Editorials and Opinion
Letter to the editor: Collins hypocritical in attacking Democrats’ filibuster (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/05/17)
Hani Jarawan: During the Obama presidency, the Republican Party ground the Senate to a halt by blocking everything. They left hundreds of lower court seats vacant. ... Not only did Susan Collins not criticize her party’s leadership for setting filibuster records, she also joined in that callow, historic obstruction. Her lame indignation about Democrats’ opposition to Neil Gorsuch is yet more evidence that decades of Washington partisanship have spoiled the senator’s moderation.
Letter: Mitch McConnell’s blame game (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/05/17)
Kendall Robins: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to exercise the nuclear option if the Democrats filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and then says it will be on the Democrats if he does so.
That's just like a kidnapper threatening to kill the kid if the parents don't pay up, and then saying that the resulting murder would be the fault of the parents.
And, it's ironic that McConnell is still seething over the Democrats going nuclear on federal judge nominations, which was in response to McConnell clearly declaring 100 percent obstruction to anything and everything Barack Obama wanted to do, even if it was a good idea. And, it was McConnell who denied Obama, our duly elected president, any consideration at all for his nomination of Merrick Garland.
[Editorial] McConnell reaps harvest of division (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 04/05/17)
"During his years as minority leader, McConnell wielded Senate rules, such as the 60-vote requirement, like no one ever before. McConnell’s goal: block President Barack Obama’s appointments and legislative agenda. Last year, as majority leader, McConnell refused to give Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland so much as a hearing on the invented grounds that the appointment rightfully belonged to the next president.
Interestingly, McConnell refused during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” to support formalizing his invented rule .... he has only his past actions to blame for Democrats’ stubbornness. ... Democrats, logically enough, think that easing Gorsuch’s confirmation would reward McConnell’s intransigence on the Obama nominee.... McConnell was so effective at blocking Obama’s nominees that President Donald Trump inherited almost twice as many judicial vacancies (an estimated 103) as Obama did (53).
Eroding the 60-vote requirement, also known as the filibuster, does alter the nature of the Senate in ways that McConnell once decried. The Senate would become less consenus-oriented and deliberative .... The objections to Gorsuch are rooted in substance not politics alone. The Coloradan came off less qualified in person than on paper. His record reflects an intemperate zeal to dismantle protections for workers, consumers, clean water and air.... McConnell, who perfected the obstructionist model, is reaping what he sowed."
[Editorial] Filibuster Gorsuch to make a crucial point (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 04/05/17)
"South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, led the charge in denying Merrick Garland a hearing after then-President Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court seat that needed to be filled in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr underscored just how extreme the GOP has become when he declared that even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, he would “do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”
He also bragged that he was already responsible for the longest judicial vacancy ever by denying the confirmation of an Obama nominee in the eastern district of North Carolina, illustrating just why Democrats felt the need to use the nuclear option for lower court appointments when they were in control. They did so in response to a Republican Party that routinely filibustered Obama nominees. While they haven’t gotten as much attention, that tactic left dozens of empty judicial seats throughout the country that can now be filled by President Donald Trump.... If Democrats simply went along and acted as though the GOP’s purposeful decision to leave the Supreme Court short-handed for a year was a legitimate exercise of political power, they would unwittingly be codifying that extremism.
And that would not be good for either party – or the country."
How to End the Politicization of the Courts (New York Times, 04/04/17)
David Leonhardt, Op-Ed Columnist: Republicans have taken a much more aggressive, politicized approach to the courts than Democrats. The evidence:
Republicans have been bolder about blocking Democratic nominees than vice versa.... The gap between the parties would be even larger if Democrats hadn’t eliminated the filibuster on lower-court nominees in 2013, allowing Barack Obama finally to fill more judgeships. Even so, Trump has inherited a huge number of vacancies.... Republican nominees have been less centrist than Democratic nominees.... The Republicans’ strategy has been straightforward. They have tried to deny Democratic presidents a chunk of judgeships, hoping the nominations will roll over.... The strategy reached its apex last year, when the Senate blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, even with the highly qualified, and notably moderate, Garland. It was unprecedented. Republicans set out to flip a seat and succeeded. Now the Senate is preparing to confirm Gorsuch, likely to be another historically conservative justice.... Democrats are right to force McConnell to be the one who takes the partisan step of eliminating the Supreme Court filibuster. Likewise, Democrats should be aggressive in blocking Trump nominees to lower courts.... The country won’t return to a less politicized judiciary until both parties have reason to want it.
