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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Arkansas judicial nomination creeps to completion against Republican obstructionism (Arkansas Times, 03/05/14)
Max Brantley: "The nomination had been pending for months, delayed by a general Republican roadblock to judicial confirmation.... , Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy blasted the Republican obstruction again. It was clearly illustrated first by a 98-0 vote to confirm a Puerto Rican judge after 41 Republican senators voted to continue a filibuster on the nomination. Before a recent Democratic-backed rule change, those 41 votes would have been enough to block the confirmation vote, notes Glenn Sugameli, who follows the judicial process for Judging the Environment and sends me information along the way."

Flake and McCain's Next Steps for AZ Nominees (People For blog, 02/28/14)
"[T]ahe Arizonans find themselves at the back of a ridiculously long line, with 28 nominees ahead of them. … McCain and Flake have already demonstrated their willingness to exercise their influence with those of their GOP colleagues who serve on the Judiciary Committee. Now the question is whether they will try to persuade the rest of their colleagues to end the blockade and eliminate the bottleneck so the Senate can get to the Arizona seats in a timely manner.”

Now, Republicans Are Killing `Holds' on Nominations (Bloomberg News, 02/27/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "the real guilty party destroying the hold in the Senate is … yup, the Republicans. ...if the minority party is already maximizing delay on every single nomination, then there’s nothing more any individual senator can do to further delay things. Which is exactly what Republicans have been doing, with minor exceptions, during this session of Congress. Beyond that, the truth is that holds won’t work if they’re really just about party-wide opposition to nominations. ... If Paul and McCain really want to preserve holds, the first thing they’ll do is to work against the filibuster-everything strategy their party has been using for five years and has used maximally on nominations over the last few months. Indeed, if they really cared about holds, the most important thing they could have done would have been to undermine the blockades against several executive branch positions and against D.C. Circuit Court positions that produced majority-imposed reform in the first place."

Reid Calls Out Republicans on Obstruction of Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 02/26/14)
"On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) absurd claim that this Congress has done well in confirming judicial nominees. In fact, Republicans have not consented to even one judicial confirmation vote since November. The few votes that have been held since then have been over GOP filibusters."

Confirm Lauck for Eastern District of Virginia (The Hill, 02/25/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Judge Spencer will assume senior status in late March and it would be preferable to have his seat filled before then. ...Warner and Kaine urged Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee Chair, to speedily conduct a hearing. After the hearing, they should ask Leahy to quickly set a committee vote and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Majority Leader, to rapidly schedule a floor debate and vote. If Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Minority Leader, does not swiftly agree to vote, Reid should seek cloture. Lauck's excellent record means that she warrants prompt approval, while her abilities will help the court maintain its well deserved reputation as the Rocket Docket."

Federal courts under siege (Minnesota Lawyer, 02/25/14)
Barbara L. Jones: "Since the filibuster rules were changed in November 2013, the number of district court vacancies has actually increased from 75 to 80, creating a 12 percent vacancy rate and the highest vacancy level since March 2011. Prior to President Obama taking office, the last time trial courts experienced 80 or more vacancies was in 1994, which saw high numbers of vacancies due in part to the creation of 74 new trial court judgeships in 1990. The current level of trial court vacancies is substantially higher than what existed at the equivalent point in President Clinton’s second term (60) or President Bush’s second term (35)."

Jennifer Bendery: "Grassley's statistics gloss over the broader context of what's going on with Obama's judicial nominees. Obama's confirmations lag behind Bush (by five) and Bill Clinton (by 21) at this point in their presidencies, and roughly 30 of his judicial nominees are gathering dust on the Senate floor as Republicans refuse to consent to hold up-or-down votes. Beyond that, Republicans have been using the "blue-slip process" in the Senate Judiciary Committee to block nominees, including one who would fill the longest-standing district court vacancy in the country. GOP obstruction is a major reason there are now more than 90 judicial vacancies around the country -- dwarfing the 52 at this point in Bush's presidency... The irony may have been lost on the Iowa Republican, but Grassley's defense of GOP cooperation on judges came as he was burning up time on the Senate floor to delay votes on nominees. ..."We have scores of judges, district court judges, and we have a number of circuit court judges, and we're going to in the near future file cloture on all of them," Reid said. "If that's what the Republicans want us to do, then that's what we'll do. The American people will see this colossal waste of time that we've been going through.""

