Editorials and Opinion
Senate GOP Deigns to Allow One Judicial Confirmation Vote (People For blog, 10/26/15)
"[T]he [Judiciary] committee approved Vilardo by unanimous voice vote on June 4, sending his unopposed nomination to the full Senate. In the nearly five months since, the nomination has languished, as Senate Republicans have refused to schedule a vote. Schumer took to the Senate floor to formally request a vote in July, so that this and two other New York vacancies could be filled before the Senate’s extended summer recess. It only takes one senator to scuttle such a request, and Grassley took to the floor to say no. ... The same thing happened in mid-September, this time with Texas Senator John Cornyn instead of Grassley serving as the hatchet man. Cornyn claimed the Senate should delay voting on the New York nominees because Senate Democrats had held confirmation votes for several judges at the end of last year’s lame duck session – as if that were a legitimate justification. Further weakening Cornyn’s credibility, he failed to mention that three of those nominees were from Texas, and that he himself had specifically urged the Democrats to confirm them during the lame duck.
At the end of September, the president of the New York State Bar Association condemned the delays and urged the Senate to swiftly vote on Vilardo and all the other pending nominees.... this is only the ninth judicial confirmation of the year. In contrast, when Democrats took over the Senate during George W. Bush’s last two years in office, they had let the Senate confirm 34 judicial nominees at this same point. So while judicial vacancies and judicial emergencies fell during 2007, both have risen significantly in 2015 due to GOP refusal to process nominations in a timely manner."
Editorial, 10/25: So much for reform... (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 10/25/15)
"The overused tactic of blocking nominations is one of the reasons that Congress doesn’t function. For most of the nation’s history, the tactic was not used. In recent decades, it’s become common, sometimes leaving judicial posts open for years. Democrats use it when Republicans have power, and vice versa."
Editorial: Senators should confirm Malmen’s their choice for bench (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 10/23/15)
"If Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are intent on nominating Erika Malmen for a vacant U.S. District Court judgeship, they or their surrogates should be providing some cover for the Boise attorney, who appears to be short on judicial experience and long on political pull by way of husband Jeff Malmen.
But that would engender an explanation for the entirety of a long candidate search extraordinary for its secrecy ... Malmen will not get a smooth ride, nor should she.
The 41-year-old has no judicial experience, and does not deserve any if the assessment of her fellow attorneys carries any weight. She did not make the short list of four finalists for a vacancy on the Idaho Court of Appeals for which 12 attorneys had submitted their names.
The environmental community will be concerned with a client list thats a who’s who of Idaho’s extractive industries.... Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne in 1995 fought off the nomination of John Tait for the District Court judgeship now occupied by B. Lynn Winmill because, they argued, he had little federal court trial experience, or handling criminal cases, and no experience as a judge or prosecutor. Does that profile remind you of anybody?"
Leapfrog Day at the Judiciary Committee (People For blog, 10/20/15)
"[T]he Senate held a confirmation vote on one long-waiting nominee, but did nothing on eight additional nominees who were long ago fully vetted and advanced without opposition by the Judiciary Committee.... since there are ten other nominees waiting for their opportunity to appear before the committee, why are there only four nominees at today’s hearing, rather than five or six? And why has Grassley never held more than one hearing per month? No wonder there is such a backlog of nominees at the committee stage ... why no hearing for Mary Barzee Flores of Florida, who was nominated way back in February on the recommendation of Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio?"
Today's Vote Highlights Senate's Failures on Confirming Judges (People For blog, 10/20/15)
"Ann Donnelly, set to fill a judicial emergency in the Eastern District of New York, was cleared by a unanimous Judiciary Committee way back on June 4, more than four months ago. On the same day, the committee also unanimously voted to advance two other New York nominees to the full Senate. Yet after months of delay, Majority Leader McConnell is finally allowing a vote on only one of the three. Also being ignored are an additional six judicial nominees from other states who were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee. ... While the Democratically-controlled Senate had voted on 33 of Bush’s judges at this point in 2007, New York’s Ann Donnelly will be only the eighth judge voted on this year. Vacancies nationwide are up by more than 50% since the beginning of the year, and judicial emergencies have more than doubled....Perhaps most egregious is the Senate GOP’s obstinate refusal to grant timely consideration to L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, whose nomination to the Third Circuit is nearly a year old."
Editorial: GOP Senate obstructionists are strangling the justice system (Wisconsin Gazette, 10/18/15)
"Due to partisan gridlock, millions of Americans are not getting their day in court. Political gamesmanship has stalled the nation’s judicial system to such an extent that American citizens can no longer count on their constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial.