Editorial: Toomey’s rule change proposal threatens bipartisanship (Pitt News [PA] , 04/04/17)
The Pitt News Editorial Board: If Congressional Republicans thought they had gained the power to disregard the rules with their victories in last November’s elections, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., just signed onto a rules change to the Supreme Court nomination process that ... will likely harm both parties. The Pennsylvania senator announced last week at a press conference that he would support a move to modify the upper Congressional chamber’s rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court .... The GOP notably refused to consider Merrick Garland last year for Scalia’s seat. However, Senate Republicans were using this tactic of ignoring nominees long before they won control of the chamber. The GOP’s efforts to block Obama nominees to lower federal judgeships led to Senate Democrats in 2013 removing the procedural rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to confirm presidential nominees to these positions.
Despite this change, more than 10 percent of these judgeships are now vacant, in large part because Democrats in the Senate have not held a 51-vote majority since the 2014 midterm elections.... a change to a 51-vote majority rule would erode several elements of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process that are vital to the institution’s integrity. Given Supreme Court justices’ power and long-term lengths, it’s important that individuals selected to be added both have majority support and appeal at least somewhat to citizens on both the left and right.... Toomey’s signing on to this proposed rules change is a short-sighted, lazy attempt to avoid doing the work of gaining bipartisan support for his party’s nominee, and will only contribute to the hyper-partisan atmosphere growing more and more omnipresent in Washington, D.C. If he is concerned about the integrity of the institution in which he serves, he will withdraw his support for this proposal.
Blue Slips and the Trump Administration: What to Expect in the Coming Months (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/04/17)
Harsh Voruganti: one Senate practice may work to constrain Trump’s more conservative nominees and encourage him to work with Democrats: the blue slip.... the Trump Administration should expect Democratic Senators to use the blue slip process to pre-clear judicial nominees for their state. Under the Obama Administration, Republican Senators took a similar stand, blocking nominees they viewed as insufficiently conservative.... Even if the Trump Administration chooses to pre-clear its nominees with home-state senators, Democrats may, consistent with the actions of Republican Senators, withdraw their support after nomination. In 2011, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) initially expressed support for the nomination of Steve Six to the Tenth Circuit. However, under pressure from conservative groups, he and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) came out in opposition to Six shortly after his hearing, essentially killing his nomination. Similarly, President Obama’s nomination to the Northern District of Georgia after Boggs, Judge Dax Erik Lopez, a Republican and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, was blocked by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) after conservative groups objected to Lopez’s membership in Latino civic organizations. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blocked two nominees to the Southern District of Florida, Judge William Thomas and Mary Barzee Flores, after initially indicating his support to the White House.
The 12 times Republicans insisted on a 60-vote threshold for Obama’s judicial nominees (American Constitution Society Blog, 03/30/17)
Christopher Kang, Guest Post: Many Senate Democrats believe that a Supreme Court nominee should be within the mainstream and therefore able to earn the support of 60 Senators. Given the stakes, this hardly seems unreasonable, but Republicans now claim that a 60-vote threshold for judicial nominees would be unfair. Here are the 12 times they insisted on a 60-vote threshold for Obama’s lower court nominees—and, really, once Republicans demanded that a trial court judge in Rhode Island needed 60 votes, shouldn’t Democrats be able to ask for the same for the highest court in the land?
Maine Voices: Environmental stewards should stand together against Gorsuch: President Trump's nominee opposes the long-standing custom that courts defer to experts in government (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 03/25/17)
Ken Cline: Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, has a record of extreme positions that proves he is too far outside the mainstream and too hostile to the environment for this critically important position. Gorsuch has been described as more extreme than Scalia, the most anti-environment justice in recent Supreme Court history.
Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy will limit the access of everyday Americans to the courts and prevent agencies like the EPA from doing their job to protect our air, water and health. This is a dangerous view that will favor polluters and industry over the rights of the people.
