Editorials and Opinion
Roberts' 'Missed Opportunity' on Judicial Vacancies (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 01/01/17)
Kenneth Jost: When President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed his notorious court-packing scheme in 1937, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes delivered the fatal blow to the plan.... Eight decades later, Senate Republicans played politics with the court in a different way last year by refusing to consider President Obama's nomination of the veteran federal judge Merrick Garland .... But Roberts stayed completely silent even as the unfilled vacancy left four significant cases partly unresolved .... Senate Republicans extended their obstructionist policies to the lower federal courts by all but shutting down the confirmation process for Obama's nominees to district court and circuit courts of appeals. As the year ended, federal courts had an historically high number of 107 vacancies, including 84 district court judgeships and 14 on circuit courts. Obama had submitted nominees for 84 of the positions, and the Senate Judiciary Committee had approved 25 for floor votes. But all were left hanging as the 114th Congress was set to expire .... The year-long slowdown on Obama nominees for the lower federal court leaves almost exactly twice the number of vacancies that Obama inherited at the end of George W. Bush's presidency. Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the leading academic expert on federal judicial appointments, calls the Senate's record over the past two years "the worst in American history in terms of obstruction and delay."... Roberts might have said at least a word or two about the fighting over the vacancies, but never did
Editorial: Will Grassley pick up speed on Trump nominees? (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/01/17)
"The Senate confirmed 20 lifetime judicial appointments to district and appeals courts in the two years Republicans were in charge. That’s the lowest number in 28 years, according to a Congressional Research Service report and Politico. (It’s not even close: The next fewest number was 51, during the Republican-led Senate of 2005-06.)
The result of that inaction? There are about 100 vacancies in federal district and appeals courts, plus the opening on the U.S. Supreme Court that Grassley stood in the way of filling.
Grassley and his fellow Republicans have handed an inaugural gift to President-elect Donald Trump, who can shape the federal courts in his image. He’ll have almost double the number of openings to fill than Barack Obama did eight years ago.... Republicans successfully ran out the clock on 54 of Obama’s nominees. Of those, 25 made it out of Grassley’s committee, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold votes on them. These 25 were thoroughly vetted and won bipartisan support, yet McConnell shamelessly prevented any votes for more than a year.
In addition, eight nominees were waiting to be reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and 21 were waiting for committee hearings.... Grassley has considered only nominees who had won support from both of their home-state senators. Both parties have used that practice, he points out.
But this practice has contributed to gridlock. An opening on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has been vacant since 2010, because Republican senators have blocked Obama’s appointees.
A district judge position in the Eastern District of North Carolina has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006. More than a quarter of the district’s population is African-American, but it’s never had a black federal judge, according to Raleigh News & Observer. Obama had nominated two African-American women to the eastern district, but Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., supported neither.
Obama made it a priority to bring diversity to the courts. Those who weren’t confirmed by the Senate included several Latino, Asian-American and black judges and one who would have been the nation’s first Muslim federal judge.
If our courts are to reflect and represent those whom they serve, then Trump should continue Obama’s efforts. The new president should seek racial, ethnic, religious and gender balance when he searches for nominees.... The gears of justice grind more slowly when judicial positions remain open. This has a real impact on people and businesses waiting for their cases to be heard. The U.S. court system now counts 38 judicial emergencies, based on the volume of cases in front of a court. There were 12 such emergencies at the beginning of 2015."
Ed Palattella: Federal judgeship delayed is justice denied (Erie Times-News [PA], 01/01/17)
"The history is worth revisiting because of the situation in U.S. District Court in Erie since Aug. 16, 2013. That's when Sean J. McLaughlin resigned his lifetime appointment as the only Erie-based federal judge.
The seat has been vacant ever since. And the Senate has been in no rush to fill it.
The endless delay is an affront to the city of Erie as well as Erie County and the other six counties in northwestern Pennsylvania served by the federal courthouse in Erie.... Today, not having an Erie-based federal judge for three years and four months could be considered a sign that Erie's significance, like its population, has waned.
Let's hope not. Let's hope that the failure to fill the judgeship is due not to insult, but solely to something only slightly less distasteful - congressional gridlock. ... President Barack Obama nominated someone for the seat. On July 30, 2015, he picked a fellow Democrat, Susan Paradise Baxter, an Erie resident who since 1995 has served as Erie's federal magistrate judge - a position just below a federal district judge.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, backed Baxter's nomination. So did Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, who has opposed Obama on so much else.
