Editorials and Opinion
Pat Toomey Insists He's Not Holding Up A Judicial Nominee He's Holding Up (Huffington Post, 05/13/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) insisted Wednesday that he's not blocking one of his own judicial nominees for political reasons -- even as he is still refusing to give the Senate Judiciary Committee the green light to give that nominee a hearing.... Toomey's reason for not submitting his blue slip doesn't really work, though. For starters, it wouldn't interfere at all with the committee's background review of Restrepo if the senator turned in his blue slip -- as Casey did.... Delays on Restrepo's hearing come at a time when Republicans are slow-walking Obama's judicial nominees. The Senate has confirmed only two district court judges this year. By contrast, Democrats had confirmed 18 district or circuit court judges by this point in President George W. Bush's seventh year in office.... It's not clear when Restrepo will get a hearing. He's already waited 182 days, as of Wednesday, which is more than double the amount of time that other recent nominees to the same Pennsylvania court have waited. Judge Cheryl Krause, confirmed in 2014, waited 34 days for a hearing after being nominated. Judge Thomas Vanaskie, confirmed in 2009, waited 90 days for a hearing.
Casey spokesman John Rizzo said that his senator is ready to get Restrepo confirmed already."
Toomey's Explanation for Restrepo Delay Raises More Questions (Huffington Post, 05/13/15)
Paul Gordon: "Since Judge Restrepo already had a thorough background investigation for his confirmation to the district court in 2013, why does it take half a year to complete one that covers only the short interval since then? It took less time to do background checks and proceed to hearings for people nominated at the same time but who had not already been thoroughly vetted by the Judiciary Committee.
And why didn’t Toomey make this simple and quick explanation when asked by the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery earlier this month? Instead, he took the time to say that he didn’t have time to explain, then he ducked into a senators-only elevator.
And why didn’t Sen. Grassley mention this when asked by Bendery on the same day, before the crush of bad press that Toomey is now responding to? When asked when the hearing would be, Grassley cited only the blue slip and said nothing about an ongoing background investigation. (After the media scrutiny of Toomey began to mount, Grassley cited the background investigation rather than the lack of a blue slip as the cause of the delay.)
And even if we accept the background investigation story, why hasn't Toomey been pushing the committee to hurry it up, considering this is to fill a judicial emergency on a court where a second vacancy will be opening in just a few weeks?
Toomey says he fully supports the nomination. As Inigo Montoya might say, I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means."
Toomey Slow-Walking the Restrepo Nomination: If Senator Toomey Really Wants to Move Judge Restrepo’s Nomination Along, He Should be Writing to Senator Grassley, Not to a Newspaper (Constitutional Accountability Center, 05/13/15)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "Six months since the nomination and the background investigation has not been completed? This is hard to fathom, for several reasons. First, it appears that the investigation has been done -- Committee Democrats have completed their review of it. ... Second, ... Restrepo was confirmed to a seat on the District Court a mere two years ago, following a thorough background check. ... Finally, six other nominees who were nominated on or after Restrepo was nominated back on November 12, 2014 have had their hearings before the Committee.
The Third Circuit seat to which Judge Restrepo has been nominated has been vacant for nearly two years and, as the Post-Gazette reported, has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of the “backlog of cases.” The inexcusable delay in filling this vacancy is hurting everyone within the court’s jurisdiction – individuals and businesses alike – who must depend on the court for justice.... [Sen. Toomey] should march into Sen. Grassley’s office and say that six months is more than enough time for Republicans on the Committee to have reviewed the background check of a sitting federal judge nominated for elevation to the Court of Appeals, particularly when the Committee conducted a full review of that same nominee two years ago."
EDITORIAL: Time to move judicial nomination forward (Citizens Voice [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 05/12/15)
"No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Barack Obama submitted his name....No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Barack Obama submitted his name."
