Editorials and Opinion
The Media Should Not Give Republicans A Pass On Unprecedented Obstruction Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees (Media Matters for America, 09/08/16)
Senate Republicans are engaging in unprecedented obstruction, which includes a historic blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and exceptional obstruction of judicial nominations to district and circuit courts. Media should point out that Republican senators cannot credibly use the fact that is an election year as an excuse not to move forward with confirmations.
It Took 228 Years For An American President To Nominate A Muslim For The Federal Bench (Think Progress, 09/07/16)
Ian Millhiser: "Obama made diversity a high priority in his judicial nominations throughout his presidency.... Qureshi is the first Muslim attorney nominated to the federal bench in a nation where Muslims make up about 1 percent of the total population. Moreover, while Qureshi’s nomination is historic, there is no guarantee that he will be confirmed. ... Judicial confirmations slowed to a crawl the moment Republicans regained the Senate last year."
Recess is over: Time to confirm judges (Brookings, 09/06/16)
Russell Wheeler: "Federal courts are already partially shutdown. Of 852 federal district and circuit judgeships, 87 were vacant on September 6. Thirty-eight of the 49 pending nominees have been waiting longer than has Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama on March 16. These vacancies, many of which are longstanding, have serious consequences for litigants and for sitting judges on vacancy-riddled courts in Texas and other states, as explained here and here.
As documented below, the current Senate has veered from the precedents created by recent similarly situated Senates. Since the January 2015 shift in Senate party control, district and circuit vacancies have more than doubled while confirmations have grown by less than a tenth. ... At this point in President Bush’s term, 207 district and circuit judges had taken senior status, versus 286 so far in Obama’s term (judges taking senior status create almost all vacancies). More vacancies call for more confirmations"
John Cornyn and Ted Cruz’s Texas: A State of Judicial Emergency (Justice Watch, 09/06/16)
"For years, they’ve systematically delayed and obstructed filling federal judicial vacancies in Texas, including on federal trial courts and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals .... the epicenter of this growing problem is Cornyn and Cruz’s home state of Texas, which continues to have far more vacancies and judicial emergencies than any other state in the country.... Texas wouldn’t have enough judges even if every bench were filled. According to the Judicial Conference of the United States—headed by Chief Justice John Roberts—Texas needs at least nine new judgeships to meet its growing federal caseload .... As Judges Davis and Martinez explained in their requests for a faster nomination process, judicial vacancies threaten the fair administration of justice, and undermine the Constitution’s promise of equal justice under law.
In Texas, the 12 current judicial vacancies have been without a judge for a combined 25 years."
Senate must confirm Tennessean to the federal bench: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has failed to allow a vote for Edward Stanton in the West Tennessee District. (Tennessean, 09/05/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Stanton is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of the Tennessee Republican Senators.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Stanton on Oct. 29 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Stanton is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Western District needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.
The Western District currently has one vacancy in five active judgeships. This means that the court lacks 20 percent of its active judicial complement, which frustrates efforts to promptly, inexpensively and fairly resolve disputes. Because criminal prosecutions receive precedence under the Speedy Trial Act, litigants participating in civil suits experience difficulty securing trial dates and concluding their litigation....Stanton and many other well qualified, mainstream nominees have waited months for debates and votes. Senators Alexander and Corker have requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Majority Leader, has failed to schedule it.
Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on Stanton and sixteen remaining district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans have rejected these requests.... The Western District judiciary and individuals and businesses litigating in federal court deserve a full bench, while Stanton merits a final vote."
Commentary: Senate needs to confirm federal judges for SC (Greenville [SC] News, 09/05/16)
TOMMY TOBIN, Guest Columnist: "The Supreme Court vacancy is just one of the more than 90 open seats in the federal judiciary around the country.... In more than 30 jurisdictions, the demands on judges are so immense they have been labeled “judicial emergencies.” South Carolina is one such “judicial emergency.” ... Nominated in February, both Donald C. Coggins Jr. and Donald Beatty are still awaiting Senate action.... Our state’s senators, and the entire Senate, should act to address federal judicial vacancies here in South Carolina and across the country."
