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Editorial: Congress skips out on vital business (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 07/20/16)
"The fact remains they left important business hanging as they headed for the airport. For instance, Idaho is awaiting confirmation of David Nye as federal judge. He was nominated to be the state’s second federal district judge, replacing Judge Edward Lodge who took senior status last July. The state has been getting by with just one federal district judge for a year. Now it will wait another seven weeks, at best. The Senate Judiciary Committee finally voted to confirm Nye on Thursday, but he can’t begin work until the full Senate takes a vote. Seventeen other judges have been waiting even longer to be confirmed. Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, can’t even get a hearing. Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Z. Russell, who covers Idaho politics, conducted research on “August” recesses and found this to be the longest one since they began, in 1971."

EDITORIAL: Zika threat gets worse, Congress skips town (Miami Herald, 07/20/16)
"In fact, and as shameful, Congress left a long list of unfinished business before lawmakers went off to campaign for reelection and attend the political conventions: a measure to prevent terrorists from acquiring firearms, scores of judicial confirmations, a broad criminal justice reform bill, basic appropriations bills and much more. And, of course, the Supreme Court nomination the Senate refused to hear."

Editorial Boards Stress Urgent Need to Fill Federal Judicial Vacancies in 2016 (, 07/20/16)
The following editorials highlight the real-world impacts of the current federal judicial vacancy surge and the pressing need to fill those vacancies.

EDITORIAL: The Report Card for July 21 (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 07/20/16)
"Staff grades: F to the continued logjam on judicial appoints in the U.S. Senate, which of course includes a Supreme Court nominee who’s been languishing without a hearing for more than four months. Last week a batch of other nominees were presented for votes, only to be shot down by N.C.’s junior Senator, Thom Tillis, saying that “What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs.’’ ... considering the stonewalling on judges, it is in fact easy to say the Senate isn’t doing its job. One of the vacant seats, for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, has been empty for 10 and a half years."

Let’s keep our convention attacks in perspective, shall we? (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 07/19/16)
Steve Sebelius, Review-Journal political columnist: "Why don’t we start by simply holding votes on the nominations the president has already made, such as U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, a man praised by both Republicans and Democrats as a fair-minded and well-qualified jurist. To simply ignore that nomination and refuse to hold a vote is an utter failure to live up to the oath of office for senators, yet the Republican-controlled Senate has done just that. In fact, there was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the stage Tuesday evening, boasting of his promise to not allow the president of the United States to exercise his powers to fill up vacancies on the Supreme Court, because McConnell said he had promised that honor to the next president. And the delegates cheered! This was possibly the lowest point of the convention thus far."

Edit Memo: Senate Republicans, Exhausted From Not Doing Their Jobs, Take a 7-Week Vacation, the Longest in 60 Years (People For blog, 07/19/16)
Paul Gordon: "Last week, the GOP-controlled Senate explained why there supposedly wasn’t enough time before an extensive summer recess, the longest in 60 years, to confirm numerous long-standing consensus judicial nominees. In fact, they spent more time making excuses than it would have taken to actually confirm the nominees. The exchange revealed new depths to which Senate Republicans will sink in order to avoid doing their jobs and voting on the president’s nominees to our lower federal courts, in addition to their unprecedented refusal to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court."

Obstructionist Tom Cotton: Speech light on Trump references (Arkansas Times, 07/19/16)
Max Brantley: "A legal website, Law360, wrote this week about Cotton's continuing obstruction of judicial appointments, particularly to the federal court of claims. The article demolishes Cotton's pretexts for refusing to fill seats on the important court and again raises an implication that he might be serving the special interest of a former law firm in doing so. ... court with a rising caseload isn't getting the help it needs. Tom Cotton stands in the way, despite multiple approvals of bipartisan-approved nominees for vacancies. "The ability of the court to decide cases is being inexcusably harmed by Sen. Cotton's failure to do his job," said Glenn Sugameli, founder of Judging the Environment and a senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. "There's an advise and consent duty." A prominent example of the problems the court faces without a full bench came in Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams' comments at an October scheduling conference, in a case filed by the Jicarilla Apache Nation, according to Sugameli. While noting she could possibly hand trial off to another judge, Judge Williams said that she would otherwise have to move a trial originally scheduled for November back to July, her earliest available opening, with "a lot" of emergency cases to resolve first. "There's real, specific evidence that this is hurting the ability to resolve cases," Sugameli said."

