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Obama leaves his mark on the federal bench (MSNBC, 06/11/14)
Adam Serwer: "Alliance for Justice, a liberal legal group, released a report Monday ... The blue-slip is not quite as effective as the filibuster, but it has taken its toll. According to the report, “nine out of every 10 judicial vacancies without a nominee are in states with at least one Republican senator—and 55% are in states where both senators are Republicans.”"

LETTER: Toomey, Casey should act to fill judicial vacanciesexp (Express-Times [PA], 06/10/14)
Christine Stone, Co-Chairwoman, Pennsylvania Coalition of Constitutional Values: "There are eight vacancies on the U.S. Eastern and Western District courts in Pennsylvania. These openings erode justice and Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey each share responsibility. Constitutionally, the president nominates individuals for judgeship, but tradition holds that the two senators from the state with the vacancy — or, in this case, eight vacancies — are to offer up candidates for the president to approve. As seats remain unfilled, Pennsylvanians who rely on district courts are being denied the justice they deserve. With eight vacancies in Pennsylvania ranging in duration from two years to six months, Toomey and Casey must act now and suggest candidates for nomination to these openings."

Louisiana House should kill bill intended to nullify levee lawsuit against oil, gas: Editorial (Times-Picayune [LA] , 05/28/14)
"What the legislation does is severely limit which agencies can file suit and for what sort of damages....and would leave residents in greater New Orleans with no practical remedy for the increased risk of storm damage caused by coastal erosion....SB 469 would take away the rights of other local government entities to pursue "any right or cause of action arising from any activity" involving permitting under the Coastal Zone Management program and some provisions of the federal Clean Water Act and the federal Rivers and Harbors Act. ... Those residents and the levees and pumps built to protect them are threatened by the wetlands loss created by oil and gas pipelines. Why shouldn't the industry be asked to pay part of the cost to repair it?"

Six Months Later, Filibuster Reform Means Republicans Delay Nominees They Confirm Anyway (Huffington Post, 05/21/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "So what's happened since then? Two things: The president's nominees have largely been confirmed, and Republicans wasted hours of Senate floor time delaying those nominees before voting to confirm them anyway. At least 126 hours, to be exact.... Republicans have voted to block 30 of President Barack Obama's nominees whom they ultimately ended up voting for. Thirteen of those nominees were even confirmed unanimously."

Editorial: The Native American story you don't know (but should) (Arizona Republic, 05/20/14)
"Diane Humetewa just became the first Native American woman confirmed to sit on the federal court bench, and she'll do it in Arizona. ... While representation of Native American women in the professions is far lower than it should be, Humetewa is evidence that the highest success is within reach....Humetewa will be the only active Native American judge on the bench ... Her judicial skills are critically needed to help lower the federal judicial workload in Arizona. Our state includes great swaths of federal land and an international border that keep our federal courts among the busiest in the nation. Also confirmed as federal court judges last week were Steven Paul Logan, Rosemary Marquez, John Joseph Tuchi, Douglas L. Rayes and James Alan Soto. These judges will help assure justice is not delayed in Arizona, which earned "judicial emergency" status in 2011 because of crushing workloads due to a shortage of judges. What's more, our state has 21 tribal reservations, and all felony offenses committed there are tried in federal court, according to former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton. Humetewa will make the bench a little more reflective of the community it serves....We are proud of what this daughter of Arizona has accomplished."

Editorial: Judge rightly lets environmental groups in on coal ash case (Winston-Salem Journal [NC] , 05/12/14)
"Cheers to Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway, whose ruling last week will allow environmental groups to have access to documents from Duke Energy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources relating to groundwater leaching from the company’s coal ash dumps. Ridgeway ruled that a coalition of environmental groups can participate in the state’s enforcement action against Duke Energy for the leaching, ...That’s how it should be. Good for Judge Ridgeway."

Confirmation Update: More Good Judicial News (Southern District of Florida Blog, 05/08/14)
Jeff Marcus: "Today, Judges Darrin Gayles and Beth Bloom both were approved by voice vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Robin Rosenbaum should have her vote in front of the full Senate completed sometime Monday. Best of luck to all three nominees."

