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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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On Circuit Courts, An Opportunity for McConnell to Show He Can Govern (People For blog, 06/08/15)
"A dysfunctional Senate that will not confirm qualified judges in a timely manner threatens the American ideal of equal justice under law. So after the headlines of the past few days, the eyes of the country are on McConnell, waiting to see if he will cater to the rabidly anti-Obama base and prevent votes on any circuit court nominees, or whether he will – as his spokesperson suggested – govern more responsibly. Fortunately for him, he can make that clear quite easily, by scheduling a vote on Kara Farnandez Stoll, nominee to the Federal Circuit. Stoll was cleared by the Judiciary Committee without opposition more than six weeks ago, on April 23. No circuit or district court nominee has been waiting for a floor vote longer. Another circuit court nominee – Pennsylvanian L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit – will have his hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week. With the bipartisan support of his home state senators and having been confirmed to a district judgeship two years ago, Judge Restrepo is another clear consensus nominee. He should be approved quickly by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where McConnell should schedule a timely vote for him, as well."

Your opinions: Letters to the editor for June 5 Judge nominee should be allowed hearing (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 06/05/15)
John Neurohr Jr.: "In November, 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. ... Seven months later, the nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee; ... It's time for Toomey to back his public support for Restrepo by pushing Grassley to hold a hearing."

Senate Judiciary Committee votes out four desperately needed district court nominees (Justice Watch, 06/04/15)
"Three of the four would fill officially designated “judicial emergencies,” and the fourth, a nominee to the Western District of New York, would sit in a Buffalo courthouse that is now without an active judge for the first time in at least 55 years. These nominees were voted out of committee with bipartisan support, and should be immediately confirmed so they can start working for the American people. ... On Mitch McConnell’s watch, the number of judicial vacancies, including those designated as judicial emergencies, has steadily grown over the last five months. But with the four nominees voted out of committee today (and the three pending nominees they join on the Senate floor), McConnell and the Republican majority have an opportunity to do the right thing: confirm them now."

EDITORIAL: Fill vacancies in Alabama federal courts (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 06/02/15)
"Fuller's departure, as welcome as it is, highlights another worrisome issue for the federal courts in Alabama – the now even greater number of vacancies on the bench, a matter of genuine concern. In addition to the seat Fuller held in the Middle District now being vacated, three other judges – two in the Northern District and one in the Middle District – have taken senior status and thus carry reduced caseloads. Beyond that, there is an Alabama vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The courts' ranks are depleted and these vacancies need to be filled.... It's time for some serious bipartisan effort among Shelby and Sessions and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell -- something beyond the acknowledged discussions that have gone on for months – to propose nominees to the president that they all can support. There's no shortage of Alabamians qualified to serve on the district and circuit courts. Those courts are below the number of judges established for them, and those seats should be filled."

Open process to seek new Idaho Court of Appeals judge yields four finalists: Three women, one man (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 06/01/15)
Betsy Z. Russell: "Here’s an interesting contrast: While Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch pursue a secret process to name a recommended replacement for longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who will take senior status July 3, a much different and more open process is under way to replace the retiring state Court of Appeals Judge Karen Lansing.... I reported on April 27 on Risch and Crapo’s secret process for naming a replacement for Lodge; at the time, multiple sources said just four candidates had been interviewed, all of them men, though at least five prominent female Idaho attorneys had applied. Idaho is the only state in the federal 9th Circuit that has never had a woman judge on the U.S. District Court bench; it’s one of just two in the nation. After my article appeared, Risch and Crapo issued a statement saying that both “men and women” were being interviewed and that the process was “ongoing.” “We want a confidential process,” the two senators said in their statement. The word is that now at least two women have been interviewed, but I've received no confirmation of that as yet from the senators."

Editorial: Confirm judge (Republican Herald {PA], 05/30/15)
"No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Judge Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Obama submitted his name.... the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has designated the 3rd Circuit vacancy as a judicial emergency.... the Judiciary Committee, which strongly endorsed Judge Restrepo’s ascension to the district bench three years ago, should convene a hearing and move the nomination toward final approval."

Cornyn and Cruz Are Devastating Texas Courts (People For blog, 05/29/15)
"Even with judicial nominees they themselves recommended, Cornyn and Cruz don't lift a finger to help to prevent delays in committee or on the floor. Just ask Jose Rolando Olvera, who was denied a floor vote until nearly three months after his approval by a unanimous Judiciary Committee in February. That's particularly ironic, since at Olvera's hearing, Cornyn had said that he and Cruz would push for his "swift confirmation." But even worse than this snail's pace post-nomination is the senators' foot-dragging pre-nomination, as they delay making recommendations to fill vacancies in the state's federal courts. Even if there were no vacancies in Texas, the state would need more judges: The Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to add eight new judgeships in the Lone Star State. But Texas, in fact, does have judicial vacancies – nine of them, seven of which have been designated as judicial emergencies (meaning the current caseload is too much for the judges to handle). Not one has a nominee, because Cornyn and Cruz have shown little interest in recommending nominees to the White House in anything approaching a timely manner."