GOP court blockage ‘unprecedented’ (MSNBC, 02/25/14)
Adam Serwer: "Since Obama took office, the number of vacancies has remained uncommonly high. In 2008, the average number of district court vacancies was 31 according to the Brennan Center, in 2009, it was 61, and that’s the lowest it’s been – in 2014 the average stands at 78. If this level of vacancies continues until 2016, it won’t just slow down the legal system, it’ll give whichever party takes the White House a new opportunity to remake the federal courts in their own image."

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote (People For blog, 02/25/14)
"The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts. The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. ... Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees. That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in."

Will McCain and Flake let GOP obstruct nominees? (Nogales International [AZ], 02/25/14)
Paul Gordon: "On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on six district court nominees in Arizona, including James A. Soto of Nogales. Odds are it won’t happen. That’s because delaying the committee vote is a small but reliably constant way that Senate Republicans delay and obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees."

Senate to Vote Today on Four Federal District Court Nominees (People For blog, 02/24/14)
"Republicans refused to hold votes on these nominees for months, and now that they are being called on their obstructionism through filibuster-ending cloture votes, they’re making the votes take as long as possible by demanding that each take hours of “post-cloture debate.” This is especially ridiculous for nominees whom the Republicans actually support. Not only is this delaying confirmation of judges in these particular states; it’s also delaying nominees in other states waiting in line for their turn, including many for posts that have been deemed “judicial emergencies.” This delaying tactic from Republicans not only slows what should be a simple process, it deprives these states’ constituents the fully functioning justice system they deserve."

Arkansas federal judgeships before Senate today (Arkansas Times, 02/24/14)
Max Brantley: "The theoretically non-controversial nominations of Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville to federal judicial vacancies are on the U.S. Senate agenda today. They've been delayed for months by Republican obstructionism and even the final votes could take two days because of cloture votes and time-consuming "debate," all part of the GOP plan to squelch as many Obama appointees as possible. Moody and Brooks are both supported by the Republican U.S. senator from Arkansas, John Boozman. But he apparently has no influence when it comes to judicial nomination foot-dragging."

Will McCain and Flake Let GOP Obstruct AZ Nominees? (People For blog, 02/21/14)
"In fact, only five Obama judicial nominees have actually been allowed by the GOP to have their committee vote held as scheduled. The last time they let one through on time was in 2011, and that was for an Arizona nominee to replace the murdered Judge John Roll. Perhaps they will make another Arizona exception this time. Arizona has 13 federal district judgeships, but six of them are vacant. And because of the high caseload in Arizona courts, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated all six of the vacancies as “judicial emergencies.” ... The six nominees were originally scheduled for a committee vote on February 13, but the hearing was cancelled due to a snowstorm. Then came a week’s recess. ... Since Flake is on the committee, eyes will be particularly focused on him. Can he convince his GOP colleagues not to prolong the crisis in his state by delaying the vote? Will he even try?"

New Rules, Same Results on Capitol Hill (Newsweek, 02/21/14)
Pema Levy: "gridlock over the president's judicial nominees persists. And it's not just North Carolina. Across the country, the federal judiciary has 96 vacancies: 80 in the federal district courts and 16 in the appellate courts. Thirty-nine are considered judicial emergencies. According to an upcoming analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, there were just 35 vacancies at the same point in President George W. Bush's presidency and about 60 at the same point in President Bill Clinton's. There are 32 judicial nominations waiting for a final vote on the Senate floor."

Trial Courts Update: Vacancies Higher After Filibuster Reform (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 02/21/14)
Alicia Bannon: "Three months after Senate Democrats reformed the filibuster rules for executive and judicial nominees, Senate obstruction continues in new forms, and courts and litigants are paying the price. When the Senate returns from its holiday recess on Monday, February 24, it should move forward on confirming pending judicial nominees. ... Since the filibuster rules were changed in November 2013, the number of district court vacancies has actually increased from 75 to 80, creating a 12 percent vacancy rate and the highest vacancy level since March 2011. Prior to President Obama taking office, the last time trial courts experienced 80 or more vacancies was in 1994, which saw high numbers of vacancies due in part to the creation of 74 new trial court judgeships in 1990. The current level of trial court vacancies is substantially higher than what existed at the equivalent point in President Clinton’s second term (60) or President Bush’s second term (35)."