Like It Or Not, The Left Still Loves The Supreme Court (Above the Law, 07/19/16)
Joe Patrice: "certain populations, in particular those important to progressives, can’t quit the Supreme Court. ... Perhaps the synthesis of the two panels was put forward by Anisha Singh, noting the importance of the judiciary to progressive reforms, but warning against fixation on the Supreme Court when the judiciary as a whole is understaffed (100 vacancies as of today, with 30 courts having declared judicial emergencies), and critically important to vindicating citizen rights."

Decoding the Thurmond Rule (American Constitution Society Blog, 07/19/16)
Harsh Voruganti: "approximately one in ten federal judgeships is currently sitting vacant, leading to judicial backlogs in the affected courts. Unfortunately, due to an obscure Senate theory called the Thurmond Rule, this vacancy rate will only increase in the coming weeks. Despite its moniker, the Thurmond Rule is not a formal Senate rule, but rather an informal theory. ... Regardless of the rhetoric on the issue, there is virtually no precedent for a complete shutdown of judicial nominations upon the summer recess.... In 1980, when the Thurmond Rule was supposedly first invoked, the Senate confirmed two circuit court judges and eleven district court judges after the August recess. In 1988, a Democratic-majority Senate confirmed two circuit court judges and nine district court judges after the August recess. In 1992, a Democratic-majority Senate confirmed three circuit court judges and nine district court judges post-August. In 2000, a Republican-majority Senate confirmed four district court judges in October. In 2008, a Democratic-majority Senate confirmed ten district court judges in late September. ... there is no reason why President Obama cannot see similar confirmation rates. Additionally, many of the nominees confirmed in previous Congresses were nominated and processed late in the Presidential election season. ... In contrast to 68 judges confirmed by a Democratic Senate in the last two years of the Bush presidency, only 20 judges have been confirmed by the Republican Senate this Congress. ... the Senate maintains a responsibility to continue processing judicial nominations into late September and October. If the Senate fails to meet that goal, it cannot rely on the Thurmond Rule as a defense."

Commentary: Powerful essay underscores absurdity of Burr/Tillis judicial blockade (Progressive Pulse [NC], 07/19/16)
Rob Schofield: "the essay below ... does a great job of explaining the outrageous nature of the ongoing blockade of Judge Merrick Garland and numerous other Obama judicial nominees by the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate — a blockade in which both of North Carolina’s senators — Richard Burr and Thom Tillis — continue to play a sadly prominent role."

Commentary: 125 days of not doing their jobs; Senators set new record of inaction on Garland nomination (Progressive Pulse [NC], 07/19/16)
Rob Schofield: "The U.S. Senate is setting a new record for inaction on a Supreme Court justice nomination this week. Today marks 125 days since President Obama submitted the name of Merrick Garland .... Here in North Carolina, we are, sadly, home to two of the chief obstructionists. Senator Richard Burr has not only refused to even address the Garland nomination in anything approaching a thorough way, he has been blocking nominees to the federal court in the state’s eastern district for a full decade now. Meanwhile, Burr’s junior partner, Thom Tillis made national headlines last week (see the cartoon below) with his asinine comment that Senate consideration of judicial nominations has “nothing to do with us doing our jobs.” The bottom line: North Carolina’s U.S. senators are not only not doing their jobs, they clearly don’t even understand what their jobs entail."

Congress’ current ‘August recess,’ which started today, is record-longest… (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 07/18/16)
Betsy Z. Russell: "While Idaho’s two GOP senators were excited to get Idaho U.S. district judge nominee David Nye approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, that Thursday committee vote came at a time when there was virtually no chance of a full Senate vote before September, at the earliest."

Everything You Need To Know About The Republican Party’s Recalcitrance, In One Chart (Think Progress, 07/18/16)
Ian Millhiser: "Nor did the Senate perform much of its other core function — confirming presidential nominees. The Senate’s Republican majority has thus-far kept to it’s promise not to even hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. And its hardly used the time freed up by not confirming Garland to move forward on other judicial nominations. To the contrary, the Senate confirmed fewer judges since Republicans gained the majority in 2015 than in any comparable period in a two-term presidency since Harry Truman — and the drop-off from recent presidents is quite stark. Lest anyone conclude that the current Senate merely returned to a confirmation rate that was normal in our grandparents’ heyday, it is important to note that the size of the federal judiciary has grown tremendously since the Truman presidency. On the day that Truman left office, only 291 life-tenured judges were authorized by federal law. Today, that number is 860. Thus, the Senate confirmed nearly as many judges in the comparable period in the Truman administration as it has confirmed under President Obama, despite the fact that there are now more than three times as many judgeships to fill. Under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, moreover, the Senate confirmed significantly less than half of the number of judges confirmed during the comparable period in President George W. Bush’s presidency, and about a third of the judges confirmed during similar periods in the Clinton and Reagan presidencies. Notably, Reagan, Clinton and Bush all faced senates that were controlled by the opposite party during their final years in office."

