Editorials and Opinion
Senate approves Crenshaw's nomination: After delay of more than a year, Middle Tennessee gets new federal judge (Nashville Post [TN], 04/12/16)
J.R. Lind: "Since the retirement of Joe Haynes, the Middle District has been in a state of so-called judicial emergency, with the caseload straining the schedule of the three remaining judges. Nevertheless, Crenshaw's nomination - and dozens of others - was caught up in a partisan logjam over President Barack Obama's nominees. Crenshaw had the full-throated support of Tennessee's two Republican senators and was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, yet it took 14 months for a full vote from the Senate."
Benched! Grassley’s Bad Confirmation Math (Justice Watch, 04/12/16)
"The Senate finally voted on Waverly Crenshaw, Jr.’s nomination ... He’s just the 17th judge confirmed since Republicans took over the Senate in January 2015, putting the 114th Congress on pace for the lowest number of judicial confirmations in more than 60 years, and way behind the 68 judges that George W. Bush appointed in his last two years.... Obama has had 20 more judges confirmed than did Bush did at this point in his presidency (324 vs. 304). The problem is that comparing the raw number of judges confirmed is meaningless—something we’ve pointed out here, here, here, and, in a detailed rebuttal of all the lame reasons Republicans use to justify their obstruction, here. Obama has had more judges confirmed because he’s had substantially more vacancies to fill. In fact he’s faced 53 more vacancies than did Bush at this point, a difference that far outpaces his greater number of confirmations.... During the final two years of recent presidencies, opposition-Senates have continued to do their job and confirm judicial nominees: a Democratic-led Senate confirmed 68 judges in Bush’s final two years; Bill Clinton had 73 judges confirmed by a Republican Senate in his final two years; and a Democratic Senate confirmed 85 judges in Ronald Reagan’s last two years. In that context, the 17 judges confirmed so far during Obama’s final two years—while 46 judicial nominees are pending—is a national embarrassment."
Republicans Finally Confirmed A Judge. Is This Obama’s Last One? Even some GOP senators are hoping for more votes. (Huffington Post, 04/11/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "It’s been two months since Republicans confirmed a judge. If anybody should have been confirmed by now, it’s Crenshaw. Nobody opposed him — he was confirmed 92 to 0. Both of his GOP senators strongly supported him. The court seat he’s filling has become so overloaded with cases that it’s become a judicial emergency. Yet Crenshaw, who unanimously cleared the Judiciary Committee nine months ago, had to wait almost a year and a half for a vote. ... there are 31 other judicial nominees waiting for action in the Judiciary Committee and 14 more ready to be confirmed right now. None are scheduled for votes. Republicans are already confirming judges at the slowest pace in more than 50 years ... There are GOP senators with courts in their states that desperately need vacancies filled,"
House editorial: An example of class and bi-partisanship (Post Register [ID], 04/09/16)
"Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch last week enjoyed what Crapo called in a news release, a “productive consultation process between the Idaho Senate delegation, the President and his team” on the nomination of David C. Nye of Pocatello to serve in the U.S. federal court for the District of Idaho.... Nye appears to be an excellent candidate ... Still, it’s difficult to overlook the charade of Risch and Crapo working merrily alongside President Barack Obama when both have made statements claiming they won’t support a hearing, meet with or consider a lame-duck action for Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.... If the president and his team were tit-for-tat politicians, Idaho could have remained in what federal courts had deemed “a judicial emergency” through 2016.... Reading the Idaho senators’ gleeful statements about their success and cooperation with the president is like watching a toddler stop a tantrum just long enough to calmly accept some candy. The question is, are they willing to soften their opposition to an equally qualified candidate now that they have what they want?"
It’s Not Just The Supreme Court. Republicans Are Screwing Lots Of Other Courts Too. GOP senators are barely confirming judicial nominees — even their own. (Huffington Post, 04/08/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "It’s worth noting there are 46 other Merrick Garlands. That is, 46 other judicial nominees are in the same boat. They’re not in line for the Supreme Court, but like Garland, they’re nominees to federal courts who aren’t getting votes (except one, who just got scheduled for a Monday vote). ... Not only are they screwing the judicial branch of government by dragging out confirmations — when vacancies pile up on district and circuit courts, people’s cases can get delayed for years and judges burn out — but they’re screwing themselves. Some GOP senators really need judicial nominees confirmed, but are being denied by their own party leaders."
