Editorials and Opinion
Editorial: Get federal judges into open slots (Longmont Daily Times-Call [CO], 05/05/13)
"Lawmakers are playing politics with federal judicial nominees, which means important cases get delayed, courts are overloaded, nominees endure months of waiting in limbo, judicial integrity is compromised, and the American people get poor service from one the country's three branches of government. Observers have a noted that the nominating process for federal judges has long been broken, but in some important ways the problem has gotten worse since President Obama took office. ...Some Republican senators under Obama simply refuse to recommend district court judges, which by tradition it's their prerogative to do. When judges have been nominated, their nominations are too often blocked in the Senate."
Iowa U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (Des Moines Register [IA] , 05/02/13)
"The average voter doesn’t appreciate the significance of federal judicial confirmations in their lives. The federal judges, the district court, the appellate level and the Supreme Court have an enormous impact on the lives of Americans and Iowans.... we’ve got this incredible backlog due to obstructionism by the Senate Republicans that’s keeping these nominees from getting an up or down vote. And so we have vacancies, and that denies people justice."
On the Importance of Judges (Environmental Forum, 05/01/13)
John C. Cruden, President, Environmental Law Institute: "At a recent meeting for environmental leaders held at the White House, we were asked whether our organizations really understand the importance of judges. I responded for everyone that you could not be in the environmental community without recognizing the critical importance of a well-informed judiciary in the upward trajectory of environmental policy....the United States has a staggering number of federal court vacancies: 68 in district courts and 17 in courts of appeal. Some 29 of these vacancies are considered to be emergencies. ... While all federal courts are important to environmental practitioners, the D.C. Circuit has a special place in our history and future."
Obama's Judicial Nominees Blocked On All Sides By Senate Republicans (Huffington Post, 04/30/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "It's bad enough that there are 82 vacant federal judge slots around the country, a level so high that many observers have deemed it a crisis situation.
But perhaps even more startling is the fact that of those 82 vacant slots, 61 of them don't even have a nominee....a closer look at data on judicial nominees, and conversations with people involved in the nomination process, reveals the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place....since Obama took office, senators from some states -- particularly those represented by two Republicans -- have simply refused to make recommendations"
Make ‘Em Plead? The House's “Gang of Eight” immigration compromise may require 11 million court dates. (American Prospect, 04/30/13)
Harold Meyerson: "At a time when the backlog of cases before the courts has reached staggering proportions, Republicans on the House immigration working group have come up with a proposal to lengthen judicial waits beyond all imaginable horizons.... even if the number of immigrants who must show up is reduced by half, that’s still a lot of people who’ll be lining up at federal courthouses if and when a bill requiring such pleas is enacted. And this at a time when the courts are already swamped, and when Republicans are either taking forever to confirm, or using the filibuster to reject, President Obama’s judicial appointments.
So here’s my own proposed compromise, which I have vetted with absolutely nobody. If the price for a Republican sign-on to immigration reform is to drown the courts in pleading immigrants, Democrats should link that to the GOP agreeing to stop filibustering Obama’s judicial appointees.... You want ‘em to plead? Then give the courts enough judges they can plead to."
Slowing Judicial Nominations Right from the Start (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/30/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Grassley and others, however, should take a look at the work of Jennifer Bendery at The Huffington Post, who notes, like other honest observers of the fight over judicial nominations, that the obstruction is and always has been the product of Republican senators. A careful look at the judicial nominations process reveals, she writes, “the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place.”
Senate Republicans totally boycott judicial nominee process (Daily Kos, 04/30/13)
Joan McCarter: "It's no secret that Senate Republicans have one purpose in political life: total obstruction of President Obama's and Senate Democrats' agenda. It's no secret that to do so, they've ground the work of the Senate to a halt with the filibuster, blocking an unprecedented number of bills and nominations, including judicial nominations. The judiciary crisis is no secret, either:... Republicans point the finger at President Obama, saying that out of the 82 vacancies, 61 don't even have a nominee. How, they say, can we be responsible for this crisis when the President won't even make the nominations. Well, it turns out, Republicans are even blocking that process: they're refusing to allow the simple process of nominations go forward."
Ongoing Obstruction in Senate Rekindles Calls for Filibuster Reform (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/25/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Republicans have crafted a new norm of requiring a supermajority to end debate and allow up-or-down votes on legislation and nominations. ... Since the deal Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, threatened to scuttle his nominations to the National Labor Relations Board and undermine the operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The lame filibuster deal and the ongoing obstruction by Republican senators have spurred a coalition of public interest groups to pressure the Senate to change its ways."
