Editorials and Opinion
Forum editorial: Still no nominee for circuit (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead [ND], 01/05/16)
"Judge Kermit Bye of Fargo announced more than a year ago he would take senior status on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. He did so early in 2015. Yet, there still is no nominee to fill his position. ... The process is taking longer than it should.... In the 125-year history of North Dakota, no woman has served as judge on the federal district court or federal circuit court. ... The bar has changed a lot during that time. ... North Dakota, the senators and the president could make history by speeding the nomination of a qualified woman."
Still vacant after all these years (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/05/16)
Sharon McCloskey: "Near the end of 2005, U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard stepped down from his seat on the federal bench in eastern North Carolina .... in 2009 the senators threw their support behind federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker.... But once President Obama nominated her in 2013, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr — who for years took his senate colleagues to task for holding up judicial nominations — inexplicably blocked the nomination .... Plenty of seats elsewhere have been filled, and the number of district court openings deemed a “judicial emergency” is now 32. All of the seats have been open for only a year or two — except for Howard’s."
Judicial Confirmations in 2016: The Myth of the Thurmond Rule (Justice Watch, 01/04/16)
Kyle Barry: "The Thurmond Rule is not real. It is a myth, a figment of the partisan imagination invoked to give an air of legitimacy to a strategy—blocking even the most noncontroversial of judicial nominees—that is pure obstruction.... Going back to Reagan, the Senate has confirmed an average of 16 judges in the second half of presidential election years, and in 2008 the Democratic Senate confirmed 22 judges in the last seven months of the George W. Bush administration, including 10 district court judges in September. It is telling that these numbers well exceed the 11 confirmed in all of 2015, when the Senate was supposedly operating under “regular order.”... All this historical data was perhaps best summed up by Chuck Grassley himself, who in 2008 spoke at a hearing dedicated to arguing that the Thurmond Rule does not exist: “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term,” and the Thurmond Rule, Grassley said, is “plain bunk.”"
Justice denied in Texas (Dallas Morning News, 01/01/16)
Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: "This editorial is correct when it states that “U.S. senators have a long tradition of delaying confirmations of judges.” Nowhere is that tradition more longstanding or damaging than in Texas, which is ground zero for the “confirmation wars.”
Texas now has two lengthy 5th Circuit vacancies and seven protracted district court vacancies, eight of which the U.S. courts designate as “judicial emergencies,” because of their prolonged nature or the courts’ huge dockets.
None of the nine Texas vacancies has a nominee due in large measure to the failure of GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to suggest well-qualified, consensus candidates for White House consideration and nomination. The senators’ lack of cooperation means that justice delayed is justice denied for businesses and individuals who litigate in Texas federal courts."
Opinion | The grinch who stole the federal courts (Courier-Journal [KY] , 12/30/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "In mid-December, as the Senate hurtled toward the intersession recess, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, played the Grinch who stole the federal courts’ Christmas. McConnell refused to allow yes or no final votes before the recess for any of 19 well-qualified, consensus judicial nominees, all of whom the Judiciary Committee approved without dissent .... McConnell’s inactivity means that 14 nominees must wait at least until Feb. 22 for consideration. Moreover, the federal courts will experience 75 vacancies, 31 of which are “judicial emergencies” due to their protracted length or huge caseloads, by the Jan. 11 date when the Senate will return.... The notion that the new GOP Senate majority’s pledge to reinstitute chamber regular order mandated delaying all 19 nominees’ consideration is absurd, especially because the Senate had consistently voted on packages of nominees ahead of prolonged recesses, most recently and relevantly in the Bush Administration."