Letter: A president's duty (Ledger [Lakeland, FL], 04/06/16)
Pastor Don Utzman (Ret.): "Cal Thomas['] ... recent column praising Sen. Mitch McConnell for refusing to bring President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland before the Senate for consideration takes the cake .... It is simply another example of obstructionism by McConnell since he became Senate majority leader. On scores of occasions, he has refused to allow the Senate to consider Obama's nominations of federal judges, to the detriment of our judicial system.
His present argument to "let the people decide" flies in the face of the Constitution, .... The logic of McConnell is ludicrous. If a president is not allowed to function in his last year of office, neither should any senator."
EDITORIAL: Serious backlog of cases should prompt quick Senate action on judicial nominee (Buffalo News [NY], 04/06/16)
"The Senate should act swiftly to confirm Kathleen M. Sweet as U.S. District Court judge, following the president’s recent nomination.
Besides making her the first female federal judge based in Buffalo, Sweet’s confirmation would put an end to the long and arduous task of filling this key judicial vacancy.... U.S. District Court vacancies have been a major issue for the past few years. All three of Buffalo’s district judges, William M. Skretny, Richard J. Arcara and John T. Curtin, are senior judges who could have retired. ... It seems likely that election-year politics will delay consideration of Sweet’s nomination, but such delay will have serious consequences for the delivery of justice.
The federal caseload here is enormous, with a backlog of civil and criminal cases that makes this area among the worst in the nation. It takes, on average, more than five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo.... The federal bench in Buffalo is in dire need of help. The Senate needs to move diligently on this nomination."
EDITORIAL: Party politics destroying three-tiered system (Arizona Range News, 04/06/16)
"In 2012 Republicans were confident that Obama would be defeated and the majority in the Senate would be theirs. But that didn’t happen. Senate Republicans retaliated by refusing to allow presidential nominees a vote, especially federal judges. ... Even as more judicial emergencies arose, they have refused to move nominees through the confirmation process. It should have been no surprise that when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away they would refuse to consider any nominee the president nominated. ... This was obviously a move based on politics and not governing."
Sharp letter: Appoint judges (Idaho Statesman, 04/05/16)
Sue Sharp: "Our government is made up of three branches: the legislative, executive and judicial. Each of these has specific jobs to do. In the case of federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, the Constitution states that the president will name the judge with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Senate is currently holding the executive branch hostage by refusing to even consider the many judicial appointments that have been made in the last three years.
There are over 100 vacancies in the federal court system. The refusals are a political move and not in the best interests of the federal courts of the United States. We need judges appointed now."
Texas Has a Missing Judge Problem (Dallas Observer [TX], 04/01/16)
Stephen Young: "Texas has 11 vacant seats on its various federal benches, the most in any state. Nine of those vacancies are classified as emergencies out of 32 emergencies nationwide by the U.S. Department of Justice. As of Thursday morning, the total length of time those seats have gone unfilled amounts to 20 years. Caseloads in the state are so high that, according to the Judicial Conference of the United States, even if each of the 11 vacancies was filled the state would still need an additional nine judges on Texas' district and circuit courts in order to keep workloads at a manageable level.... The Texas vacancies exist because of the way that Cornyn and Cruz have handled judicial nominations in their state. Traditionally, senators begin the vetting process for district court seats when a judge announces his or her intention to retire. Cornyn and Cruz have not done that. Instead, they've begun looking at candidates after retiring judges are already gone ... Cornyn signaled that, although he may be as intransigent as ever toward Garland, he is working with the Obama administration to try to clear part of the Texas backlog, working to confirm judges for the five spots on Texas courts for which Obama has named a nominee."
Federal Courts Corner: When Will The Court Make A Decision About My Motion? (Garden State Gavel: A New Jersey Litigation Blog, 04/01/16)
CORINNE L. MCCANN: "In a perfect world, clients could generally expect a decision about their pending motion within six months of its filing date. But our world is not perfect. The District of New Jersey faces a judicial emergency, which has made it increasingly difficult for the Court to promptly address litigants’ motions. Under the present conditions, litigants cannot rely on the “six month” rule of thumb with any certainty.
Clients’ concerns are grave because their unresolved motions and protracted litigation negatively affect their wallets.... consider explaining that Congress has yet to confirm nominations for new judges for the District, making it increasingly difficult for the Court to timely handle its pending disputes.... Clients that better understand how the political battles over the judicial nomination and confirmation process directly affect them and their wallets may find it prudent to pressure their Senators to address the pending judicial nominations and to schedule a vote."
