Editorials and Opinion
Judicial vacancies slow judicial system (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 07/05/15)
Op-Ed by Hooman Hedayati: "the 5th Circuit, which has jurisdiction to hear appeals arising out of U.S. District Courts in Texas, has had two vacancies for the past 18 months .... Unfortunately, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas have opposed potential nominations of qualified district judges originally recommended for those positions by Republicans. They have also shown little interest in recommending nominees to the White House in order to fill an additional seven U.S. District Court vacancies.
The two circuit vacancies, and five of the seven District Court vacancies have been marked as a judicial emergency by the Judicial Conference of the United States, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts. The emergency designation implies that these courts’ current caseload is too much for the judges to handle. Even if these seats were to be filled tomorrow, the conference has asked Congress to add eight new judgeships to the District Courts in Texas.... Unfortunately in almost all cases, our senators have waited many months after the vacancy to start their search process."
Editorial: Rep. Goodlatte takes aim at the Bay cleanup, again (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 07/05/15)
"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is suing the state of Virginia for its failure to require farmers to erect fencing that would keep livestock out of the Bay’s tributaries.
Virginia’s farmers are proving themselves a cooperative bunch. They are taking seriously key best management practices, .... But the improvement gained through those efforts is lost when livestock wades into streams and relieves itself, creating a significant sewage pollution issue.
... The state agencies would do well to revisit the permit language, add the fencing requirement, seek funding to assist the operations in meeting the provision and settle the suit. Money put toward that purpose is much better spent than on litigation defense."
Judicial Vacancies (American Bar Association, 07/02/15)
"Our nation is disadvantaged when our federal judiciary does not have sufficient judges to hear cases and resolve disputes in a thorough and timely fashion. ... Neither the Senate Judiciary Committee nor the Senate has acted expeditiously to confirm pending nominees. In fact, during the first three months of this Congress, the Senate failed to hold any confirmation votes, ... it appears that leadership has decided to slow-walk the process for reasons that have nothing to do with the qualifications of the nominees.... As a result, the number of vacancies and courts with judicial emergencies are increasing and the backlog of civil lawsuits keeps growing.... To further add to the strain on the federal judiciary, dozens of new judgeships are needed, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), especially in the Delaware and the border courts where caseloads are crippling. On March 19, 2015, the Judicial Conference submitted its request for 73 new judgeships and the conversion of nine temporary ones into permanent judgeships."
Now do you understand why the courts matter so much? (NC Policy Watch, 06/30/15)
Rob Schofield: "Conservatives have been blockading and filibustering the President’s nominees at all levels of the federal judiciary since he took office in 2009.
Part of this problem is just the increasingly divided nature of modern American politics, but another significant part is clearly attributable to an intentional, longstanding effort by powerful forces within the American conservative movement to remake the federal judiciary.... Senator Richard Burr has successfully pulled off a solo, unexplained filibuster of the President’s efforts to fill the oldest federal court vacancy in the country. ... the nine justices of the Supreme Court decide a handful of cases each year while the 900 judges who comprise the rest of the federal judiciary decide thousands.
Let’s hope the recent narrow decisions serve as a wake-up call to all progressives to become regularly engaged in helping to determine who those justices and judges are at all levels."
D.C. Circuit Caseload Rises From Spike in Agency Challenges (National Law Journal, 06/30/15)
"The caseload of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rose sharply over the past year from new administrative challenges to environmental regulations and labor rulings, Chief Judge Merrick Garland said at the circuit’s judicial conference last week.
The increase in new cases, which Garland estimated at nearly 30 percent, comes on the heels of criticism that the circuit’s caseload statistics did not justify filling judicial vacancies. Some Senate Republicans in 2013 opposed to three nominations to the D.C. Circuit—Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard and Robert Wilkins—cited declines in the court’s caseload.
Between March 2014 and March 2015, the D.C. Circuit saw a more than 20 percent increase in new appeals filed, from 941 to 1,138, according to the most recent publicly available case data. The biggest jump was in new administrative cases, which nearly doubled....The appeals court has a full bench for the first time in more than 22 years, Garland said. In November 2013, the U.S. Senate invoked the so-called “nuclear option" to allow Democrats to push through President Barack Obama’s stalled D.C. Circuit nominees."
Robert Bork Wouldn't Have Changed History (Bloomberg News, 06/29/15)
Jonathan Bernstein column: "As a compromise candidate, Kennedy would preserve the president’s ability to influence the court far into the future, yet also reflect the Senate’s preferences. (Senate liberals and moderates wouldn't have dreamed of blockading just any Reagan nominee, as Republicans have done for some appeals-court vacancies under Obama.)"
