Editorials and Opinion
Monday letters: Judicial vacancies; Federal judges (Houston Chronicle, 12/23/16)
Carl Tobias: Regarding Texas leads nation in federal judicial vacancies'' (HoustonChronicle.com, Dec. 20), the story accurately describes Texas, which is ground zero for the judicial vacancy crisis, because the state has 13 emergency vacancies. After his inauguration, President Donald Trump and the Texas GOP senators must promptly cooperate to nominate and confirm well-qualified, mainstream judges. Most efficient and least wasteful of scarce resources would be starting with the five experienced, moderate nominees who testified in a September hearing but have languished ever since.
Indeed, President Barack Obama should renominate all five .... the Senate must quickly confirm them before Inauguration Day, so the judges can deliver justice to people and businesses engaged in Texas federal court litigation.
Senate Republicans Changed the Playbook on Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 12/22/16)
Paul Gordon: We should never forget why there are so many vacancies, because that affects how the Senate should act with regard to President Trump’s nominees. Unfortunately, over the course of Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans changed the playbook. They refused to consider a Supreme Court nominee, and they extended their partisan fights over nominees to include district court nominees, who had generally not found themselves victims to such partisan mistreatment before.
Dozens Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees, Including Historic Picks, Won’t Make It Onto The Bench: Fifty-two of President Obama’s judicial nominees didn’t get a vote in the Senate. They include lawyers and judges who would have added new diversity to the federal bench. (BuzzFeed, 12/20/16)
Zoe Tillman: Qureshi is one of 52 nominees for federal district and appeals courts and the US Supreme Court who won’t make it onto the bench, at least for now. That group includes more than a dozen nominees who, like Qureshi, would have broken racial, gender, and religious barriers.... Other nominees who would have been firsts if confirmed include Rebecca Haywood, a federal prosecutor who would have been the first African American woman to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; US District Judge Lucy Koh of California, who would have been the first Korean American federal appeals judge; and US District Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama, who would have been the first African American from the state to serve on the Eleventh Circuit.... The Senate confirmed 20 judges to federal district and appeals courts during Obama’s final two years in office, and left for the holiday recess with 99 court vacancies. More seats are expected to open up by the time Trump takes office in January. Of the vacant seats, 38 are considered “emergencies” by the judiciary because of the caseload. Those numbers don’t include the US Court of International Trade and the US Court of Federal Claims, where there are also open seats.
By comparison, the Senate confirmed 68 federal judges during President George W. Bush’s last two years, according to the judiciary. By the end of December 2008, there were 26 nominees pending and 53 vacancies.... Democrats could hold up nominees through a senatorial courtesy system known as the “blue slip”
Trump, no ordinary president, requires an extraordinary response (Brookings, 12/20/16)
Thomas E. Mann: The investigative and prosecutorial work of the Department of Justice is an essential bulwark against the misuse of public authority by any official, including presidents. Will its independence and integrity be protected by the new Attorney General and White House Counsel? Trump’s choice for Attorney General was rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship because of racist comments and has a history as a prosecutor more interested in prosecuting African Americans for pursuing voting rights than those trying to suppress their votes.... The courts play an equally essential role. The egregious partisan politicization of judicial appointments, which reached a nadir with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented refusal to even consider Merrick Garland’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during the last year of President Obama’s tenure, has weakened the capacity of the courts to fulfill its responsibilities in the face of attacks on the fabric of our democracy.... Vigilance against every threat to the fundamental nature of the republic is the order of the day.
Commentary: Senate shoud confirm state’s federal court nominees (Herald [WA] , 12/18/16)
Carl Tobias: On April 14, President Barack Obama nominated Beth Andrus, Michael Diaz and Kathleen O’Sullivan to fill vacancies with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Each is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee who has the strong support of the state’s Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Nevertheless, they have languished since April, primarily because GOP leaders did not accord them Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, panel votes or final debates and ballots. Because all three are experienced, consensus nominees and the District needs every vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly grant the nominees hearings and committee votes and confirmation debates and ballots.
The Western District now has three vacancies in seven active judgeships.
