Editorials and Opinion
Pennsylvania’s missing judges: Only Texas has more vacancies in its federal judiciary (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/08/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "President Barack Obama nominated Judge Restrepo last November for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals headquartered in Philadelphia on the strong bipartisan recommendation of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. ...
Moreover, since 2013, four empty Pennsylvania federal trial court seats have lacked nominees: three of 12 Western District active judgeships and one in the Eastern District. Pennsylvania labors under more openings than any state except Texas. ... On April 30, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, asked Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to include Judge Restrepo in the Wednesday hearing, but on Tuesday Mr. Grassley suggested that he would set a hearing as soon as Mr. Toomey returns the blue slip.
The judge’s hearing is long overdue, as Mr. Obama first nominated Judge Restrepo six months ago and the vacancy he would fill has been designated a judicial emergency by the federal judiciary. A federal circuit candidate nominated the same day as Judge Restrepo received a March 11 hearing and committee approval six weeks later, while all four nominees in Wednesday’s hearing were tapped the same day as Judge Restrepo or later. Mr. Toomey should return Judge Restrepo’s blue slip without delay and both he and Mr. Casey should quickly recommend superb prospects for each remaining Pennsylvania vacancy."
Toomey and Republicans: Do your job, confirm Restrepo (The Hill, 05/08/15)
Dolores Huerta: "Republicans are refusing to move forward on hearings and confirmation of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, even though he is supremely qualified to fill this much-needed appointment.
Restrepo is a highly experienced judge whose appointment would be historic for our community.... he would be the first Latino judge from Pennsylvania to serve on the 3rd Circuit Court and only the second Latino judge ever to serve on that court. "
Benched! A “thorough vetting” or a needless delay? The Third Circuit Court of Appeals needs another judge. (Juneau Empire [AK] , 05/07/15)
"For the past 675 days, the former seat of Senior Judge Anthony Scirica has sat vacant. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts named the seat a judicial emergency earlier this year because the circuit cannot properly manage its current caseload without another active judge.
The problem should be easy to solve. On November 12, 2014, with the support of Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, President Obama nominated District Court Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to fill the spot. Yet, 176 days later, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has not even held a hearing on Judge Restrepo’s nomination.... Judge Restrepo has already waited nearly three times as long for his committee hearing as the average wait for Obama’s other circuit court nominees."
Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/07/15)
Mike Pound: "1) Just when we started getting used to the idea that the U.S. Senate actually getting things done once in a while, we came across the story of Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, who is awaiting the Senate's confirmation of his appointment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The problem for Judge Restrepo, who currently serves as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia? That would be Sen. Pat Toomey; our junior senator swears that he supports the appointment but he has yet to give the go-ahead on the confirmation hearing, and he's not answering questions about the delay."
Harry Reid Calls Out Pat Toomey on GOP Blocking of Restrepo (People For blog, 05/06/15)
"Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid condemned Senate Republicans for obstructing Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo. Although home state Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania publicly expressed support for him half a year ago when he was first nominated, he has blocked the Judiciary Committee from holding a hearing. Whether he is doing this on his own or at the request of committee chairman Chuck Grassley is a mystery, since Toomey has refused to state why he is blocking a nominee he supports....It isn't like Pennsylvanians haven't asked. In fact, some traveled to Washington earlier this week to visit Casey and Toomey's DC offices personally, but Toomey's office reportedly refused to meet with them."
Sen. Toomey obstructing his own judicial nominee to spite Obama (Daily Kos, 05/06/15)
MichaelMorrillPA: "one area that doesn’t get enough attention is the unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s cabinet nominees and federal judges.... this crisis affects all citizens because it creates a backlog of cases that undermines our system of justice ... Back in November, Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on the bipartisan recommendation of our PA senators.... However, in the six-plus months since his recommendation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has still not scheduled a hearing for Judge Restrepo. And Senator Toomey could change that, if he were so inclined to push harder to fill the vacancy.
Empty judgeships mean justice delayed is justice denied for people and businesses in Pennsylvania."
