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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Democrats didn’t gratuitously forfeit the filibuster (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 04/13/17)
Harold Bloomfield, Letter to the Editor: It is laughable that Mr. Krauthammer was able to write about this subject without mentioning the Republicans’ unprecedented refusal to give Merrick Garland’s nomination a hearing and a vote. Mr. Krauthammer further amuses by stating that President Barack Obama tried to “pack three liberal judges onto the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.” Mr. Obama apparently rankled Republicans by fulfilling his constitutional responsibility to nominate judges to fill existing vacancies. Mr. Krauthammer also complains about liberal judges and their freewheeling, freestyle constitutional interpretation, conveniently forgetting about the Roberts court’s precedent-shattering decisions

Grace Hauser: Neil Gorsuch's dysfunctional nuclear family (Cap Times [WI], 04/13/17)
"The GOP employed a “nuclear option” by reducing the number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster to a simple majority, thus rendering the filibuster completely useless against Supreme Court nominees. In doing so, they dramatically changed the nature of the Senate confirmation process by eliminating the element of debate. They undermined the checks and balances that were employed to vet every previous Supreme Court nominee. ... But it isn’t just the precedent that’s scary here; it’s Neil Gorsuch himself.... Gorsuch’s views fall far behind the rest of the country."

Three myths about the Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation fight: Erwin Chemerinsky (Los Angeles Daily News [CA], 04/13/17)
"Myth 1: Confirmation fights began with the defeat of the nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. This is simply false. Confirmation fights began during George Washington’s presidency. ... Myth 2: Confirmation fights unduly politicize the Supreme Court. The key democratic check on the court, an unelected body whose members have life tenure, is the nomination and confirmation process.... Myth 3: The elimination of the filibuster will lead to the appointment of more extreme Supreme Court justices.... The reality is that filibusters never have mattered with regard to Supreme Court nominations.

Letter to the editor: Sen. Collins chooses her party over welfare of the nation (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/12/17)
John Howard: Almost immediately after voting to repeal long-standing Senate rules designed to protect a minority position on lifetime appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, Susan Collins issued a statement professing her deep and abiding commitment to the 60-vote rule for legislation because it “helps preserve the tradition of the Senate of respecting minority views and increases likelihood of bipartisan work.” The depth of her hypocrisy is stunning. Collins often talks a moderate game, but her votes clearly and repeatedly demonstrate that she will sacrifice the long-term welfare of the nation for the short-term, partisan benefit of the Republican Party. Her treachery in this instance reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s character The Walrus mourning the loss of his friends, the oysters, after having just devoured them.

Congress should impeach Sen. Mitch McConnell (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 04/12/17)
Henry Bugatto, Letter to the Editor: Sen. Mitch McConnell violated his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution when he refused to hear Merrick Garland or any other Supreme Court nominee that President Obama might have sent to the Senate and instead refused for almost a year to do his job, all with no legal justification. He should be impeached. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen and will leave the legitimacy of our highest court in question. I will now call the latest justice Merrick Gorsuch to remind us of the theft of this seat.

Republicans give America an extreme right-wing Supreme Court that will divide the country more than ever: Republicans didn't just steal a Supreme Court seat; they're unwinding rules that force compromise (, 04/12/17)
Steven Rosenfeld: Senate Republicans pushed the country further down the rabbit hole of political extremism Thursday by changing the voting rules to put a far-right justice in a hijacked Supreme Court seat, cementing a conservative high court majority for years. ... Led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the Republicans refused to act on President Obama’s court nominee, Merrick Garland.... The stage was set for this judicial coup on Thursday, when Republicans, who could only get 55 votes to end the Democratic filibuster, began the procedural march to repealing that rule for Supreme Court nominations

Judge Gorsuch (Miami Herald, 04/12/17)
Jaime G Escalante, Letter to the Editor: It is a sad day for the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Neil Gorsuch is taking over a stolen seat.... The GOP denied the hearing of Judge Garland, nominated by President Obama. Then, after waiting many months, and a change in administration, the Senate changed the rules to get Gorsuch confirmed. Senator Mitch McConnell, who orchestrated this mess, is a disgrace for the Senate.

Letter: No voice for the people (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/11/17)
Steve Lewis: he Senate has plunged over the brink. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is just the tragic climax to this partisan ride. For over 200 years, the Senate was able to confirm Supreme Court nominees with a 60-vote consensus. What just happened is called the "nuclear option" for a reason. With polls showing voters strongly against this course by a 65 to 25 margin, there may never have been a time when Congress has been less responsive to the voice and will of the people. Clearly party and power are more important than country to them now.

