Editorials and Opinion
Sen. Leahy: Republicans’ Refusal To Do Their Jobs Means Our Courts Cannot Do Theirs—And Americans Suffer (American Constitution Society Blog, 05/05/16)
"When Democrats held the Senate majority, we worked hard to fulfill our constitutional role to consider and confirm judicial nominees to fill vacancies in courts throughout the country. Despite constant obstruction by Senate Republicans who blocked President Obama’s nominees at every turn, we reduced the number of judicial vacancies to 43 by the end of 2014. ... Vacancies have increased 75 percent since Republicans took over the Senate majority.... There are 20 judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor who were all unanimously voice voted out of the Judiciary Committee. Several of them are from states with Republican home state Senators who support their nomination.... since taking over the majority last year, Republicans have confirmed just 17 judges. At this point in the last two years of the Bush administration with a Democratic Senate, we had confirmed 68 of President Bush’s judicial nominees.... here are 35 more judicial nominees awaiting a hearing, including 7 circuit court nominees. Three of these circuit court nominees have blue slips returned by both of their home state Senators and are ready for a hearing."
Letter: Burr should do his job, quit blocking judges (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 05/05/16)
James K. Rose: "I am writing in response to Sen. Richard Burr’s stated intent to scuttle the nomination of former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to become a U.S. District court judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The Eastern District seat has been vacant for ten years, undoubtedly significantly affecting the fair and equal administration of justice for citizens of North Carolina.... Burr has also stated his opposition to hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Merritt Garland to fill that vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Burr is failing to discharge his duties as a U.S. senator to citizens North Carolina and the United States."
Editorial: Partisan politics run amok (Times-News [Burlington, NC], 05/05/16)
"The politics of judicial appointments have reached absurd levels.
Case in point, the most recent blockage by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of a federal judgeship for the Eastern District of North Carolina. ... The spot has only been vacant since the second term of George W. Bush ... President Obama nominated Judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson for the federal judgeship. She has some bonafides. The judge, a Fayetteville native, was the first black woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is currently vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The best word for her career is “distinguished.” Her appointment hardly seems “brazenly political,” as Burr suggests.
Sadly, thanks to the arcane rules and traditions of the Senate, Burr can block Timmons-Goodson’s nomination for as long as he chooses.
That’s simply wrong."
Senator Burr’s absurd blockade of a judge in his home state (NC Policy Watch, 05/05/16)
Chris Fitzsimon: "An African-American has never served as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina and Senator Richard Burr apparently intends to keep it that way, judging by his knee-jerk opposition to President Obama’s latest nominee to fill a seat on the court that has been vacant for 10 years, the longest vacancy in the country.... Burr cited a letter he wrote to President Obama endorsing May-Parker in reply to the question about why he was holding up a hearing on the nomination of May-Parker for the court.
Seven years later, the Eastern District is still struggling to cope with its caseload with the vacancy to the point that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has designated it an emergency to fill the seat.
And NC Policy Watch reported in 2014, in the prior seven years the district’s caseload grew so much that it took longer for a civil case to move from filing through trial than in any other district in the country except one in California.... Obama announced a new nominee for the court, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson from Fayetteville, a widely respected jurist .... It’s a solid choice for a seat that should have been filled years ago and Burr is doing North Carolina and the federal judiciary a disservice by playing political games now."
Timmons-Goodson earns ABA's highest rating (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 05/05/16)
Editorial writer Doug Clark: "The American Bar Association has given Patricia Timmons-Goodson its highest rating of "well qualified."
Timmons-Goodson, a former justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, was nominated by President Obama April 28 to serve on the U.S. District Court bench for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The same day, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said he won't support the nomination"
EDITORIAL: Our View: Eastern N.C. deserves a federal judge (Rocky Mount Telegram [NC] , 05/05/16)
"For more than a decade, the U.S. District Court in Eastern North Carolina has faced a conspicuous absence – and not for a lack of nominees.
The nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy has sat unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006 ... Now, because U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior Republican senator, is opposed to President Barack Obama’s nomination for the bench – Patricia Timmons-Goodson.
Burr argues the nomination of Timmons-Goodson is a political choice, and he is right. That is the nature of the selection process.