The United States currently has the largest backlog of federal criminal and civil cases in American history .... The blame, of course, lies at the doorstep of Republican Senate obstructionists. Senators who belong to the GOP’s extremist tea party faction have predicated their agendas on thwarting President Barack Obama at every turn. Their favored method is refusing to approve his nominees, especially his judicial and ambassadorial nominees. They don’t seem to care that such blatant childishness does serious damage to the nation."
Grassley's Leapfrogging Hurts Everyone, Especially Pennsylvanians (People For blog, 10/15/15)
"Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced a scheduled hearing next week for four district court nominees, three of whom were nominated in July. Once again, he is skipping over Florida’s Mary Barzee Flores, who was nominated way back in February. But he’s skipping over nine other nominees, as well.
That’s because the fourth nominee at the hearing is from Iowa.... During a press conference at the National Press Club in April, 2015, Chairman Grassley stated that under his chairmanship, the Judiciary Committee would consider judicial nominees in the order they came:
'I want you to know we take them up the way they come up to us. Particularly, that is true of judges, as an example. So the priority’s set by what we receive from the White House.'... Pennsylvania is bearing the brunt of this delay, as well. Four of the skipped nominees would serve in that state."
The Burr blockade continues: NC federal court vacancy now approaching 10 years (Progressive Pulse [NC], 10/15/15)
Rob Schofield: "As has been documented on this website numerous times, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has been blocking, literally without explanation, President Obama’s attempt to fill a vacancy on the federal court in North Carolina’s Eastern District for years. It’s gotten so absurd (we are now approaching 10 years in which the court and the citizens of eastern North Carolina have been short staffed) that the White House appears to have given up, for now, in even appointing someone.
Fortunately, however, advocates for justice and sanity haven’t given up. As the Winston-Salem Chronicle reports, women of the NAACP spoke out yet again this week ... the across-the-board GOP blockade of Obama judicial nominees has now reached the point of true absurdity."
Americans Pay a High Price for Judicial Obstruction | Commentary (Roll Call, 10/15/15)
Anisha Singh and Pete Haviland-Eduah: "Today, more than 80 current and future federal judicial seats are vacant and approximately 30 of those seats are considered judicial emergencies, nearly triple the number of emergency vacancies since Republicans took control of the Senate in January. This has led to the largest backlog of federal criminal and civil cases in American history .... The Senate this year is on track to confirm the fewest judicial nominees since 1953.... The record-high pileup of backlogged cases affects everyone in the process—families, crime victims, employees, consumers, and the defendants themselves. We must demand that the Senate put an end to this obstruction."
The judicial hold-up (Nashville Post [TN], 10/15/15)
J.R. Lind: "With the U.S. Judicial Conference declaring a judicial emergency because of a vacancy and with the state's two senators unequivocally expressing support for the president's nominees, why can't we get judges confirmed by the Senate: 'Because Obama is so unpopular with the Republican Party, many Republican senators do not desire handing over the keys to too many courthouses. To observers, the reason for the hold-up is obvious.'"
With confirmation hearings running far behind, Tennessee's federal judicial nominees are left to cool their heels: Judicial Logjam (Nashville Scene [TN], 10/15/15)
Alex Hubbard: "If Tennessee, with three nominees yet to be confirmed, is a major part of the crisis, Nashville is near the center. ... the administrative office of the U.S. Judicial Conference declared a judicial emergency in the district.... Of the 30 declared emergencies in the country, this ranks Nashville sixth in the nation.... Corker and Alexander have made their support clear for all three of Tennessee's judicial nominees, unlike in some other states where Republican senators have blocked Democratic nominees from the same state.
But senators from the Volunteer State remain reluctant to raise public outrage toward the leadership of their own party. Neither Corker nor Alexander was available for interview, and although both provided unequivocal statements of support, neither responded to emailed questions from the Scene about whether they had applied any pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to speed a vote on Crenshaw and McDonough."