Why The Confirmation Of An Outstanding Judge Still Proves The Senate Is Terrible (Think Progress, 04/25/13)
Ian Millhiser: "It is fantastic news that Kelly is now a judge. Beyond the fact that she is talented and that she adds another name to the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees in a Democratic administration, former public defenders are very rare on the federal bench ... But a person shouldn’t have to be friends with a guy who is friends with Chuck Grassley in order to avoid a grueling confirmation process."
Confirm the judges (The Hill, 04/24/13)
Brent Budowsky: "It is time to end the obstruction against justice committed by Senate Republicans who first abuse the senatorial courtesy known as blue slips, which gives senators a voice in presidential nominations of federal judges, and then abuse the Senate filibuster rules, to obstruct confirmation of judicial nominees ... a growing number of Senate Republicans are abusing this extra-constitutional and non-statutory blue-slip practice with a contempt for courtesy that obstructs the pursuit of justice. They prevent the confirmation of federal judges with one-senator or two-senator vetoes. They willfully and deliberately keep large numbers of judicial posts vacant ... If this abusive contempt of senatorial courtesy does not end promptly, the blue-slip practice should be ended."
Confirming Eighth Circuit Judge, Sen. Leahy Blasts Effort to Hobble D.C. Circuit (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/24/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) have stuck to agenda of obstruction.... Grassley unveiled his plan to keep the D.C. Circuit from shifting much in ideology – currently the court tilts rightward and has proved hostile to federal regulations, such as efforts to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water laws. Grassley claims the D.C. Circuit has too many judges and a light caseload. He has introduced a bill to slash the number of judges to eight. If Grassley and the other obstructionists have their way, Obama will be fortunate to get one nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.... The Judicial Conference of the United States, chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. in an April 5 letter, Leahy noted, recommended keeping the D.C. Circuit’s 11 judgeships. Moreover, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has noted the Circuit’s caseload has “increased by 50 percent since 2005.”
Regarding caseloads of the federal appeals court circuits, Leahy noted that with Kelly’s confirmation, the “Eighth Circuit will have the lowest number of pending appeals per active judge of any circuit in the country. Yes, lower than the D.C. Circuit.”
Leahy then rattled off the scores of judicial nominations the Senate obstructionists have delayed or scuttled during Obama’s presidency, leading to a vacancy rate that has hovered at 80 or above for several years now."
How the Senate cheats New York: We cede our power to Wyoming (New York Daily News, 04/22/13)
Norm Ornstein: "it now means that even when a clear majority of senators favor a bill or a nominee for executive or judicial posts, that is not enough. And in an era of partisan polarization, where minority Republicans act regularly as if they were a parliamentary minority, reflexively voting together in opposition, it means that a majority party is routinely stymied."
Prioritize appointing U.S. judges (Cincinnati Enquirer [OH] , 04/21/13)
By Laurel Bellows, president of the American Bar Association: "With 86 (one in 10) vacancies on our federal bench and with 37 vacant judgeships qualifying as judicial emergencies, the time for collaboration and compromise is now."
The Register editorial: Grassley wants to whittle down court (Des Moines Register [IA] , 04/20/13)
"U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has gotten a lot of attention for his proposal to reduce the size of the second most powerful federal court from 11 judges to eight. ... Grassley insists he just wants to redistribute court resources without increasing the judiciary budget. Maybe, but we don’t remember Grassley having these budget concerns when Republican presidents were packing the court."
Seib & Wessel: What We’re Reading Tuesday (Wall Street Journal, 04/20/13)
Recommended reading from around the Web, by Gerald F. Seib and David Wessel: "Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) looks at the rash of vacant federal judgeships around the country–82 vacant federal judge slots—and notes that for a startling 61 of them there hasn’t even been a nominee put forward to the Senate. But she says that isn’t simply because President Obama isn’t moving; a large part of the problem is that Republican senators aren’t nominating judges for district court nominees, which by tradition, they recommend. [Huffington Post]"
Editorial: Judicial gridlock felt in Texas; Our confirmation system is stuck in tit-for-tat, and we're starting to feel it. (Houston Chronicle, 04/18/13)
Sen. "Cruz, along with Sen. John Cornyn and other Republican senators, has signed on to a plan that is the near opposite of FDR's failed court packing scheme. Instead of adding judicial seats to expand presidential appointment power, the so-called Court Efficiency Act will eliminate some of the vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. But this meddling with the fundamentals of our judiciary is court packing by another name, and it does not pass the smell test. It is time to lay off the political maneuvering and get back to basics - either approve President Obama's judicial nominees or vote them down. ... Voters should not be content with politicians who hold our judiciary hostage in a race to the bottom."