Juan Williams: The pollution of politics (The Hill, 06/29/15)
Opinion column: "Congress has lost its ability to be pragmatic and solve the nation’s big problems.... Part of the problem is that Republicans in Congress have such a strong aversion to Obama. Their primary objective throughout his presidency has been to block his plans, from ObamaCare to immigration; infrastructure spending to judicial nominations."
Restrepo committee vote delayed (CA3blog, 06/25/15)
"As feared, this morning the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed a vote on the Third Circuit nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo, without explanation. Apparently this means no vote until after July 4 at the earliest."
Has the Senate Really Turned a Corner? (Wall Street Journal, 06/24/15)
Jim Manley column: "under Sen. McConnell, the Senate is on pace to confirm the fewest judicial nominations of any recent Congress. Republican senators are blocking efforts to confirm judges in their home state to spite the president. Where is the leadership in that?”
A new pattern of obstruction as Chuck Grassley delays hearings for long-pending nominees (Justice Watch, 06/24/15)
Kyle Barry, Alliance for Justice: "the Judiciary Committee Chairman appears to be guaranteeing at least three consecutive weeks without a confirmation hearing....Mary Barzee Flores for the Southern District of Florida, and Julien Neals for the District of New Jersey—have already waited four months for a hearing, and both are nominated to critical “judicial emergencies” in their home states.... Grassley has held himself to “the Leahy standard in 2007,” when Senator Patrick Leahy was the committee chairman, and Democrats controlled the Senate under President George W. Bush. But at this point in 2007, Senator Leahy had convened five confirmation hearings for 17 judicial nominees, while only 13 nominees have had hearings this year. This is in addition to the enormous disparity on confirmations—four this year compared to 21 by the end of June in 2007."
If Judiciary Committee Delays Restrepo Vote, Blame Pat Toomey (People For blog, 06/23/15)
"The Judiciary Committee has announced that it will hold an executive meeting this Thursday morning, and a vote on Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo is on the agenda. But ... once Obama became president, Republicans exercised the right of the minority party to have a committee vote “held over” (delayed) by at least a week without cause in all but 12 instances for President Obama’s judicial nominees, which is an unprecedented abuse of the rules. ... Yet there have been exceptions. ... Yet there have been exceptions. ... With the Senate out next week for its Independence Day recess, holding the vote over will delay it by at least two weeks ... This is an opportunity for Pat Toomey to show leadership. He can – and should – push for a committee vote this week. If he has any influence among his colleagues, they will listen to him."
No One is Tying Pat Toomey's Hands Except Himself (People For blog, 06/23/15)
"According to the Legal Intelligencer, Chuck Grassley’s staff is telegraphing his plans to delay a committee vote for Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo ... Even worse, according to their reporting, Senator Pat Toomey is not currently planning on doing anything to prevent a two-week delay in a committee vote to fill this emergency vacancy until after the July 4 recess, even though a second vacancy on the same court opens on July 1.... Of course, as Senator Toomey well knows, no one is claiming that he can “control” the scheduling of votes, and no one is asking him to.
What Pennsylvanians are asking him to do is to speak up on Judge Restrepo’s behalf, to ask Chairman Grassley not to delay the committee vote. You don’t have to be a committee member to speak up on behalf of a nominee you support. Senators do that all the time."
Judiciary committee schedules Thursday vote on Restrepo nomination (CA3blog, 06/23/15)
Matthew Stiegler: "The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a committee vote on the Third Circuit nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo for this Thursday. That is less than a week before Judge Rendell takes senior status and opens a second vacancy on the court which already has been operating under a judicial emergency for over four months now. Fingers crossed."
Juan Williams: McConnell misfires in Senate (The Hill, 06/22/15)
Juan Williams column: "“And then there is McConnell's continuing bad faith on judicial nominations. Since taking control of the Senate in January, he has allowed only four district court nominees to be confirmed. Not one circuit court judge has been able to win GOP Senate approval.
A quick check of history by Jennifer Bendery of The Huffington Post showed that, at this point in President George W. Bush's second term, the Democratic Senate majority had confirmed 15 of the Republican's district court nominees and three for the circuit court.... the Senate under Republican leadership remains dysfunctional .... It is obviously in McConnell’s interest to get the Senate to work. That means demonstrating the ability to work with Democrats.
Continuing to delight in trying to snooker the Democrats is not a winning strategy to help Republicans retain power. It invites derision from people who continue to give the entire Republican Congress dreadfully low ratings.
It is not trashing McConnell to tell him to stop digging if he wants to get out of this hole."
World-Herald editorial: Swift action on judge is warranted (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 06/17/15)
"The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but that’s nothing compared to the grind of filling a vacancy on the federal bench.
Currently, there are 59 vacancies on federal courts around the country, with at least one opening dating to 2010. The National Women’s Law Center calculated that about one-third of the vacancies were in courts “so overburdened that they have been designated ‘judicial emergencies’ by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.”