Sen. Leahy: Justice Denied: Senate Republicans' Obstruction of Judicial Confirmations (Huffington Post, 10/14/15)
"Since Republicans took over the majority in January, the Senate majority has only allowed the confirmation vote of seven federal judges. Because of this refusal to schedule timely confirmation votes, there are more than 50 percent more judicial vacancies since Republicans assumed the majority in the Senate. That means there are not enough judges to handle the overwhelming number of cases in many of our federal courtrooms. ... Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, gave the Wall Street Journal this devastating assessment: "Over the years I've received several letters from people indicating, 'Even if I win this case now, my business has failed because of the delay. How is this justice?' And the simple answer, which I cannot give them, is this: It is not justice. We know it."... At the same point in the seventh year of President Bush's tenure, Senate Democrats had already confirmed 33 judges. ... There are currently 15 non-controversial judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor who have bipartisan support. They are each highly qualified, and many would fill emergency vacancies"
Justice denied when judges refused a vote (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 10/14/15)
Michele L. Jawando: "One of the most important duties of the U.S. Senate is to confirm federal judicial nominees, yet that body has confirmed only seven federal judges since the beginning of this year .... The reason for these confirmation delays in the current Senate is not disagreement about which judges should be brought up for a vote. There are 10 pending judicial nominees who have already cleared one major hurdle: They were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. The reason, instead, is simple obstruction.
In the meantime, important cases pile up on the dockets of those very courts, and judges currently on the bench are unable to keep up with the load .... There is no better symbol of the current judicial confirmation obstruction than Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Pennsylvania"
Forward Thinking: The courts matter (Daily Item [PA], 10/12/15)
By Chip Facka: "Pennsylvanians are being denied timely access to a judicial system that is often their last resort when dealing with things like citizenship status, access to health care, environmental crisis, employee/employer disputes and basic civil rights. Right now there is a backlog of more than 16,000 civil and criminal cases pending in Pennsylvania District Courts.
Our federal courts make rulings on virtually every issue that is important to Americans....Here’s what’s crazy. Across the country, due in large part to a concerted effort by Senate Republicans to stall nominations of qualified judges, we are in the midst of a crisis in regards to federal court vacancies."
‘It’s The Vacancies!’ (American Constitution Society Blog, 10/12/15)
Russell Wheeler, Brookings: "Federal courts are facing a toxic mix of judges creating vacancies at an usually high rate and some Republican senators exploiting Senate traditions to prevent nominations in their states. And the Senate Judiciary Committee and Republican Conference leadership have aggressively slowed down confirmation of those nominations that make it to the Senate.... In the final two years of the Reagan, Clinton and Bush two-term presidencies -- all with divided government -- vacancies decreased. That seems highly unlikely in these final two years of the Obama presidency.
The October 5 confirmation of a district judge reawakened complaints that seven confirmations in 2015 compare poorly to the 33 confirmations at the same point in 2007, George W. Bush’s seventh year in office.... The ultimate purpose of the confirmation process is to fill vacant judgeships, not to create comparative confirmation scorecards.
Since January 1, vacant district judgeships have risen from 33 to 54. At this point in the seventh year of the Reagan, Clinton and Bush presidencies, district vacancies had decreased, most dramatically in 2007 -- from 40 to 33."
Editorial: Leadership crisis for GOP (News & Observer [NC], 10/09/15)
"The speaker’s chair needs a practical leader who recognizes that rabid partisanship must not be allowed to bring the government to a standstill. Even if the GOP continues to block some of the president’s goals, delay approval of his judicial nominees and do nothing until the next president takes office, that’s preferable to seriously damaging the nation’s economy and its global standing."
Editorial: Senate should quickly confirm judicial nominees (Knoxville News Sentinel [TN], 10/09/15)
"Tennessee's three federal judicial nominees are waiting for their Senate confirmation, and the slow pace of moving the nominations through that chamber has aroused suspicions that perhaps the delay is politically motivated.... All three have the support of Tennessee's Republican U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, who have called for the nominees' speedy confirmation....During the last two years of President George W. Bush's administration, the Democratic majority in the Senate confirmed 68 judges. Likewise, a Republican-controlled Senate confirmed 73 judges during President Bill Clinton's final two years.... The more intangible factor is the delay of justice, not only for defendants but also for victims of crime and their families. As [law Prof. Carl] Tobias noted, it is difficult for people to get trial dates and to get their cases heard. This is the issue the Judiciary Committee needs to address with considerable attention. Justice delayed is not justice served. The three Tennessee nominees should be confirmed so they can start to work and bolster the federal judicial system in the state. That would improve the nation's ability to administer justice effectively."
Editorial: Action due on court nominees (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 10/07/15)
"Edward Stanton III ... has the support of Tennessee's U.S. Senate delegation — both members of the Republican majority — in his quest for Senate confirmation to fill a vacant judicial post on the district court.
It would be a shame for Stanton to become mired in the growing logjam of judicial appointments created by senators who seem determined to delay fulfilling an important responsibility of their office until after the next president takes office in 2017.
