Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: New GOP Congress and President Obama have a chance to break Washington’s gridlock (Kansas City Star, 11/09/14)
"On many issues, there is room for modest accomplishments, if not much more. Consider judicial appointments. For the last few years, Republican senators have delayed or blocked many of Obama’s nominees. They now have the power to do so more effectively, but they also have the obligation to ensure a functional judiciary. The same goes for other executive appointments, including the just-announced nominee for attorney general. Obama, for his part, must choose moderates whom Republicans can confirm. And cross your fingers that a Supreme Court vacancy doesn’t come up. That would almost certainly become a bitter partisan fight that could derail everything else."
Republican Claims About Judicial Nominations Combine Gross Inaccuracies With Banal Observations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "Hatch and Gray persist in their bizarre view that it was improper for President Obama to fill longstanding vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, and they complain that rules reform has led to "controversial judges." These claims ignore the fact that President George W. Bush filled exactly the same seats on the D.C. Circuit when they became vacant during his administration, and his appointees included controversial judges Janice Rogers Brown (confirmed by a vote of 56 to 43) and Brett Kavanaugh (confirmed by a 57 to 36 vote)....Of the 62 federal judges confirmed in 2014 so far, 45 -- or 73 percent -- were confirmed with 90 or more votes in favor; 56 nominees -- or 90 percent -- were confirmed with bipartisan support....Senate Republicans have relentlessly obstructed President Obama's judicial nominees"
The Parties Can and Should Come Together on Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: "vacancies can and should be filled during the lame-duck session. ...Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who faced opposition Senates, saw the confirmation of twenty percent of their total judicial appointments during the last two years of their second terms. There's no reason this can't hold true for President Obama."
Editorial: With campaigns done, now Obama and GOP must lead (Dallas Morning News, 11/05/14)
"Republicans, who will control all of Congress in January, must show they can do more than obstruct the president and his party....A good time to test-drive this is during the lame-duck session before the new Congress is seated in January.
One must-do is the matter of funding the federal government, as a stopgap measure expires Dec. 11 — precisely the kind of measure that has caused past D.C. governance to grind to a halt. Other issues are stalled Obama nominations. ...
This newspaper has been critical of congressional Republicans for their obstinacy — and will remain so if they continue on that path."
Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges (Huffington Post, 11/05/14)
Paul Gordon: "During the upcoming lame duck session, the Senate has an opportunity to finish up a critically important task where they can act quickly by unanimous consent or voice votes: confirming two dozen judicial nominees....Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader.... Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader."
Judicial Confirmations (New York Times, 11/04/14)
Letter from Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "The last three presidents to serve two terms were confronted by a Senate controlled by the opposition party during their last two years in office. But in every case, of all the judges the three presidents saw confirmed, about 20 percent were confirmed during those two years. In other words, 20 percent of their total confirmations came during the last 25 percent of their time in office. Although it is safe to presume that confirmations would slow down in a Republican Senate, neither the White House nor Senate Democrats should yield to the narrative of an inevitable confirmation shutdown."
EDITORIAL: The Senate is unjustly delaying D.C. Superior Court nominations (Washington Post, 10/10/14)
"THERE IS no controversy over the nomination of William Nooter to be a judge on the D.C. Superior Court. His presentation before a Senate committee was so well-received that it took only 18 minutes for him to be unanimously approved. ... But almost a year after Mr. Nooter handily won committee approval, his nomination has yet to make it to the Senate floor."
Vacancies must be filled on Alabama's federal bench: guest opinion (AL.com [AL], 10/04/14)
Leslie M. Proll, director, DC office, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.: "Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby should use the Congressional recess before the November elections to help fill the vacancies on Alabama's federal bench.... Three vacancies currently exist -- one on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and two on Alabama's federal district courts. Each pending for more than a year ... Promoting racial diversity must be a top consideration in selecting the next nominee for the Eleventh Circuit. This Circuit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (25%) of any circuit in the country, yet only one of its twelve judges is African-American.... Since 1891, only white males have represented Alabama on its federal appellate court."