On at least three separate occasions, Gorsuch has denied access to the courts for environmental groups. Environmental laws without citizen access to the courts to enforce them are a hollow promise. ... We must hold the Senate to that 60-vote threshold..... Collins and King must raise their voices with us and reject Neil Gorsuch
How Trump's Supreme Court Pick Quietly Wipes Out Environmental Cases: Green groups may never get their day in court. (Mother Jones, 03/20/17)
Rebecca Leber: Throughout his career, Gorsuch has found creative ways of throwing judicial roadblocks in front of environmental litigation. In many instances, Gorsuch has ruled that environmentalist groups don't have what is called "standing" to bring a case. ... If Gorsuch's logic were applied to other cases, plenty of environmental arguments would be at risk, says Grab. "Judge Gorsuch's approach in this case is potentially worrisome to any organization that might want to challenge an agency's tightening of a regulation as not being comprehensive enough," she notes .... Gorsuch has also attempted to limit the ability of green groups to defend environmental rules in court.
If Gorsuch is confirmed, the legitimacy of the US supreme court won't recover (Guardian News and Media, 03/20/17)
Russ Feingold: Republicans will attempt to complete their cynical political takeover of the US supreme court, launched last year when they failed to confirm or to even give a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland. ... Confirming Gorsuch would endorse and normalize unconstitutional political games.... And it is not just the supreme court that will be affected, as the strategy will be used to block appointments to lower courts.
The Gorsuch Nomination: A Setback for Human Rights (Huffington Post, 03/20/17)
Op-Ed by Prof. Bruce Hay: There are compelling reasons to have drummed up loud opposition to Gorsuch, notably the theft of this Supreme Court seat by unscrupulous Republicans and the fact that Gorsuch’s views are far out of the judicial mainstream .... The consequences for human rights and civil liberties of Democratic neglect of the judiciary – which includes not only allowing the GOP to steal Merrick Garland’s seat, but also leaving 25 percent of lower court seats unfilled at the expiration of the Obama presidency – have been dire.
In Gorsuch, Conservative Activist Sees Test Case for Reshaping the Judiciary (New York Times, 03/18/17)
Eric Lipton and Jereney W. Peters: “Make no mistake,” Mr. Leo said in a speech last month at the Ronald Reagan Dinner at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “How we deal with this vacancy now, the strength that we as the pro-Constitution movement demonstrate in this fight, will determine the extent to which we are able to both nominate and confirm pro-Constitution judges as we move forward.”
Mr. Trump already has 124 judgeships to fill — a backlog created by Senate Republicans who blocked the confirmation of many of President Barack Obama’s nominees. That includes 19 vacancies on the federal appeals courts.
Because of the age of many judges today, the White House expects between 70 to 90 appeals court positions to open up over the next four years. That would give Mr. Trump the opportunity to fill anywhere from one-third to half of all appellate seats
How the Democrats Should Fight Gorsuch’s Nomination (Washington Monthly, 03/17/17)
Op-Ed by Martin Longman: the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should question the nominee closely about his views on antitrust law.... lifetime appointments deserve special scrutiny, and that they shouldn’t be made on the narrowest of partisan majorities.... When a president seeks to fill seats on district and appeals courts, he knows that he’ll need the support of the home state senators ... . the blue slip system is still in place and it provides moral guidance as well as an important precedent.
The second main principle that must be applied here is that the Republicans must not be allowed to effectively steal a Supreme Court seat without any consequences.... And if the Democrats put up some kind of faux-fight only to cave on the theft of this seat, they’ll not only buy themselves three or four decades more of Scalia-like jurisprudence on the Supreme Court, they’ll infuriate their base and show that they are so weak that they can be rolled, defeated and humiliated without the slightest downside for the Republicans.
[Editorial] Our view: Fill Erie’s federal judgeship now (Erie Times-News [PA], 03/16/17)
By the Editorial Board: Pennsylvania's senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey, have pledged to continue their bipartisan approach to federal judicial nominations under President Donald Trump and laid out the process for candidates to apply.
News of continued cooperation amid so much toxic division is welcome.