In fact, Stanton is one of three nominees from Tennessee awaiting action on their nominations by President Obama to fill vacancies on the federal bench.
Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. and Chattanooga attorney Travis McDonough also are being kept in a holding pattern — McDonough since last November.
If you're wondering if Congress has all but abandoned the business of governing in favor of engaging full time in partisan warfare, consider this: During the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 judges; during President Bill Clinton's final two years in office, the Republican Senate confirmed 73 judges. But only six judicial nominees have been confirmed since Republicans regained majority control of the Senate last January.... the indisputable fact is that the criminal justice system needs judges. ... The Senate could score some much-needed credibility points with the public if it buckles down and gives Stanton and other nominees to the federal bench a fair and impartial decision about their future."
Views of the News: DELAYING JUDGE NOMINEES IMPEDES CIVIL COURT CASES (Redlands Daily Facts [CA], 10/06/15)
Howard Hurlbut, Guest columnist: "There is such a shortage of federal judges across America that critical civil cases often must wait three to four years for a hearing.
Since 1990, there has been a 39 percent increase in district and circuit court filings, but only a 4 percent increase the number of judgeships. Congress has not passed a major increase in judges for 25 years.... The Senate has nearly 70 judicial vacancies waiting to be filled. This year Republicans have confirmed only six of Obama’s nominees."
Justice delayed (Butler Eagle [PA], 10/06/15)
Letter to the Editor by John Neurohr: "Back in November 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit....We have a serious problem with federal court vacancies here in Pennsylvania, most especially here in Western Pennsylvania.
While Pennsylvanians experience justice delayed and denied every single day, it’s time for Sen. Toomey to do his job. Now that the Senate has returned from recess, a full vote for Restrepo should be his first priority."
Tennessee judicial nominees caught in Senate logjam (Knoxville News Sentinel [TN], 10/05/15)
Michael Collins column: "Judicial nominee Edward Stanton III of Memphis sailed smoothly through his confirmation hearing last week, with both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators extolling his qualifications for the federal bench and calling for speedy confirmation of his nomination.
But the Senate has been anything but speedy when it comes to confirming judicial nominees.
Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. has been waiting eight months for the Senate to confirm him as the newest federal judge in Tennessee’s Middle District.
Travis McDonough has been waiting even longer. President Barack Obama nominated the Chattanooga attorney last November for a judgeship in Tennessee’s Eastern District, but the Senate has yet to put his nomination to a vote.
Crenshaw and McDonough are caught in a logjam of judicial nominees awaiting a vote by the Senate. Only six judicial nominees have been confirmed since Republicans regained majority control of the Senate last January."
Senate Gets Around To Filling Court Vacancy After 1,069 Days: One down. Dozens more to go. (Huffington Post, 10/05/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "-- It took them nearly three years to do it, but the Senate on Monday confirmed a desperately needed judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
The Senate voted 69 to 21 to confirm Dale Drozd. The seat he fills has been empty for 1,069 days and is a judicial emergency, meaning the workload exceeds 600 cases or has totaled between 430 and 600 cases for more than 18 months.
Drozd was easily confirmed, yet he waited 327 days for a vote. Why? Because Republicans are intentionally slow-walking President Barack Obama's judicial nominees. ... Judge Lawrence O'Neill may be the happiest person of all about Drozd's confirmation. He serves on the busy Fresno court that Drozd now joins. In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, O'Neill described the work schedule he keeps in order to juggle his more than 1,000 cases: 75-hour weeks, at least one full day every weekend and no breaks on holidays.
He credits the media for keeping pressure on the Senate not to blow off the entire judicial branch of government.... Judge Lawrence O'Neill may be the happiest person of all about Drozd's confirmation. He serves on the busy Fresno court that Drozd now joins. In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, O'Neill described the work schedule he keeps in order to juggle his more than 1,000 cases: 75-hour weeks, at least one full day every weekend and no breaks on holidays.
He credits the media for keeping pressure on the Senate not to blow off the entire judicial branch of government."
The Disgraceful State of Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 10/05/15)
Nancy K. Kaufman: "This year the capacity of the federal court system to keep up with its caseload is seriously in question. Judicial vacancies are rising and the Senate is likely to confirm the smallest number of nominees since 1953. ... ll six were voted out of committee with bipartisan support and ultimately confirmed unanimously on the Senate floor, and yet were forced to wait an average of 80 days for a floor vote.... wo judicial nominees pending for over six months have not yet had a confirmation hearing -- although if confirmed, both would end a judicial emergency."