Editorial: Overdue progress on U.S. judges (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 09/25/14)
"Three nominations to the U.S. District Court in Texas' Southern District last week could further signal a welcome end to the state's judicial logjam. Judicial advocates have labeled Texas as the epicenter of a crisis in filling federal judicial vacancies — with the state containing too many of what were labeled judicial emergencies.... Pitman and two other nominees for Texas judgeships had their hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. At that hearing, the state's two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, supported the nominees.
That same kind of support came after the presidential nominations last week.
This is a good sign that both GOP senators are taking their roles seriously.... Even when all vacancies are filled, however, another task remains. That would be acting on the certainty that one of the fastest-growing states lacks enough federal judges in the first place."
Senate’s unfinished business: Fill judicial vacancies (The Hill, 09/17/14)
Raymond M. Lodato: "While several bills are making their way through the upper house, the arena in which it can have the most impact is in confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees. So far this year, the upper house has filled 68 vacancies on the Federal bench, more than in all of 2013. However, even with the increased pace, 60 vacancies remain on Federal district and appellate benches.
Each vacancy in the Federal courts increases the burden on active and senior judges (who work a reduced number of cases in semi-retirement) and delays the administration of justice for individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups seeking resolution of their claims. Nearly two dozen of the vacancies have been classified as “judicial emergencies” because of the length of time they have been unfilled and the number of cases in their jurisdictions."
Confirm Leeson, other U.S. judicial nominees (Morning Call [PA], 09/16/14)
Christine Stone, co-chair of Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "With just a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, Sen. Toomey must play a leadership role in discouraging his party from delaying and obstructing federal court judicial nominees just because they can. Sen. Toomey understands the importance of addressing the nation's judicial vacancy crisis. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon their obstruction and delay of judiciary committee votes and instead send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald Pappert, Joseph Leeson, Jr. and Mark Kearney to the full Senate for a vote. When these jurists were nominated, both Sens. Casey and Toomey publicly voiced their strong support. Sen. Toomey also noted that a vote on Mr. Leeson's nomination would mean that for the first time the Allentown courthouse would have two sitting federal district court judges."
ISSUE | JUDICIAL VACANCIES: Sen. Toomey can help fit these robes (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 09/15/14)
Christine M. Stone and Jodi Hirsh, cochairs, PA Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "Pennsylvanians can't afford to let the U.S. Senate play politics with eight federal judicial vacancies. Unnecessary delays on judicial nominations cause real, lasting consequences for Americans seeking justice. With a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, partisan politics need to be put aside. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) must play a leadership role, having publicly committed to working with Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) to fill the vacancies. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon its obstruction and delay of Judiciary Committee votes and send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald J. Pappert, Joseph F. Leeson Jr., and Mark A. Kearney to the full Senate for a vote."
It's taken 2 decades for Congress to do right (Des Moines Register [IA] , 09/13/14)
Rox Laird, Opinion column: "On July 16, Ronnie White was confirmed as a federal trial judge in Missouri by the U.S. Senate 17 years after he was first appointed by President Bill Clinton. The appointment of White — an African-American lawyer and former Missouri Supreme Court justice — to the federal court is an important symbol of the progress blacks have made in a city where the slave trade once flourished. Yet, White's backers saw racism in the campaign by Senate Republicans to reject his nomination nearly two decades earlier. ...Iowa's Sen. Chuck Grassley voted against White both times and delivered a lengthy statement giving his reasons. ... the progress from slave trade to a black man sitting on the federal bench is a long distance. Sadly, whether because of race or the Senate's broken confirmation system, Ronnie White almost did not make the trip."
A New Reason to Confirm Texas Judicial Nominees This Fall (People For blog, 09/08/14)
"The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts this morning formally reclassified a longstanding judicial vacancy in southern Texas as a judicial emergency... Of the Lone Star State's 11 current vacancies, eight of them are judicial emergencies, and eight of them have no nominees. Those numbers are too high.