Letter: Senate needlessly delays judge confirmations (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/29/15)
Glenn Sugameli: "Thomas Burr's May 22 article noted Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish's "eight month wait" for the 100-0 Senate vote that confirmed her as a federal district judge. Remarkably, Sen. Orrin Hatch was only able to deliver on the second half of his January pledge to push for "swift and unanimous confirmation." To be fair, state Judge Jose Olvera, Jr.'s 100-0 confirmation to fill a U.S. Courts declared judicial emergency in Texas suffered the exact same delays, despite the January promise of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, to "continue pushing for [his] swift confirmation." Parrish and Olvera were first nominated Sept. 18, 2014, and were approved on a Judiciary Committee voice vote on Feb. 26, 2015 (the same day as Attorney General Loretta Lynch). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's continuing unjustifiable delays of other consensus judicial nominees harm people and businesses, as a lack of judges means justice delayed is justice denied. As The Wall Street Journal reported on April 6: "In Federal Courts, the Civil Cases Pile Up: Record number of pending actions delays some suits for years.""

Editorial: BLM overreached with Richfield ATV plan (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/28/15)
"One anomaly of the Obama administration has been the Bureau of Land Management's willingness to continue state resource-management plans that were pushed through in the waning days of the Bush administration. Those plans in Utah have been decidedly friendly to motorized use and oil and gas exploration. So friendly, in fact, that BLM opened itself up for lawsuits. Environmental groups obliged by filing such suits, and in 2013 U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled in their favor on one suit involving ... spectacular features like the Henry Mountains, Factory Butte and the Dirty Devil River. Tuesday's order from the judge is forcing BLM to review the plan to see if the heavy network of off-road vehicle trails is destroying cultural artifacts left by residents 800 years ago.... He is just requiring BLM to do what it should have done originally, and that is document both the cultural resources and the impact on those resources from ATV traffic. The environmental groups successfully argued that BLM can't claim to protect antiquities when it doesn't even know what's there."

Justice denied because of so many vacant judgeships (Arizona Daily Star, 05/26/15)
Celinas Ruth Op-Ed column: Our federal court system is crumbling. It is being crushed by the weight of a case overload and a shortage of federal judges.... We, as a nation and in Arizona, are experiencing firsthand: “justice delayed is justice denied.”... uring most of President Obama’s term, a seriously high number of vacancies caused by the failure of the Senate to process Obama’s nominations has slowed the progress of civil cases ... On April 5, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended Congress add six permanent and four temporary district judges to the district of Arizona to help handle our state’s burgeoning caseload. A civil case familiar to me in Tucson’s Federal District Court has been stalled for three years,"

On the 7th Circuit, It's Time for Ron Johnson to Get Out of the Way (People For blog, 05/26/15)
"Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is once again playing politics with the nation's oldest appellate court vacancy. This time, he's changing the rules when they don't work for him, violating an agreement he previously made with fellow senator Tammy Baldwin. His latest efforts to delay filling a five year-old vacancy on the Seventh Circuit are absurd and should simply be ignored by the White House.... But to make sure he could keep the Seventh Circuit seat vacant for as long as possible, Johnson ensured that the commission not address that vacancy until it first made recommendations for two district court vacancies. Slowing the process even further, the commission was not allowed to work on the second district court vacancy until the president made a nomination for the first one. This meant that it was not permitted to even start looking for potential Seventh Circuit judges until last summer, 15 months after its formation.... The past few weeks have seen plenty of examples of Republican senators trying to keep circuit court vacancies open for as long as possible rather than let President Obama fill them. Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey blocked committee consideration of Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo for half a year, until the local press coverage became too much for him to bear. In Indiana, Republican Senator Dan Coats this month called for the creation of a nominating commission to fill an Indiana slot on the Seventh Circuit. This came as a surprise to Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, who noted that he's been working on identifying potential nominees for over a year consistent with an agreement he and Coats had reached.... President Obama and Senator Baldwin have gone to incredible lengths to accommodate Ron Johnson. Now that the system that he demanded and agreed to has fallen apart, it's time he got out of the way. If he has objections to whoever the president nominates, the proper place to air them will be at a Judiciary Committee hearing."