Jenni Dye: It shouldn’t take Christmas miracle for Ron Johnson to do his job (Cap Times [WI], 12/16/16)
"[W]ill Sen. Ron Johnson and his fellow Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate deliver on a judge to fill the longest-running federal judicial vacancy in the nation — or will they deliver a lump of coal in continued attempts to rig the federal courts?
Johnson signed off last summer on the nomination of Donald Schott to fill a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, which includes Wisconsin, after five years of excuses and delays motivated by partisanship. Schott received bipartisan support when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve his nomination, and he is now one of 25 judicial nominees available to be confirmed immediately by the full Senate.
It shouldn’t take a Christmas miracle for Johnson and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to do their jobs and approve the judicial nominees, like Donald Schott, who they already support."
Confirm Winfield Ong for the Southern District of Indiana (The Hill, 12/16/16)
Carl Tobias: On Jan. 12, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Winfield Ong, who has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Indiana over two decades, for a vacancy on the Southern District. He is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of Indiana Sens. Dan Coats (R) and Joe Donnelly (D). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Ong on June 16 without dissent. However, the nominee languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Ong is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Southern District of Indiana needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.... Indiana senators requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Majority Leader, failed to arrange it. Numerous Democratic senators sought unanimous consent to vote regarding Ong and 19 remaining district nominees who need final votes, but other members objected....senators must immediately approve him.
Letter: If GOP hires all judges, balance will suffer (Reno Gazette-Journal [NV], 12/15/16)
Christina Karr: there are over 105 judicial vacancies, and that worries me. In the America that I know, we are supposed to have a fair and balanced justice system....courts have made some very important rulings. They have legalized same-sex marriage and they have helped educate my friends who are undocumented.
We all know that Republicans tend to choose judges that are anti-immigration, anti-women's rights and anti-healthcare. If the Republicans put forth 105 conservative judges, where is the balance in our court system going to be?
Advise and Dissent: The Senate Majority Refuses to Do Its Job (Huffington Post, 12/14/16)
Sammie Moshenberg: there has been no action on filling the Supreme Court vacancy .... When the Senate adjourned, there were 98 other unfilled vacancies on courts .... the blue slip. Honored by judiciary committee chairs from both parties, this practice requires each home-state senator to return a blue paper slip, indicating that they are ok with the confirmation process going forward—whether or not they will ultimately vote for or against the nominee.
This is the case with the 25 judicial nominees who have had a hearing and been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee—some more than half a year ago....the Senate could act on filling these vacancies before the new president is sworn in—unlikely but intriguing. But It’s not too early to let our senators know that we want them to insist that these 25 nominees be re-nominated by the next president. These vacancies have languished far too long already. Why not fill them expeditiously with qualified, consensus nominees who have already gone through the vetting process?
Op-Ed: U.S. Senate should act on court nominees (News & Observer [NC], 12/13/16)
Rob Schofield: As outrageous and destructive as the Garland blockade has been, the growing possibility that Senate leaders may also choose to block a raft of lower court nominees in the closing weeks of the 114th Congress is utterly beyond the pale.... 25 lower court nominees have been fully vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee and have the support of their home state senators. This includes three Court of Appeals nominees, 20 District Court nominees and two nominees to the International Trade Court. All that is necessary is for the Senate’s leader, Mitch McConnell, to allow confirmation votes that could take just a few minutes to complete.... Another 28 nominees (four Court of Appeals and 24 District Court nominees) have been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee for months. This includes Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who was nominated to fill the nation’s longest standing judicial vacancy in North Carolina’s Eastern District almost eight months ago.... there were 105 federal court vacancies across the country. Two years ago, when Republicans were preparing to take over the Senate there were only 40.
“Judicial emergencies” – which by rule only occur when there are several hundred pending cases per judge on specified courts – have skyrocketed. At the start of the present Congress, there were 12. Now there are 38. The highest number of such emergencies that ever occurred during the George W. Bush presidency – even when Democrats controlled the Senate – was 15.
During the last two years, Republicans have only allowed 22 judicial nominees to be confirmed. These figures are the lowest for any Congress since the 1950’s – a time when the nation’s population was barely half its present size.