Republicans make us wait (Tennessean, 04/01/16)
Candace Wade, Letter to the Editor: "How long must I wait? The Republican state and federal politicians want us to wait. Wait a year to fill the Supreme Court seat. Around 55 judicial vacancies await confirmation. This is the slowest confirmation rate in half a century."
The Supreme Court vacancy is just the tip of the iceberg (Baltimore Sun, 03/31/16)
Tommy Tobin Op-Ed: "Just this month, a retirement from D.C.'s U.S. District Court brought the total number of judicial vacancies up to 84 .... The open positions are leading to a backlog of cases across the country .... The dockets in 32 jurisdictions are so packed that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has labeled them "judicial emergencies."
The delay in filling judicial vacancies has real-world effects.... In a recent piece in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, George Everly — the chief counsel of the Senate Budget Committee — noted that while caseloads in the federal trial courts have grown by 38 percent since 1990, the number of district judgeships expanded by only 4 percent.
Mr. Everly and his co-author argue that the Congressional Budget Office's high cost estimates for adding judgeships, which Congress members use to argue against new positions, are fundamentally flawed. ... The authors concluded that withholding federal judgeships from high-caseload jurisdictions can be "penny-wise and pound-foolish, impeding the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Judiciary."... Nearly 10 percent of all seats on the federal bench currently sit vacant. The Senate must do its job so that the members of the judiciary can do theirs."
Opinion: Do-nothings in Senate should do their jobs (Gleaner (Henderson, KY), 03/31/16)
G. Herbert Pritchett: "I love Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans. They have given me a totally new understanding of government — elected officials who are in the last year of their term should do nothing.... What a new concept and it is exactly what McConnell and his Republican Senators are using as justification for refusing to even consider our president's supremely qualified choice for the Supreme Court. ... Actually it is a Republican recipe for obstruction and disaster that routinely puts off making the hard decisions. There are 143 important non-judge federal appointees now awaiting confirmation. Three federal judgeships in Kentucky are vacant; one has been vacant for three years. ... Our president has performed his job in nominating Judge Garland — the Senate needs to perform its job in holding hearings and voting on that nomination."
Legislators voice support for Hughes (Times Leader [Princeton, KY], 03/30/16)
Letter to the editor Rep. Jeff Donohue, Chair Rep. Tom Burch Rep. Larry Clark Rep. Dennis Horlander Rep. Joni Jenkins Rep. Mary Lou Marzian Rep. Reginald Meeks Rep. Charlie Miller Rep. Darryl Owens Rep. Steve Riggs Rep. Tom Riner Rep. Jim Wayne re. Lisabeth Hughes Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals nomination
Empty Suits, Empty Seats (Texas Observer, 03/29/16)
Christopher Hooks: "Two vacancies on the 5th Circuit have gone unfilled since 2012 and 2013, and there are nine empty seats on district courts in Texas, some from as long ago as 2011. ... Vacancies in other states, even very conservative ones, are still filled pretty quickly. Louisiana, also part of the 5th Circuit, has two district court vacancies to Texas’ nine, but both seats came open less than a year ago and nominations are pending. Mississippi, also in the 5th, has no vacancies.... With the 5th Circuit, they accelerated a slowly mounting constitutional crisis."
EDITORIAL: U.S. Senate's judicial stalling harms federal courts; Eighth Circuit nominee is among those in a troubling holding pattern. (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 03/28/16)
"The Senate’s failure to even consider confirming President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee is by itself a lapse in constitutional duty and an extreme exercise in partisanship.
But Judge Merrick Garland isn’t the only Obama nominee to the courts who’s getting a cold shoulder. A near-complete shutdown of judicial confirmations seems to be in effect .... In addition to Garland, 41 nominations sent to the Republican-controlled Senate by the Democratic president are in a holding pattern. As of March 25, the judgeships they were nominated to fill had been vacant for an average of 564 days.
Eleven of the 41 have been vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor .... In all of 2015, the Senate acted on just 11 judicial nominees.
One of the nominees waiting for committee action is Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl, a 14-year federal prosecutor from Fargo, N.D. She was tapped by the president in January to fill a seat on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals .... the busy Eighth Circuit’s need for her service is great. What’s more, she represents the chance to bring needed diversity to a court that saw the appointment of only its second woman in history in 2013. ... Making an appellate-court nominee of Puhl’s caliber wait for confirmation until after this fall’s election — or longer — serves no good purpose and risks a number of bad results."