But what the senators' announcement omitted was the time, energy and hope already squandered to fill some judicial posts in the state, especially the U.S. District Court seat in Erie, which, to the disservice of northwestern Pennsylvania litigants, has been vacant for three and one-half years.... Baxter, a Democrat, and Marilyn Horan, a Butler County Republican nominated for a district court seat in Pittsburgh, breezed through placid hearings before the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee, which in January 2016 unanimously advanced them for Senate confirmation.
There the nominations stalled, as Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, playing an unworthy, cynical game of naked politics, obstructed the process because, in his view, Obama already had nominated enough judges.... We urge them to quickly endorse Baxter again, and cross our fingers that the White House will eschew disruption and renominate her for the post in the name of good governance. If Baxter, and Horan, were quickly seated, that would help relieve the entire district, which is operating at a 40 percent judicial reduction.
Dark money pays for court ads (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 02/24/17)
Dick Spalding, Letter to the Editor: We do have a crisis, in no small part because of forces like Judicial Crisis Network, which helped fight successfully against the Republican Senate's confirmation of Obama's appointments.
Obama started his tenure with 54 vacancies and Trump is starting his term with 102. The U.S. Senate has sat on these vacancies for most of the past 18 months in hopes of filling these lifetime vacancies with Republican appointees. Some 38 of these are deemed "emergencies." Most of Judicial Crisis funding has come from ... right-wing groups .... This is enough to doubt Gorsuch's independence. The ads are pointed towards Montanans so that we will encourage Tester to vote for the confirmation.
Republicans are Hijacking the Courts. Will Senate Democrats Let Them? (Huffington Post, 02/22/17)
Algernon Austin: Many have called the theft of the Judge Merrick Garland’s appointment unprecedented, but this statement is not quite correct. It is unprecedented only if one ignores the fact that several of President Obama’s judicial appointments to lower courts were also blocked. Because Republicans blocked the appointment of Garland and many other judicial appointments, they have now delivered all of those seats to Trump.
What will Democrats do about this? Will they allow Trump to stack the judiciary or will they insist that these are stolen seats and therefore they do not belong to Trump?
In my view, a reasonable Democratic response would be to work to block Trump judicial appointments in proportion to the degree that Obama’s appointments were blocked.
Mitch McConnell Marvels At The Judicial Crisis He Created: After years of blocking Barack Obama’s court picks, Republicans now have “an excellent chance of clearing the deck of all the vacancies,” says the GOP leader. (Huffington Post, 02/05/17)
Jennifer Bendery: If there is a hallmark issue that defines Mitch McConnell’s time as Senate majority leader under President Barack Obama, it was his obstruction of judicial nominees....But he did so at the cost of driving up judicial vacancies around the country, so much so that the federal bench is now emptier than it’s been in decades and the number of judicial emergencies ― when a court is so overburdened it can barely function ― spiked from 12 to 43 in the two years since Republicans retook control of the Senate.... There’s a federal appeals court in Wisconsin that’s been waiting 2,586 days for a vacancy to be filled ― looking at you, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). A district court in North Carolina has had a vacancy for 4,054 days ― hi, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). That’s more than 11 years.... The thing to watch now is whether Republicans use their control of the White House and the Senate to push through nominees who aren’t just conservative but have extreme right-wing ideologies.
Democrats are limited in what they can do to stop them from doing that. But they aren’t helpless. If they’re prepared to play hardball, like Republicans did with Obama’s judicial nominees, they could lean on a judiciary committee rule to unilaterally block any nominee from their state from moving forward.
Trump’s judicial picks will affect far more than the Supreme Court (McClatchy newspapers, 01/23/17)
Michael Doyle: “Based on . . . Trump’s cabinet nominations, I am very concerned that he will try to advance judicial nominees that are outside the mainstream and that they will not reflect the diversity of the people they serve,” said former White House Deputy Counsel Christopher Kang.... “I think . . . Trump will be surprised to learn how much power home-state senators wield in the judicial nomination process,” Kang said.