Chairman Grassley oversees "worst year for judicial confirmations in over half a century" (Bleeding Heartland, 12/30/15)
"Two nominees for judicial vacancies in Iowa are among 14 "consensus" nominees whose confirmations did not come up on the Senate floor before the winter recess, contrary to what was once "routine practice" in the Senate. People for the American Way pointed out in a November 9 blog post that even though Grassley "promised to process [judicial] nominees in the order he received them," he "leapfrogged" Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, whom President Barack Obama nominated in mid-September, "over ten longer-waiting district court nominees." Ebinger would fill a vacancy in Iowa’s Southern District, which is not a judicial emergency. Most of the non-controversial nominees left hanging until the new year would alleviate judicial emergencies"
One Of The Biggest Losers Of 2015 Was An Entire Branch Of Government: Federal courts got screwed by Senate Republicans. (Huffington Post, 12/30/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "The Senate only confirmed 11 federal judges this year -- the lowest number in more than half a century. At the same time, court vacancies jumped from 42 to 66, and the number of courts with "judicial emergencies," where judges face staggering, unmanageable caseloads, more than doubled.... The Senate adjourned in December without confirming 19 judicial nominees who were ready for a vote. None are controversial; they all cleared the Judiciary Committee without opposition. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pushed them into next year to drag out the process.
It's hurting the court system -- and the people it serves. Civil cases are being delayed for years at a time. Judges are burning out trying to keep up. Semi-retired judges are pulling full-time hours to help keep their courts from collapsing under their own weight. The Senate is effectively strangling parts of the judicial system.... There's also the paradox of Republican senators blocking their GOP colleagues' nominees just to spite Obama."
A Call for Additional Federal Judges (The Docket [Denver, CO Bar Association], 12/28/15)
Sean R. Gallagher and James M. Lyons: "31 years later, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado is still only allocated seven active Article III judges. The time has come for Congress to create and fund two new Article III judges for the District of Colorado."
Everything You Need To Know About How Republicans Are Running The Senate, In One Number (Think Progress, 12/27/15)
Ian Millhiser: "If you want to understand how the Senate has functioned since Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took over as Senate Majority Leader last January, the number 11 offers a clear window into McConnell’s entire philosophy of governance — or perhaps, non-governance. According to the Federal Judicial Center, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 11 judges this year. That compares to 40 during President George W. Bush’s seventh year in office, 34 during President Bill Clinton’s seventh year, and 44 at this point in Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Notably, all three of these presidents also spent their seventh year during a period of divided government when the opposite party controlled the Senate, and yet judicial confirmations only slowed to their current crawl under Majority Leader McConnell....the Senate confirmed 6 appellate judges during Bush’s seventh year in office, 7 during Clinton’s seventh year and 10 under Reagan."
Vote on Nominee: Letter to the Editor on Judicial Confirmation (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 12/25/15)
Eric Marsh: "It has been more than a year since President Obama nominated federal Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., both recommend his nomination.
One of the most important components of a senator’s role is to give advice and consent on federal judicial nominees. 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 federal court vacancy crisis. Reports suggest that Toomey obstructed the nomination hearing while commenting publicly about what a fantastic nominee Restrepo is. This is politics at its worst."
Editorial: GOP field loses serious candidate: LINDSEY GRAHAM (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 12/23/15)
"The editorial pages of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal agree. Both lament the withdrawal of Lindsey Graham from the GOP’s presidential sweepstakes. The South Carolina senator ranked among the outstanding candidates in the field.... He voted to confirm Obama nominations to the Supreme Court because he believes elections have consequences and presidents deserve deference in judicial selections. Ideologues believe Graham’s standards apply to Republican presidents but not to Democrats."
Toomey plays politics on judicial appointments: Whatever Toomey has accomplished on judges, his work is not over. (York Daily Record [PA], 12/23/15)
Christine Stone letter to the editor: "Sen. Pat Toomey’s defense of his record on judicial appointments (“Bipartisan cooperation on judicial appointments”) fails to tell the full story. ... Toomey trumpets Third Circuit nominee Judge Restrepo, but it will take Restrepo more than a year to be confirmed (a vote is scheduled for Jan. 11). It was Toomey who allowed Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to delay Restrepo’s confirmation hearing for seven months, and it was Toomey who then allowed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay Restrepo’s floor vote for another six months. ... He makes no mention of another Third Circuit vacancy, the seat formerly held by Judge Marjorie Rendell, that’s already been empty more than 150 days without a nominee. With a year left in office, there is plenty of time for President Obama to appoint Judge Rendell’s replacement. In 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, Bush nominated a Fourth Circuit judge in March who was confirmed in May. Toomey should be working with Sen. Casey and the White House to promptly name a nominee for this important vacancy, and then make sure the nominee receives fair consideration in the Senate.