Tennessee judicial nominees caught in Senate logjam (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 10/04/15)
Michael Collins column: "the number of vacancies on the courts has increased from 43 to 67 since January. The number of “judicial emergencies,” meaning the remaining judges can’t keep up with the caseload, has more than doubled, jumping from 12 to 31 since January.
By comparison, during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 judges. Similarly, the Republican Senate confirmed 73 judges during President Bill Clinton’s final two years in office."
How Republican obstruction is destroying the third branch of government (Daily Kos, 10/03/15)
Joan McCarter: "Their obstruction of judges is wrecking that branch, too, and the individual judges.... there's an empty seat in that California district that's been open for more than 1,000 days; judges normally take 500-600 cases annually, but have more than 1,000 in this district; reaching that average caseload would require six new judgeships. That's just one district.
The same problems are playing out across the whole of the federal judiciary and what it means for the American people is justice delayed.... Part of the problem is that Congress has stopped creating judgeships—it hasn't done it since 1990, and there's been a 39 percent increase in cases filed at district and circuit courts. The other, massive, problem is Republican obstruction of nominees to existing vacancies, from refusing to work with President Obama to name nominees at all, to refusing to allow them to reach the Senate floor for confirmation."
More criticism of the Restrepo-confirmation delay (CA3blog, 10/02/15)
Matthew Stiegler: "The Los Angeles Times has this story [LINK] today (headline: “Republican Senate accused of ‘slow walking’ Obama’s judicial nominees”) that features the delay in confirming Judge Restrepo to the Third Circuit. Yesterday, Paul Gordon of People for the American Way posted this informative analysis [LINK] of the current delays in federal judicial confirmations, also featuring Restrepo.... It’s becoming increasingly clear that, when Senator Toomey’s office said way back in May that he was confident Restrepo would be confirmed “by year’s end,” Toomey knew already the Third Circuit would suffer from this inexplicable delay."
Republican Senate accused of 'slow walking' Obama's judicial nominees (Los Angeles Times, 10/02/15)
Timothy M. Phelps: "Mary Barzee Flores, a former public defender and state court judge in Miami, was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Obama in February on the recommendation of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
But since then, Rubio, in consultation with Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), has blocked Flores from even receiving a hearing in the Judiciary Committee pending “a full review” of her record.
Luis Felipe Restrepo, a former U.S. magistrate and currently U.S. District Court judge in Pennsylvania, was nominated for a powerful circuit court judgeship in Philadelphia in November with the strong endorsement of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of his home state, who said Restreppo would “make a superb addition” to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
But then Toomey blocked progress on Restrepo’s nomination for seven months, and the former civil rights lawyer and native of Colombia is still awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.... There are 11 nominees to lifetime judgeships who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. Twenty-one more Obama nominees, including Flores, have not had committee hearings.
Thirty-eight judicial vacancies are yet to be filled, most of them because Republican senators in their home states — who are accorded a veto by Senate custom — have refused to approve any candidates for the job. There are vacancies that have remained open for four, five, and even nine years, all in states with at least one Republican senator."
U.S. Senate schedules confirmation vote for Fresno judge nominee (Fresno Bee [CA] , 10/02/15)
John Ellis: "Just a few days ago, Drozd’s confirmation vote was languishing along with other federal judicial nominees.... The caseload crunch in Fresno is so bad that attorneys in civil actions are asked if they will allow a magistrate judge to hear the case. ... The Fresno court sends 3 of every 4 civil cases where parties don’t agree to be heard by a local magistrate judge to Sacramento."
Senator’s claim about judgeships won’t wash (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 10/02/15)
Vanzetta Penn McPherson, retired U.S. magistrate judge for the Middle District of Alabama: "Sen. Shelby’s recent statement that he has “negotiated in good faith to find nominees that will serve our state well” is an absurdity. And here is why. Two years ago, the state’s lone congressional Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, established screening committees for federal district judges in Alabama. ... our two senators have opposed all of the lawyers considered by the president from the committee’s recommendations, and have sought instead to “pick” candidates (as they have in the past) for the federal bench, without regard for a transparent process and with due regard for opposing the president’s prospective choices. Neither senator can cite a single reason for opposing or rejecting the committee’s recommended candidates that is grounded in legitimate questions about an individual’s judicial temperament, character and integrity, legal and/or judicial experience, or commitment to equal justice.... I served on both of the judicial selection committees"