But the only alternative Burr seems to favor is an empty seat. If every Republican senator in Washington followed Burr’s lead, the country would have plenty more vacancies. Maybe that means something on the scoreboard of partisan gamesmanship, but it does not serve justice to the people of Eastern North Carolina.
Timmons-Goodson is not exactly a rookie. She served on the N.C. Supreme Court from 2006 to 2012 and is now vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights."
US court vacancies a judicial emergency (News & Observer [NC], 05/05/16)
Tommy Tobin: "North Carolina is home to the nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy. Recently, Patricia Timmons-Goodson was nominated to fill the post that’s been unfilled for over a decade. Sen. Richard Burr reacted to this news by vowing to block this former state supreme court justice from the federal bench.
Federal judicial vacancies occur all over the country. Right now, 60 nominees are awaiting confirmation.
Judicial vacancies have consequences. A forthcoming paper by Professor Crystal S. Yang in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy found significant real-world effects on criminal justice outcomes during judicial vacancies. For example, prosecutors were found to dismiss charges more often during vacancies. ... Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe has noted that without a full bench, the Supreme Court vacancy will lead Americans to “lose faith in the courts, and with good reason.”... the federal bench currently has over 84 vacant judgeships – approximately 10 percent of all federal judicial positions. In dozens of jurisdictions across the country, federal dockets are so clogged that they have been labeled “judicial emergencies.”... It’s time for the Senate to do its job and consider the well-qualified nominees for the federal judiciary."
Senator Burr’s absurd blockade of a judge in his home state (Richmond County Daily Journal [NC], 05/05/16)
Chris Fitzsimon - Contributing Columnist: "An African-American has never served as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina and Senator Richard Burr apparently intends to keep it that way, judging by his knee-jerk opposition to President Obama’s latest nominee to fill a seat on the court that has been vacant for 10 years, the longest vacancy in the country.... Burr cited a letter he wrote to President Obama endorsing May-Parker in reply to the question about why he was holding up a hearing on the nomination of May-Parker for the court. Seven years later, the Eastern District is still struggling to cope with its caseload with the vacancy to the point that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has designated it an emergency to fill the seat. And NC Policy Watch reported in 2014, in the prior seven years the district’s caseload grew so much that it took longer for a civil case to move from filing through trial than in any other district in the country except one in California.... Obama announced a new nominee for the court, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson from Fayetteville, a widely respected jurist .... It’s a solid choice for a seat that should have been filled years ago and Burr is doing North Carolina and the federal judiciary a disservice by playing political games now."
EDITORIAL: The Report Card for May 3 (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 05/03/16)
"F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., for immediately shooting down the nomination of Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a federal court vacancy for the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina. Timmons-Goodson has served on the N.C. Court of Appeals, was the first black woman on the state Supreme Court and most recently served as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. There’s little debate regarding her qualifications. Still, Sen. Burr said he won’t submit the nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so the politics of gridlock will ensure that the Eastern District vacancy, a post that has gone unfilled since the first day of 2006, will continue."
Time for McCrory and Burr to shut things down for the year? Under conservative standards applied to President Obama, they would have no other choice (NC Policy Watch, 05/03/16)
Rob Schofield: "One of the more important developments for North Carolina took place on Thursday when President Obama nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a decade-old vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the state’s Eastern District. If confirmed, Timmons-Goodson would be the first judge of color to ever serve in the Eastern District (a region of North Carolina in which the African-American population is higher than any other) in the history of the federal courts.
For those of you who are counting, that’s 237 years.
Unfortunately, ... Senator Richard Burr has announced that he will torpedo the nomination as the bizarre rules of the U.S. Senate all but guarantee him the right to do. As with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Burr apparently takes the view that federal judicial nominations during presidential election years are now a big no-no.... As with his Timmons-Goodson blockade, this is, of course, an utterly absurd position.... It’s hard to know what’s more maddening about Burr’s stance – the transparency of the senator’s hypocrisy and opportunism or his utter lack of transparency in espousing his position. ... In the case of the Eastern District seat (where Burr blocked a previous nominee for years) he has literally and repeatedly brushed off inquiries, stating that the public has no right to know his motives"
EDITORIAL: Our Opinion: A Burr blockade (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 05/03/16)
"When Patricia Timmons-Goodson ran for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court in 2006, she polled 58 percent of the vote. ... she’d already proven her mettle on the state Court of Appeals and as a District Court judge in her native Cumberland County.