Who Caused the Senate Chaos? (Bloomberg News, 05/26/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... If the minority insists on fully exercising its right under current rules to require 60 votes for everything, the majority will eventually impose new rules -- as Democrats did in October 2013 on executive-branch and judicial nominations. ... McConnell as majority leader isn’t at fault for Senate dysfunction now, just as Harry Reid wasn’t responsible for Senate dysfunction in the previous few years. But McConnell can be blamed for abusing the rules when he was in the minority."

Highlights from the Law Blog; Senate Has Confirmed Just Four Judges in 2015 (Wall Street Journal, 05/25/15)
"The minuscule number of confirmations this year follows a burst of Senate approvals in the back half of 2014, a moment when Democrats still controlled the Senate"

EDITORIAL: Our Views: Louisiana black bear makes remarkable turn exiting endangered species list (New Orleans Advocate, 05/25/15)
"One of our trademarks, the bear that inspired Teddy bears, is no longer an endangered species, according to federal authorities, although some longtime advocates for conservation dispute the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service....As few as 100 bears are thought to have been living in the 1950s. We don’t want to go back to that level, but we are reasonably confident that the plans by federal and state authorities will not allow that to happen. This has been in discussion for a long time. Still, it’s good that the Black Bear Conservation Coalition and other environmental groups will keep a close eye on this new development.... Nor could it have happened without private citizens like Harold Schoeffler, whose legal action prompted the settlement that listed the bear as a threatened species in 1991. He’s not entirely happy with regulators now and will doubtless be heard on this new step."

Confirm Barzee-Flores (Miami Herald, 05/23/15)
MEENA JAGANNATH Letter to the Editor: "In February President Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill the vacancy for the Southern District Court of Florida. Barzee-Flores served as a circuit judge on Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami for almost a decade .... Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hasn’t called a hearing to confirm the president’s nominee. I hope Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson will put pressure on Grassley to call a hearing"

Justice delayed is justice denied (Palm Beach Post [FL], 05/22/15)
Jill Hanson: "In our hyperpartisan political atmosphere, where Washington appears incapable of accomplishing anything but bickering, access to justice should not be held up by political posturing. In February, President Barack Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Barzee-Flores is well-qualified for the position. ... For almost three months, justice has been held up for residents of South Florida, because Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not called a hearing to confirm the president’s nominee. I hope Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson put pressure on Grassley"

Mitch McConnell's One-Man Shutdown (Bloomberg News, 05/22/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "As usual, the best comparison is to 2007, when a Republican was president and Democrats had a new Senate majority. In that year, 26 judicial or executive branch nominees were confirmed in May. The Senate has confirmed only 29 nominees this year – just three more than the Democratic Senate did in May 2007 alone. The 2007 tally reached 72 by the end of May. ... ; The committees are slow-walking dozens of judges, ambassadors, members of government boards and everybody else. There’s simply no precedent for the Senate flat-out refusing to act on (most) nominations. It means poor government, mismanagement, justice delayed -- and therefore justice denied. This isn't about the specific nominees. Mostly, this is just an expression of contempt for the man in the Oval Office -- and, really, contempt for the Constitution and the senators' oath of office. It is the Senate's duty to defeat judicial nominees it believes (within reason) are outside the mainstream, and it absolutely should exercise the leverage it is given by the Constitution to secure influence over executive branch departments and agencies through confirmations. That’s not what’s happening here. McConnell and the Republicans are undermining the constitutional order by simply ignoring their responsibilities."

EDITORIAL: Judicial vacancy highlights Washington dysfunction (Wisconsin State Journal, 05/22/15)
"The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has been waiting for more than five years for Washington to fill a vacant judicial seat. The empty post increases the workload for other judges and could delay court decisions affecting Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.... The vacancy predates Johnson. But when he took office in 2011, he blocked a nominee who President Obama had picked for the job. ... Johnson owns this embarrassing episode more than anyone because it has dovetailed with his nearly five-year tenure. ... Wisconsin’s U.S. senators should be able to get this important job filled without adding any more time to a five-year standoff that has weakened Wisconsin courts."

How long did it take a unanimous Senate to confirm two judges? (Washington Post, 05/21/15)
Al Kamen column: "The Senate Judiciary Committee approved both Parrish and Olvera without dissent back in February. The Senate, embroiled in a long-running, bitter and partisan battle over judicial confirmations, has, with Thursday’s votes, confirmed a total of four judges so far this year."

Rolly: Collateral damage (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/21/15)
Paul Rolly column: "Utah's federal court has had a vacancy for more than a year because the U.S. Senate cannot seem to get its act together to confirm Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish — even though President Barack Obama initially nominated her in September and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has had nothing but praise for the pick. When the Senate failed to vote on her last year, Obama renominated her in January. Hatch said he expected her to be confirmed within weeks. Finally, four months later, the vote on Parrish, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February ... The Senate finally confirmed her, unanimously, Thursday."