Opinion by Prof. Neil H. Buchanan: the idea that the rejection of Robert Bork 's nomination to the Supreme Court by a bipartisan group of 58 senators in 1987 somehow justifies the Republicans' subsequent behavior in the Senate stands out as one of the most dishonest readings of history in current U.S. political discourse.... The only way to describe what happened to Bork as "politicizing" the hearings is to say that the Senate has no business asking about a nominee's views at all.... [Linda] Greenhouse also points out that there is a subsidiary myth that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to give substantive answers during her confirmation hearings, which supposedly justifies Gorsuch's farcical nomination hearings last month. That is not what happened at all.... Senate Democrats had a choice.... they forced the Republicans to show that they have no principles and are willing to burn down the Senate in the service of their partisan agenda.

[Editorial] Gorsuch wrong for Supreme Court (Philadelphia Tribune [PA], 04/11/17)
"Gorsuch’s judicial record shows that he has consistently decided to protect corporations, and limit the rights of minorities, women, and workers.... Gorsuch’s “orignialsim” method of interpreting the constitution is absurd....the original understanding of the Constitution is unknowable, and even if it could be known, should not be binding today.... If constitutional interpretation must follow the specific intentions of the framers, as Gorsuch wrote, the results often will be unacceptable if not absurd.... Article II refers to the President and vice-president with the pronoun “he.”... The same Congress that ratified the Fourteenth Amendment also voted to segregate the District of Columbia public schools. Under an originalist philosophy, Brown vs. Board of Education was wrongly decided and laws mandating segregation were constitutional."

EDITORIAL: Gorsuch nomination a reminder of why we don’t like Congress (Powell Tribune [WY], 04/11/17)
"It was only about an hour after the announcement of Scalia’s death that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, proclaimed that Republicans would refuse to consider anyone Democratic President Barack Obama nominated for the open seat.... The Senate’s Republican leadership — a group that includes our own Sen. John Barrasso — was wrong to refuse to consider any Obama nominee and it was an abuse of the Senate’s power to “advise and consent.”... Republicans altered the Senate’s rules so they could confirm Gorsuch’s nomination with a simple 54-45 majority (rather than the normally required 60 votes). ... it seems to us that members of Congress should feel some obligation to play by the rules, rather than constantly searching for any opportunity or excuse to break them."

‘Nuclear option’ is short-sighted (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 04/10/17)
Matthew C. Simpson, Guest Column: It’s a decision that Republican senators will likely regret. So will we. ... When the filibuster rule was in place, presidents knew that their Supreme Court nominees must win at least some support from the opposite side as insurance against a filibuster. This knowledge forced them to nominate middle-of-the-road judges who could gain basic acceptance from both parties. ... It was short-sighted to change the rules in this way.

Gorsuch’s Dark-Money Benefactor Attended His White House Swearing-In Ceremony (, 04/10/17)
Mark Joseph Stern: Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was made possible in part by the Judicial Crisis Network, which spent $17 million lobbying to keep Merrick Garland off the bench—and to get Gorsuch on it. Where did all that money come from? We don’t know, because it was almost entirely dark money, funneled through a Koch-allied conduit that keeps its donors secret. But the JCN isn’t entirely anonymous: It has a public face in Carrie Severino ... Severino’s presence at Monday’s ceremony serves as a startling reminder that Gorsuch’s path to the Supreme Court was facilitated by dark money. The JCN is kept afloat by one donor, the Wellspring Committee, which is in turn funded primarily by one single anonymous donor. Wellspring is little more than a dark-money conduit

Tester sided with 75% of Montanans on Gorsuch vote (Independent Record [MT], 04/10/17)
Evan Barrett, Guest Opinion: Tester said he believed that Gorsuch supports the massive intrusion of corporations into our election processes, a political disaster that has allowed almost unmeasurable corporate influence since the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision was handed down. That Supreme Court decision effectively made corporations “citizens” and ruled that their money was Constitutional “free speech.” Senator Tester’s opposition to Gorsuch based on these concerns was consistent with the position held by 75 percent of Montanans when they voted on those very questions on a ballot issue election here in 2012.