In contrast, Democrats confirmed more than three times the number of Bush nominees in 2008 and left no nominations pending on the Senate floor when Congress adjourned. The current situation is unprecedented and outrageous.
Sessions cannot do justice as head of justice dept. (Selma Times-Journal [AL], 12/13/16)
Hank Sanders: When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the city of Baltimore for police brutality.
She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Sen. Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights?... Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Sen. Jeff Sessions to allow some black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts.
During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American.
That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon.
Confirm Mark Young for the Central District of California (The Hill, 12/12/16)
Carl Tobias: Young and many other well qualified, mainstream nominees have waited months for debates and votes. Feinstein and Boxer requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), the Majority Leader, did not set it. A few Democratic senators sought unanimous consent to vote on Young and nineteen remaining district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans objected. If the GOP had followed regular order, Young would have secured a floor ballot long ago. However, on Saturday, the chamber [adjourned] until the new Senate convenes on Jan. 3. Once it assembles, Obama should promptly renominate Young, the panel ought to quickly reapprove the nominee and the Senate must confirm him.
Letter: Senate should move on Garland (Columbus Dispatch [OH], 12/11/16)
Carolyn Casper: More troubling than the unprecedented obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, who should be afforded an immediate hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the blockade of every judicial nominee currently pending. Our federal courts continue to be in a state of crisis because more than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. Because of these vacancies, cases go unheard, issues unresolved, and American people and businesses are without the justice they deserve.... Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, just won an overwhelming victory from the voters following a campaign during which he marketed himself as an “independent voice’’ in the U.S Senate. ... I urge Portman to show his independence and urge Senate leaders to schedule up-or-down votes on Garland and the other pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
While gridlock grinds in Washington, justice suffers in Idaho [Editorial] (Idaho Statesman, 12/11/16)
Editorial Board: the fate of Pocatello’s David C. Nye, whom President Barack Obama nominated back in April to a federal judgeship in the District of Idaho.
Within days of that nomination our two Republican Senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, chimed in and agreed with their Democratic president that Nye — now serving in the Sixth District Court of Idaho — was an excellent choice and ought to be approved by the Senate.
Crapo and Risch introduced Nye to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in June, and that body approved him on July 14 without dissent. Everybody, including us, is supportive of Nye, but nobody has been able to push him over the finish line and put him to work for Idaho –– who desperately needs him.
Idaho only has two such judgeships (and has a great argument for a third).... Nye, and many other judges awaiting confirmation by the Senate, languish in the kind of limbo that only gridlock can create.... Why not take 10 minutes to confirm Nye and others for the federal bench and allow them to get to work? Among the theories is that Senate Republican leadership and the rest of the world would be reminded of the GOP’s obstinance to not even consider Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.
We are unconcerned about face-saving –– and only hoping for justice, which will have to wait.
If 2016 ends without Nye’s confirmation, we’ll all have to pray that President-elect Donald Trump will re-nominate him in 2017 and he can come on board with Senate confirmation.
Carl Tobias: Senate must vote on Idaho judge (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 12/11/16)
"On April 6, President Barack Obama nominated David Nye, a state court judge in Idaho, for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court. Nye is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Nye on July 14 without dissent. However, the nomination has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Nye is an experienced, consensus nominee and the district desperately needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.
The Idaho district has one vacancy in two active judgeships.... The federal court system declared Lodge’s vacancy a “judicial emergency” .... Nye and many other highly qualified, moderate nominees have waited months for debates and votes. The Republican Senate majority has refused to even consider Judge Merrick Garland, the experienced, mainstream Supreme Court nominee .... Sens. Crapo and Risch have requested a swift floor ballot for Nye, yet Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, has failed to arrange it. Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on many district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans have objected. ... The Idaho senators have constantly reiterated their support for Nye, even after the election, expressing hope the Senate would confirm him in the lame duck session that opened Nov. 15 and pledging to push for renomination if that did not happen. The Idaho director of the Trump for President campaign believed that “Trump would support” the senators’ process and Nye. Thus, it would be wasteful to restart the process and deprive Idaho of a new judge for months."