Guest Column: An unjustified stall on Garland nomination (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 09/02/16)
CLAY LATIMER and INA DAVIS: "It has been 147 days since President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Senate adjourned for summer recess on July 15, there were 83 vacancies on the nation’s federal courts waiting for committee hearings or votes in the Senate. There are currently 86.
Among those 86 vacancies, 31 of them have been deemed by the Judicial Conference of the United States as judicial emergencies. There are 22 qualified nominees on the Senate floor waiting for a vote and 30 more waiting for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take action. The pace of overall judicial confirmation under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is on track to become the slowest in more than 60 years. The federal judiciary affects every aspect of our lives, from school to health care to marriage, yet it remains woefully understaffed. We must urge our lawmakers to do their jobs and fill the judicial vacancies immediately."
10% of judicial emergencies are in EDTX, the preferred venue for patent litigation (IP Watchdog, 09/02/16)
Steve Brachmann: "Congressional inaction in the face of federal judicial appointments has been a pretty big story during the current political cycle.... there are 93 total federal judicial vacancies affecting the U.S. system of courts. This includes 32 vacancies which are considered to be judicial emergencies.... Three of the judicial emergencies, just less than 10 percent of all judicial emergencies in the U.S. federal court system, are in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.).... These vacancies are troubling from an intellectual property standpoint because E.D. Tex. is a preferred venue for parties looking to bring patent infringement suits against defendants. ... With the judicial vacancies in E.D. Tex., the concern is that a growing docket of patent infringement cases could create a bottleneck for the court, greatly increasing the amount of time that it takes the court to issue a decision. Business litigation is typically given a backseat to criminal litigation in district courts .... Judge Gilstrap could be deciding as much as 20 percent of all patent infringement cases filed in U.S. district courts. The fact that one judge could be deciding as much as one-fifth of the patent infringement docket at the district court level seems a little less than democratic.
It’s not as if the executive branch of the federal government hasn’t nominated anyone to fill these seats, although not every vacancy would be filled even if each nominee were approved by Congress. There are a total of 57 nominees pending for federal judicial vacancies, including 42 for district courts. There’s one pending nomination that would fill a seat in E.D. Tex.... E.D. Tex. isn’t the only district suffering from multiple judicial emergencies. In the state of Texas alone, there are two emergency vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (S.D. Tex.) and four in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas(N.D. Tex.). There are also five judicial emergencies across the circuit of appellate courts"
Texas suffers as Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn neglect to appoint judges (Dallas Morning News, 08/31/16)
Column by Lisa Blue: "Our senators must demand that their fellow committee members hold a hearing to consider Chief Judge Garland immediately. And our senators need to make sure Texas' courts are fully staffed as well.
Texas is home to the largest number of judicial vacancies in the country, a total of 12 vacancies at the district and circuit court levels. All of them have been declared judicial emergencies because of their extreme caseloads.... Senators Cruz and Cornyn seem set on understaffing not only the Supreme Court and courts around the country, but also the courts right here in Texas. In March, the president named five nominees for the U.S. District Court vacancies in Texas. Yet, like Chief Judge Merrick Garland, these nominees have just lingered.
Texans deserve a fully functioning judiciary."
Confirm Julien Neals for the district of New Jersey (The Hill, 08/25/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Neals is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Neals on Nov. 5 without dissent. However, the nomination has languished on the Senate floor ever since, primarily due to Republican leaders’ refusal to permit Neals’ confirmation debate and vote. Because Neals is an experienced, consensus nominee and the New Jersey District needs all of its judges, the Senate must swiftly arrange his confirmation debate and vote.... Chief Judge Jerome Simandle has been asking the Senate to promptly fill the openings since they became empty.... The chief judge concluded that the “vacancies each at least one year old” and the huge caseload pressures make New Jersey a “judicial emergency”"
Sentinel Editorial: Senate race's biggest issue shouldn't be 'who do you support?' (Keene Sentinel [NH], 08/25/16)
"For weeks, the biggest “issue” in New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race has been the presumed front-runners’ allegiance to presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
And that’s a bad thing, because it means voters aren’t hearing their positions on immigration, the Middle East, taxes, energy, climate, trade, judicial appointments and other real issues a senator must deal with."