How Mitch McConnell Is Exacting Revenge For Dems' Nuclear Option (Talking Points Memo, 05/07/14)
Sahil Kapur: "The best example of what Senate Republicans are up to is one grouping of 13 judicial nominees. All 13 have come up since the filibuster rule change. All 13 were ultimately unanimously confirmed by the Senate. But in each case, GOP senators attempted to filibuster their nominations, forcing delays before each nominee could come to a final vote. In other words, dozens of senators had no objection to these nominees but voted to block them anyway."

Judge Rosenbaum Update -- Full Senate Vote Likely Within the Week (Southern District of Florida Blog, 05/06/14)
Jeff Marcus: "Judge Robin Rosenbaum is FINALLY nearing a full Senate vote. Senate Majority Harry Reid laid the groundwork today by calling for a cloture vote on Judge Rosenbaum's nomination to occur no later than this Thursday. The timing of the actual final vote is unclear as Republicans can demand up to 30 hours of post-cloture delay. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Judge Rosenbaum’s nomination in March and both Florida Senators are supporting her nomination. Her confirmation cannot come soon enough. Normally a court of twelve, the 11th Circuit currently only has eight full-time judges -- a fallout of the judicial confirmation gridlock."

Daniel O. Jamison: Crisis in our federal courts (Fresno Bee [CA] , 05/06/14)
"As of April 26, there were 87 vacancies in the district and appellate courts, with more than 70 of those in the district courts. More than 40% are judicial emergencies due to caseloads requiring many more judges. ... Partisan politics, with each party out of power hoping to delay nominations until the party is in power, keep the process in limbo. A large number of the president's 50 nominees are holdovers from last year....Our local federal court is the ultimate example. There is only one judge when at least four are needed.... Noncriminal cases are randomly assigned to Sacramento federal court. The expense of the trip to Sacramento is a bar to the courthouse door for many. This is a crisis."

Following GOP misstep, Senate slowly fills the federal bench (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 05/06/14)
Steve Benen: "we haven’t seen a flurry of jurists fill vacancies on the federal bench like this in quite a long while. ... Republicans pushed obstructionism to levels literally without precedent in American history – even going so far as to say they would lock every nominee for the D.C. Circuit, regardless of merit – effectively giving Democrats no choice but to restore traditional Senate norms and reestablish majority rule on confirmation votes. Had Republicans not pushed so hard, the pre-nuclear rules would still be in effect and the GOP minority would still be in a position to stop at least some of these recent nominees. Democrats would have gritted their teeth, but they widely agreed the “nuclear option” was a last resort."

REPUBLICANS PUSHED SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID TO CHANGE THE RULES ON CONFIRMATION VOTES. (Bloomberg News, 05/02/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "The backlog of judicial nominations isn’t cleared. But there are fewer than 80 vacancies, and the number is dropping. Appellate vacancies are being filled, too. ...The decrease isn’t dramatic, yet. But majority-imposed reform has mattered anyway. Most obviously, Republicans no longer can block a handful of nominees they oppose most strongly....And since Republicans have insisted on maximizing obstruction on each nomination as retaliation for reform, there’s zero reason to pay any attention to what they think, because their behavior is the same regardless of their level of opposition to any particular nominee. ...emocrats weren't eager to eliminate supermajority confirmations. They didn’t act when Republicans defeated the nominations of Goodwin Liu or Caitlin Halligan. It took blockades of entire positions to push Democrats to make changes."

Marco Rubio Fails Florida, Doesn't Help Florida Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 05/01/14)
"Last week, we asked if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would step in to prevent his party from needlessly delaying committee approval of four highly qualified district court nominees, all of whom he recommended to the White House. All four vacancies are judicial emergencies, with a caseload so high that even if every vacancy were filled today, the districts would still need several additional judges to ensure timely access to justice for those in Florida to protect their rights."

Obstruction 2.0: How Republican Senators Continue to Block Judicial Nominations Post-“Filibuster Reform” (People For blog, 04/30/14)
"[A]ll too often, GOP senators do not cooperate with the White House to suggest candidates for nomination, delaying the process from the very beginning. Once nominees are made and are sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have seen GOP Senators delay the hearing by not submitting their blue slips, an unofficial tradition that gives home state Senators an opportunity to express their support for the nominee....Once on the Senate floor, the situation doesn't get better as senators are able to filibuster nominees"

Will Marco Rubio Let His Colleagues Delay Four Florida Judicial Nominees? (People For blog, 04/25/14)
"The situation in Florida is so dire that even if every vacancy were to be filled tomorrow, it would not be enough to take care of the courts' growing workloads. In fact, the Judicial Conference has requested a number of new judgeships for the state"