Long Delayed 3rd Cir Nominee Luis Restrepo to Wait Even Longer (Findlaw, 05/06/15)
U.S. Third Circuit blog By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq.: "Even after six months, the Senate is still stalling on President Obama's nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo for the Third Circuit.
When Restrepo was nominated last November, he was one of a cohort of seven nominees to federal judgeships. The Senate has held hearings on only two of that group, so far. ... Restrepo is an uncontroversial nominee. Indeed, before being nominated for the Third Circuit vacancy, he had recently been confirmed for a district court position in 2013. ... The delay in hearing Restrepo's nomination is largely the result of Republican opposition to Obama. Stalling judicial appointments has become routine practice over the past years."
Pat Toomey is blocking his own judicial nominee (Daily Kos, 05/06/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is ... blocking a federal judge he recommended, ... Toomey still hasn't given his "blue slip" for Restrepo to the Judiciary Committee.... the vacancy Restrepo would fill has become a judicial emergency in the six months that he's been waiting for a committee hearing.... Which in turn means justice is not being delivered in a timely manner."
Judge vacancies cause significant delays (Des Moines Register [IA], 05/06/15)
Donna Red Wing, Letter to the Editor: "Sen. Chuck Grassley continues to delay federal judicial nominations. Since he became chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the senator has only scheduled three hearings on these vital posts, despite glaring judicial emergencies.... Despite Judge Restrepo’s impressive qualifications, his nomination to the Third Circuit has stalled for more than five months. While Judge Restrepo has waited for Grassley to schedule a hearing, the seat he will fill on the Third Circuit has become a “judicial emergency,” a designation given to courts where a vacancy is causing significant delays.
While Senator Grassley tarries, qualified candidates like Judge Restrepo are left in limbo, and everyday Americans have to wait to get their day in court."
Pat Toomey Is Blocking His Own Judicial Nominee, For Some Reason (Huffington Post, 05/05/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is preventing one of his own judicial nominees from moving forward, for reasons nobody seems to understand.
Toomey has long supported Luis Restrepo, who President Barack Obama nominated in November to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. ...But Toomey is now blocking Restrepo's nomination by not submitting his so-called "blue slip" ... Pennsylvania's other senator, Bob Casey (D), turned his in back in November.
When asked Tuesday if he's withholding his blue slip, the Republican senator gave The Huffington Post a confusing answer.
"No, I'm not. Well, let me explain how that works to you. But I've got to run for this lunch," he said, walking away quickly. "But I support his confirmation."
Toomey said he didn't have any new concerns about Restrepo and that he would turn in his blue slip. At some point.
"I will be submitting it at the appropriate time," he said, before disappearing into an elevator.
Aides to Toomey didn't offer much clarity. His spokesman said only that the senator "supports Judge Restrepo" and will "continue working for Judge Restrepo's confirmation and hopes it gets done this year.""
Why the holdup on Third Circuit judge nominee? (Philadelphia Daily News [PA], 05/05/15)
Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine: "Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on pending judicial nominations, the first one in eight weeks. One person the committee should hold a hearing for, but who is not on tomorrow's list, is a nominee for a vacancy on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, based here in Philadelphia - a vacancy that has been designated a judicial emergency.
The nominee for that spot, federal District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, was nominated by President Obama back in November. He's exactly the kind of person we want serving on the bench. ... Despite the fact that Restrepo has the support of both of our state's senators and is entirely qualified for the job, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has refused to hold a hearing for him. Why the needless delay?
Of course, this isn't only about Restrepo specifically. It's about our courts being adequately staffed so that they can do the critical work they are meant to do."
