnote"

Kill the Filibuster, Kill Trust in the Court: Ending the filibuster over partisan bickering endangers the Supreme Court's independence. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/06/17)
Prof. Jamal Greene: the case for retaining the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees is straightforward. We rely on the nine justices of the Supreme Court to make dramatic pronouncements about our public life....If we are to grant a lifetime appointment to a human being to wield this kind of power, the least we should demand is that he or she receive bipartisan support. ... Party-line support is uniquely damaging for high court appointees.... judges cannot do their jobs without the confidence of the public.

Filibuster or Bust: The GOP is dooming itself if it eliminates the filibuster. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/06/17)
Prof. David Faris: In fact, it is the GOP, and only the GOP, that has brought us to this low point in partisan relations. By using truly unprecedented stalling tactics to prevent Obama from filling court seats between 2009 and 2013, they forced Senate Democrats either to capitulate to GOP hostage-taking or to nuke the filibuster for District and Appeals Court nominees. Had Republicans fulfilled their legal duty to approve Obama's nominees in a timely fashion, we would not be having this conversation. Then they escalated the conflict by inventing a new rule that presidents can only nominate justices in the first three years of a four-year term, an ad hoc justification for institutional warfare that will surely be jettisoned if there is a vacancy in 2020 and Republicans still hold the Senate. And now, Republicans are poised to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

[Editorial] A sorry day for democracy and the high court (News & Observer [NC], 04/06/17)
"President Obama nominated a respected, moderate federal judge, Merrick Garland, 63, to fill the Supreme Court seat of Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly in February of last year. The then-president was doing his constitutional duty, and in Garland he chose an experienced judge who was hardly a liberal ideologue and clearly qualified for membership on the high court.... Republican senators in using the “nuclear option” of a majority-only requirement for approval, reject the very logic they used against Garland, that the people through their votes would let it be known what kind of justice they wanted. By that logic, the people wanted Garland, because three million more of them voted against President Trump than for him. This is a sorry day indeed for democracy, and Mitch McConnell, the hard-line Republican leader from Kentucky who signaled his ardent dislike for President Obama from the beginning of his two terms as the elected president of the United States, offers ridiculous logic for his maneuver.... The “norms” would have required a vote on Garland; the “norms” would have left in place the requirement that a nominee have 60 votes to avoid filibuster. McConnell is the one who “moved the goalposts,” and he knows it."

Editorial: Civil Rights Act protects LGBT (Kokomo Tribune [IN] , 04/06/17)
"[A]n 8-to-3 decision Tuesday by the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago may have reframed the text to include protections for a previously unlisted group: LGBT employees.... Posner’s ruling in this case takes a broader interpretation of the law to account for the world we live in now. Like Scalia, Neil Gorsuch — Trump’s nominee for the open SCOTUS seat — is a strict constructionist. This means interpreting law exactly as written and nothing else. We believe Posner and the majority ruled correctly in this case. We hope the nation’s highest court will follow the same logic if this case reaches their chambers."

Letter to the Editor, April 6 (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 04/06/17)
Susan Wilder: I am opposed to Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice. While he appeared bland on TV, in real life his rulings reflect a very conservative, far-right perspective. ... Gorsuch is not a reasonable choice for the Supreme Court, and I am pleased that the Democrats are standing firm against his nomination.

Commentary: ‘Nuclear option’ for Gorsuch vote defies Collins’ beliefs, threatens Senate: Republicans should not put Trump and their political party ahead of preserving the country's institutions. (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/06/17)
Eliza Townsend, Maine Women’s Lobby: Senate leaders are contemplating a maneuver to require only 51 of 100 votes – rather than a bipartisan bar of 60 – to advance the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to a final Senate vote. The fallout for the Senate would be devastating, suggesting just one reason this has been dubbed the “nuclear option.”... If Judge Gorsuch’s extreme views mean that he can’t attract 60 Senate votes, changing the rules is not the answer. I hope Sen. Collins will remember all of these factors – her past convictions, her own policy concerns and the inherent threat to the Senate – and vote against “going nuclear.”