A year and five months later, the GOP-controlled Senate still has not moved to confirm Baxter. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has refused to call for a vote on her nomination. He and his fellow Republicans have stymied the process that has prevented Obama from filling 103 judicial vacancies, including the biggest of all - the ninth seat on the Supreme Court.
The local vacancy has strained the wheels of federal justice in Erie.... Trump could recognize Baxter's bipartisan support and renominate her. Then the Senate could confirm her.
That route would appear to make the most sense. It would quickly fill Erie's federal judgeship with a qualified person."
Here are New Year’s resolutions for the folks in charge as 2017 unfolds [Editorial] (Idaho Statesman, 12/31/16)
Editorial Board: here are a few of the New Year’s resolutions we propose for our community, state and nation as 2017 unfolds.... Resolutions at the federal level
▪ Federal judicial appointments for Idaho and elsewhere in the nation succumbed to gridlock politics last year and throughout the last Congress. Our senators must get to work and get Judge David Nye’s name before President-elect Donald Trump so he can again be nominated, and then confirmed by the Senate. While they are at it, our senators need to figure out how to get Idaho a badly needed third Article III judge. Justice demands it.
Commentary: Confirming judges in Congress’ lame duck session (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 12/30/16)
Carl Tobias: Texas is ground zero for the national judicial vacancy crisis. The state is experiencing 11 district openings, which the U.S. Courts have designated “judicial emergency” vacancies because of their protracted length or massive caseloads their judges address. In March, President Barack Obama nominated Scott Frost, James Wesley Hendrix and Irma Carrillo Ramirez for Northern District of Texas vacancies; Karen Gren Scholer for an Eastern District opening; and Walter Counts for a Western District vacancy.
All five are well-qualified, mainstream nominees, who have the powerful support of Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Sept. 7 for the nominees. However, all five languished since then, mainly because GOP leaders refused to grant them a panel or final vote. Because the nominees are experienced centrists and the districts need every vacancy filled, the committee must promptly report the five and the Senate swiftly grant them confirmation debates and votes.
Tribune Editorial: GOP Senate refuses to do its duty (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 12/30/16)
"This senatorial discourtesy was another example of the dereliction of duty exhibited by the World's Greatest Deliberative Body as its Republican majority dissed the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Antonin Scalia seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Senate Republicans were never shy about what they were up to. Gridlock. For its own sake.
Toward the end, of course, Republicans could claim, with no historical or legal basis, that what they were doing was holding those seats, along with more than 50 federal district and appellate judgeships, open for the next president. Who, they hoped, would be a Republican.... Trump won, and to the victor goes the spoils. Or at least the power to appoint. Democrats should consider those appointments seriously, rejecting those who are unqualified or extreme, approving those who make the grade.
Come 2020, the Trump administration should be judged in large part on the people it hired."
Wednesday letters: Federal judicial vacancies; Fill vacancies (Houston Chronicle, 12/27/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: Regarding "Fed cases mount in Texas courts" (Page A1, Dec. 21), the story accurately describes Texas, which is ground zero for the judicial vacancy crisis, because the state experiences 13 emergency vacancies. President Donald Trump and the Texas GOP senators must promptly cooperate to nominate and confirm well-qualified, mainstream judges.
The most efficient and least wasteful of scarce resources would be starting with the five experienced, moderate nominees who testified in a September hearing but have languished ever since. Indeed, President Barack Obama should renominate all five .... the Senate must quickly confirm them before Inauguration Day, so the judges can deliver justice to people and businesses engaged in Texas federal court litigation.
The Senate should confirm Stephanie Gallagher (Washington Post, 12/27/16)
Carl Tobias: In September 2015, President Obama nominated Stephanie Gallagher, who has been a U.S. magistrate judge in the District of Maryland for more than a half decade, for an opening on that court. Gallagher is an experienced, mainstream nominee whom Maryland Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin strongly support. In May 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported Gallagher with no dissent. However, she has awaited a final vote ever since, mainly because Republicans would not permit her floor debate and ballot. Gallagher is a talented, consensus nominee and the District of Maryland requires this vacancy filled, so the upper chamber must swiftly grant her confirmation debate and vote.... Democratic members have pursued unanimous consent to vote on Gallagher and 19 other district court nominees who require final ballots, yet Republicans objected. Had the GOP followed regular order, Gallagher would have been approved long ago.