New Congress, New Round in Senate Fight Over Obama’s Judges (Roll Call, 05/05/15)
David Hawkings column: "The locus of the new fight is L. Felipe Restrepo, chosen by the president six months ago for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He’s the only person Obama has picked for eight current vacancies on the regional appeals courts. The seat has been open for 18 months, and as a result, the caseload recently became so backlogged that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts declared a “judicial emergency” for appeals out of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee is convening its third hearing of the year Wednesday afternoon to hear from judicial nominees, and Restrepo is not invited. ... The staff for Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said the Iowa Republican is not embracing this approach. Instead, they say the committee is still reviewing the latest background check — something of a curiosity, given that only two years ago the FBI conducted a thorough review of the 56-year-old Restrepo’s life before he was confirmed (on a voice vote) for his current job as a federal trial court judge in Philadelphia.... Adding to the mystery behind the Restrepo delay is the fact that one of the judge’s most important public supporters, Republican Patrick J. Toomey, has not returned the endorsement form (known as a “blue slip”) the committee requires from each home-state senator before a judicial confirmation process begins. He and Pennsylvania’s other senator, Democrat Bob Casey, jointly recommended Restrepo for the lower court, and last fall Toomey declared “he will also make a superb addition to the Third Circuit.”
Toomey’s office declined to discuss the missing blue slip, but spokeswoman E.R. Anderson said Toomey still supports confirmation “and hopes it gets done this year.” ... Restrepo would be the second Latino ever on the Third Circuit."
Toomey supports Restrepo’s CA3 nomination. Now he’s blocking it. (CA3blog, 05/05/15)
"US Senator Pat Toomey is blocking a hearing on the Third Circuit nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo ... This is a shocking. In November, Toomey loudly endorsed Restrepo’s nomination ... in a press release ... A follow-up report by Jennifer Bendery ... on Huffington Post added [an] embarrassing exchange ... Mind-boggling."
EDITORIAL: Delays in filling two federal court seats shortchange the legal process in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 05/03/15)
"Buffalo is now without a single active federal district judge. That will worsen what is already one of the nation’s worst backlogs of civil cases. It is up to the president and Senate to act swiftly to fill the two federal judicial vacancies.... This is not just an inconvenience. Not when it comes to a federal legal system in which it takes, on average, more than five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo. The delays are unconscionable, and more so because the solution is obvious.
One legal observer said this region could use another three district judges, but at the very least the two open seats should be filled.... Both O’Donnell and Vilardo are outstanding candidates and deserving of the positions. They need to win the necessary approvals and take their seats to begin dealing with the overwhelming amount of work waiting for them.
The courts here received more new filings last year than all but nine of the 94 court systems across the country. It’s no wonder that the backlog of civil and criminal cases ranks among the worst in the nation."
Julie DelCour: Here we go again with Senate confirmation delays; Pecked to death by ducks (Tulsa World [OK], 05/03/15)
By JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor: "For the past 20 years, I’ve periodically lamented the sorry pace of judicial confirmations.... In 2012, Oklahoma’s two senators failed to support a qualified Oklahoma appellate court nominee during a filibuster fight. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn later voted to confirm the nominee, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach, to the U.S. [Tenth] Circuit Court .... What was so strange about the filibuster delay was that Coburn had waved Bacharach through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and had described him as “the most qualified nominee I’ve seen in my eight years in the Senate.” ... On April 13, four months into a new Congress, the Senate finally held its first vote on a judicial nominee. Alfred Bennett had waited 297 days, and was confirmed 95-0. That Texas judicial seat had been vacant 769 days, creating a judicial emergency. Other U.S. district judges in the district took up the slack by carrying 430 to 600 cases.
Delays in confirmations do create backlogs in courts all over the country, and hinder the timely administration of justice. It’s one thing if the nominees’ qualifications or judicial philosophy is at issue but in nearly every case that has little to do with delays."
Eye on Boise: Bipartisan panel picked Idaho’s last federal district judge (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 05/03/15)
Betsy Z. Russell column: "“It was the unanimous decision of the commission that Judge B. Lynn Winmill is extremely well qualified for the position,” Craig told the Senate. Winmill’s selection was hailed by all sides, though his background as a Democrat was unquestioned – he was a former county Democratic Party chairman before he became a judge. Craig called him a “long-needed federal judge who is exceptionally well-qualified, honest, hard-working and a community leader,” and told senators, “Although he has an unquestionable Democratic credential, the Republican governor of Idaho also sends his full and unqualified support for this judge.” That was then-Gov. Phil Batt."