Fortunately, nominees for three of the state's emergencies are having hearings before the Judiciary Committee tomorrow: Amos Mazzant, Trey Schroeder, and Robert Pitman. They have the support of the White House that nominated them and the two Republican senators who recommended them. ... If the Judiciary Committee can vote them out before leaving town later this month, the Senate should be able to hold a confirmation vote before the election. Otherwise, senators will need to come back to approve them in a lame duck session."
Opinion The new battle over Blair Mountain -- with lawyers instead of guns (Los Angeles Times, 09/01/14)
Scott Martelle: "Last week in a 2-1 vote, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the judge’s dismissal, deciding that the plaintiffs did have standing, in part because removing the surface of Blair Mountain would create a landscape where widely appreciated beauty now exists. In dissent, the lone “no” vote questioned whether anyone has a legal right to enjoy the view of another’s property, despite a litany of prior cases the majority cited."
Catch of the Day: Redefining Obstruction (Bloomberg News, 08/25/14)
Jonathan Bernstein column: "even after the "nuclear option" reform in the Senate last fall, President Barack Obama's federal court nominees still wait longer for confirmation than their predecessors under previous presidents....I should stress that these are in many cases delays of non-controversial nominees.... Unfortunately, Republicans simply haven’t abided by longstanding Senate norms. After Obama's election, they suddenly insisted that every nomination required 60 votes -- an unprecedented hurdle. They blockaded multiple nominations to the DC Circuit Court. They have, before and after filibuster reform, used Senate rules to delay even nominations that they have intended ultimately to support. Since reform, they have imposed the maximum delay on every single judicial nominee.... if Republicans win a Senate majority in November, they may simply shut down all nominations for two full years. That would be absolutely outrageous."
Yes, Republicans Really Are Unprecedented in Their Obstructionism (Mother Jones, 08/25/14)
Kevin Drum: "for Obama. His numbers for his first five years are far, far higher than Bush's even though Bush's are inflated by delays during his final year in office. It's just another example of the fact that, no, both parties aren't equally at fault for the current level of government dysfunction. Republicans greeted Obama's inauguration with an active plan of maximal obstruction of everything he did, regardless of what it was or how necessary it might be in the face of an epic economic collapse. No other party in recent history has done that."
EDITORIAL: Congress and its unearned vacation (Kansas City Star, 08/08/14)
"Then there are all of the long-term challenges that Congress won’t confront in any serious way:... Many of the president’s nominees to be judges and ambassadors remain in limbo."
EDITORIAL: As Arcara prepares to scale back, Washington needs to do its job (Buffalo News [NY], 07/30/14)
"[L]et us urge the U.S. Senate to move swiftly in confirmation of two new judges desperately needed, one of whom has already been recommended.... And to make matters worse, if the Senate drags its collective feet too long, say until 2015, there is a chance that the entire landscape could have changed if Republicans regain control of the Senate in the November election. There’s a good chance Republicans will reject all of Obama’s judicial nominees. Time is of the essence. But the dockets are choked with cases....There is an opportunity here, as Arcara has noted. With two new judges, along with his and Skretny’s willingness to continue hearing cases, it is possible to significantly reduce the backlog of cases."
Do Republicans Warrant Being the Majority Party in Both Houses? (Huffington Post, 07/24/14)
Byron Williams: "Utilizing the rules of the Senate, Republicans have succeeded in blocking more of President Obama's judicial nominations than the combined total of his predecessors. Elections have consequences; at least they should, but not in the current GOP world."
Brent Budowsky: Cruz could destroy GOP (The Hill, 07/23/14)
"The Cruz influence is almost entirely negative. For example, senators can prevent judicial vacancies from being filled by a practice called the blue slip. While Texas litigants have an urgent need for vacant judgeships to be filled, because of immigration and many other pressing matters, Cruz has abused the blue slip practice and kept many judicial chambers empty."