Donald Trump gets to show his judgment on judges after all (Newsday [NY], 12/27/16)
Dan Janison, columnist: Trump will have more than 100 court slots to fill — in addition to the Supreme Court vacancy caused by Antonin Scalia’s death.... the upcoming judgeship nominations leave a bitter taste for Democrats and a sense of opportunity for Republicans.
McConnell (R-Kentucky) can be expected to smooth the way for Trump appointees. Meanwhile Eric Schultz, an Obama spokesman, said GOP delays until now “have been shameful and will forever leave a stain on the United States Senate.”
Confirm Karen Gren Scholer for the Eastern District of Texas (The Hill, 12/26/16)
Carl Tobias: On March 15, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Karen Gren Scholer, who is a longtime Texas practitioner and has served as a Texas state court judge, for a vacancy on the Eastern District of Texas. Scholer is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The Senate Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing for Scholer on Sept. 7. Nonetheless, she languished since then, mostly because GOP leaders refused to grant her a panel vote and a final debate and ballot. Because Scholer is an experienced, moderate nominee and the Eastern District of Texas needs all of its vacancies filled, the Senate must swiftly conduct the nominee’s committee vote and her confirmation debate and vote.
Trump could quickly appoint more than twice as many federal judges as Obama did in his first term (TheBlaze, 12/26/16)
Jon Street: Republicans on Capitol Hill have, for nearly two years, pulled out every stop to block or delay many of President Barack Obama’s federal judge appointees from receiving senate confirmation. Now, it appears as though that obstruction is paying off for the GOP and President-elect Donald Trump.
Upon taking office on January 20, Trump is set to inherit dozens of vacant federal judgeships: 103 of them, to be exact. That’s in addition to the Supreme Court seat left open by the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, the Washington Post reported.
The number is nearly twice the judiciary vacancies Obama inherited from President George W. Bush in 2009. When Obama assumed the role of president, there were just 54 federal judgeships to be filled.
Tobias letter: Confirm David Nye (Idaho Statesman, 12/24/16)
Carl Tobias: “While gridlock grinds in Washington, justice suffers in Idaho” (editorial, Dec. 11) astutely describes and decries the Senate’s utter failure to remedy the vacancy crisis that now plagues the District of Idaho and individuals and businesses engaged in federal court litigation. The Senate must confirm David Nye, an experienced Idaho state trial court judge, whom home state senators proposed and support and President Barack Obama nominated many months ago.... The Judiciary Committee ought to promptly reapprove the nominee and the Senate should swiftly confirm him. If those actions are not taken, the Idaho senators must recommend Nye again to President Donald Trump, who must quickly renominate Nye and the Senate needs to rapidly process him.
Monday letters: Judicial vacancies; Federal judges (Houston Chronicle, 12/23/16)
Carl Tobias: Regarding Texas leads nation in federal judicial vacancies'' (HoustonChronicle.com, Dec. 20), the story accurately describes Texas, which is ground zero for the judicial vacancy crisis, because the state has 13 emergency vacancies. After his inauguration, President Donald Trump and the Texas GOP senators must promptly cooperate to nominate and confirm well-qualified, mainstream judges. Most efficient and least wasteful of scarce resources would be starting with the five experienced, moderate nominees who testified in a September hearing but have languished ever since.
Indeed, President Barack Obama should renominate all five .... the Senate must quickly confirm them before Inauguration Day, so the judges can deliver justice to people and businesses engaged in Texas federal court litigation.
Senate Republicans Changed the Playbook on Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 12/22/16)
Paul Gordon: We should never forget why there are so many vacancies, because that affects how the Senate should act with regard to President Trump’s nominees. Unfortunately, over the course of Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans changed the playbook. They refused to consider a Supreme Court nominee, and they extended their partisan fights over nominees to include district court nominees, who had generally not found themselves victims to such partisan mistreatment before.
