Editorials and Opinion
Burr’s absurd blockade of a judge in his home state (Triangle Tribune [NC], 05/09/16)
by Chris Fitzsimon, Columnist: "An African-American has never served as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. 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."
Eva Clayton: Eastern North Carolina deserves to have a federal court judge (News & Observer [NC], 05/09/16)
Former Congresswoman Eva Clayton: "When I heard that President Obama had nominated Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill the long-vacant seat on the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina federal district court, my heart rose. “Finally,” I thought.
After 10 years of waiting, the people of Eastern North Carolina would have a justice of whom we could all be proud. ... The first African-American woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court was now going to be the first African-American judge to serve the Eastern District of North Carolina.... Burr. It is his job to consider judicial nominees, yet almost immediately after Timmons-Goodson’s nomination was announced Burr said he would block it. No vote. No hearing. Not so much as a meeting.
Burr has justified his blocking of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee by saying the American people deserve to have a say so we must wait until after the 2016 presidential election. But in the case of Timmons-Goodson, the people of North Carolina did have their say – twice – and they chose her."
Get to work, senator (Wilmington Star-News [NC], 05/08/16)
Letter to the Editor by Susi Hamilton, N.C. House of Representatives: "Sen. Richard Burr is not doing the job we are paying him to do when he refuses to even consider judicial nominees.
Burr swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which includes the important role of considering judicial nominees to federal courts. However, he refuses to honor that oath by vowing to block the appointment of Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a woman who was elected twice to statewide office and served as the first African American woman on the N.C. Supreme Court, to the federal court.
Our Eastern District seat has been vacant for over a decade.... Do your job, Sen. Burr. Give Patricia Timmons-Goodson a vote."
Letter: Wrong to block nomination (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 05/06/16)
Val Applewhite: "Sen. Richard Burr blocked the appointment of Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a seat on the federal court in Eastern North Carolina that has been vacant for over a decade.
Patricia Timmons-Goodson was elected district judge three times before becoming the first African-American woman to be elected to, and serve on, the North Carolina Supreme Court.
It is unfair that we have to settle for this hypocrisy displayed by Richard Burr and it is wrong that the people in the 44 counties represented by the Eastern District are denied the honorable and distinguished judge they deserve."
Senate Republicans Are Breaking Records for Judicial Obstruction: As President Obama enters his final months in office, dozens of seats on the bench will remain unfilled. (Mother Jones, 05/06/16)
Patrick Caldwell: "While Democrats have publicly hammered the GOP's refusal to consider Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, Republicans have mounted an equally important, if quieter, effort to block President Barack Obama's nominees to other federal courts, creating widespread vacancies in courts across the country.... Since taking control of the Senate in early 2015, Republicans have confirmed only 17 federal judges, a historically low number. The Senate confirmed just 11 judges in 2015, the fewest since 1960. There have been only two appellate court judges approved since Republicans took control, with seven appeals court nominations left pending.... Republicans would have to go on a spree of votes for the rest of the year to match the 68 judges that President George W. Bush got through the Democratic Senate in the last two years of his presidency—38 of whom had already been confirmed by April 2008.
It's not for lack of nominees that the pace of confirmations has been so slow. There are 87 current vacancies and 61 judicial nominations... 20 nominations are languishing on the Senate floor ... the number of vacancies has been growing since the start of 2015, whereas Bush saw his vacancy rate decline over the equivalent period of his presidency."
Gene Smith: First things first, and justice isn't one of them (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 05/06/16)
"The only thing that Burr has to do to block Patricia Timmons-Goodson of Fayetteville, a former state Supreme Court justice and Court of Appeals judge, is nothing. Without his blessing and that of Sen. Thom Tillis, the Senate will never get a peek at her nomination.... [Burr]'s so upset by this development, he says, that he will not clear any nominee put forward by the lame-duck president.
What makes it potentially risky is that Burr is trying to link arms with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who famously made the same vow regarding Supreme Court nominees, but their situations are different.
McConnell's core argument is that the Constitution really doesn't require the Senate to do anything at all when the president sends it a nomination. The argument makes no sense because it implies that the Framers gave one of their three independent branches power to decapitate another branch through attrition; but at least it has something to do with the Constitution. Burr's (and Tillis') power to block nominees from this state is rooted in mere tradition. The Framers not only made no provision for it; most probably would have found the idea repugnant.... So Timmons-Goodson's fitness won't be an issue.... Unfortunately, it will do North Carolina no good."
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 (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."
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 (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."
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."
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."
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: 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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."