Judicial vacancies frustrate swift, fair case resolution (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/09/16)
Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: In July 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Susan Paradise Baxter, who has been a Western District of Pennsylvania magistrate judge since 1995, and Marilyn Horan, who has been a Butler County Common Pleas judge since 1996, for Western District vacancies.
The court has four vacancies among 10 active judgeships. ... Judges Baxter and Horan are well-qualified, moderate nominees, who enjoy the powerful support of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican. The Judiciary Committee granted them Jan. 28 voice votes with no dissent. However, both nominations have since languished, mainly because Republican leaders denied them final debates and ballots. Since Judges Baxter and Horan are experienced, mainstream jurists and the Western District needs each vacancy filled, the Senate must confirm them before it adjourns.
Qualified, vetted judicial nominees deserve votes (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/09/16)
CHRISTINE STONE, Letter to the Editor: Before the year is over, U.S. Senate leadership should schedule immediate confirmation votes on the 25 qualified judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor. Among these qualified nominees are Pennsylvania’s own Judges Susan Paradise Baxter and Judge Marilyn Horan, who were nominated to fill district court seats that have been vacant for more than three years. Like Judge Baxter and Judge Horan, each of these nominees has been vetted, approved by their home-state senators and earned the bipartisan support of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Our federal courts are in a state of crisis; this is especially true in Pennsylvania. Two district court nominees (Judge Robert Colville and Judge John Younge) and a circuit court nominee (Judge Rebecca Haywood, who would become the first African-American woman to sit on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) have had hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee but have been waiting for a committee vote for months. Beyond that, Pennsylvania has one other district court vacancy and another upcoming in January.
Millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent vetting these qualified nominees. Sen. Pat Toomey should now work with Senate leadership to schedule up-or-down votes on the pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
Time to approve district judge for Florida (Fort Myers News Press [FL] , 12/09/16)
Carl Tobias: On April 28, President Barack Obama nominated William Jung, a longtime Tampa Bay private practitioner and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, for a vacancy on the Middle District of Florida. Jung is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee, who has the strong support of Florida Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).
Nevertheless, he has languished since April, primarily because GOP leaders did not accord him a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a panel vote or a final debate and ballot. Because Jung is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Middle District of Florida requires each of its vacancies filled, the Senate must expeditiously afford the nominee’s hearing and committee vote and his confirmation debate and ballot.
Local View: America needs to fill judicial vacancies (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 12/08/16)
CAROL BLOCH and REBECCA GONZALES: it would be unjustifiable to let the lame duck session go by without holding a vote on the 25 qualified nominees pending on the Senate floor. These nominations will terminate at the end of this Congress but the work has already been done – they’ve been vetted, voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support, and have the support of their home state senators. Holding an up or down vote on these 25 pending nominees would take mere minutes and potentially fill so many of these long-vacant judgeships.
President Obama’s judicial nominees have been unfairly obstructed for an unacceptably long period of time, including the shameful acts by Senate leaders to allow a Supreme Court vacancy to exist for wholly partisan reasons. ... President Obama’s pick for the federal district court in Nebraska, Judge Rossiter, was widely supported across the political spectrum and championed by our own Senator Deb Fischer.