More Blunt Truths From Republicans, Please (Bloomberg News, 08/25/16)
Jonathan Bernstein: "If congressional Democrats had retained the majorities they held back in 2009-2010 ... not only would Democrats have confirmed a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia -- and Obama would likely have nominated someone younger and more liberal than Merrick Garland – but most of the current 11 vacancies in circuit courts and 72 vacancies in district courts would have been filled with confirmed judges. Instead, Deace makes the preposterous claim that Republicans “rubber-stamped all of Obama’s administrative and lower court judicial appointments.”"
Vacancies create emergency in federal courts, by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board (Sun Sentinel [FL], 08/23/16)
"An emergency exists in Florida's federal court system and the group responsible for fixing the problem — the U.S. Senate — just yawns and shrugs its collective shoulders. .... And it's not just Florida that is suffering. More than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida, five of 37 district judge slots, 14 percent, are unfilled. ... With a smaller number of judges taking on the growing responsibility, workloads increase, delays lengthen and costs rise.... "It's like an emergency room in a hospital," said Southern District Chief Judge Federico Moreno. " ... Eventually you burn out."... justice delayed is justice denied. It's now so bad in Florida that four of the vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies." ... in states that have both a Republican and Democratic senator, it is easy for one of them to stop such a vote, which in Florida is what Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did on Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores"
Letter: Sweet also deserves a vote on nomination (Buffalo News [NY], 08/22/16)
Frank Housh, Esq.: "Merrick Garland has now been waiting longer than any other Supreme Court nominee. Garland deserves to be considered by the Senate, and so do the American people who need a functioning judiciary.
But Garland is not the only nominee waiting for the Senate to do its job. Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet, nominated by President Obama in March to fill the U.S. District Court vacancy in the Western District of New York, has been waiting since March 8. While the Supreme Court vacancy is devastating, the majority of cases never make it to the highest court; they are heard by the nearly 900 lower Federal Court judges nationwide. Ten percent of these seats sit vacant, however, because the Senate majority places ideology above the public good.... I urge the Judiciary Committee to report her nomination out of committee so Sweet can receive full consideration by the Senate as soon as possible. She – like all pending nominees – deserves a vote on the merits.
When it comes to confirming judges, the Senate needs to do its job."
The (Supreme) Courts of Texas: Judge’s Power Grab (Justice Watch, 08/22/16)
"Of course, these developments should come as no surprise if you step back and look at the disastrous state of the federal judiciary in Texas. Thanks to Republican obstruction led by Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Texas has the most federal judicial vacancies of any state in the country. Moreover, all twelve of Texas’s current vacancies (including two on the Fifth Circuit) have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. That means Texas is home to more than a third of the 32 judicial emergencies nationwide.
Cruz and Cornyn have systematically delayed and obstructed filling federal vacancies in Texas for years. Two Texas seats on the Fifth Circuit have sat vacant for a combined total of 2,447 days—more than six and a half years. The Southern District of Texas, where Judge Hanen sits, has two vacancies, while the Northern District of Texas, where Judge O’Connor sits, has four vacancies. In fact, the Northern District of Texas has no Obama appointees whatsoever, with Republican appointees outnumbering Democratic appointees by three to one."
End logjam of gridlock, fill federal court slots: Where We Stand [Editorial] (Orlando Sentinel [FL] , 08/21/16)
"An emergency exists in Florida's federal court system and the group responsible for fixing the problem — the U.S. Senate — just yawns and shrugs its collective shoulders. .... And it's not just Florida that is suffering. More than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida, five of 37 district judge slots, 14 percent, are unfilled. ... With a smaller number of judges taking on the growing responsibility, workloads increase, delays lengthen and costs rise.... "It's like an emergency room in a hospital," said Southern District Chief Judge Federico Moreno. " ... Eventually you burn out."... justice delayed is justice denied.