Senate Has Confirmed Just Two Judges in 2015 (Wall Street Journal, 05/20/15)
Jacob Gershman: "Even by the standards of Congress, that’s a remarkably slow pace ... One thing is certain, the trickle of confirmation votes this year isn’t helping the judiciary empty its backlog of civil cases. As The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo reported in April, more than 330,000 such cases were pending as of last fall—a record—up nearly 20% since 2004, according to judiciary data."

Want to be called ‘Your Honor?’ You may have to wait for that (Washington Post, 05/19/15)
Al Kamen: "The Senate, as it heads into the Memorial Day recess next week, has so far this year confirmed only two judges, both of them from Texas, home of GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Five other candidates have been awaiting a full Senate vote, and it’s not clear they’re going to get one this week. Three of them (including one from Texas and another backed by Utah GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee) have been pending since February. There are another 12 waiting in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eight still need a hearing, and another four have had their hearing and are awaiting a vote. That vote could come on Thursday — though probably not. As it stands, there are 57 federal judicial vacancies, up from 43 at the beginning of this year. In contrast, a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2007 had confirmed 18 nominees by now (though some were holdovers from 2006), and the vacancies had dropped from 56 at the beginning of the year down to 50 by mid-May"


Judicial nominee ignored by Congress (Sun Sentinel [FL], 05/18/15)
Letter to the Editor, by Mara Shlackman: "In February, President Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill the vacancy on the Federal Southern District Court of Florida. ... Even after the courts declared the vacant seat a "judicial emergency" (a sign that a judge is needed as soon as possible), for almost three months, justice has been held up for residents of South Florida, because Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not called a hearing to confirm the president's nominee. I hope Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson will put pressure on Grassley to call a hearing to confirm Judge Barzee-Flores. Justice for Floridians should not be delayed due to political obstructionism."

Benched! National Review gets the history wrong on judicial confirmations (Justice Watch, 05/15/15)
"Severino makes the misleading claim that Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has “held five hearings and considered 14 nominees” this year, but fails to mention that only three of those hearings included nominees to Article III judgeships, for a total of 10 nominees. And for the hearing held on March 11, Grassley listed just two judicial nominees, passing over five nominees who had been nominated back in November 2014. Most egregiously, Grassley has forced Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo to wait (so far) more than six months for a hearing, even though Judge Restrepo has the support of Republican home-state Senator Pat Toomey, and was confirmed to a district court seat without opposition in 2013. With vacancies rising and qualified nominees pending, the Senate has a constitutional obligation to act, and that obligation does not depend on the historical pace of confirmations."

Sen. Pat Toomey flip-flops, lifts block on judicial nominee (Daily Kos, 05/15/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has been feeling some heat back home for blocking a judicial nominee for a seat that has been vacant long enough to create a judicial emergency in the third circuit U.S. court of appeals.... Miraculously, the minute that Toomey said he had to wait until the background check was done, the "new background check has been completed.""


EDITORIAL: Toomey needs to explain himself regarding judge (Observer-Reporter [PA], 05/14/15)
"It’s not uncommon for a member of the U.S. Senate to put a temporary block on a judicial nominee over philosophical or political differences. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is doing that right now with President Obama’s nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. And on whose recommendation did the president make this nomination? Why, it was none other than Sen. Pat Toomey. We kid you not. Toomey is throwing a roadblock in front of his own judicial choice.... An aide to the senator said Toomey “hopes it gets done this year.” This year? It’s only May. One would hope that Restrepo’s nomination advances well before the end of 2015, considering that he already has been cooling his heels since last November."

Sen. Pat Toomey insists he's not blocking the judicial nomination he's totally blocking (Daily Kos, 05/14/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey inexplicably has been blocking a judicial nominee whom he actually endorsed and has been supporting since 2013....But now he's taking a new approach, by denying that he's holding up the nomination, while he's clearly holding up the nomination.... Except, as Huffington Post notes, that's not true. His fellow Pennsylvanian, Democrat Bob Casey, provided his blue slip back in November and the committee's investigation of Restrepo continued apace—the one thing has nothing to do with the other."

Nomination deserved (Williamsport [PA] Sun-Gazette, 05/14/15)
Alison Hirsch, Letter to the Editor: "More than six months ago, in a rare case bipartisanship, Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey both publicly supported the nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo for an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold a hearing for Judge Restrepo despite initially having support from both Pennsylvania Senators....Senator Toomey could be putting more pressure on Senator Grassley to move this nomination forward. When these kinds of vacancies go unfilled, court cases get backlogged and justice is unnecessarily delayed."