Editorial: Help wanted: Judges; Federal benches: Empty (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 04/18/13)
"Now, 87 of 874 federal judgeships are vacant, causing trials postponements and the shuttling in of judges from neighboring courts.... Justice is served when the judiciary is adequately staffed. The president should step up the pace of nominations; the Senate should swiftly approve all but the ethical stinkers or the grossly unqualified. ... Four vacancies exist on the D.C. bench--one since 2005. Mr. Srinivasan, a moderate nominated 10 months ago, is about to come under full Senate scrutiny. Will the merry-go-round stop spinning and allow his confirmation? Let us hope."
'Filibus[t]er wars' must come to an end (Des Moines Register [IA] , 04/17/13)
Carl Tobias: "reflect the judicial vacancy crisis that has left the courts with almost 90 vacancies for more than three years and the D.C Circuit with four of 11 judgeships empty. ... The filibuster wars must cease for the good of the nation, the bench and federal court litigants."
President and Congress must act to fill judicial vacancies (The Hill, 04/17/13)
By Laurel Bellows, president, American Bar Association: "With 86 (one in 10) vacancies on our federal bench and with 37 vacant judgeships qualifying as judicial emergencies, the time for collaboration and compromise is now. ... Real costs are often borne by businesses whose viability relies on the timely resolution of commercial disputes, by defendants who lose jobs and sometimes family ties while languishing behind bars awaiting trial, and, ultimately, the public that expects courts to deliver on the promise of justice for all.
Our economy depends on courts to enforce contracts, protect property and determine liability. Judicial vacancies increase caseloads per judge, creating delays that jeopardize the ability of courts to expeditiously deliver judgments. Delay translates into costs for litigants. Delay results in uncertainty that discourages growth and investment. With 60 percent more judicial vacancies at present than in January 2009 and pending civil cases in U.S. District Courts 7 percent higher than in 2005, vacancies are potential job-killers.
... As a first step, Democrats and Republicans should schedule up-or-down floor votes for those 13 nominees favorably reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with little or no opposition.
Second, the 11 nominees who were pending on the floor when the 112th Congress adjourned should be fast-tracked.... Next, the Senate majority and minority leaders should agree to prioritize filling judicial emergencies and shorten the period of time between nomination and votes. ... Finally, the White House should offer a nominee for every open seat on the bench. The many vacancies and anticipated vacancies warrant making judicial vacancies a priority this year."
Of Judges and Judging (New York Times, 04/17/13)
Linda Greenhouse Opinionator blog: "The Senate Republican minority conducted an outrageous filibuster that killed the nomination of Caitlin Halligan ... To say that the D.C. Circuit has been a political football in recent years is an understatement. In 1999, when President Bill Clinton named Elena Kagan to the appeals court, where she would have been the 11th judge, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to give her a hearing, on the ground that the court’s workload didn’t justify filling that vacancy. But four years later, the Senate had no such compunctions about confirming Janice Rogers Brown, President George W. Bush’s nominee to that seat, even though the court’s workload had actually declined in the interval. Senator Grassley may or may not know his history, but no one can say he doesn’t know his politics."
Did Senator Grassley Not Check His Inbox? -- His Proposal to Gut the D.C. Circuit Ignores the Judicial Conference (Text & History, 04/17/13)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "That Senator Grassley’s proposal to eliminate the 9th, 10th, and 11th seats on the D.C. Circuit is a partisan ploy is evidenced not only by the numbers but also because it is not based on any study and in fact ignores recent recommendations of the Judicial Conference to Congress regarding the number of judgeships on the federal courts. By letter of April 5, 2013 to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a copy of which was also sent to Senator Grassley, the Judicial Conference transmitted to the 113th Congress “the Conference’s Article III and bankruptcy judgeship recommendations and corresponding draft legislation for the 113th Congress.” With respect to the circuit courts, these recommendations include the addition of four judges to the Ninth Circuit and one to the Sixth Circuit; there is no recommendation to eliminate any of the judgeships on the D.C. Circuit or to leave any of that court’s vacancies unfilled. In addition, the Judicial Conference has not made any recommendation to add any judges to the Second or 11th Circuits. Senator Grassley’s proposal would not only gut the D.C. Circuit, it would move two of that court’s judgeships to courts where the Judicial Conference has not said they are needed. Senator Grassley’s proposal is based solely on a numeric comparison of cases pending per judge in the D.C. Circuit and in the Second and 11th Circuits. But this comparison wrongly assumes that the typical D.C. Circuit case is similar to the typical case in any other Circuit. It isn’t; Senator Grassley is comparing apples to oranges."
Senators Filibuster; Get a Panel (Burnt Orange Report [TX], 04/17/13)
Edward Garris: "Reasonable people can agree on the conciliatory tone of Rep. Jackson Lee's press release and the spirit of bipartisanship. However, where two Republican senators from Texas have worked tirelessly to block the president's judicial nominees, it is not necessarily clear that a 35-person committee assembled by and beholden to those two senators is necessarily the answer to clearing that path to the federal bench."