Senate must act on judicial vacancies (Herald News [Passaic County, NJ] , 05/03/15)
"Regarding "Lynch confirmed" (Editorials, April 27) and "Vote on AG not required" (Your Views, April 25):
Readers should consider even longer and continuing delays in the U.S. Senate regarding action on nominees.
Two district court judges were first nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch, with strong support from their Texas and Utah Republican senators. ... U.S. District Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated Nov. 12 on the bipartisan recommendation of his Pennsylvania senators.
New Jersey’s senators need to press to move Restrepo and to fill four District of New Jersey vacancies, two of which have pending nominees.
Empty judgeships mean justice delayed is justice denied for people and businesses." Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor
Senate must act on judicial vacancies (Record [NJ] , 05/01/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "Two District Court judges were first nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch, with strong support from their Texas and Utah Republican senators. ... Senate GOP leadership keeps them in limbo, even though one would fill a courts-declared judicial emergency. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has still not held a hearing on a nominee to fill an emergency on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes New Jersey. U.S. District Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated Nov. 12 on the bipartisan recommendation of his Pennsylvania senators. New Jersey's senators need to press to move Restrepo and to fill four District of New Jersey vacancies, two of which have pending nominees."
Long Past Time to Let 3rd Circuit Nominee Restrepo Have His Hearing (People For blog, 04/30/15)
"Eastern Pennsylvania federal judge L. Felipe Restrepo is among those nominees being obstructed. Confirmed to his current position by the Senate by unanimous voice vote in June of 2013, he earned strong statements of support from home state senators Bob Casey (a Democrat) and Pat Toomey (a Republican) when he was nominated for elevation to the Third Circuit last November.
But since then ... nothing. Chairman Grassley has conspicuously refused to schedule a hearing for him. Although Third Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell announced in late January that she plans to take senior status this summer, thus opening a second vacancy on the court if Restrepo is not confirmed by then, Grassley did not schedule a hearing. And when the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts formally classified the vacancy Restrepo would fill as a judicial emergency in February, Grassley's response was ... nothing."
Delays on both sides of the aisle (Washington Post, 04/29/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Judging the Environment, Letter to the Editor: "Republican Senate leaders are holding up two federal district court nominees, including one from Texas who was recommended by Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, for a judicial emergency vacancy. They were nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch was nominated to be attorney general, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved them (and Ms. Lynch) on Feb. 26. There was no disagreement, and both cleared the committee on a unanimous voice vote with support from their home-state Republican senators."
Benched! A premature cutoff for judicial confirmations (Justice Watch, 04/27/15)
"Senator Grassley said of judicial nominations: “Come July of 2016, probably they’ll be cut off and not approving any . . . It’s just kind of tradition.”
But this “tradition” is one of Grassley’s own making. Presidents regularly have district and circuit court nominees confirmed after July 1 of their final year in office. President Clinton had nine in 2000. President George W. Bush had 14 in 2008. And in each case the president faced a Senate controlled by the opposition party."
Grassley Threatening to Shut Down His Minimal Actions on Judges in Mid-2016 (People For blog, 04/27/15)
"Eastern Pennsylvania district judge Phil Restrepo was nominated to the Third Circuit back on November 12 with the support of both of his home state senators (Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey), but Grassley has refused to schedule a hearing for him. Other nominees from last November being affirmatively neglected are Dale Drozd (Eastern District of California), LaShann DeArcy Hall and Ann Donnelly (Eastern District of New York), and Travis McDonough (Eastern District of Tennessee)....Also, someone ought to remind the Senator what happened during George W. Bush's last year in office. In 2008, the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee held hearings for ten of Bush's judicial nominees in September, and all ten were confirmed by the full Senate that same month. In fact, half of those were confirmed just three days after their committee hearing."