After the delays endured by Judge Restrepo, it’s the least he can do."
Editorial: Graham’s parting triumph (Post and Courier [SC], 12/22/15)
"Sen. Graham has consistently bucked the bitter divisiveness that perpetuates Washington gridlock. He reached across the aisle to forge a senatorial accord breaking the impasse on judicial confirmations, which has been a thorny challenge for presidents of both parties."a
With Grassley's help, two Iowa federal judge nominees leapfrog Nebraska's (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 12/21/15)
Joseph Morton: "Nebraska’s legal community had hoped to see Omaha attorney Robert Rossiter Jr. confirmed as the state’s next federal judge by the end of this year. Instead, Rossiter will be cooling his heels at least a few more months after a couple of Iowa nominees cut in front of him.... Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was blunt when asked why two pending nominations from his home state had been bumped up the calendar. “Because I’m chairman of the committee,” Grassley said, referring to his position as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.... Grassley said he asked McConnell to get the two Iowa nominations scheduled in the next batch.
Judicial nominations have become a political football in the Senate, and it’s common for the process to drag on for months — even when a nominee is not controversial. So far this year the Senate has confirmed 11 judges.
So when a nominee such as Rossiter loses his place in line, it can mean a significant delay in filling a court vacancy. ... Grassley acknowledged that he had heard from Nebraska’s senators, both of whom have pushed for Rossiter’s approval.
“I’ve been hearing from them for six weeks, maybe two months,” Grassley said....[Sen.] Fischer has repeatedly called for a speedy confirmation, saying Nebraska has a “small bench and a full docket.”... The situation will probably become even more dire in October, when Bataillon becomes president of the state bar association and is expected to cut down on his caseload.
Fischer told The World-Herald last week that she was disappointed in the news that Rossiter was bypassed but showed little desire to criticize Grassley.
“We’ll get it done,” she said. “Everybody runs their committee differently.”
Grassley noted that home-state favoritism in moving nominations is nothing new. He said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., acted similarly when he was running the committee.
Grassley also had a simple answer when asked what he would say to Nebraskans waiting for their judge.
“That they’ll get him soon after the Iowa judges are approved,” Grassley said."
Julie DelCour: Judgment Day: Senate's judicial confirmation rate unacceptable (Tulsa World [OK], 12/20/15)
By JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor: "President Barack Obama finally nominated two candidates for U.S. District Court openings in the Oklahoma City-based Western District. Both nominees have the enthusiastic support of Republican U.S. Sens. James Inhofe and James Lankford.
Unfortunately, that backing does not guarantee U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Mitchell and Scott L. Palk, University of Oklahoma College of Law assistant general counsel and assistant dean of students, are shoo-ins for rapid Senate confirmation, although based on their qualifications, they certainly should be.... Since Republicans gained control of the Senate last January, the Senate has confirmed only 11 of the president’s nominees, the slowest pace in 50 years.... all this stalling leaves the public’s business unfinished, victimizing average Americans who cannot count on having fully functioning courts."
Only Eleven New Judges Judging: The Year in Judicial Nominations (National Women's Law Center blog, 12/18/15)
Amy K. Matsui: "the Senate has not confirmed this few nominees since 1960 – over 50 years ago. ...The painfully slow pace of confirmations resulted in a skyrocketing number of vacancies on the federal bench. Specifically, in January 2015, there were 43 vacancies in Article III courts; as of today, there are 66. And the more vacancies that are left, and left longer, the greater the risk that the recent gains in diversity on the federal bench erode."