Obstruction or hope (WisOpinion, 04/16/13)
Bill Kaplan: "Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson is one of the leading obstructionists.... And, he was successful. Case in point, law professor Victoria Nourse. Nourse had taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School since 1994, when she was nominated to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Obama in 2010. She had served in the federal executive and legislative branches under Republicans and Democrats. And, Nourse had received the highest grade for a judicial nominee from the American Bar Association. Moreover, she had strong support from the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission (a merit-based selection system). But Nourse never got a Senate hearing. Senator Johnson later put a "hold" on Nourse, a one-man-filibuster. Johnson never bothered to meet with Nourse. If he had bestirred himself he would have learned that Nourse was respected by other Senate Republicans. And, Johnson would have been surprised that Nourse is related to the late GOP Representative Edith Nourse Rogers (MA), an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. Instead he killed her nomination."
9th Circuit: Final L.A. Dist. Court Vacancy Filled by O'Connell (Findlaw, 04/16/13)
U.S. Ninth Circuit blog by William Peacock, Esq.: "Lucky us. Across this fine nation, there are 84 vacancies in federal courts, 68 in U.S. District Courts, and 16 on U.S. Courts of Appeal, according to the fine folks at Courthouse News Service. If you've been following judicial appointments at all in the past couple years, you'll recognize that even when an appointment is made, the Senate refuses to confirm. Good old gridlock. Superior Court Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell finally cleared that gridlock on her second trip through the Senate confirmation process, by a vote of 92-0. That unanimous margin itself illustrates how uncontroversial her appointment was and how ridiculous things are in Washington D.C."
VIDEO INTERVIEW: [FEDERAL CIRCUIT] JUDGE PAUL MICHEL ON USPTO AND CONGRESS (Managing Intellectual Property, 04/15/13)
Transcript: "In terms of what could Congress have done more constructively? it could have filled 100 judicial vacancies in the District Court; it could have increased the number of judgeships which the judiciary has been asking for for over 20 years and which Congress has refused to do so the mismatch between the workload of judges and the number of judges is severe and has grown worse over time. Cases, filings go up; complexity goes up. The available resources get further and further out of line - that's what Congress should be concentrating on."
Opinion: Labor fight one front in GOP war (The Hill, 04/15/13)
Juan Williams: "That strategy is so brassy that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has written a bill to cut the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit from 11 to eight. His clear intent is to stop Obama and the Democrats from ever having a majority on the court. Blocking the second highest court in the nation from properly functioning is a double win for the GOP. Not only do the Republicans keep the White House nominees off the court but they are also halting rulings on the activities of federal agencies. Without court decisions to back them up, the agencies can be blocked at any turn by threats of litigation. The D.C. Circuit, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently explained, is responsible for much of the litigation centered on federal regulatory agencies. For example, the courts often have the final word on the EPA’s controversial rulings on air and water quality. Those are major targets of GOP obstruction."
Editorial: Senators must stop filibustering well-qualified judicial appointments (Buffalo News [NY], 04/15/13)
"President Obama has been blocked from filling any of the four vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. ... An understaffed court makes it difficult for the remaining judges to properly carry out their duties. Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution scholar who studies the federal courts, has written that delays in sorting out contractual disputes, along with other matters left unresolved, will have an economic impact. Not to mention the injustice created by delays in hearing criminal appeals and claims of discrimination and civil liberties violations.
If that is not enough, the failure to promptly fill judicial vacancies discourages well-qualified candidates from ever seeking judgeships.... Republicans will soon have another chance to allow a vote on an Obama nominee, one with such solid credentials that he should be easily confirmed.
Both liberals and conservatives have been busy writing letters of support for Sri Srinivasan."
Former Kansan’s judicial nomination key for Obama (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 04/15/13)
WE [Editorial Department] Blog by Rhonda Holman: "The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has four vacancies, including, unbelievably, the one created when Chief Justice John Roberts left that bench in 2005. President Obama is hoping his latest nominee for that court, Sri Srinivasan, will avoid a GOP filibuster. Srinivasan, who played basketball in high school with Danny Manning while growing up in Lawrence, is the Obama administration’s principal deputy solicitor general and has been endorsed by the likes of Kenneth Starr. He had an uneventful hearing"
Montana politics: Of steers and senators (Missoulian [MT], 04/14/13)
Dick Mangan, Letter to the Editor: "It’s even worse at the national level: untold numbers of nominees for judicial positions can’t even get their names brought up for a vote in the U.S. Senate for hundreds of days, and gutless/nameless senators use the threat of a filibuster to prevent votes on issues like cabinet appointments and gun control legislation. Stand up like a bull and cast your vote; let us voters know what your really believe in and what you stand for!"