Under Trump, the Federal Courts Will Be Up For Grabs (New York Times, 12/08/16)
Linda Greenhouse column: the Supreme Court nomination, crucial as it is, is the tip of a very big iceberg. That high-profile nomination will mark only the beginning of the Trump administration’s effort to gain control of a federal judiciary that has gradually, almost imperceptibly slipped into Democratic hands during the Obama years.... the geographical distribution of Obama appointees is far from uniform, because of the power of individual senators to block nominations to judgeships in their states. Under the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition, a state’s two senators must both indicate in writing their acceptance of a nomination before the Judiciary Committee will even schedule a hearing. ... Russell Wheeler of Brookings calculated how many judges now serving on the circuit courts would be eligible for senior status by 2020. The total was 98 of the 179 judgeships on those courts. Of the 98, 48 are Democratic appointees. “If Trump replaced all 48 eligible Democratic appointees, every court of appeals would become a Republican-appointee majority court,” Mr. Wheeler wrote. He added “that’s not going to happen” — presumably because many of those newly eligible judges would choose to remain in active service for years to come. On the federal districts courts, 216 judges are currently eligible for senior status or will become eligible by mid-2020. Most of those, 61 percent, are Republican appointees;"
Pass judicial nominees (Butler Eagle [PA], 12/08/16)
John Neurohr, Co-chair, Why Courts Matter-Pa., Letter to the Editor: As the U.S. Senate continues the lame-duck session, Senate leadership should schedule immediate confirmation votes on the 25 qualified judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor. Among these qualified nominees are Pennsylvania’s own Judges Susan Baxter and Marilyn Horan, who were nominated to fill district court seats that have been vacant more than three years.
Like Baxter and Horan, each of these nominees has been vetted and approved by their home-state senators and has earned the bipartisan support of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Millions of dollars have been spent vetting these nominees. Sen. Pat Toomey should now work with Senate leadership to schedule up-or-down votes on the pending nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
It isn’t just Pennsylvania. More than one tenth of federal judgeships are vacant nationally, meaning that cases go unheard, issues unresolved and American people and businesses are left without the justice they deserve. These vacancies will remain open for far, far longer if other nominees are selected to fill them.
Senate Republicans Haven’t Confirmed A Single Judicial Nominee in More Than Five Months: At the expense of the American people, they’re leaving vacancies open for President-elect Trump to fill. (Medium, 12/08/16)
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: There are 25 nominees waiting for a vote right now, and they’ve all been fully vetted, approved by their home-state senators, and voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support — all but two unanimously. They could all be confirmed in a matter of minutes. And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t hold votes before adjourning for the year, the process will have to start all over again when President-elect Donald Trump takes office next year — all at the expense of the American people.
Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January of last year, judicial emergencies have more than tripled from 12 to 38. Confirming the 25 nominees pending on the floor would fill nine of those emergency vacancies, and it would also add a level of diversity to the federal judiciary. More than half of the nominees (14) are women, and many would make history if confirmed. Jennifer Puhl, nominated to the 8th Circuit, would be the first woman ever in North Dakota on the federal bench and would fill one of those emergencies. ... After the 2008 election, none of George W. Bush’s nominees were left stranded on the Senate floor. In fact, a Democratic Senate confirmed 68 of Bush’s lower-court nominees in the final two years of his administration. Today, Republicans shouldn’t be rewarded for obstruction, or for their postponement of justice for many Americans. Before adjourning for the holidays, they should give the nation a gift — a slightly better staffed federal bench, with fewer judicial emergencies — by holding votes immediately.
Tobias: Confirm Schott for 7th Circuit Court: Schott is an experienced, moderate nominee, and the court needs every jurist. The Senate must confirm him before it adjourns. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI], 12/08/16)
Carl Tobias: Schott is particularly qualified to fill a 7th Circuit Wisconsin vacancy, which has remained open for more than six years, denying the state full representation on the appeals court.... During Obama’s tenure, Republicans cooperated very little in the confirmation process. This was exacerbated once the GOP captured a Senate majority. The upper chamber approved only one circuit jurist all last year and one in 2016. That contrasts with the 10 appellate judges the Democratic majority helped appoint in 2007-’08 — the comparable juncture of George W. Bush’s presidency.
This year, Obama has proffered seven highly qualified, mainstream circuit nominees, but none has been confirmed. That means there are 13 circuit, and 38 emergency, vacancies. Critical is another 7th Circuit opening in Indiana for which Obama nominated Myra Selby. Because Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) did not return a “blue slip,” the Senate will not consider Selby, which makes Schott’s confirmation even more important....Schott is an experienced, moderate nominee, and the court needs every jurist. The Senate must confirm him before it adjourns.