Op-Ed: Ruth Bader Ginsburg has nothing to apologize for in her criticism of Donald Trump. (Los Angeles Times, 07/18/16)
Erwin Chemerinsky: "She praised President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, and said that the court’s work is hindered by the Senate’s failure to consider him. I wish more of the justices would explain that the Senate’s refusal to consider this nomination, as well as nominations for lower federal court judgeships, is seriously interfering with the functioning of the courts."

Merrick Garland Deserves a Vote—For Democracy’s Sake: Playing political football with a Supreme Court nomination erodes the rule of law and leaves major issues in limbo  (Wall Street Journal, 07/18/16)
President Obama: "Every Supreme Court nominee since 1875 who hasn’t withdrawn from the process has received a hearing or a vote. ... Chief Judge Garland isn’t controversial. ... First, a functioning judiciary—at every level—is essential to the business of the nation. For example, last month, a deadlocked Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision on several major issues, leaving the law itself in limbo. Across the country, judicial vacancies are leaving some lower courts so overwhelmed they can barely make it through their dockets. Twenty-nine judicial emergencies have been declared by lower courts across the country. This has real implications for jurisprudence, real financial costs to the judicial system and real consequences in the lives of people awaiting the outcomes of those cases. Second, treating the Supreme Court like a political football makes the American people more cynical about democracy. ... So here’s an idea. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate could agree to give Chief Judge Garland a hearing when they return from their extended recess, while also committing to give every future qualified Supreme Court nominee a hearing and a vote within an established time frame. It’s a good idea that my predecessor, President George W. Bush, suggested during his time in office."

Obama Nominees Caught Between Judicial Dreams, Practice Realities (National Law Journal, 07/17/16)
Zoe Tillman: "after the summer recesses in 2000 and 2008, the Senate did confirm a small number of judges... As is true now, the Senate was controlled in those election years by a different party than the president. [Chart shows 10 for George W. Bush] ... In 2000, there were 38 federal district and circuit court nominees pending at the start of the summer recess and 62 vacancies, according to federal judiciary records. At the same juncture in 2008, there were 37 nominees pending and 41 vacant judgeships. As of July 15, there were 49 nominees for 80 vacancies. Twenty-six of those nominees have had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 20 have been sent to the full Senate for a vote. Those numbers don’t cover the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of International Trade and U.S. Court of Federal Claims—eight nominees are pending for nine vacancies on those courts. ... There are 29 vacancies that the federal judiciary considers “judicial emergencies,” due to heavy caseloads in those districts. Nominees are pending for 19 of those seats."

GOP senator: Confirming judges unrelated to ‘doing our jobs (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 07/15/16)
Steve Benen: "If there’s a compelling defense for how Senate Republicans are treating President Obama’s judicial nominees, no one has shared it yet. This goes well beyond the unprecedented mistreatment of Merrick Garland: Politico reported yesterday that this GOP-led Senate has confirmed “just 20 district and circuit court judges … a time when the vacancies are hampering the federal bench nationwide.”... note that when Democrats ran the Senate for the final two years of the Bush/Cheney era, they approved 68 federal judges, more than triple what we’re seeing now. Also note, ... there are plenty of judicial nominees championed by Republicans who are currently stuck – because GOP leaders want to shut down the confirmation process altogether out of partisan spite. But the fight took an unintentionally funny twist yesterday when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said that when it comes to confirming judicial nominees, it’s not part of senators’ job."

Will someone please direct Senator Thom Tillis to Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution? (New Republic Online, 07/15/16)
Saif Alnuweiri: "“What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs,” he said, following calls by Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono to approve judges awaiting confirmation. “I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters.” But Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2, of the Constitution clearly states that the responsibility of filling empty court seat lies with the Senate. And what those pressing matters are appear to be unclear. Tillis has not found the time to oversee a replacement judge in a district court in his state, one that has been vacant for over a decade."