Readers forum: Keep judicial qualification top priority (Tulsa World [OK] , 04/23/14)
Op-Ed by Rich Fisher, general manager of Public Radio Tulsa, served on Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission from 2009-2011: "But imagine a day under this proposed arrangement with divided government, with one party able to control a majority of appointments and the other in the Governor's Mansion. Do you think that would be political, much? One quick look at the federal judiciary and its dozens of vacancies, and dozens of road-blocked nominees, as well as a sampling of the rhetoric surrounding any Supreme Court appointment should put that issue to rest."

Senate Plays Politics With Judicial Nominations (Newsmax, 04/18/14)
Susan Estrich column: "With luck, Michelle Friedland, a highly qualified appointee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, will be confirmed when the Senate returns from its two-week recess on April 28. Actually, if the Senate were comprised of grown-ups who work for us, instead of grown-ups who act like children, she would have been confirmed before the recess, but that's not the way things are going in the Senate."

Senate Should Quickly Confirm Circuit Nominees, Like in 2006 Midterm Year (People For blog, 04/16/14)
"Because Republicans are now filibustering every judicial nominee and generally requiring hours of needless "post-cloture debate" before an actual confirmation vote can be held, it has been harder than ever to "clear the calendar" (which is Senate lingo for "hold confirmation votes on all the nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and are pending on the Senate floor"). Among the 31 nominees left hanging when the Senate took off for its spring recess last week are six circuit court nominees. Five of the six were nominated last year ... In 2006, at this point in George W. Bush's presidency, the Senate confirmed eight circuit court nominees between April and September (plus a ninth during the lame duck session). Most of them had not even been nominated at this point in 2006"

Editorial: Too many federal court vacancies in Texas (Eagle [Bryan-College Station, TX], 04/13/14)
"10 federal judgeships have been vacant for an average of almost two years. And that is unacceptable. Of course, Texas isn't alone. Currently, there are 85 district court vacancies around the country, with only 48 nominees to fill those positions, but Texas has by far the largest number of unfilled benches. The shortage of federal judges in Texas has created a backlog of more than 12,000 cases, both civil and criminal. That means that thousands and thousands of Texans are being denied their day in court.... Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are doing their best to delay confirmation of judicial appointments as long as possible, perhaps hoping for a Republican presidential victory in 2016. We can't wait that long. ... we have to fill those numerous judicial vacancies in Texas, and around the country."

What The Media Should Know About Those New Judicial Confirmation Numbers (Media Matters for America, 04/10/14)
Meagan Hatcher-Mays: "When the number of vacancies Obama has to deal with in comparison to Bush is added to an examination of their respective records, it is evident that the president still has a long road ahead to leave office with a rate similar to his predecessor, especially in the face of Republicans' unprecedented obstructionism. Even though the total number of Obama's confirmations has exceeded Bush's, Obama has more vacancies to fill and has to appoint more nominees than his predecessor. ... Obama still has 31 judicial nominees pending, many of whom would be confirmed to jurisdictions facing what's known as a "judicial emergency.""a

DOYLE: Judicial vacancies reflect badly on American leadership (Marquette Tribune [WI], 04/10/14)
SEAMUS DOYLE Viewpoint: "there are 34 judicial emergencies – long-term judicial vacancies – in federal courts. This means throughout the United States, there is a chronic shortage of federal judges.... The Western District Court of Wisconsin has been vacant since Judge John C. Shabaz left his seat in January 2009, 1,906 days ago. James D. Peterson was nominated to fill the vacancy Jan. 6, but with the current impasse in Congress, he is yet to be confirmed.... the Eastern District of Wisconsin has been vacant since October 2012 and no one is nominated to fill it.... to dismantle the judiciary is irresponsible."

Obama's Had a Lot More Judicial Vacancies to Fill than Bush Did (People For blog, 04/10/14)
"Bush had 88% of his nominees confirmed at this point, while Obama only has only had 79%. One reason Obama has made so many more nominations is that there have been so many more vacancies to fill. While 270 judicial vacancies have opened up since January 2009, only 202 had opened up during the corresponding period during President Bush's time in office. So, for Obama: Lots more vacancies than Bush. Lots more nominations than Bush. Yet basically the same number of confirmations as Bush. That isn't parity."