Dozens Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees, Including Historic Picks, Won’t Make It Onto The Bench: Fifty-two of President Obama’s judicial nominees didn’t get a vote in the Senate. They include lawyers and judges who would have added new diversity to the federal bench. (BuzzFeed, 12/20/16)
Zoe Tillman: Qureshi is one of 52 nominees for federal district and appeals courts and the US Supreme Court who won’t make it onto the bench, at least for now. That group includes more than a dozen nominees who, like Qureshi, would have broken racial, gender, and religious barriers.... Other nominees who would have been firsts if confirmed include Rebecca Haywood, a federal prosecutor who would have been the first African American woman to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; US District Judge Lucy Koh of California, who would have been the first Korean American federal appeals judge; and US District Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama, who would have been the first African American from the state to serve on the Eleventh Circuit.... The Senate confirmed 20 judges to federal district and appeals courts during Obama’s final two years in office, and left for the holiday recess with 99 court vacancies. More seats are expected to open up by the time Trump takes office in January. Of the vacant seats, 38 are considered “emergencies” by the judiciary because of the caseload. Those numbers don’t include the US Court of International Trade and the US Court of Federal Claims, where there are also open seats.
By comparison, the Senate confirmed 68 federal judges during President George W. Bush’s last two years, according to the judiciary. By the end of December 2008, there were 26 nominees pending and 53 vacancies.... Democrats could hold up nominees through a senatorial courtesy system known as the “blue slip”
Trump, no ordinary president, requires an extraordinary response (Brookings, 12/20/16)
Thomas E. Mann: The investigative and prosecutorial work of the Department of Justice is an essential bulwark against the misuse of public authority by any official, including presidents. Will its independence and integrity be protected by the new Attorney General and White House Counsel? Trump’s choice for Attorney General was rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship because of racist comments and has a history as a prosecutor more interested in prosecuting African Americans for pursuing voting rights than those trying to suppress their votes.... The courts play an equally essential role. The egregious partisan politicization of judicial appointments, which reached a nadir with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented refusal to even consider Merrick Garland’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during the last year of President Obama’s tenure, has weakened the capacity of the courts to fulfill its responsibilities in the face of attacks on the fabric of our democracy.... Vigilance against every threat to the fundamental nature of the republic is the order of the day.
Commentary: Senate shoud confirm state’s federal court nominees (Herald [WA] , 12/18/16)
Carl Tobias: On April 14, President Barack Obama nominated Beth Andrus, Michael Diaz and Kathleen O’Sullivan to fill vacancies with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Each is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee who has the strong support of the state’s Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Nevertheless, they have languished since April, primarily because GOP leaders did not accord them Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, panel votes or final debates and ballots. Because all three are experienced, consensus nominees and the District needs every vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly grant the nominees hearings and committee votes and confirmation debates and ballots.
The Western District now has three vacancies in seven active judgeships.
Confirm Winfield Ong for the Southern District of Indiana (The Hill, 12/16/16)
Carl Tobias: On Jan. 12, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Winfield Ong, who has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Indiana over two decades, for a vacancy on the Southern District. He is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of Indiana Sens. Dan Coats (R) and Joe Donnelly (D). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Ong on June 16 without dissent. However, the nominee languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Ong is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Southern District of Indiana needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.... Indiana senators requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Majority Leader, failed to arrange it. Numerous Democratic senators sought unanimous consent to vote regarding Ong and 19 remaining district nominees who need final votes, but other members objected....senators must immediately approve him.
Jenni Dye: It shouldn’t take Christmas miracle for Ron Johnson to do his job (Cap Times [WI], 12/16/16)
"[W]ill Sen. Ron Johnson and his fellow Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate deliver on a judge to fill the longest-running federal judicial vacancy in the nation — or will they deliver a lump of coal in continued attempts to rig the federal courts?
Johnson signed off last summer on the nomination of Donald Schott to fill a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, which includes Wisconsin, after five years of excuses and delays motivated by partisanship. Schott received bipartisan support when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve his nomination, and he is now one of 25 judicial nominees available to be confirmed immediately by the full Senate.
It shouldn’t take a Christmas miracle for Johnson and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to do their jobs and approve the judicial nominees, like Donald Schott, who they already support."
Letter: If GOP hires all judges, balance will suffer (Reno Gazette-Journal [NV], 12/15/16)
Christina Karr: there are over 105 judicial vacancies, and that worries me. In the America that I know, we are supposed to have a fair and balanced justice system....courts have made some very important rulings. They have legalized same-sex marriage and they have helped educate my friends who are undocumented.
We all know that Republicans tend to choose judges that are anti-immigration, anti-women's rights and anti-healthcare. If the Republicans put forth 105 conservative judges, where is the balance in our court system going to be?