Leahy again blasts Tom Cotton for waylaying court appointment (Arkansas Times, 12/18/15)
Max Brantley: "The question is this: Why REALLY is U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton standing in the way of a nominee to the federal court of claims (a place where Lockheed just objected to losing a big defense contract bid that would have put people to work in Arkansas)? Other Republicans support the nominees. There's a demonstrated shortage of judges and unwillingness by retired judges to fill in. But the freshman senator's solo opposition is blocking appointments approved by a Republican-controlled committee. Holding out until a hoped-for Republican administration in 14 months? That's no way to run a government. From a statement last night by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy: [Quote]"
Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 12/17/15 (The White House, 12/17/15)
"Well, we have been quite frustrated about the partisan approach that Republicans in the Senate have taken to stalling the confirmation of highly qualified judicial nominees. In some cases, as you point out, these nominees would be serving in courts that are currently are under a state of emergency because of caseloads that are stacking up based on judicial vacancies.... But that process has been blocked by Republicans in the Senate not because they have legitimate questions about the qualifications of the individuals who are nominated, but rather because of their partisan opposition to the President of the United States being able to do almost anything.
And they’re certainly entitled to a point of view that is different than the President of the United States, but it certainly doesn’t make sense, and certainly isn't consistent with the expectations of the American people for them to use their authority to somehow punish the President by slowing down the justice system.
So we continue to urge Republicans in the Senate to do the right thing for the country when it comes to carefully considering and, in a timely fashion, confirming legitimately qualified and experienced nominees for the job."
Bill Straub: Shameless McConnell claiming credit for putting Congress back to work a strange notion (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 12/17/15)
"[T]here’s reason to believe that, in one area at least, the first year of his tenure as majority leader has been an unmitigated disaster, and that’s in the nomination process, particularly when it comes to federal judgeships. It’s not going too far to say that McConnell is ignoring his constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent on presidential nominations.
The Senate has confirmed only 11 federal judge nominees this year. There are now 19 more judicial emergencies within the system than when Republicans took control of the Senate.
There’s no shortage of individuals to vote on – there are 19 nominees pending on the executive calendar and several passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote."
On Judges, the Worst Year Since 1960 (People For blog, 12/16/15)
"Now, as Republicans end their first year in control of the Senate, there are 13 consensus circuit and district court nominees waiting for a floor vote… and they have agreed to confirm exactly zero of them before leaving town.
What they have agreed to is the following: (1) unopposed Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo, approved by the Judiciary Committee back in July, will finally have his confirmation vote on January 11; (2) Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule votes on four unopposed district court nominees some time in January or February, before the President’s Day recess .... So while President Bush had 40 judges confirmed in 2007 when Democrats retook the Senate, the GOP-controlled Senate will end the year confirming only 11 of President Obama’s judges. This is the lowest number of circuit and district court judges confirmed in a year since 1960, the end of the Eisenhower era, when there were fewer than half the number of judgeships than there are today.
All 13 of the above nominees could be confirmed today. They should be confirmed today."
Mitch McConnell Will Finally Let Some Judges Get Confirmed. Next Year.: Five of this year's nominees will get votes by mid-February. (Huffington Post, 12/15/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "After a dismal year of federal judicial confirmations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is ready to let a handful of nominees through. But not until 2016.
McConnell said Tuesday night that the Senate will vote on five judicial nominees in the weeks before the President's Day recess in February. They include Pennsylvania circuit court nominee Luis Felipe Restrepo, Minnesota district court nominee Wilhelmina Wright, New Jersey district court nominee John Vazquez and Iowa district court nominees Rebecca Ebinger and Leonard Strand.
The vote on Restrepo is a major win for the White House, since he's the only circuit court nominee before the Senate. He's waited more than a year for a vote. Also of note: It pays to be chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is getting two Iowa nominees through, including Ebinger, who skips over two Tennessee nominees who have been waiting longer.