No Winners, Only Losers, When it Comes to Judicial Vacancies (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 07/21/14)
Andrew Cohen: "What the conversation about judicial nominations sorely lacks is a broader look at the constitutional responsibility of the executive and legislative branches to consistently ensure that the third branch, the judiciary, has enough judges to ensure that the nation’s rule of law is fairly and evenly administered....there is no equal justice under law if people in this jurisdiction are treated differently from people in jurisdictions whose federal courts are fully-staffed. In this respect, the Brennan Center report also is important because of the candor it includes from judges most directly impacted by the nation’s empty benches."
EDITORIAL: Only Senate can fix broken process of confirmations (Dubuque Telegraph Herald [IA], 07/09/14)
"It’s up to the Senate to reform the broken confirmation process. ...The gamesmanship to avoid appointing qualified nominees has real negative consequences for government agencies and by extension, the American people. The Senate should expedite decisions, especially on noncontroversial nominees, and keep the nominating process moving. President Obama reached too far in making appointments without Senate approval. But it’s the Senate that created the backlog in the first place."
145 Nominees Still Can’t Do Their Jobs Because Republicans Won’t Do Theirs (Nation, 07/08/14)
George Zornick: "So why are these nominees waiting so long? Routine obstruction by Republican senators who are deliberately stretching out the confirmation process for virtually every nominee to come through the Senate. ... A report by Common Cause in May found nineteen examples of Republican senators chewing up cloture time on judicial nominees who were later confirmed unanimously by the Senate."
EDITORIAL: Some real movement on that judicial appointment (Daily News [Galveston County, TX], 07/05/14)
"Here’s some good news: Texas’ two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, are moving quickly to fill judicial vacancies, including the one in Galveston....Cornyn and Cruz established a bipartisan panel to help identify the most qualified candidates.
They’ve put the word out, encouraging qualified candidates to apply. The notable thing is the application deadline: Aug. 1. The senators are moving."
Editorial: No judge, no justice (Dallas Morning News, 07/04/14)
"In the current hyper-partisan gridlock of Washington, however, the nomination and confirmation process has virtually ground to a halt, leaving Texas with more unfilled seats on federal benches than any other state. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz need to pick up the pace in nominating applicants to fill these seats. ... In the current hyper-partisan gridlock of Washington, however, the nomination and confirmation process has virtually ground to a halt, leaving Texas with more unfilled seats on federal benches than any other state.
Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz need to pick up the pace in nominating applicants to fill these seats....Why aren’t the names of nominees to fill the other vacancies already on the president’s desk, especially since many of those seats came open more than two years ago?"
Texas’ judicial backlog is finally being addressed (Dallas Morning News, 07/02/14)
Ashley Croswell, Letter to the Editor: "It is exciting to see that the judicial vacancy crisis in Texas is beginning to be remedied. Those vacancies have created a 12,000-plus-case backlog, totaling 19 years’ worth of work not done in our federal courts. Our federal courts are often the principal protectors of our natural resources. Defenders of the environment turn to federal courts to hold accountable those that jeopardize our health and the health of our planet. Federal courts can be the last resort for environmental justice. That is why judges who enforce laws that protect the environment are indispensable."
EDITORIAL: A Unanimous Supreme Court: A Blow to Presidential Appointments (New York Times, 06/27/14)
"The effect of the ruling is reduced somewhat because the Senate, in overhauling its filibuster rules last year, ended the ability of the minority party to block appointments with only two-fifths of the chamber. For the moment, Republicans are no longer able to prevent the functioning of an agency they don’t like, such as the labor board, by refusing to make any appointments. But all that could change if Republicans take over the Senate next year and begin blocking all nominees with a simple majority vote, then refusing to allow recess appointments."
Symposium: The Senate must act to end dysfunction (SCOTUSBlog, 06/27/14)
Alicia Bannon and David Earley: "The Senate already took an important step toward reform last fall by changing the filibuster procedure for most nominees to require only a majority vote for cloture. Yet further reforms are urgently required to ensure that executive and judicial nominees are considered in a timely fashion – including reducing opportunities to waste floor time and reforming the blue slip process, where home-state senators can keep judicial nominees from moving forward. Without such reform, yesterday’s decision has the potential to significantly hamstring the president’s power to execute our laws."