It's now so bad in Florida that four of the vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies." ... in states that have both a Republican and Democratic senator, it is easy for one of them to stop such a vote, which in Florida is what Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did on Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores"
Our view: Republican Senate should confirm Erie judge [EDITORIAL] (Erie Times-News [PA], 08/19/16)
"It has been three years now that citizens of seven northwestern Pennsylvania counties have gone without their own federal district judge .... But even though Toomey has called for a confirmation vote — at least on Baxter and Judge Marilyn Jean Horan, a Butler County Republican nominated for a federal judgeship in Pittsburgh — the Republican-controlled Senate has refused.... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invokes math as a flimsy rationale when it comes to nominations like Baxter's. Obama has had more federal judges confirmed than President George W. Bush did — a comparison that means little when Obama has faced more vacancies.... When the Senate goes back to work in the fall, it should act quickly to seat Baxter and the other Pennsylvania nominee, for no other reason than a fully functioning judiciary is key to a functioning democracy."
Our View: Beware of congressmen in pro-wolf clothing (Arizona Republic, 08/17/16)
Editorial board: "Beware of politicians in wolves’ clothing.
Two congressional efforts to seize control of the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program may pretend to be wolf-friendly. They aren’t.
The first is being pushed by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar and New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce. Both previously have sought to kick the Mexican gray wolf off the endangered-species list.
Now, they are behind an amendment to the Interior Department appropriations bill that would defund the federal wolf-recovery effort. Pearce says states could do a better job.... The species is 97 times better off. And that’s because of a federally run effort that is guided by the federal Endangered Species Act, which established species diversity as a national value.... Ranchers and hunters have legitimate concerns, but those concerns do not outweigh the larger national goals outlined in the Endangered Species Act.... Yet, in the U.S. Senate, Arizona’s Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain are pushing an effort that would give states greater influence in decision making about wolf recovery and cap the number of wolves allowed in the wild.
This, too, is more about empowering those who oppose wolves than helping recovery.
Flake told The Republic’s Loomis that the goal of recovery should be a plan that reflects the will of the states, and cannot be reversed by a federal judge.
This is a step backward.... Only after environmentalists won a court settlement did wolf numbers begin to climb, reaching 110 by 2014.... Clearly, wolves need more protection, not less. They need federal protection that is guided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reflect the national values outlined in the Endangered Species Act."
Another Voice: Taking the judicial system for granted is folly (Buffalo News [NY], 08/14/16)
Vanessa Glushefski: "at the top of my list is the Supreme Court vacancy, as well as the hundred or so other federal district court vacancies plaguing our nation.
The United States Senate has a job to do. Actually, it has two. The Constitution requires that the Senate give its advice and consent as to federal judicial nominations. By failing to do either, the Senate, in essence, is infringing on the president’s Article II power to nominate candidates and, more importantly, the Judiciary’s Article III power to adjudicate cases and controversies.
Frankly, that is unacceptable. ... Without an adequately staffed judiciary, the balance contemplated in our Constitution comes under attack"
Did Obama win the judicial wars? (Politico, 08/08/16)
Michael Grunwald: "Sheldon Goldman, an academic who crunched historical data to create an Index of Obstruction and Delay, found that the index reached record highs under Obama even before the GOP took control of the Senate in 2015 and slowed the flow of confirmations to a trickle. While Obama has gotten two more judges confirmed than Bush did in his eight years—Clinton and Ronald Reagan both got about 50 more—judicial vacancies have more than doubled in the Obama era after getting cut in half during the Bush era. There are now 29 understaffed courts designated “judicial emergencies,” up from 12 when Obama took office. And those numbers don’t reflect how Senate Republicans turned even uncontroversial lower-court nominations into legislative ordeals, converting the filibuster, previously extremely rare, into a routine tool of delay, often for judges who were eventually confirmed unanimously."
GOP’s Refusal To Confirm Judges Has Crippled Our Federal Courts (Blue Nation Review, 08/05/16)
Susan Madrak: "As part of their unprecedented obstructionism, Senate Republicans are not only blocking Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, but they’re refusing to confirm what used to be routine nominations for federal district judges."
Senate Republicans' inaction puts judiciary in crisis (Tennessean, 08/05/16)
Daniel Horwitz Op-Ed: "due to unprecedented inaction from the United States Senate, large swaths of the federal judiciary are simply missing — resulting in excessive delays, exploding dockets and inconsistent application of the law in different parts of the country.