Obama is light on recess appointing (Charleston Daily Mail [WV], 02/21/14)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "The Jan. 28 editorial, "Will the president show better listening skills?" states, "The president also is fighting at the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the Constitution and bypass the U.S. Senate — claiming they are in recess when they are not — to make judicial nominations." In fact, the court case only involves Executive Branch recess appointments for a simple reason. As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported, President Obama has never made a recess judicial appointment (unlike President G.W. Bush who made two, and Clinton who made one).... President Obama has routinely consulted very conservative home-state Republican senators and obtained their strong support to confirm consensus judicial nominees. Vacancies without nominees are concentrated in Kentucky, Texas and a few other states."

Fight over judicial nominees on two fronts (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 02/19/14)
Steve Benen: "since December, the Senate has confirmed just one judge: Robert Wilkins was approved to serve on the D.C. Circuit. There are 32 other judicial nominees who’ve cleared committee and are awaiting floor votes....GOP senators may not be able to filibuster these nominees anymore, but they’re still relying on every possible procedural trick they know to prevent qualified judges from receiving confirmation votes. In some cases, Republicans are announcing their opposition to nominees they personally recommended. In others, they’re taking advantage of the blue-slip process. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has occasionally taken the lead in refusing Democratic efforts to consider non-controversial nominees as a bloc. (Alexander is an odd choice to lead on this issue, given that how much credibility he lost when he broke his word on this very issue.)"

Read Stuff, You Should (Bloomberg News, 02/19/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Remember, the filibuster hasn’t been eliminated; it has been changed so that a simple majority can defeat it. But the minority still can stall, and Republicans have continued filibustering every nomination (and in many cases, using every stalling technique available to them."

EDITORIAL: Confirmation Limbo: It’s still too hard to staff the government (Washington Post, 02/18/14)
"IT’S BEEN three months since Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats used the “nuclear option” in the Senate to unilaterally change the rules to limit filibusters on most presidential nominations. So far, though, there’s been no flood of confirmations. Part of the explanation is continuing GOP obstruction, as unfounded as ever. But it also turns out that the nuclear option wasn’t the panacea some made it out to be. It remains unacceptably hard to staff the government.... Uncontroversial nominees — and even those who rub some legislators the wrong way but are well qualified — should fly through the Senate. Instead, many are stuck waiting for floor time. When Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) tried to get two uncontroversial judges confirmed by unanimous consent last week, Republicans demanded hours of pointless debate. GOP lawmakers look set to mercilessly attack Debo Adegbile , the president’s talented choice to run the Justice Department’s civil rights team. In fact, the betting is that Republican senators, still smarting from Mr. Reid’s nuclear attack, will force the chamber to waste valuable time on all sorts of nominees."

Another candidate awaits news on federal judicial nomination (Arkansas Times, 02/17/14)
Max Brantley: "Though Moody's nomination isn't considered controversial — and is supported by both Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman — it has been held up by a general blockade of presidential appointments by Republicans in the Senate. Votes to end filibusters on a number of routine appointments, including Moody's, are set to begin Feb. 24. That's the same day that filing opens for Moody's seat. If his confirmation isn't completed by the end of the filing period March 3, Moody will file again."

Why The Senate STILL Isn’t Able To Get Anything Done Even After The ‘Nuclear Option’ (Think Progress, 02/13/14)
Ian Millhiser: "Just one judge has been confirmed so far in 2014 ... Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) began the process necessary to confirm four judges on Wednesday night, but this process will still take days to complete and will only confirm a small fraction of the 32 judicial nominees awaiting votes."

GOP Blockade of Unopposed Ark. Judicial Nominees Disrupts Local Election (People For blog, 02/13/14)
"Sen. Mark Pryor stood up yesterday to urge his colleagues to allow a vote on the two Arkansans, but Republicans would have none of it.... But the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, Chuck Grassley, objected. Why? Because Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year (although Pryor actually voted against the change). It is important to note Grassley's situational ethics. In 2005, when it was George W. Bush's nominees who were at issue, he publicly supported the effort of Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster altogether for judicial nominees, and to make that change in Senate rules by majority vote."