Democrats Must Do What They Can to Protect the Supreme Court and the Nation (People For blog, 01/19/17)
Paul Gordon: In a sharp departure from the norm, Trump last year essentially delegated authority for selecting potential justices to right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.... Yes, there is a vacancy on the Court, but there shouldn’t be. ... It exists only because Senate Republicans took the unprecedented step of refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland. ... During Obama’s first term and into his second, the number of judicial vacancies skyrocketed, not because there weren’t nominees, but because Republicans blocked votes indiscriminately. ... Majority Leader McConnell ended the year without allowing the Senate to vote on the 23 circuit and district court nominees who had been languishing on the Senate floor for many months, sometimes for over a year, after having been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts (The Hill, 01/13/17)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Inga Bernstein, a longtime private practitioner, for a judicial vacancy on the District of Massachusetts. Bernstein is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Bernstein on May 19, 2016 without dissent. Nonetheless, she languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Ms. Bernstein is an experienced, moderate nominee and the District of Massachusetts needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly hold her final debate and vote.... Warren and other Democratic senators requested unanimous consent to vote on Bernstein and nineteen remaining district nominees who need floor votes, but the GOP objected.
How Barack Obama Transformed The Nation’s Courts: He filled two SCOTUS seats and made the judiciary more diverse than ever. But the GOP stopped him from doing more. (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Jennifer Bendery: Obama will leave office with 329 of his judicial nominees confirmed to lifetime posts on federal courts. That includes two U.S. Supreme Court justices and four judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the two most powerful courts in the nation. Because of Obama, Democratic appointees now have a 7-4 advantage on the D.C. panel, and those judges will play a major role in deciding cases during the Trump administration related to environmental regulations, health care, national security, consumer protections and challenges to executive orders.
Obama also tilted the partisan makeup of circuit courts. Nine of the country’s 13 appeals courts now have majority Democratic appointees, compared with just one when he took office in 2009.
There is a caveat to his judicial success, however: When Republicans regained the Senate majority two years ago, they ground judicial confirmations to a halt. That has left 86 district court vacancies and 17 circuit court vacancies for President-elect Donald Trump to fill. That’s a huge number of court seats to fall victim to partisan politics. For some context: Obama inherited 59 district and circuit court vacancies when he became president. Trump is inheriting 103.
Opinion: Anti-Obama Republicans have created a judicial emergency (Los Angeles Times, 01/07/17)
Carl Tobias: The Times editorial board accurately describes the severely deteriorated state of federal judicial selection and suggests that Republican obstruction during President Obama’s two terms in office is substantially responsible for the 100-plus current vacancies.... Indeed, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals currently has four openings, all of which have been declared judicial emergencies. The editorial astutely states that Democrats could retaliate by similarly obstructing President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees. It also correctly observes that Trump could and should “make a significant gesture toward restoring a measure of normality” to the selection process by renominating the Obama nominees left stranded by GOP obstruction to be confirmed with bipartisan approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, Obama can and should re-submit those nominees now, and the Senate should confirm them immediately.
Fix nation's judicial staffing crisis (Detroit Free Press [MI] , 01/07/17)
Carl Tobias, Op-Ed: On Tuesday, when the 114th Congress adjourned, the nominations of 51 individuals whom President Barack Obama selected for the circuit and district courts expired. Now that the new Senate has convened, Obama should attempt to fill some of the 104 vacancies, 42 of which are “judicial emergencies,” by renominating numerous well-qualified, mainstream nominees and urging their prompt Senate confirmation.... Obama must quickly renominate the 20 well-qualified, mainstream district nominees the Senate Judiciary Committee approved without dissent. GOP senators proposed and supported most, and they have languished for months. Obama should also seriously consider renominating the three outstanding circuit nominees who earned panel approval. If renominated, the chamber must promptly vote on all of these nominees.
The Senate lacks time to process the remaining 28 nominees before Trump’s inauguration, but he must consider nominating again strong, consensus nominees who possesses GOP support.
[Editorial] Cheers and Jeers ... (Butler Eagle [PA], 01/07/17)
"Jeer: As the U.S. Senate embarks upon a new session, it continues to fail to live up to one of its basic duties: staffing the federal courts that deal with everything from criminal to civil concerns in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s Western District court has struggled since 2013 with vacant judicial posts. There are now four vacancies — the most of any federal district court system in the country.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The district has two nominees (Butler County Judge Marilyn Horan and U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Baxter) who have already cleared committee votes in the Senate. Another jurist, Robert Colville, is also ready to step up to the federal bench.