Senate Still Has Time to #DoYourJob on Judges (National Women's Law Center blog, 12/08/16)
Amy K. Matsui: There are 25 judicial nominees, all of whom were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support, who are waiting for a confirmation vote. If Senate leadership agreed, the Senate could vote on their nominations as a group in a matter of minutes. If the Senate fails to act before the end of the year, all of these nominations will go back to the drawing board – and millions of people in the jurisdictions where these nominees would serve will continue to wait for a fully functioning judiciary.
Confirm Judge Koh for the Ninth Circuit (Washington and Lee Law Review, 12/08/16)
Carl Tobias: On February 25, 2016, President Barack Obama appointed United States District Court Judge Lucy Haeran Koh for a judicial emergency vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The jurist has served professionally for more than six years in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, ably resolving major litigation. ... Judge Koh is an exceptional, consensus nominee—and the Ninth Circuit must have its entire judicial complement to resolve promptly, inexpensively, and equitably ... Republican senators, however, did not cooperate, particularly after they had captured an upper chamber majority in the 114th Congress, a situation that this presidential election year significantly aggravates. The last section, therefore, proffers recommendations for Judge Koh’s approval.
Tobias: Senate should confirm Judge Lucy Koh before adjourning (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 12/08/16)
Carl Tobias: In February, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Lucy Haeran Koh for an emergency Ninth Circuit vacancy, praising her “unflagging integrity and evenhandedness.”
Since 2010, the jurist has ably resolved many critical disputes in the Northern District of California. However, 2016 is a presidential election year in which confirmations are delayed. Because Koh is an exceptional, mainstream nominee and the court needs its full complement, she warrants appointment before this Senate session ends.... This year, Obama has proffered seven highly qualified, mainstream circuit nominees, but none received a hearing until May 18 and none has realized appointment. That means the bench has 13 circuit, and 38 emergency, vacancies. Slow confirmations have adverse impacts, depriving courts of necessary resources and many litigants of justice.
Carl Tobias: Stop delaying on judicial nominee (Gainesville Sun [FL], 12/07/16)
"On April 28, President Barack Obama nominated Philip Lammens, who has served as a U.S. magistrate judge since 2012 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2008 to 2012, for a vacancy on the Northern District of Florida.
Lammens is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee, who has the powerful support of U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) of Florida. Nonetheless, he has languished since April, mainly because Republican leaders did not grant him a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, panel approval or a final debate and vote.
Because Lammens is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Northern District of Florida needs all of its vacancies filled, the Senate must promptly afford the nominee's hearing and committee ballot and his confirmation debate and vote.
The district now has two vacancies in four active judgeships."
Congress should fill judge vacancies during lame duck session (Baltimore Sun, 12/07/16)
Carl Tobias: The Senate has not approved a single federal judge since July 6, even though the bench currently experiences 96 circuit and district court vacancies (38 are "judicial emergencies"), and President Barack Obama has nominated 51 well qualified, mainstream candidates for the openings, 21 of whom the Judiciary Committee has approved without dissent. If the Senate confirms no one else, there will be more than 100 vacancies in 842 judgeships (13 percent) by January 20. Although Donald Trump won the presidency and the GOP retained its Senate majority, Republican and Democratic senators must collaborate to fill numerous vacancies before the members adjourn because the openings undermine justice.
LETTERS: Two OK judges should be confirmed (Stillwater News Press [OK], 12/07/16)
Carl Tobias: “Confirm two OK judges now (News Press editorial, Nov. 26) correctly states that Suzanne Mitchell and Scott Palk are well qualified, mainstream nominees for the District of Oklahoma who enjoy strong support from both Oklahoma GOP senators and who have been waiting months for a Senate confirmation vote because of Republican obstruction. Thus, the Oklahoma lawmakers must prevail on the leadership to provide Mitchell and Palk floor debates and votes swiftly after the lame duck session resumes this week and the Senate should confirm them before it adjourns.
Confirm Gary Richard Brown for the Eastern District of New York (The Hill, 12/07/16)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Gary Richard Brown, who has been a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of New York since 2011, for a vacancy on that court. He is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of New York Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Brown on Nov. 5, 2015 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, primarily due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Brown is an experienced, moderate nominee and the Eastern District of New York requires this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly conduct his final debate and vote.