GOP Senator Tillis Doesn't Think Confirming Judges Is His Job (Tidal Soundings, 07/15/16)
"I have already documented the staggering levels of obstruction by the Republican Senate to confirm judges nominated by President Obama. And one of the longest unfilled spots in the judiciary is the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. This seat has remained unfilled for the last 10 and a half years and one of the Senators responsible for that district these days is none other than Republican Thom Tillis. Tillis also serves on the Judiciary Committee which has unanimously recommended 23 nominations to the full Senate.... Tillis blocked another move to vote on these judges by saying, "What we get [from Democrats] are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs. I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters." Of course, one of the responsibilities of the Senate that is clearly laid out in Article II of the Constitution is the confirmation of judges:"

Benched! Own Job Description Eludes Senator Tillis (Justice Watch, 07/15/16)
"But for Thom Tillis, the Republican Senator from North Carolina and member of the Judiciary Committee, the problem appears to be (for better or worse) an alarming amount of misinformation, whether it be the importance of filling judicial vacancies, how bad the vacancy crisis has become under GOP leadership, or the Senate’s basic constitutional duty to confirm judges....Tillis objected to voting on slate of uncontroversial judicial nominees because, in his words, confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs.”... Tillis added insult to injury during the Judiciary Committee’s business meeting yesterday, when he defended the GOP majority’s dismal record on judicial confirmations. Tillis first repeated the already-debunked Republican talking point that more judges have been confirmed under President Obama than under President George W. Bush at this point in their respective presidencies. ... What matters is not just the number of confirmed judges, but that Obama has confronted far more vacancies than Bush faced, and that Obama’s judges have been confirmed at a lower rate. While Obama has so far been tasked with filling 410 vacancies, Bush only faced 377 vacancies throughout his entire two terms. Tillis also argued that the number of vacancies is just not that high. That is patently false. Vacancies have increased from 43 to 83 just this Congress. Obama has roughly twice as many vacancies as George W. Bush at this same point in their respective presidencies ... Perhaps Tillis’ belief that filling judicial vacancies is not part of his job explains why the nation’s oldest vacancy is in his home state of North Carolina. Judge Malcolm Howard took senior status nearly 4,000 days ago"

Quick Takes: Republicans and the Constitution (Washington Monthly, 07/15/16)
Nancy Letourneau: "One of the deep ironies of our time is how conservatives have branded themselves as the great defenders of the U.S. Constitution and yet, almost daily, we have to wonder if they have any idea what is actually in it ... For example: 'Democrats including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) made repeated requests Wednesday to confirm a batch of Obama’s judicial nominees who are ready for votes. Each time they tried, Tillis objected and suggested the Senate shouldn’t be spending time on judges. “What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs,” he said. “I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters.”' Perhaps someone needs to read Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution to Sen. Tillis. Just sayin…"

Inspiring: This Man Became a U.S. Senator Without Reading the Constitution (INDY Week [NC], 07/15/16)
Paul Blest: "U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is tired of being told to do his job, which is remarkable considering he doesn't seem to have any idea of what his job entails. On Wednesday, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii tried to confirm a batch of President Obama's judicial nominees. Luckily, our esteemed Senator from North Carolina heroically stopped them. From the Huffington Post: ...'Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin later declined to clarify to HuffPost why Tillis said it isn’t the Senate’s job to confirm judges.' ... Thom. Daniel. Here's what the Constitution says ... "

GOP Senator: Confirming Judges Has 'Nothing To Do With Doing Our Jobs (Talking Points Memo, 07/15/16)
CAITLIN MACNEAL: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) does not think that it's part of the Senate's job description to confirm President Obama's judicial nominees. "What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs," he said, according to the Huffington Post. "I'm doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters." In fact, only the Senate can confirm judicial nominees in order to complete the process of filling court vacancies."

Republican senator: Confirming judges has 'nothing to do with doing our jobs' (Daily Kos, 07/15/16)
Joan McCarter: "Well, thanks for clearing that up, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).... It would also come as news to the founding fathers, as [Sen.] Warren pointed out. "I'm not sure what version of the Constitution you're reading that doesn't say confirming judges is part of your job in the United States Senate," she told Tillis."