EDITORIAL: More women, smarter organizations (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 03/28/16)
"This matters for a lot of reasons but one of the most compelling is the abundant evidence that things run better when more women are involved.... Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to block the recent nomination of Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes — twice appointed by Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher to judgeships — to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Why? Because President Barack Obama didn’t talk to McConnell first about the nomination.... public leaders should also resolve to raise government’s collective intelligence by recruiting more women."
Founders couldn’t predict contention (Idaho Statesman, 03/26/16)
Guest Opinion by Lindy High: "The latest frustrating incident is the decision by Senate Republicans not to act on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in fact, not even to meet with him as a courtesy. The former is a prime example of congressional gridlock; the latter is just bad manners.... McConnell is serious. Recently The Courier-Journal, his hometown paper in Louisville, Ky., reported that he won’t be acting on Obama’s nomination of Lisabeth Tabor Hughes, a justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. McConnell is unhappy that the president submitted the nomination “without notifying McConnell,” according to his spokesman.
Wow. It’s going to be a long nine months."
Sen. Toomey hypocritical on court nominees (Morning Call [PA], 03/24/16)
Donald Scott, Letter to the Editor: "Regarding The Morning Call article, "Obama's pick for appeals court vacancy draws Toomey's ire": Such hypocrisy!
The senator blasts the president's nomination of assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Ross Haywood for the U.S. Court of Appeals as a "partisan, confrontational" effort. He then proceeds to reject the president's nomination of Merrick Garland, joining most Senate Republicans who have vowed not to do their constitutionally mandated job of considering Supreme Court nominees.
Obviously, that's a "partisan, confrontational" stance. How does the senator keep a straight face when he speaks from both sides of his mouth?"
Bill Straub: Hard to argue the fact that McConnell’s actions are harming the courts and the nation (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 03/24/16)
"Sen. Mitch McConnell ... is not going to sanction a hearing for President Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
The rationale behind the Louisville’s Republicans obstinacy is considerably thinner than thin air .... Thus far during the 114th Congress, which began in January 2015 under Republican control, a paltry 16 judicial nominee have been confirmed by the Senate. Only five have occurred this year during the second session.
As of Wednesday, there are 84 vacancies in the federal judiciary, with 49 nominations forwarded by the Obama administration pending. Thirty-two of those open slots are considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 judicial nominees ready for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. None of them have been scheduled.... Now McConnell’s obstructionism is likely going to block a Kentucky nominee. Obama has recommended that Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes, raised in Princeton and now residing in Louisville, fill a slot on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that has been vacant since August 2013. Hughes, Obama said, “has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions.’’
McConnell, of course, is having none of it. ... with McConnell attempting to force a Democratic president to appoint someone, a Republican, more to his liking, despite Hughes’ obvious qualifications for the post."
Friends, neighbors hail Haywood nomination (Herald-Standard [Uniontown, PA], 03/23/16)
“I think she has the intellect and temperament to be an outstanding appellate judge,” said Dan Sinclair, a partner in the Eckerd Seamans law firm who graduated with Haywood in 1986. “We had a lot of the same classes, and some activities. I hope the United States Senate considers her and confirms her quickly.”... “I can’t think of very many people I have met in this profession who are more qualified or more suited to be a federal appellate judge than she is,” Sinclair said. “Her work experience and her background make her very well suited for that.”... Since 2010 Haywood has been chief of the Appellate Division in the office of Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.
“The President has made an exceptional nomination,” Hickton said in a prepared statement when the nomination was announced last week. “Rebecca Ross Haywood is a lawyer of unparalleled legal ability and judgment; she is also a wonderful person.”
Rants and Raves | McConnell rejects Ky. judge (Courier-Journal [KY] , 03/21/16)
Topic: U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won't move forward on President Obama's nomination of Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes to the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Susanne Mowery Cetrulo: "I argued a case before the sixth circuit this week. They are having to bring judges in from other districts due to the shortage of filled positions. Justice delayed hurts everyone, whatever your politics. How is McConnell's refusal to do his job any different than Kim Davis who a federal judge found in contempt for refusing to do her job?...."
EDITORIAL: All at fault (Brownsville Herald [TX], 03/20/16)
"Another seat in the U.S. Southern District, in Corpus Christi, has been vacant since 2011.
Clearly, both parties are to blame for this gamesmanship in court appointments. And the losers are the American people, especially those for whom justice is delayed because there aren’t enough judges to hear their cases sooner.
President Obama still has his job, and with regard to addressing the glaring vacancy on our nation’s highest court, he has done his job. Senators now need to do their job, and give the nomination the attention it deserves — and desperately needs.