Advise and Dissent: The Senate Majority Refuses to Do Its Job (Huffington Post, 12/14/16)
Sammie Moshenberg: there has been no action on filling the Supreme Court vacancy .... When the Senate adjourned, there were 98 other unfilled vacancies on courts .... the blue slip. Honored by judiciary committee chairs from both parties, this practice requires each home-state senator to return a blue paper slip, indicating that they are ok with the confirmation process going forward—whether or not they will ultimately vote for or against the nominee.
This is the case with the 25 judicial nominees who have had a hearing and been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee—some more than half a year ago....the Senate could act on filling these vacancies before the new president is sworn in—unlikely but intriguing. But It’s not too early to let our senators know that we want them to insist that these 25 nominees be re-nominated by the next president. These vacancies have languished far too long already. Why not fill them expeditiously with qualified, consensus nominees who have already gone through the vetting process?
Sessions cannot do justice as head of justice dept. (Selma Times-Journal [AL], 12/13/16)
Hank Sanders: When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the city of Baltimore for police brutality.
She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Sen. Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights?... Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Sen. Jeff Sessions to allow some black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts.
During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American.
That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon.
Op-Ed: U.S. Senate should act on court nominees (News & Observer [NC], 12/13/16)
Rob Schofield: As outrageous and destructive as the Garland blockade has been, the growing possibility that Senate leaders may also choose to block a raft of lower court nominees in the closing weeks of the 114th Congress is utterly beyond the pale.... 25 lower court nominees have been fully vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee and have the support of their home state senators. This includes three Court of Appeals nominees, 20 District Court nominees and two nominees to the International Trade Court. All that is necessary is for the Senate’s leader, Mitch McConnell, to allow confirmation votes that could take just a few minutes to complete.... Another 28 nominees (four Court of Appeals and 24 District Court nominees) have been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee for months. This includes Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who was nominated to fill the nation’s longest standing judicial vacancy in North Carolina’s Eastern District almost eight months ago.... there were 105 federal court vacancies across the country. Two years ago, when Republicans were preparing to take over the Senate there were only 40.
“Judicial emergencies” – which by rule only occur when there are several hundred pending cases per judge on specified courts – have skyrocketed. At the start of the present Congress, there were 12. Now there are 38. The highest number of such emergencies that ever occurred during the George W. Bush presidency – even when Democrats controlled the Senate – was 15.
During the last two years, Republicans have only allowed 22 judicial nominees to be confirmed. These figures are the lowest for any Congress since the 1950’s – a time when the nation’s population was barely half its present size.
In contrast, Democrats confirmed more than three times the number of Bush nominees in 2008 and left no nominations pending on the Senate floor when Congress adjourned. The current situation is unprecedented and outrageous.
Confirm Mark Young for the Central District of California (The Hill, 12/12/16)
Carl Tobias: Young and many other well qualified, mainstream nominees have waited months for debates and votes. Feinstein and Boxer requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), the Majority Leader, did not set it. A few Democratic senators sought unanimous consent to vote on Young and nineteen remaining district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans objected. If the GOP had followed regular order, Young would have secured a floor ballot long ago. However, on Saturday, the chamber [adjourned] until the new Senate convenes on Jan. 3. Once it assembles, Obama should promptly renominate Young, the panel ought to quickly reapprove the nominee and the Senate must confirm him.
Letter: Senate should move on Garland (Columbus Dispatch [OH], 12/11/16)
Carolyn Casper: More troubling than the unprecedented obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, who should be afforded an immediate hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the blockade of every judicial nominee currently pending. Our federal courts continue to be in a state of crisis because more than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. Because of these vacancies, cases go unheard, issues unresolved, and American people and businesses are without the justice they deserve.... Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, just won an overwhelming victory from the voters following a campaign during which he marketed himself as an “independent voice’’ in the U.S Senate. ... I urge Portman to show his independence and urge Senate leaders to schedule up-or-down votes on Garland and the other pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
Carl Tobias: Senate must vote on Idaho judge (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 12/11/16)
"On April 6, President Barack Obama nominated David Nye, a state court judge in Idaho, for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court. Nye is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Nye on July 14 without dissent. However, the nomination has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Nye is an experienced, consensus nominee and the district desperately needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.
