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Courts Matter, Judges Matter (Huffington Post, 02/01/16)
Nancy K. Kaufman: "the Senate fell woefully behind in 2015, confirming the fewest number of judges in a single year since 1960. Only one court of appeals judge was confirmed -- the worst record since 1953, when none were confirmed. And in the meantime, vacancies rose from 43 to 70 by January 2016 and officially-designated "judicial emergencies" went up nearly 160 percent, from 12 to 31. The slow pace of confirmations could prevent President Obama from filling the vacancies on these courts at all in the last year of his term, even as vacancies increase by the day as judges retire. Various justifications have been offered for the delays, even including the idea that no president should be able to act in the final year of his four-year term -- an assertion that is belied by history. In 2008 the Democratic Senate confirmed 22 judges in the last seven months of the George W. Bush administration, including 10 district court judges as late as September. It is time for all of us to pressure the Senate to act. Our rights as Americans hang in the balance, protected or weakened by the actions of the federal bench. A bench whose membership is depleted due to foot-dragging in the Senate doesn't function as the Constitution intended, and it doesn't serve the American people."

Opinion: Latino Judicial Nominee Deserved Confirmation Hearing (NBC News, 02/01/16)
RAUL A. REYES: "Georgia will not be getting its first Latino federal judge. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) has blocked the confirmation process for De Kalb County Judge Dax Lopez. Although Georgia's other senator said that he was disappointed .... . Senator Perdue's actions are a net loss to our judiciary system, and to Georgia's growing Latino population.... Lopez is not a raging liberal. He is a Republican, and a member of the conservative Federalist Society. ... a group of leading Republican lawyers urged the senators to back his nomination. In January, even conservative radio host Erick Ericksen came out in favor of Lopez .... this is a federal judgeship that has sat vacant for over 550 days, a situation that has been declared a judicial emergency by the U.S. Court System. ...Blocking Lopez from the federal bench was an insult to Latinos who believe in civic engagement and participation."

EDITORIAL: Put FDA nomination to vote (Toledo Blade [OH], 02/01/16)
"Last month, no fewer than 28 Obama nominees — for judgeships, ambassador posts, terrorism finance specialist, and high-level state department positions — were on ice in the Republican-led Senate, some of them via individual holds. The holds on this nomination aren’t partisan payback, but they’re just as insidious because they deny the full Senate a chance to vote."

Diversify Pennsylvania's court system: The email scandal shows how courts in this state remain in the hands of the good-old-boy network (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/31/16)
Op-Ed: "in a state where people of color make up about 20 percent of the population, only 14 percent of Pennsylvania’s federal judges are people of color, including semi-retired judges. Meanwhile, only 14 of the state’s 66 federal judges and only 25 percent of state judges are women, even though women are more than half of the state’s population. Pennsylvania needs diversity in its state and federal courts. ... For our federal courts, the Senate should confirm, not obstruct, qualified, diverse judicial nominees in a timely manner. President Barack Obama has nominated women to fill two of Pennsylvania’s four vacant federal judicial seats, yet their nominations still await confirmation votes. And, although the Senate finally confirmed Pennsylvania Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals after 14 months of delay, a second Third Circuit court seat in Pennsylvania has remained vacant for roughly a year."

EDITORIAL: Welcome changes in federal court cases (Daily Sentinel [CO], 01/31/16)
"If the state keeps adding 100,000 new residents every year, Colorado’s U.S. District Court may very well need to add two Article III judges. Colorado’s congressional delegation supports more federal judgeships in the state .... There hasn’t been an Article III judge in Grand Junction since 1984."

EDITORIAL: The Record: Judicial politics (Record [NJ] , 01/29/16)
"[O]ngoing political posturing by Republicans in the Senate will likely keep our federal court system operating in a precarious condition because of remaining long-term vacancies. Vazquez was approved this week in an 84-2 vote, but there are still three vacancies for the state’s 17 federal judgeships. New Jersey is still waiting on judgeship confirmation votes for Julien X. Neals and Brian Martinotti. ... the strain it is putting on the federal court system is unacceptable. ... It’s another example of why most Americans have so little faith in Congress. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s court system is strained to the point that the Judicial Conference of the United States, which sets standards for efficient caseloads, calls it a "judicial emergency."...the delay isn’t about the judges. Rather it’s about groups like Heritage Action — which keeps a scorecard on how conservative Congress members are — pushing the Senate to block Obama nominees because he’s used executive orders to try to relax immigration enforcement and expand background checks to buy guns. Conservatives may think they’re hurting the president by doing this, but it’s not Obama who has to wait months or years to get his day in court with a judge whose staff is drowning in paperwork from such a heavy caseload. It’s average citizens waiting for their day in court, for justice to be served."