So it wasn’t surprising last week when President Barack Obama nominated Timmons-Goodson to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Raleigh. She is eminently well-qualified and owns a long record of service.... But Sen. Richard Burr’s immediate response to the nomination did come as a shock.... he blocked the woman previously nominated for this long-empty position, Jennifer May-Parker, an assistant U.S. attorney. She was nominated in June 2013 but never given a hearing.... There is no excuse for denying Timmons-Goodson a hearing, even if Obama failed to call him about the nomination. That might be a breach of protocol, but Burr is equally responsible because of his unreasonable positions on the Lynch and Garland nominations.... as an experienced, fair-minded judge, Timmons-Goodson doesn’t let political considerations dictate her conduct on the bench. That’s what makes her a good choice for the federal court seat.... Burr should reconsider and support her confirmation"
EDITORIAL: Our View: Burr plays politics with long-vacant judicial seat (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 05/02/16)
"We've heard a lot of descriptions of Judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson over the years. All of them were glowing.
So it's hard to swallow Sen. Richard Burr's tarring of her nomination to a federal judgeship as "brazenly political" and an "election season stunt." The brazen politics are all his.
The judge, a Fayetteville native, was the first black woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is currently vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The best word for her career is "distinguished."
But there's certainly been plenty of politics played with the Eastern District of North Carolina federal judgeship that President Obama has nominated her to. It's been vacant since the second term of George W. Bush's administration, .... Thanks to the arcane rules and traditions of the Senate, Burr can block Timmons-Goodson's nomination for as long as he chooses. We expect he will.
And that's a shameful disservice to the administration of justice in the state Burr serves."
STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD: THUMBS DOWN (Standard-Examiner [Ogden, UT], 05/02/16)
"THUMBS DOWN: To Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, who are demanding a quick approval process for Utahn Ronald G. Russell to the federal bench.
What hypocrisy. Hatch and Lee are two of the main voices denying Judge Merrick Garland a hearing on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
We suspect that Russell is well qualified for the post. But Garland is eminently qualified for the Supreme Court, too. It’s ridiculous for Utah’s senators to use an argument for Russell that clearly also applies to Garland, whom they’re blocking for political advantage.
Coherence is in short supply in D.C. If Russell’s nomination is held, Hatch and Lee have only themselves to blame."
EDITORIAL: Sen. Burr blocks federal judge nominee and slows justice in eastern NC (News & Observer [NC], 05/02/16)
"Patricia Timmons-Goodson has served with distinction as a judge at all levels of North Carolina’s judicial system. ... She was the first black woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, ... and is now vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
By any measure, Timmons-Goodson’s career has been distinguished, and her rulings and writings are available for all to see and judge. She is well-qualified to be a federal judge.
But Timmons-Goodson’s nomination to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina is being stalled by the simple stubbornness of Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. The judicial post, which has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006, is the nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy....Burr’s opposition is unfair to Timmons-Goodson personally and unfair to the system running short of federal judges.... This obstruction is hardly a first ... he has joined in the GOP charade of denying a hearing for the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland.
The Senate’s job in reviewing the president’s nominees is to advise and consent, not to pout and obstruct.... Burr fails to recognize that right and in so doing is impeding the administration of justice for the people of Eastern North Carolina."
Bill Kirby Jr. column (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 04/29/16)
"U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of our state calls President Obama's nomination of Patricia Timmons-Goodson for a federal judgeship in the Eastern District of North Carolina a political ploy and says he'll not support the Fayetteville native's nomination, which tells some of us Burr has no idea about the integrity and character of Patricia Timmons-Goodson."