The Idaho district has one vacancy in two active judgeships.... The federal court system declared Lodge’s vacancy a “judicial emergency” .... Nye and many other highly qualified, moderate nominees have waited months for debates and votes. The Republican Senate majority has refused to even consider Judge Merrick Garland, the experienced, mainstream Supreme Court nominee .... Sens. Crapo and Risch have requested a swift floor ballot for Nye, yet Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, has failed to arrange it. Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on many district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans have objected. ... The Idaho senators have constantly reiterated their support for Nye, even after the election, expressing hope the Senate would confirm him in the lame duck session that opened Nov. 15 and pledging to push for renomination if that did not happen. The Idaho director of the Trump for President campaign believed that “Trump would support” the senators’ process and Nye. Thus, it would be wasteful to restart the process and deprive Idaho of a new judge for months."
While gridlock grinds in Washington, justice suffers in Idaho [Editorial] (Idaho Statesman, 12/11/16)
Editorial Board: the fate of Pocatello’s David C. Nye, whom President Barack Obama nominated back in April to a federal judgeship in the District of Idaho.
Within days of that nomination our two Republican Senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, chimed in and agreed with their Democratic president that Nye — now serving in the Sixth District Court of Idaho — was an excellent choice and ought to be approved by the Senate.
Crapo and Risch introduced Nye to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in June, and that body approved him on July 14 without dissent. Everybody, including us, is supportive of Nye, but nobody has been able to push him over the finish line and put him to work for Idaho –– who desperately needs him.
Idaho only has two such judgeships (and has a great argument for a third).... Nye, and many other judges awaiting confirmation by the Senate, languish in the kind of limbo that only gridlock can create.... Why not take 10 minutes to confirm Nye and others for the federal bench and allow them to get to work? Among the theories is that Senate Republican leadership and the rest of the world would be reminded of the GOP’s obstinance to not even consider Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.
We are unconcerned about face-saving –– and only hoping for justice, which will have to wait.
If 2016 ends without Nye’s confirmation, we’ll all have to pray that President-elect Donald Trump will re-nominate him in 2017 and he can come on board with Senate confirmation.
Judicial vacancies frustrate swift, fair case resolution (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/09/16)
Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: In July 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Susan Paradise Baxter, who has been a Western District of Pennsylvania magistrate judge since 1995, and Marilyn Horan, who has been a Butler County Common Pleas judge since 1996, for Western District vacancies.
The court has four vacancies among 10 active judgeships. ... Judges Baxter and Horan are well-qualified, moderate nominees, who enjoy the powerful support of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican. The Judiciary Committee granted them Jan. 28 voice votes with no dissent. However, both nominations have since languished, mainly because Republican leaders denied them final debates and ballots. Since Judges Baxter and Horan are experienced, mainstream jurists and the Western District needs each vacancy filled, the Senate must confirm them before it adjourns.
Qualified, vetted judicial nominees deserve votes (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/09/16)
CHRISTINE STONE, Letter to the Editor: Before the year is over, U.S. Senate leadership should schedule immediate confirmation votes on the 25 qualified judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor. Among these qualified nominees are Pennsylvania’s own Judges Susan Paradise Baxter and Judge Marilyn Horan, who were nominated to fill district court seats that have been vacant for more than three years. Like Judge Baxter and Judge Horan, each of these nominees has been vetted, approved by their home-state senators and earned the bipartisan support of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Our federal courts are in a state of crisis; this is especially true in Pennsylvania. Two district court nominees (Judge Robert Colville and Judge John Younge) and a circuit court nominee (Judge Rebecca Haywood, who would become the first African-American woman to sit on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) have had hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee but have been waiting for a committee vote for months. Beyond that, Pennsylvania has one other district court vacancy and another upcoming in January.
Millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent vetting these qualified nominees. Sen. Pat Toomey should now work with Senate leadership to schedule up-or-down votes on the pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
Time to approve district judge for Florida (Fort Myers News Press [FL] , 12/09/16)
Carl Tobias: On April 28, President Barack Obama nominated William Jung, a longtime Tampa Bay private practitioner and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, for a vacancy on the Middle District of Florida. Jung is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee, who has the strong support of Florida Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).
Nevertheless, he has languished since April, primarily because GOP leaders did not accord him a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a panel vote or a final debate and ballot. Because Jung is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Middle District of Florida requires each of its vacancies filled, the Senate must expeditiously afford the nominee’s hearing and committee vote and his confirmation debate and ballot.