EDITORIAL: Hold up: The Senate deserves a vote on the FDA nominee (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/29/16)
"A hold is a maneuver permitted by Senate rules that allows a single lawmaker to block a measure from receiving a floor vote. It is often used as a partisan weapon, in which a senator from one party can hold hostage the appointment of a president from the other party. Last month, no fewer than 28 Obama nominees — for judgeships, ambassador posts, terrorism finance specialist and high-level State Department positions — were on ice in the Republican-led Senate, some of them via holds. The holds on this nomination aren’t partisan payback, but they’re just as insidious because they deny the full Senate a chance to vote."

Bill Straub: McConnell may have won the politics, but not when it came to blocking Obama’s agenda (Northern Kentucky Tribune, 01/28/16)
"An easy example of McConnell’s unwillingness to cooperate comes in the area of federal judge nominations. Over most of the nation’s history votes on judicial nominees have been delayed only for the most controversial presidential picks. While serving as minority leader McConnell led a filibuster on almost every nominee – even those that carried the support of GOP home state senators. Many were eventually confirmed unanimously. McConnell has all but abandoned the age-old process of confirming district court choices as a group, insisting on separate votes for each nominee, slowing the process and filling the docket to block other Obama administration initiatives from being brought up for consideration. As a result, according to judicialnominations.org, there are 55 vacancies on the district court level, resulting in 25 judicial emergencies. n other words, in addition to attempting to destroy the Obama agenda, McConnell has done, and is doing, great harm to the nation’s judiciary."

Bill Straub: McConnell may have won the politics, but not when it came to blocking Obama’s agenda (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 01/28/16)
"An easy example of McConnell’s unwillingness to cooperate comes in the area of federal judge nominations. Over most of the nation’s history votes on judicial nominees have been delayed only for the most controversial presidential picks. While serving as minority leader McConnell led a filibuster on almost every nominee – even those that carried the support of GOP home state senators. Many were eventually confirmed unanimously. McConnell has all but abandoned the age-old process of confirming district court choices as a group, insisting on separate votes for each nominee, slowing the process and filling the docket to block other Obama administration initiatives from being brought up for consideration. As a result, according to judicialnominations.org, there are 55 vacancies on the district court level, resulting in 25 judicial emergencies. n other words, in addition to attempting to destroy the Obama agenda, McConnell has done, and is doing, great harm to the nation’s judiciary."

EDITORIAL: Our View: Perdue’s Betrayal (Atlanta Jewish Times [GA], 01/28/16)
"By custom, the Senate does not consider judicial nominations without the go-ahead of the senators from the nominee’s state. Isakson told King in a public forum that Lopez deserved a hearing. Perdue, whose cousin Sonny Perdue as governor first put Lopez on the bench in 2010, disagreed. We’re not sure which possibility is worse: that Perdue is scared of King or that he agrees with him.... Perdue, by prejudging the judge, betrayed Martin Luther King’s dream to see people judged by the content of their character. The senator thus betrayed us, the people of Georgia, who elected him."

Grassley, Sandy Hook and obstruction (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 01/27/16)
Opinion by Dave Bradley: Sen. Grassley "is currently using his power as the chair of the Judiciary Committee to put an unannounced freeze on the appointment of federal judges.... As a result the country is in a judiciary crisis as case load just piles up."

Commentary: Senate stalling on federal judge nominees needlessly harms justice system Ensuring that the courts function should not stop just because we've entered a presidential election year. (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 01/27/16)
"The federal courts are a critical component of a functioning government. That’s why it’s distressing that as of today there are 71 vacant judgeships across the country, and that 31 of those vacancies have resulted in caseloads for other judges so high as to constitute an emergency. Given that access to justice is a fundamental American value, you might expect the U.S. Senate to act swiftly to fill those positions, ensuring that their constituents can have their day in court. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Currently, 12 nominees to the federal courts await an up-or-down vote from the full Senate after having been reviewed and recommended for confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee....Another 20 nominees have yet to be reported out by the committee, and only five of those well-qualified candidates have had a hearing. Mary Flores was nominated to the Southern District Court of Florida nearly one year ago; why hasn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee found the time to hold a hearing on her suitability to serve in this important role? The seat she would fill has sat vacant for over 600 days, leading to a judicial emergency"

Grassley wants his day in court (Newton Daily News [IA], 01/24/16)
Chris Schwartz letter to the editor: "By stalling federal judicial nominees, Senator Grassley has our federal courts in a stall and is responsible for judicial emergencies across the country. As thousands of Americans desperately await their day in court, Sen. Grassley continues to move most nominations at a snail’s pace"