Nebraska has one of the 59 vacancies. But President Barack Obama finally has made a nomination: Omahan Robert Rossiter Jr.... Nebraskans can hope consideration of a highly qualified nominee such as Rossiter doesn’t become a political tug of war and that he can receive speedy consideration.
Vacancies on the federal bench mean individuals and businesses must wait longer for cases to be resolved. And as the legal maxim says, justice delayed is justice denied."
“World-Herald editorial: Swift action on judge is warranted” (Hercules and the umpire blog, 06/17/15)
Senior U.S. District of Nebraska Judge Richard George Kopf: "Please read the editorial, Swift action on judge is warranted, Omaha World-Herald (June 17, 2015) (“Nebraskans can hope consideration of a highly qualified nominee such as Rossiter doesn’t become a political tug of war and that he can receive speedy consideration.”) From their lips to Chairman Grassley’s ears.*... We need Bob Rossiter tomorrow! The powerful Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a Nebraska neighbor, can make a quick confirmation hearing a reality. I hope Mr. Grassley is listening."
Stalling over judgeships makes no sense (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 06/17/15)
Jerry Freeman letter: "The recent World-Herald story on the nomination of Robert Rossiter Jr. to the federal bench demonstrates the long wait and needless delays in filling much-needed federal judgeships. ... Now another long wait seems assured for U.S. Senate confirmation.
All of this despite Rossiter being a Republican, the state’s two U.S. senators being Republican and the Republicans now in the majority of Congress. Seems to me an attorney of his caliber could breeze through this kind of process in about five minutes of study.
Just another example of gridlock in our nation’s capital."
Editorial: Lack of a wolf plan should have U.S. howling mad (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 06/16/15)
"The public ... deserves to know what that final goal is. According to a 2014 lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife by Defenders of Wildlife [and others] “the absence of a legitimate agency blueprint for Mexican gray wolf recovery underlies the ongoing challenges facing the subspecies’ recovery program. Accordingly, those challenges could be resolved through the production and implementation of a scientifically based and legally valid recovery plan to guide and drive Mexican gray wolf management decisions, such as scheduled releases to promote genetic diversity, necessary limitations on wolf removals by FWS and the public, and delineation of appropriate geographic areas to facilitate wolf recovery.”"
Sen. Pat Toomey must push for vote to confirm Judge Luis Restrepo (Morning Call [PA], 06/16/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Judging the Environment, Letter to the Editor: "The story, "Senate Judiciary panel vets Pa. nominee," reports that "there's more waiting for" Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo after the "uneventful" hearing on his nomination to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Sen. Pat Toomey, the story said, "noted the unanimous Senate approval when Restrepo was nominated to his district judgeship: 'I hope to see exactly such a confirmation occur this year.'"
But "this year" suggests further needless delays of Restrepo's November nomination to fill a 2013 vacancy the U.S. Courts declared a judicial emergency. Those pressing for swift action include newspaper editorial boards and the Hispanic National Bar Association. A Pittsburgh City Council resolution urged a floor vote before another Pennsylvania Third Circuit seat is vacated on July 1, when Judge Marjorie Rendell takes senior status.
Until Sen. Toomey persuades his majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, to allow a prompt vote, justice delayed from lack of judges will continue to be justice denied."
Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp on the nomination of Bob Rossiter (Hercules and the umpire blog, 06/12/15)
Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp, U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska: "Nebraska is among eight states having a single federal district and only three authorized judgeships. In this group, Nebraska has by far the heaviest docket. For the 12-month period ending September 30, 2014, Nebraska ranked first among these districts in its per-judgeship weighted filings, felony caseload, and supervised release hearings. The prompt confirmation of Nebraska’s newest federal district judge will be essential to ensure that federal litigation in Nebraska is adjudicated promptly and efficiently."
Grassley’s dirty little secret on nominees (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/11/15)
Opinion column By Des Moines attorney John Hearn: "Senator Grassley recently recruited five Iowa lawyers to select two nominees for him to give to the president. As near as I can tell, the lawyers are all die-hard Republicans. Predictably, their nominees are Republicans, and in Grassley’s eyes, more likely to rule for big business and conservative causes in line with Grassley’s own ideology.
Now when Grassley receives the president’s nominees, he will have political cover to say that a committee of Iowa lawyers has already selected the most qualified nominees. Then true to form, he can hold up a constitutionally mandated Senate vote on the president’s nominations, presumably until the next election (a year and one-half away), hoping for a Republican president, who will nominate Grassley’s like-minded nominees."
Bill Straub: It seems McConnell just can’t withstand the urge to poke Obama with a stick (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 06/11/15)
"A Pennsylvania seat is open on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Toomey has endorsed President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo. Toomey already is under pressure to address the situation and has offered assurances that the seat will be filled. So Any failure to get his choice through would not only establish that Toomey carries little influence but further alienate the growing Latino vote — Restrepo was born in Colombia.