At present, more than 10 percent of the federal judiciary is vacant,... nearly one-third of federal District Court vacancies are currently designated “judicial emergencies” ... With respect to Court of Appeals nominees, the confirmation process has become so dysfunctional that Senate Republicans are now routinely refusing to confirm qualified nominees whom they themselves proposed to fill vacant positions. ... Having been left without a critical ninth member since February, the Supreme Court has already been unable to resolve myriad split decisions by lower courts — resulting in the same laws carrying different meanings in different parts of the country."
These Republican Senators Want Their Judicial Nominees Confirmed. Majority Leader McConnell Isn’t Listening. (Medium, 08/04/16)
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: "When the U.S. Senate left for a seven-week summer recess last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., continued to ignore repeated pleas from Republican and Democratic Senators to hold votes on 20 district and circuit court nominees pending on the Senate floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved all but one of these nominees on unopposed voice votes (and the other was approved on a bipartisan 13–7 vote).
Republican Senators with pending nominees aren’t happy. In fact, all 16 Republican senators who have a nominee (or nominees) pending on the Senate floor have spoken favorably about them and want to see a confirmation vote, as have other Republican senators with nominees who are still in committee. These senators need to keep talking about and urging — and demanding — that McConnell schedules votes after recess. Unless McConnell hears from them and obliges, Americans seeking justice will continue to face an overworked and understaffed federal judiciary made worse by this Senate majority’s inaction.
Here’s a sampling of what Republican senators with nominees on the floor have said, listed in order of nomination — beginning with a Tennessee nominee who’s been waiting since May 2015: ... When senators return from their recess next month, they could swiftly take up all 20 nominees pending on the floor — if McConnell will allow it. And he should, because the matter is urgent: Five of these nominees would fill judicial emergencies — a designation by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts — and in total, since Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 to 30.
Of course, one nomination still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee is Merrick Garland’s to the U.S. Supreme Court."
Burr holds back judicial nominees (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 08/03/16)
Mark Sternlicht, Letter to the Editor: "On July 20, Judge Merrick Garland became the longest stalled Supreme Court nominee ever. Judge Garland is widely respected, but Richard Burr and his fellow Senate Republicans have obstructed his nomination for more than 125 days.
Back when George W. Bush was president, Sen. Burr insisted that judicial nominees "regardless of party, receive an up-or-down vote." Adding to the hypocrisy, Sen. Burr has led obstruction in filling the vacancy for federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which includes Fayetteville. This seat has been vacant for more than 10 years, longer than any other in the nation, and has been classified as a judicial emergency. All Sen. Burr has to do is turn in his "blue slip," a sheet of paper, to let the nomination proceed. Instead, he is blocking widely respected Fayetteville native and former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson from the position.
Judicial emergencies have a big real-world impact for everyday Americans, who must wait and wait, often years, for their day in court. This includes small business owners hoping to settle contract disputes, workers who've faced discrimination and people injured by the negligence of a federal government employee.
Justice delayed is justice denied."
The GOP vs. The Constitution (Greene County Record [VA], 08/03/16)
Patrick Moctezuma, Letter to the Editor: "The real damage has been done by a coordinated attack on our judiciary. By blocking qualified nominees for purely political reasons, who enjoyed bipartisan support, Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP have prevented this president from filling empty bench seats in federal courts all across the country. Obama has been held to the lowest confirmation rate in modern history, precipitating a judicial crisis in our country, as judges work too long and burn out from excessive caseloads, and cases go many months without being heard, itself a violation of our Constitutional Rights. ... Republican Mitch McConnell has decided on his own that the Senate's "advise and consent" concerning individual judicial nominees, should - in this case and no other, apparently - equate to "obstruct and prevent" the sitting president from exercising one of the most basic and important executive authorities and duties: representing the American people in selecting Supreme Court justices."
Senate Slow to Confirm Judges, Creating "Judicial Emergencies" (Bloomberg News, 08/02/16)
Bloomberg podcast: The Senate has been very slow in confirming any of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the federal bench. At this rate, by the end of the 114th Congress, only 30 will be confirmed. Bloomberg BNA Senior Congressional Reporter Nancy Ognanovich talked about the impact with Bloomberg’s Amy Morris