Any hope for filling Third Circuit’s empty seat in 2016? I’m skeptical. (CA3blog, 01/22/16)
"With Judge Restrepo finally on the Third Circuit, attention has turned to the Third Circuit’s other empty seat, the one created when Judge Rendell took senior status in July of last year. Even though Rendell announced her decision a year ago now, President Obama still has not nominated a replacement. P.J. D’Annunzio had this article earlier this month in the Legal Intelligencer, headlined “Pa. US Courts Still Hampered by Vacancies,” reporting that the Philadelphia Bar Association plans to write to Senators Toomey and Casey “about the urgency of filling Rendell’s seat.” Recent letters to the editor, including this one by Glenn Sugameli of Judging the Environment and this one by Christine Stone of Why Courts Matter, have sounded the same note. My guess, not based on any insider information, is that the cause of the nomination delay is that Toomey is dragging out nomination negotiations with Obama as long as he possibly can....I certainly hope the Rendell seat is filled before Obama leaves office"

Letter: Hold Republicans to their oaths of office (Chicago Tribune, 01/22/16)
Laurence Stern: "Judicial and governmental department appointments and nominations have not been acted upon or confirmed. Consequently, in addition to federal government shutdowns and growing judicial caseloads, languishing state and local governments impede implementation of governmental programs and functions While attempting to achieve their goal of “defeating” Obama, rather than pursuing constructive agendas, the obstructive actions of these senators may be viewed as tantamount to a breach of their constitutional oath of office and their responsibility to the American people."

Editorial: Friday Opinuendo: On a judge ... To fairness and impartiality (St. Paul Pioneer Press [MN], 01/21/16)
Pioneer Press: We congratulate Judge Wilhelmina "Mimi" Wright, whose appointment to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this week. The St. Paul resident and state Supreme Court justice was nominated by President Barack Obama in April. Wright is the first woman who is black to be appointed to that position here, as she was the first woman who is black to serve on the Ramsey County bench. The Senate confirmed only 10 district court judges all of last year, according to Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, who described her confirmation as a major bipartisan victory in a report by the Pioneer Press' Jaime DeLage. In remarks supporting Wright on the Senate floor, Franken said that her "unwavering commitment to fairness and impartiality, as well as her reputation for professionalism, explain why Justice Wright enjoys a deep well of support in Minnesota from both sides of the aisle."

THE CONFIRMATION OF WILHELMINA WRIGHT (Power Line, 01/21/16)
Scott Johnson: "The Senate confirmed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina (Mimi) Wright as a Minnesota federal district court judge on Tuesday. ... Most Republican Senators voted against her confirmation. If I had been voting, I would have voted to confirm.... In the course of her 25-year career she has compiled an unblemished professional record.... I’ve crossed paths occasionally with Judge Wright over the years. ... I like her and I think she is impossible to dislike.... I asked a conservative friend who knows her better than I do whether my impressions were off. My friend responded: ... 'She’s never said one word to me that I would consider professionally questionable, let alone indicating that she shouldn’t serve as a federal judge. She rarely criticizes anyone personally…and it’s worth noting that her background includes time as a federal prosecutor….I also think it’s a little absurd to make a production about a law review comment now decades old.'... I also know both the leading Democratic member (Ann Huntrods) and the Republican member (Tom Heffelfinger) of the panel that recommended the appointment of Judge Wright. They too are outstanding lawyers with unblemished professional records. I think that they chose well in this case."

EDITORIAL: Wilhelmina Wright makes history on the federal bench: She's state's first African-American woman to be district court judge.  (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 01/20/16)
"U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken have been diligent in pushing Wright’s nomination despite obstacles, and they were right to do so. ... Some conservative groups have been fighting Wright’s confirmation, hoping to stop her rise before she becomes a possible contender for the U.S. Supreme Court.... That attempt failed, as it should have. Klobuchar said that there has been growing pressure not to confirm any more Obama appointees and that Wright’s confirmation took some work. But, she said, “Democrats and Republicans on the [Senate Judiciary] Committee had a lot of respect for her. She’s someone who is not partisan in the way she approaches things and has more experience at each level of the state court system than anyone we’ve put up before.” Wright will make an invaluable addition to the federal district court for Minnesota."

Pennsylvanians deserve to have a fully staffed federal bench (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/19/16)
Glenn Sugameli letter to the editor: "After the Senate’s inexcusably delayed bipartisan approval of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo’s 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nomination ... Pennsylvania federal courts still suffer from one appellate and five trial judge vacancies. Four July Pennsylvania district court nominees (three for the Western District, which includes Pittsburgh) need committee and floor votes. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made a floor statement Jan. 11 that expressed his hope that Sen. Pat Toomey “can convince the Republican majority leader not to submit [them] to the extensive confirmation delay that Judge Restrepo endured.” There is still no nominee for Senior Judge Marjorie Rendell’s 3rd Circuit seat, even though the vacancy was announced almost a year ago. Sen. Leahy noted that “the White House has been working for months with Sen. Toomey and Sen. [Bob] Casey on th[is] second Pennsylvania vacancy. … I look forward to the Judiciary Committee considering that nomination soon.” Pennsylvanians deserve a fully staffed federal bench. It can be done: In March 2008, President George W. Bush nominated a 4th Circuit judge whom a Democratic Senate confirmed in two months."