Pryor's reward for helping Republicans: obstructionism (Arkansas Times, 02/12/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of a handful of Democrats who declined to support the so-called nuclear option, a rule change to eliminate the filibuster of judicial nominees. The thanks he got today? A Republican refused to grant him unanimous consent to win approval of the nominations of two non-controvesial judicial appointees — Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville. Glenn Sugameli, who heads the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project, sent me the exchange from the Senate floor. ...Why is Grassley punishing Arkansas, whose senators didn't support the rule change (he noted Pryor's vote) and whose senators, Democrat and Republican, support the nominees? ... Grassley is, of course, also a hypocrite. Sugameli notes that Grassley supported a nuclear option in 2005 when the shoe was on the other foot." (Arkansas Times, 02/11/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is pressing for a Senate vote this week to confirm two non-controversial judicial appointees in Arkansas — Circuit Judge Jay Moody for a district judgeship in Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a seat in the western district of Arkansas.... It won't be easy, unless John Boozman puts his weight behind it. Republicans haven't been allowing floor votes on judicial nominations. 32 are in waiting. Only one vote so far this year."

While the GOP Fiddles, Judicial Emergencies Mount (People For blog, 02/07/14)
"That refusal to agree to confirmation votes even for nominees that no one opposes is why we have so many nominees (32) pending on the Senate floor. Four of those stalled nominees would fill vacancies in Michigan's Eastern District, two of which have now been designated as judicial emergencies. ... Finally, the committee was allowed to vote on January 16, and all four Michigan nominees were approved with overwhelming bipartisan support (three of them unanimously). In the three months since the GOP stopped consenting to judicial nominations, five vacancies have been newly designated as judicial emergencies, two of them in Michigan. Across the country, the number of judicial emergencies has reached 39."

Editorial: No more delays Senate should not let federal judicial nominations languish (Miami Herald, 02/06/14)
"No one has ever accused Judge Thomas of bias on the bench. But once Sen. Rubio dropped his support, Judge Thomas’ nomination was doomed. It was an embarrassment for Florida in every way.... Sen. Rubio issued a statement after the announcements, saying he welcomed the nominations and doesn’t “anticipate having an objection to moving forward” on them. That’s good to know, and we’ll hold him to his word.... Sen. Rubio, again along with Sen. Grassley, did hold up the confirmation of another Obama appointee from Florida who is African American. Nassau County Circuit Judge Brian Davis waited almost two years before his nomination was finally confirmed last December. Again, Sen. Grassley accused the judge of bias. There’s nothing in Judge Davis’ public record to back up these accusations.... The delays are driven, almost entirely, by crass partisanship. The result is U.S. District Court vacancies that go unfilled, literally, for years. That’s justice delayed, justice denied. And it’s entirely the fault of the U.S. Senate."

PICKING NEXT FEDERAL JUDGE; World-Herald editorial: Court vacancy needs attention (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 01/29/14)
"The current list of federal court vacancies is long — 79 U.S. district court judges and 16 more on appeals court benches. Only 55 replacements have been nominated to fill those 95 openings. Another 19 vacancies will occur this year, including one in Nebraska ... Filling these vacancies is important. Crowded federal court dockets increase the caseload for sitting judges and slow citizens’ access to justice. ... Nebraskans can hope this process moves efficiently, so this vacancy doesn’t linger on that list."

Hearing on Arizona Nominees Shows Why Courts Matter (People For blog, 01/29/14)
"Fortunately, Flake and McCain can help ensure quick confirmations. Since Flake is on the Judiciary Committee, perhaps he will persuade his GOP colleagues not to do what they have done with nearly every other Obama judicial nominee: demand a delay in the committee vote once it is scheduled, with no explanation or apology. ... there are 29 judicial nominees waiting for a floor vote, many of them who could and should have been confirmed last year. Their confirmation would reduce the current vacancy rate by nearly a third. Another three nominees will probably join them next week. So the Arizona nominees will be at the back of a very, very, long line. If McCain and Flake want to help Arizona's overworked courts, they need to push Mitch McConnell to allow quick votes on all the nominees who are already being stalled on the floor."

The Senate Could Immediately Reduce the Vacancy Rate by a Third (People For blog, 01/16/14)
"Just a few days into the new session of Congress – with Senate Republicans having forced renominations of more than 50 judicial nominees – the Judiciary Committee has now fully vetted and advanced 29 of those nominees to the full Senate. For many of them, it is their second time on the Senate floor, since the committee approved them last year, too – unanimously in almost all cases.,,, If McConnell allowed it, the Senate could vote this week to confirm these 29 nominees. ,,, Among these 29 nominees are eight who would fill vacancies that have been formally designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Confirming them would resolve 22% of our nation's judicial emergencies."