Gorsuch is the face of the new not-normal (CNN, 04/10/17)
Rachel Sklar: when things are not normal, you cannot behave as though they are. That is why Senate Democrats were right to filibuster the nomination and reject it -- by 44 votes, which meant that Gorsuch failed to meet the 60-vote threshold to win the nomination. That threshold no longer exists. Senator Mitch McConnell, predictably, led a GOP vote to change it to a simple majority confirming their nominee to the court.... "not crazy" should not be the new definition for "normal."... This was never his seat. ... there is also a scandal looming over the legitimacy of the President who nominated him: very real, very serious accusations about Russia's meddling in the US election, and the many questions about who on Donald Trump's team may have known or been involved. ... Gorsuch's far-right record ... He didn't actually say much ... Follow the Dark Money ... Things left unexplored ... Gorsuch was not actually "confirmed"

Politics Analysis The Senate may be developing an electoral college issue (Washington Post, 04/10/17)
Philip Bump: Last week, the Republican majority changed the rules of the filibuster to allow confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, several years after Democrats, frustrated at not being able to approve judges of their own, changed the rules on Republicans. Those moves, coupled with the fervently partisan moment on Capitol Hill, has meant a much-less-congenial Senate — and a Senate that, by one metric, is closer to allowing outright minority rule.... the Gorsuch nomination had support of senators representing 56.5 percent of the population, counting either senator’s support as reflecting the entire population of the state — or 44.4 percent of the population on our relative metric. If you consider that latter metric a better reflection of reality, it puts Gorsuch into an unusual position: Earning a successful nomination to the bench despite his earning less than half of the support of the country — and appointed by a president who was similarly successful, thanks to the electoral college.

[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

SCOTUS: Republicans did it first; Readers write: Letters to the editor, April 9, 2017 (Alaska Dispatch News, 04/09/17)
Robert Atkinson: The plan to do away with the filibuster so that Republicans could promote Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court with just 51 votes was preceded last year by Majority Leader McConnell's decision to obstruct even holding hearings for President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland. That action by McConnell was unprecedented in our history, as all 14 other nominees appointed in the last year of a president's term were voted on and passed. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had to come up with four completely different excuses to justify her loyalty to McConnell's "nuclear option," so bad was the ploy to keep Judge Garland from even having hearings .... So let's just give up on any pretense that the "nuclear option" will be triggered by a filibuster of quite-right-leaning nominee Gorsuch. That gambit was already played when Republicans refused to even meet and greet the last president's nominee starting last February.

[Editorial] Our View: Politics put Gorsuch on court (Daily Nonpareil [Council Bluffs, IA], 04/09/17)
"The final confirmation vote came after Senate Republicans rewrote the chamber’s rules, voting to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold on Supreme Court nominees. The change allowed the Senate to proceed to the final vote with a simple majority. With that move, dubbed the “nuclear option,” Republicans ensured the ruling party in the Senate will always have the final say on a Supreme Court pick.... Merrick Garland’s nomination should have been debated by the Senate. Absent a skeleton in his closet being discovered, Garland should have been the new Supreme Court justice, not Gorsuch.... Grassley, chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, blocked a committee vote on the nomination and the debate on Garland never reached the Senate floor. Republican leaders said they wanted voters to decide on the court seat in the November election. Of course, there was an election before that, when in 2012 voters chose another four years of Obama.... The election year argument just doesn’t hold water. ... Grassley was wrong. So were those who followed his lead."

Republicans Made High Court a Partisan Battleground (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 04/09/17)
Kenneth Jost: The blame starts, however, with Richard Nixon, who turned the Supreme Court into a partisan battleground as part of the divisive campaign he waged for the presidency in 1968. He was the first of what are now five Republican presidents who have pushed the ideological envelope with appointments that have given the high court a seemingly permanent conservative orientation.... President Trump’s outsourcing of the Supreme Court nomination to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation carries the conservative politicization of the court one significant step further. Neil Gorsuch may not have been the most conservative judge on Trump’s list of 21 candidates, but he has a deserved reputation as a reliable conservative and revealed himself as such through his calculated silences in his confirmation hearing.... it is the conservative justices today who have an activist ideological agenda, not the liberal bloc. Gorsuch's calls to make it easier to overrule administrative agencies or harder to regulate political campaign contributions point him toward the Thomas-Alito alliance that views many liberal precedents as ripe for reversal.

Editorial: Gorsuch approved, but at what cost? (Record [NJ] , 04/09/17)
"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell elected to exercise the so-called “nuclear option,” to change Senate rules so as to pave the way for a straight up-or-down, simple majority vote on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. The move, after Senate Democrats had chosen to filibuster, and require the majority Republicans to secure 41 votes in order to move Gorsuch’s name forward, signaled a departure from long-held tradition, and could be a sign of a more partisan rancor in days to come. The development was disheartening on many levels, because the Senate once was considered the congressional chamber where common sense ultimately held sway, where tempers and egos were checked, or at least restrained, to protect the institution.... in reality, we all lost .... many court observers from both ends of the spectrum believe the end result will be a much more political Supreme Court, with the potential for more future nominees with extremist views."

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: 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: 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.

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: 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.

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.