Senator Grassley’s ‘Glacial’ Pace on Judicial Nominations (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/23/15)
K.O. Myers: "This glacial pace persists despite the fact that the number of judicial vacancies is on the rise. Of 874 seats on the federal bench, 54 are empty. At least 26 more (including the two for which Grassley made his recommendations) are scheduled to open up in the next year. Twenty-three of those vacancies are designated as “judicial emergencies,” .... In an editorial released a few days after the recommendations were announced, The Des Moines Register gets to the heart of the issue. “Grassley may represent Iowa in the Senate,” the paper’s editorial board writes, “but as judiciary chair he has a duty to assure that all nominees for the bench in all 50 states get fair and prompt hearings and up-or-down confirmation votes on the Senate floor.” Here’s hoping that Senator Grassley will work as diligently for a fully staffed, functional judiciary in the other 49 states as he has here in Iowa."
EDITORIAL: Pick up the confirmation pace (Post and Courier [SC], 04/22/15)
"Senators don’t have to approve presidential nominations for Cabinet, court and other positions. But they should at least make those decisions in a timely manner.... You need not be a fan of President Barack Obama — or of his picking Ms. Lynch as the next attorney general — to find the modern Capitol Hill pattern of needlessly protracted confirmation processes troubling.... politicians in both parties should move away from the troubling trend of lengthy postponements of up-or-down votes on presidential appointments."
EDITORIAL: Our View: Dayton can shape judiciary for years to come (Rochester Post-Bulletin [MN], 04/22/15)
"Wilhelmina Wright, appointed by Dayton to the state Supreme Court in 2012, was nominated last week by President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.... Wright, 51, has 15 years experience as a judge, serving on the Ramsey County District Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals before her appointment to the state Supreme Court. Her nomination to the U.S. District Court is expected to be noncontroversial, although the Republican-led U.S. Senate has been slow to confirm Obama's judicial nominations. If confirmed, Wright would succeed Michael J. Davis, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Minnesota, who will step down from active service on Aug. 1. Davis is the only black federal judge in Minnesota history. Wright, the first African-American woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, would be the second black federal judge."
Bipartisan buds won't survive a frost: Column (USA Today, 04/21/15)
Ross K. Baker: "While Lynch will ultimately be confirmed, scores of other nominees are cooling their heels awaiting either committee action or a vote on the Senate floor."
Thanks, Mitch: Confirmed Judges to Skyrocket From One to Two (People For blog, 04/20/15)
"The GOP-controlled Senate's record for slow-walking President Obama's judicial nominees stands in stark contrast to how the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed George W. Bush's judicial nominees in his final two years. Democrats shepherded 68 of Bush's circuit and district court judges through confirmation in his last two years, including 15 by this point in 2007.
Back in February, the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved four district court nominees from Texas and Utah. But it wasn't until last week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally allowed a vote on one of them, the first and only judicial confirmation vote of the 114th Congress.
Today, McConnell is taking aggressive action by scheduling a Senate vote on ... one of the three remaining district court nominees that have been pending on the floor for nearly two months."
The Register's Editorial: Chairman Grassley: Treat all states alike on judges (Des Moines Register [IA], 04/18/15)
"U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's announcement last week that he is recommending two Iowans for U.S. District Court vacancies in Des Moines and Sioux City is good news for Iowa. The implication is Grassley is prepared to move quickly on Senate confirmations of White House nominees for the federal courts — at least for judgeships in Iowa.... The question on a lot of minds in Washington is whether Grassley will act with the same urgency to move all other judicial nominees through his committee. The evidence on the record so far is not encouraging. Since the Republicans took control of the Senate in January, only one judge has been confirmed. One. Meanwhile, there are 54 vacancies in the federal courts — including 23 that are considered "judicial emergencies" because of the workload in those courts — and 27 more judgeships will be coming vacant based on announced retirements. Grassley may represent Iowa in the Senate, but as judiciary chair he has a duty to assure that all nominees for the bench in all 50 states get fair and prompt hearings and up-or-down confirmation votes on the Senate floor."
EDITORIAL: More double dealing in ExxonMobil settlement (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 04/17/15)
"Gov. Chris Christie's sellout to ExxonMobil just keeps getting worse. ... This settlement is a boon to ExxonMobil — and a huge loser for the state, both from an environmental and financial standpoint. The practical effect of that $225 million will be minimal given all the provisions and caveats — and the state is almost certainly leaving a whole lot of money on the table."