None of the nominees is controversial.... Even if all 14 pending judicial nominees were confirmed, they would only fill a fraction of the more than 60 vacancies on federal courts. That's because one way Republicans have prevented Obama from filling out the judiciary is by simply not recommending nominees to the White House for vacancies in their home states."
What took so long? (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 12/15/15)
John Neurohr, Letter to the Editor: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) last week asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) for a vote on Luis Felipe Restrepo, the highly qualified federal judge and nominee for the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals .... This is welcome, long-overdue news. In the fall of 2014, Toomey and Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D., Pa.) enthusiastically supported the nomination. Yet Restrepo is still awaiting a full vote in the Senate, now scheduled for Jan. 11. Throughout numerous delays, news outlets chided Toomey for not working to move the nomination forward. Only two weeks before the Senate was scheduled to recess for the year did Toomey speak up. Shame on him for being complicit in the GOP game of obstruction."
Editorial: The Senate’s Misplaced Priorities; Their blocking of dozens of nominations undermines the fight against terrorism, among other issues. (La Opinión, 12/14/15)
"We are very concerned about the case of the 19 judge nominations, four of which are Latino, which are also on hold. It is especially troublesome now that there are 30 judicial emergencies in several jurisdiction due to the accumulation of cases because of a lack of judges. At the beginning of the year, there were only 12. The purpose of the obstruction is to prevent Obama from leaving a legacy judges in place who will be there for life.
It is apparent that the Senate’s priority is to thwart Obama’s efforts over fighting terrorism or the country’s foreign policy or the lack of judges. This partisan priority causes great harm because it paralyzes parts of the government that are crucial. This is not leadership."
Editorial: Our View: Cheer (Times-News [ID] , 12/12/15)
"Judge Richard Bevan may be in the running to become Idaho’s next federal judge. He’s a good candidate."
Senate finally schedules floor vote on Restrepo nomination (CA3blog, 12/10/15)
Matthew Stiegler: "This past spring, Senator Pat Toomey was getting battered over the delay in scheduling a committee hearing on the Third Circuit nomination of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo. In May, Toomey’s office responded in part by assuring the public that Toomey was “confident he will be confirmed by year’s end.”
Although Toomey did not say it at the time, it now appears that “by year’s end” meant that Toomey had already decided to let the nomination languish until year’s end. Thus in the months that followed, he ignored call after call after call after call to ask the Republican leadership for a confirmation vote.
Now, just as critics predicted, when earlier this week Toomey finally did ask for a confirmation vote, it was scheduled right away. ... I’ll never believe that it shouldn’t have all happened half a year sooner."
Senate GOP Floats Plan to Politicize Judges Even More (People For blog, 12/10/15)
"Under the scheme being floated by Senate Republicans, “their” nominees would skip over four district court nominees who come from states with Democratic senators, even though the blue-state nominees have been waiting longer for a vote. Individuals and businesses in Minnesota, New Jersey, and Maryland would be punished by Mitch McConnell for electing the “wrong” senators, yet another escalation by the GOP in their politicization of the judicial confirmation process.
Every nominee waiting for a vote has been fully vetted by the Judiciary Committee and advanced without opposition to the full Senate. Each should have a vote before senators go home. It is bad enough that Restrepo has been needlessly put off to January. Gaming the list to disfavor certain nominees based on which party their state’s senators belong to would add insult to injury."
Senate Republicans block vote on key counterterrorism nominee: 'We’re going home for Christmas.' (Daily Kos, 12/10/15)
Joan McCarter: "There are 19 potential judges, "a half-dozen ambassadors […] and two high-ranking State Department nominees are awaiting confirmation." That "has this GOP-led Senate on track for the lowest number of confirmations in 30 years." There was a bit of movement Wednesday on a key appeals judge nomination, Luis Felipe Restrepo's. He's waited nearly 400 days for confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. They've finally scheduled his vote—for a month from now."