Richard Burr extends judicial blockade to longest-standing vacancy in the courts (Daily Kos, 04/29/16)
Joan McCarter: "The federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina features the longest-standing vacancy in the nation—a decade-long vacancy. Federal District Court Judge Malcolm Jones Howard semi-retired on December 31, 2005, and the seat hasn't been permanently filled since. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, Republican, wants to keep it that way.... the only agreement that was ever made public, one that Hagan agreed to, was to nominate Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District. Hagan submitted a "blue slip" for May-Parker, the courtesy that the Senate Judiciary Committee extends to home-state senators to put forward candidates they support. Burr refused to give her a blue slip and because then-chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) honored those blue slips, the nomination stalled. this is who the current nominee is: Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former state Supreme Court justice and vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. So Burr has decided now, when his state is on the verge of completely blowing up over civil rights issues, to block this nominee."
PoliticsNC Editor's blog: Do your job (PoliticsNC, 04/29/16)
Thomas Mills: "I really don’t understand Republicans’ Congressional strategy. The whole country is mad at Congress for being ineffective and incompetent and they still won’t do their jobs. Instead, of announcing he’s doing something,Richard Burr yesterday told us he’s not going to do his job and he’s going to continue to leave the federal courts in North Carolina short-handed.
Yesterday, Obama announced he is nominating Patricia Goodson-Timmons, a former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, to the federal court in Eastern North Carolina. The news was barely out before Richard Burr announced he would block the nomination. The court has had the vacancy for more than ten years. That’s right. The seat has been vacant for a decade and Richard Burr has stood in the way of filling it.... If Burr were smart, he would schedule hearings. If Timmons-Goodson really has problems, they’ll come out then. Instead, Burr is now on record blocking nominees. He’s not only making Congress appear to be skirting its responsibilities, he’s hamstringing the court system, too. For people concerned that government is broken, Burr and the Senate are just confirming their fears."
Commentary: President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/29/16)
Rob Schofield: "Ho hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it. ... Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina. Judge Timmon-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent."
North Carolina judicial nomination shot down immediately (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 04/28/16)
Editorial writer Doug Clark's blog: "President Barack Obama today nominated former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a long-vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Eastern North Carolina.
And Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina immediately shot her down. ... This is very disappointing because Timmons-Goodson is a well-qualified judge who has served on many levels in the North Carolina court system. ... I think he is also being very disingenuous. ... Burr himself has blown up credibility he previously earned in these matters by joining other Republican senators in stonewalling the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court. It was absolutely inexcusable for Republicans, including Burr, to declare they would not consider any nominee.
To call it a "stunt" for Obama to nominate a qualified jurist for an open court seat is nonsense. The president has every right to do so."
EDITORIAL: Our view: Senate blows chance to bolster Erie court (Erie Times-News [PA], 04/28/16)
"U.S. District Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter is not an ideological abstraction.
Neither is the criminal and civil caseload in Erie's U.S. District Court. ... None of that apparently matters in the U.S. Senate, where those elected to do the job have delayed a critical constitutional task, seating a candidate to fill the vacancy created nearly three years ago .... President Barack Obama nominated her in July to fill McLaughlin's seat, with support from both Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Baxter breezed through a Dec. 9 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.... On Tuesday, ... Senate Democrats in Washington sought to gain confirmation on 11 noncontroversial judicial nominations, including Baxter's.
Senate Republicans blocked the move. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., invoked math: Obama already had more judicial confirmations than President George W. Bush did at this stage in his presidency.
Granted, both sides have played the obstruction game. But that still seems to us a meaningless number, because the vacancies confronting Obama, including Erie's, have been more numerous.
Justice is supposed to roll like water, not be counted out like beans. The Senate needs to do its job."
Judicial architects (Idaho State Journal, 04/27/16)
Randy Stapilus Op-Ed: "Idaho may soon fill a critical job vacancy that opened when Edward Lodge announced in September 2014 his intent to “assume senior status” — more or less, semi-retire — the following July. That would allow a deep breath of relief on the underpopulated Idaho federal bench, which long has sought more judicial help. The Obama White House and Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both lawyers by profession), have agreed on David Nye of Pocatello, a 6th district judge, to fill the job. Kudos all around.... Crapo and Risch are asking the Senate to push his confirmation through.... Would Nye and Merrick [Garland] be fair judges? That would seem to be the relevant question at hand."