But now there are questions as to whether they are too moderate for President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to appoint right-wing judges to the bench.
This is a ridiculous and harmful state-of-affairs, and the Senate should be ashamed of itself. They need to do their jobs and fill these district court vacancies with all possible haste."
Lowry: Make Jeff Sessions wait a little bit (Record [NJ] , 01/07/17)
Column by Bruce Lowry, an editorial writer for The Record: the painfully long wait that Bergen County counsel Julien Neals – nominated to the federal bench by President Obama – was forced to endure by the Republican-led U.S. Senate. By last year’s end, Neals, a man Sen. Cory Booker has described as one of the “most impressive people” he has met in professional life, had waited 674 days without being given a vote by the full Senate.
Now contrast that, along with the Senate’s refusal last year to hold hearings on Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, against Republicans’ 180-degree turn toward expediency on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be the next U.S. Attorney General.... it should be alarming for anyone who cares about this nation or its laws that he is being fast-tracked, despite deep concerns about his civil rights record, while Neals, an African-American championed not only by Booker but many in the New Jersey legal community, was made to wait … and wait … and wait.... Julien Neals had to wait 674 days for no good reason. There is plenty of reason to make Jeff Sessions wait
Did Jeff Sessions block integration of south Alabama federal courts? (AL.com [AL], 01/06/17)
John Archibald column: Sessions in the latter 1990s - for the entire second term of President Bill Clinton - was able to keep a federal judgeship in Mobile vacant, rather than to allow it filled with someone he found objectionable.
And some say Sessions - who has been hounded by decades-old comments that have been seen as racist - wasn't just blocking nominees of a different political stripe. Those involved say he blocked the integration of the federal bench in the Southern District of Alabama.
Birmingham lawyer John Saxon was part of a Bill Clinton patronage committee that decided it was time to integrate the federal courts in Mobile. The Northern and Middle districts had already seen black judges and magistrates, but the Southern District remained lily white.... Saxon said the group sent name after name of candidates - at least two judges and three lawyers - to the White House for vetting. But Clinton's people hit a wall every time. It was Sessions - then a still-new junior senator but a member of the Judiciary Committee. He opposed every one of them.
"Sessions told the White House he couldn't accept any of those people," Saxon said.... He said he asked Sessions to "tell us the name of any African-American anywhere in the state that you find acceptable."
It's not as if there were no qualified candidates. ... Sessions didn't budge .... "We gave him the opportunity to put forth the names of African Americans, but he wouldn't do it," Saxon said. "It was the single most frustrating thing I've ever done."
[Editorial] Will Trump try to stack the courts? (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 01/06/17)
"It’s no mystery why nearly one in eight federal bench slots is empty. Republicans have refused to vote on dozens of President Obama’s nominees .... The vacancies are nearly double the amount that Obama inherited from George W. Bush. The unfilled posts have created a logjam .... By Senate custom, court nominees must pass muster with home state senators. In California’s case this process is especially weighty. The federal appeals court in San Francisco has four vacancies, and six district judgeships are empty across the state. ... Given this “blue slip” process of vetting, the state’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, can block a White House nomination. ... During the Bush administration, the differences were negotiated"
[Editorial] Fill the courts: Federal vacancies delay justice for all (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/05/17)
Editorial Board: the four vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania are the most anywhere. Across the nation, however, there are 112 vacancies, the highest profile being the empty seat on the Supreme Court left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. There are also 86 vacancies in district courts, 17 in circuit courts of appeals, six in the Court of Federal Claims and two in the Court of International Trade.
Worse, only 59 candidates have been nominated for the vacancies, meaning there would be no quick way to fill nearly half of those seats even if the partisan bickering were to cease immediately. Forty-one courts have what are called “judicial emergencies”.... None of that takes into account what some observers believe is a pressing need for additional judges in parts of the country.... In Pennsylvania, Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, are known for collaborating on the selection of judicial nominees — and they plan to continue their collaboration. Mr. Casey’s office said the nominees are in limbo because the GOP leadership wouldn’t bring them to a vote.
Vacancies slow cases, dragging out justice for victims and hampering the fortunes of companies involved in contract or intellectual property disputes.