And both parties need to show more respect for the public’s need for an efficient system of justice, and stop playing games with judicial appointments."
Gerth | Judicial standoff exposes broken system (Courier-Journal [KY] , 03/19/16)
Joseph Gerth: "The system is broken.
But I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know.
The nomination of Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the subsequent killing of the appointment is proof.
The grown-ups need to take charge and fix it.
A little bit of history: There are currently 83 court vacancies on federal court benches across the United States, not counting the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court that was created when Justice Antonin Scalia died.
Three of those vacancies are in Kentucky, the home state of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and it's a disproportionate share no matter how you look at it.
And those vacancies are among the oldest in the nation.... U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said the White House talked to McConnell’s office a year or so ago about appointing Hughes to the court. Apparently, McConnell would hear nothing of it even though Hughes has been hailed as an excellent, centrist judge – including by some conservatives who have practiced before her."
Considering whether Haywood is qualified through the lens of an appeal she lost (CA3blog, 03/18/16)
Matthew Stiegler: "Republican Senator Pat Toomey reportedly thinks Third Circuit nominee Rebecca Ross Haywood isn’t qualified. Yesterday I looked at whether Haywood is qualified by examining her legal experience. I concluded that her experience as an AUSA and a federal clerk compares favorably with the court’s recently appointed judges. We can also approach the question of whether Haywood is circuit-judge material from a different angle. Being qualified isn’t just about experience, it’s also about ability. ... Bottom line, I saw nothing in Haywood’s performance in Brown that would support Toomey’s charge that she is unqualified. All I see is a first-rate advocate with the makings of an outstanding judge."
The politics and hypocrisy of federal judgeships (Dallas Morning News, 03/18/16)
Dallas Morning News editorial board Opinion Blog by Jim Mitchell: "I find it ironic that Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz put up five names to fill other federal court vacancies in the courts that cover Texas....I’m glad the senators have put forward their recommendations. Retirements and hefty caseloads have put the federal judiciary into crisis mode — too many cases and not enough judges. But both men had been very slow to recommend candidates to fill long-standing vacancies on the federal courts. Now the GOP is slow-walking Garland’s nomination .... We should demand a timely review of these choices. But, oh, wait, that’s what Obama is asking the GOP to do for Garland."
President Obama Nominates Rebecca Ross Haywood to the Third Circuit (New Jersey Appellate Law Blog , 03/17/16)
Bruce D. Greenberg: "Like Judge Garland, Ms. Haywood has excellent credentials for the post to which she has been nominated, as Matthew Stiegler’s CA3 Blog documents here. Predictably, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is up for re-election this year, has already come out against her nomination, asserting that Ms. Haywood is “not suitable for such an important lifetime position.” Her record, discussed above and detailed in part here, appears to rebut that criticism.
Unlike in the case of Judge Garland, where a moderate Democrat has been nominated to fill the seat of an extremely conservative Republican, which is one of the objections asserted by Republicans to the Garland nomination, Ms. Haywood, a Democrat who would be the first African-American woman to sit on the Third Circuit, has been tapped to take the place of another Democratic woman judge. Senator Toomey’s objection to Ms. Haywood thus seems even less well-founded and more opportunistic than most politically-based opposition to judicial nominees. If a President cannot nominate a well-qualified woman to replace a woman of the same party on the Third Circuit, what appointment can a President make? ... it is unfortunate that such a worthy nominee probably will not get a hearing, due to the opposition of one of her home state Senators. Pennsylvania’s other Senator, Bob Casey (D-PA), issued a ringing endorsement of Ms. Haywood’s nomination, one that, regrettably, will most likely fall on deaf ears."
A Circuit Court Nominee for Mitch McConnell to Consider (People For blog, 03/17/16)
"President Obama today continued to work to make sure that our nation’s appellate vacancies are filled with qualified judges. Specifically, he has nominated Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes to the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Upon confirmation, she would become the first woman from Kentucky on the 6th Circuit.
This seat has been vacant since Judge Boyce Martin retired back in 2013. The court’s caseload is so heavy that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has officially designated the vacancy as a judicial emergency.
This nomination comes after long and extensive consultations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, the nominee’s two home state senators. In fact, press reports from more than two years ago noted that Justice Hughes was being vetted by the White House. No one can credibly claim that the president didn’t engage in adequate consultation.... There is a judicial emergency that needs to be filled, and a qualified nominee stands ready to fill it."