Ongoing Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 04/26/16)
"In 2007, the first year as the majority, the Democratic Senate confirmed 40 of President Bush’s circuit and district court nominees (with a total of 68 by the end of 2008). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has confirmed only 17 judges during this congress.... At the beginning of 2007, there were 56 circuit and district court vacancies. Throughout the next two years, the number of vacancies generally remained at 50 or fewer, getting as low as 34 in the early fall of 2008.... Today, in stark contrast, the number of circuit and district court vacancies is climbing, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 74 today, an 85% increase.... Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the new congress"
Editorial: Hatch should reciprocate and consider Garland nomination for Supreme Court (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/25/16)
"Now might be the time to ask Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee what they really think of the dysfunctional Congress that they helped create and continue to abet.... Last week, Utah's senators made the case for the confirmation of Ronald G. Russell to the U.S. District Court for Utah. President Barack Obama, after consulting with Hatch and Lee, nominated the former Centerville mayor in December.
Now, Russell is stuck is a queue behind 20 other judicial nominees, not to mention Obama's choice to the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Judge Merrick Garland.
It could be called hypocritical arrogance ... for Hatch and Lee to refuse to consider the president's Supreme Court choice while pressing their own nominee to a federal judgeship.
The double standard is particularly troubling in Hatch's case, as he has been an enthusiastic advocate for Garland .... Utah's elder statesman has two good reasons to break from the pack, stop the partisan melodrama and show leadership, to spend some of the political capital that he has accumulated over four decades. Merrick Garland and Ronald G. Russell are nominees he admires. Instead of contributing to poisonous politics, he could actually do something to fix it, something to loosen the appointment logjam and help courts function the way they are intended.
After all, Sen. Hatch, you have a pair of dogs in this fight.
Obama acted on your choice to fill a federal judgeship in Utah. You should reciprocate. It is what Utahns elected you to do."
Salamon | McConnell harms democratic process (Courier-Journal [KY] , 04/25/16)
Beth Salamon: "There are close to 100 current and future vacancies and 28 judicial emergencies, up 43 and 12 respectively since the beginning of this Congress. In Kentucky alone, there are two district court vacancies with no nominees, and one seat has been vacant for more than 1,000 days.... Our judicial vacancy problem extends beyond the Supreme Court and Judge Merrick Garland; it is the result of a systemic, politically motivated effort to deny President Obama his constitutionally mandated power to nominate federal court judges.... The Senate has held a mere 15 confirmation votes since January 2015, compared to the 111, 97 and 44 votes held by the previous three Congresses respectively.
McConnell has the power to fix this problem, but he regularly fails to do so, despite having publicly spoken about the constitutional need to vote on nominees at least two dozen times over the course of his career.
Only five judges have been confirmed in 2016. Fifteen district judicial nominations are currently languishing on the Senate floor for a vote, and 34 others await hearings in the Judiciary Committee. ... The 114th Congress is on pace to have the lowest number of judges confirmed in six decades.... This bottlenecking keeps our American court system from functioning as it was intended. Justice delayed is justice denied for everyone in the United States."
Editorial, 4/23: Rust in the system (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 04/22/16)
"In ways both big and small, the machinery of the federal government is slowly rusting shut.
Take, for starters, the judicial system.
The most glaring example is the refusal of the Republican majority in the Senate, including Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, to have a hearing or vote on President Barrack Obama’s appointment of federal Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the rust goes a lot deeper into the system.
Obama’s appointment of Omaha attorney Robert Rossiter to Nebraska’s federal District Court has been pending since June.... The Nebraska vacancy, created when U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon of Omaha announced his retirement, qualifies as a “judicial emergency.” ... There are almost a hundred judicial vacancies on lower federal courts. The Senate has confirmed only six federal judges this year.
There’s nothing controversial about Rossiter’s appointment. It’s just that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not allow the Senate to act.... 25 members of the Law College at the University of Nebraska urged confirmation hearings and a vote on Judge Garland, noting that Republican senators in past years have cited Judge Garland as an example of a nominee they could support.... The same scenario applies to Rossiter. If the Senate fails to act on his nomination during the current system of Congress, the whole process would restart next year when there is a new president in the White House."