So Many Vacancies, So Little Cooperation from GOP Senators (People For blog, 04/10/14)
"Of the 37 current vacancies without nominees, all but six are from states with at least Republican senator. And of those six, only one is more than a year old. Despite White House consultations with home state senators, vacancies are remaining open and without nominees for far too long - sometimes years - in states with Republican senators."

Richard Burr blue slip watch Day 293: Is NC Senator really throwing in with the secessionists? (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/08/14)
Rob Schofield: "As Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic explains in “How to secede from the union one judicial vacancy at a time,” it really boils down to a matter of extreme, cynical, hardball politics"

How to Secede From the Union, One Judicial Vacancy at a Time: By refusing to help fill the nation's empty trial benches, some senators are intentionally creating a vacuum of federal legal authority. (Atlantic, 04/08/14)
Andrew Cohen: "One federal-trial seat in Texas has been vacant for 1,951 days, to give just one example. The absence of these judges, in one district after another around the country, has created a continuing vacuum of federal authority that is a kind of secession, because federal law without judges to impose it in a timely way is no federal law at all.... Whereas judicial vacancies decreased both during the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations—especially the latter—they have increased during the Obama Administration. The reason there are so many vacancies without nominees is that certain senators are making strategic choices not to recommend federal trial-court nominees to the White House."

Congress: Republicans Create Excellent Roadblocks (Bloomberg News, 04/07/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Republican obstruction has been a lot worse during the Obama years than Democratic obstruction was during the Bush years. We don’t need the numbers to know this. Senate Republicans established a new 60-vote standard for all judicial branch nominees at the beginning of the Obama presidency; they have repeatedly chewed up floor time even when they didn’t have the votes to block nominations; and, in an unprecedented step, they blockaded three D.C, Circuit Court seats by filibuster.... If Republicans claim a Senate majority next year, they’ll have the votes to back up opposition to many of Obama’s picks. Even in that circumstance, they’ll have the (shared) responsibility to cut deals. It would be totally reasonable for them to defeat some solidly liberal judges, but hugely irresponsible for them to shut down all confirmations (or to attempt to dictate to the president who he should nominate)."

‘Blue slips’ carry out constitutional duty (Times Argus [VT] , 04/06/14)
Senator Patrick Leahy: "I cannot recall a single judicial nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home-state senators. The blue slip process reflects this reality, and those who care about the courts and who want qualified judges confirmed should not overlook this fact. Those who believe that doing away with the blue slip process will bring only positive change are also forgetting that the like-minded will not always occupy the White House or control the Senate. ... I have long made clear that I would not rule out proceeding with a nomination if the blue slip is abused."

EDITORIAL: Texas needs U.S. judges nominated, confirmed (Beaumont Enterprise [TX], 04/05/14)
"The crisis has hit Texas particularly hard, with 10 vacant federal judgeships that are contributing to a backlog of 12,000 cases statewide. The overall vacancies average two years, but a slot in Texas' Western District has been vacant for more than five years. A Southern District Court based in Corpus Christi has been open for almost three years. Only six federal judges have been appointed in Texas since Obama became president, as compared to 17 at this point in President George W. Bush's second term. This bickering hurts taxpayers. Compromise is possible, and both sides should pursue it."

Editorial: The Senate’s Discourtesy to Judges (New York Times, 03/31/14)
"The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her. The strange part is that Mr. Burr himself recommended her for the seat in 2009. But now he’s changed his mind and won’t say why .... Blue slips, or the lack thereof, have held up 11 judicial nominees; there are also 30 vacancies with no nominees because it is clear that a Republican senator would object. The administration has been reduced to nominating a few unpalatable judges in the hopes of cutting deals. Texas has nine court vacancies, but its two senators won’t work with the White House on any nominees."

Editorial: April 1 Report Card (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 03/31/14)
"F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, for his puzzling move to block filling the seat of a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The seat has been vacant for more than eight years. In 2009 Burr recommended federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill the seat. Last June President Obama nominated May-Parker. But she has yet to receive a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of the Senate’s “blue slip’’ tradition.... Burr has changed his mind on May-Parker and hasn’t explained why. Thanks to this sort of stonewalling, there are more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench. Burr should explain his reasoning or the Senate should re-examine this practice, which isn’t even a formal rule."