The Need for a Reflective Judiciary Demands a Return to Normal Order (Center for American Progress, 07/15/16)
Danyelle Solomon and Michele L. Jawando: "Edward Stanton III, the highly respected African American U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, has been waiting for more than a year for the U.S. Senate to vote to confirm him as a federal judge. Despite his stellar record and bipartisan support, it is looking less and less likely that the Senate will confirm him before the year is out. Unfortunately, Stanton’s story has become the norm rather than an exception....the speed of the judicial confirmation process has slowed to an all-time low. This Congress is on pace to confirm fewer federal judges to the bench than any other Congress in more than half a century. As a result, the number of vacancies has jumped from 43 to 83 since January 1, 2015, and the number of judicial emergencies has more than doubled in that same time period. This has created the largest backlog of civil cases in American history .... There are 22 nominees currently waiting for full Senate consideration. Twenty-one of those nominees were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with unanimous support."

Editorial: Congress on vacation: When Congress begins a seven-week recess this afternoon, it will be finishing its shortest cycle of deliberations in 60 years. (El Diario, 07/14/16)
"Hundreds of judicial candidates waited for the Senate to bother considering them. Senators haven’t approved any candidates for ... appeals courts since January 2016. Court cases are piling up because there are no judges available to hear them. Senators refused to debate the appointment of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the court only has eight justices and rulings are often tied, forcing the judicial branch to become as paralyzed as the legislature. And now, they’re going on vacation."

Tillis: Confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs” (Progressive Pulse [NC], 07/14/16)
Commentary by Rob Schofield: "Sometimes it is almost beyond belief that Thom Tillis serves on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. That same thought must’ve been running through the minds of a lot of his fellow senators yesterday afternoon when Tillis took to the Senate floor to block a bundle of federal court nominations who would have filled vacancies that are causing backups in the courts. Many of them passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously. Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record reports: “Tillis objected that the Senate shouldn’t be forced to do ‘things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs’ while action is needed on important matters like Zika, veterans, drug addiction and defense funding. Which prompted Democrat Elizabeth Warren to question what part of the Constitution says that confirming judges isn’t the Senate’s job." ... As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted on Twitter, Tillis’ position is, in a word, “crazy.”... Tillis and his blockading conservative colleagues are simply not doing their jobs in 2016 when it come to their constitutional duty to advise and consent on judicial nominations (including the nomination of the eminently qualified Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court) and it’s simply an embarrassment. Unfortunately, Tillis is so uninformed with respect to his constitutional duties that he doesn’t even grasp how wildly off-base he has strayed."

The Republican Senate leader and regular order (The Hill, 07/14/16)
Carl Tobias: "in early January 2015, Senator McConnell promised to return regular order in the Senate. That month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley also vowed that the panel would follow regular order when processing judicial nominees.... McConnell has drastically slowed the pace of final debates, if needed, and chamber votes. Indeed, the Senate has confirmed merely twenty nominees, averaging one per month since Republicans assumed the majority. This sharply contrasts with the 68 judges whom the Democratic Senate majority helped confirm in President George W. Bush’s last two years. The number of vacancies has doubled from forty to eighty, while the number of emergencies has soared from twelve to as high as 34 and is now 29. There are currently two circuit nominees and eighteen district nominees awaiting up or down votes. The Judiciary Committee approved all of the district nominees without dissent, and GOP home state senators recommended eleven of the eighteen nominees.... Republican leaders can begin to remedy the vacancy crisis and restore regular order by granting all nominees on the floor yes or no votes before departing for the summer recess."

Supreme Court vacancy watch Day 152 (Daily Kos, 07/14/16)
Joan McCarter: "The reason President Obama has had more judges confirmed overall than his predecessor is because there have been so many more vacancies to fill during his tenure. Right now, there are 89 vacancies in federal courts. At this point in George W. Bush's term, there were less than half as many, around 40. There might be a few pushed through under McConnell, because he has plenty of Republicans who would like to have the confirmations in their own states to tout. But as of now, McConnell's desire to thwart Obama at every turn seems to be overcoming his desire to help his own team. Consider a nomination in Utah, where "the senior […] senator said he is bending McConnell's ear, trying to secure a confirmation vote for Russell. But McConnell has been noncommittal to Hatch, simply responding: 'We'll see,' according to the senator's retelling." Helluva way to run a country."

Editorial: Congress on vacation: When Congress begins a seven-week recess this afternoon, it will be finishing its shortest cycle of deliberations in 60 years. (La Opinión, 07/14/16)
"Hundreds of judicial candidates waited for the Senate to bother considering them. Senators haven’t approved any candidates for ... appeals courts since January 2016. Court cases are piling up because there are no judges available to hear them. Senators refused to debate the appointment of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the court only has eight justices and rulings are often tied, forcing the judicial branch to become as paralyzed as the legislature. And now, they’re going on vacation."