ISSUE | JUDICIARY: Fill federal vacancies (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 01/19/16)
Jodi Hirsh letter to the editor: "After making Restrepo wait more than a year to be confirmed, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey must redouble his efforts, work with Democratic Sen. Robert P. Casey, and fill the remaining overdue federal court vacancies in their home state of Pennsylvania. Nominations for four of these vacancies, described by Philadelphia Bar Association leaders as a "serious crisis," have been delayed since July. ... Judge Marjorie O. Rendell's seat on the Third Circuit remains vacant nearly a year after she retired. Toomey and Casey should signal to the White House that a nominee should be announced immediately."

Juan Williams: GOP to blame for civility's breakdown (The Hill, 01/18/16)
"It was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) who famously declared that his number one goal was to make Obama a “one-term president.” Obama is not responsible for the unprecedented obstructionism employed by McConnell’s Senate Republicans to block nearly all of his nominees and proposals."

Republicans Do Not Want to "Fix Our Politics" (Huffington Post, 01/15/16)
Conor Lynch: "Republicans have done their very best to ensure the Obama administration remain paralyzed. The amount of time it has taken for Obama's judicial nominees to be confirmed, for example, has been unprecedented compared to his predecessors. Going back to George H.W. Bush, who had to deal with a Democratic congress, judicial nominees were almost immediately confirmed within a few days. The wait jumped under Clinton, plateaued under Bush Jr., and skyrocketed under Obama to a delay of about 80 days on average."

Washington has mired courts in political gridlock – and justice is the victim; Ever since the Republicans recaptured the US Senate, the number of unfilled judicial seats has soared to crisis levels (Guardian News and Media, 01/14/16)
Carl Tobias: "In 2015, the Republican majority allowed merely 11 confirmation votes for judgeships – the fewest since 1960.... in 2008, the seventh year of President George W Bush’s presidency, a Democratic Senate confirmed 40 judges. Before Barack Obama was elected president, regular order would have mandated confirmation before the December intersession recess of all 19 pending judicial nominees, whom the Senate judiciary committee had approved without opposition. The Republicans, who recaptured the Senate in November 2014, granted none of them a vote last year. The delayed nominees include five US court of federal claims nominees whom the Senate judiciary committee first approved back in autumn 2014 and again in February 2015 and twice sent to the Senate floor. ...Judicial emergencies have soared from 12 to 32 since the Republicans took the Senate majority."

Tuesday’s Mini-Report, 1.12.16 (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 01/12/16)
Steve Benen: "Luis Felipe Restrepo’s judicial nomination was delayed for 425 days. He was confirmed yesterday by a vote of 82 to 6. If Restrepo faced so little opposition, why was his nomination delayed for such a ridiculously long time? Because Senate Republicans too often like playing reckless games."

Letter: Did Grassley, Senate really get to work? (Daily Globe [MN], 01/07/16)
Glenn Sugameli: "Justice delayed from lack of judges is justice denied for people and businesses in Iowa, Minnesota and throughout the nation. In each of President George W. Bush’s final two years, a Democratic Senate confirmed all his judicial nominees pending on the executive calendar in December. In contrast, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) unjustifiably delayed 14 lifetime and five other judicial nominees awaiting December Floor votes, even though Minnesota, Iowa and all other nominees were approved on Judiciary Committee voice votes. All seven home-state Republican senators (including Sens. Grassley and Joni Ernst) recommended their nominees and urged their prompt approval."

Filling Federal Court Vacancies in a Presidential Election Year (U. RICH. L. REV., 01/07/16)
by Prof. Carl Tobias

Letter to the editor – Glenn Sugameli (Greene County News [IA], 01/07/16)
"U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)’s Opinion Column: Review of 2015 — Senate goes to work (Dec. 31) cites the fact that lawmakers “considered nominations” to support his claim that the “Senate succeeded in breathing life back into the world’s greatest deliberative body.” In his role as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, however, Sen. Grassley must know that the Senate spectacularly failed its advise and consent constitutional duty to not only “consider nominations,” but to vote on them. In 2015, the Senate only voted on 11 federal judges, all of whom were confirmed (the fewest since 1960). Vacancies have increased more than 50 percent in one year while those the U.S. Courts declared to be judicial emergencies soared from 12 to 32."