And McConnell wouldn’t be doing himself any favors. Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, who hails from McConnell’s adopted hometown of Louisville, is thought to be in line to succeed Boyce Martin, of Louisville, who resigned in August 2013 as a judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals .... That vacant position has been declared a “judicial emergency’’ by the Judicial Conference – one of 26 currently unfilled slots so designated. If McConnell followed through with his threat, Kentucky would be a vote short on the Sixth Circuit for at least four years, perhaps longer....McConnell would be creating an unholy mess if he ignored Obama’s judicial nominations. Civil trials would literally be backed up for years ... the GOP majority has approved only four federal judgeships. During the last two years of their presidencies, when the Senate was controlled by opposing parties, Republicans President George W. Bush managed to get 10 appeals court judges confirmed while Democratic President Bill Clinton got 15 and Republican Ronald Reagan got 17."
Melgen still being held (Southern District of Florida Blog, 06/11/15)
David Markus: "In other news, a few judges had a smooth hearing with the judiciary committee yesterday. It's very slow going... Hopefully Mary Barzee Flores will be up soon."
The Register's Editorial: Grassley can press "go" on judicial nominees (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/11/15)
"There are 26 "judicial emergencies" in federal trial and appeals courts ... Grassley assures that he is moving ahead on all judicial nominees that have sent over from the White House, including courts of appeals judges, which can be contentious, and trial-court judges, which typically are less controversial.
"The Judiciary Committee is moving nominees through the process in the same timeframe, or even better, as established under the former majority," Grassley said in a statement sent to the Register. Grassley's staff said he is moving judicial nominees out of the committee at the same pace as the committee did during the last two years of President George W. Bush's term, when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats...."I've said from my first day as chairman that I'll seek to move consensus nominees," Grassley said....it is encouraging that McConnell has walked back his threat to block the president's nominees. Both senators should now demonstrate by their actions they mean what they say."
With Senate control, will the GOP stop confirming circuit court judges? (Brookings, 06/10/15)
Russell Wheeler: "There will be at best few appellate confirmations this year, and fewer next year. That, however, may be due less to the majority’s not bringing nominees up for votes and more to the majority’s refusing to allow the administration to submit nominees for vacancies in their states. ... All eight nominee-less circuit vacancies now in place are in states with at least one Republican senator and most are several years old. ... Obama has appointed 53 circuit judges, as had George Bush at this point in 2007 (including three in the first half of the year). Bush appointed 60 in all.... Glenn Sugameli, who monitors nominations closely, told The Hill that senators in three of the seven states “say they are working” to get nominees in place. ... Bush’s immediate predecessors also faced an opposing Senate in their seventh and eighth years but saw more confirmations: Clinton, 15 and Reagan 17."
EDITORIAL: Stop ExxonMobil settlement (Daily Record [NJ], 06/10/15)
"New Jersey’s pollution settlement with ExxonMobil for a mere $225 million — out of nearly $9 billion in damages the state had sought from the company in a lawsuit — has been the source of great angst among environmentalists. They’ve labeled the deal a sellout and for good reason .... This deal is so egregiously bad for New Jersey that critics aren’t content to just verbally blast away at Christie and move on. They want to stop this settlement before it’s finalized by the courts .... Seven environmental groups announced plans on Wednesday to jump in on a lawsuit seeking to block final acceptance of the settlement.... The ExxonMobil deal should be blocked. And future settlements with polluters should be devoted primarily to the environment. We urge lawmakers and activists to continue working toward both goals."
Columnist blames Ron Johnson for 2,000-day federal judicial vacancy (Capital Times (WI), 06/10/15)
Steven Elbow: "In January of 2010, federal appellate Judge Terence Evans retired from his Seventh Circuit seat. That was 2,000 days ago — nearly five years — and the vacancy has yet to be filled, making it the oldest federal court vacancy in the nation.
In the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, lays the blame squarely on one person: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson."
Benched! History shows “regular order” means appellate court confirmations (Justice Watch, 06/09/15)
"In the last Congress of President George W. Bush’s second term, Senate Democrats confirmed 10 circuit nominees. They included vacancies in states represented by Republicans, Democrats, and mixed delegations. Most notably, Judge Leslie Southwick was confirmed to the Fifth Circuit despite opposition from progressive advocacy groups and three-fourths of the Democratic caucus....President Clinton’s final two years were no different. The Republican-led Senate confirmed 15 circuit nominees, and every one of them were from Democrat-controlled or mixed delegation states.... In President Reagan’s final two years, Senate Democrats confirmed 17 circuit judges. A plurality of those judges was from Republican-controlled states."