Letter: Toomey changes view on judicial nominee (Reading Eagle [PA] , 05/11/15)
Michael Morrill: "Back in November, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa ...joined Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in recommending Judge Restrepo. More than six months later, the judge's nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, because Sen. Toomey is blocking his own nominee."
Justice Denied: U.S. Appeals Court Seat Vacant More Than 5 Years (Constitutional Accountability Center, 05/11/15)
"In an attempt to break through obstruction of the federal judicial nominations process, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday submitted to the White House the names of eight possible candidates for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a seat that has been vacant for more than five years. At 1,950 days and counting, this this is the oldest vacancy on the Court of Appeals in the entire country, and the second oldest in the entire federal judiciary.... the President nominated Victoria Nourse in 2010.... Once he took office, Senator Johnson decided to oppose the Nourse nomination, blocking her from even receiving a hearing ... “This vacancy is an utter embarrassment,” said CAC Vice President Judith E. Schaeffer. “Senator Baldwin has bent over backward for years trying to accommodate Senator Johnson on filling this vacancy, but enough is enough""
EDITORIAL: Unjust delay: Toomey is to blame for a stalled nomination (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/10/15)
"In November, Sen. Pat Toomey applauded the nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he would make a “superb addition” to the Philadelphia-based court.
Six months later, Mr. Restrepo is not only unconfirmed, but has yet to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an interview, and Mr. Toomey appears to be the reason.... Mr. Restrepo, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2013, is well qualified for the post and the 3rd Circuit needs him. Its judges hear appeals from three states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware — and the district has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of its backlog of cases.... Enough with the games. The 3rd Circuit needs confirmation this month."
Pennsylvania’s missing judges: Only Texas has more vacancies in its federal judiciary (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/08/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "President Barack Obama nominated Judge Restrepo last November for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals headquartered in Philadelphia on the strong bipartisan recommendation of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. ...
Moreover, since 2013, four empty Pennsylvania federal trial court seats have lacked nominees: three of 12 Western District active judgeships and one in the Eastern District. Pennsylvania labors under more openings than any state except Texas. ... On April 30, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, asked Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to include Judge Restrepo in the Wednesday hearing, but on Tuesday Mr. Grassley suggested that he would set a hearing as soon as Mr. Toomey returns the blue slip.
The judge’s hearing is long overdue, as Mr. Obama first nominated Judge Restrepo six months ago and the vacancy he would fill has been designated a judicial emergency by the federal judiciary. A federal circuit candidate nominated the same day as Judge Restrepo received a March 11 hearing and committee approval six weeks later, while all four nominees in Wednesday’s hearing were tapped the same day as Judge Restrepo or later. Mr. Toomey should return Judge Restrepo’s blue slip without delay and both he and Mr. Casey should quickly recommend superb prospects for each remaining Pennsylvania vacancy."
Toomey and Republicans: Do your job, confirm Restrepo (The Hill, 05/08/15)
Dolores Huerta: "Republicans are refusing to move forward on hearings and confirmation of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, even though he is supremely qualified to fill this much-needed appointment.
Restrepo is a highly experienced judge whose appointment would be historic for our community.... he would be the first Latino judge from Pennsylvania to serve on the 3rd Circuit Court and only the second Latino judge ever to serve on that court. "
Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/07/15)
Mike Pound: "1) Just when we started getting used to the idea that the U.S. Senate actually getting things done once in a while, we came across the story of Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, who is awaiting the Senate's confirmation of his appointment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The problem for Judge Restrepo, who currently serves as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia? That would be Sen. Pat Toomey; our junior senator swears that he supports the appointment but he has yet to give the go-ahead on the confirmation hearing, and he's not answering questions about the delay."
Benched! A “thorough vetting” or a needless delay? The Third Circuit Court of Appeals needs another judge. (Justice Watch, 05/07/15)
"For the past 675 days, the former seat of Senior Judge Anthony Scirica has sat vacant. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts named the seat a judicial emergency earlier this year because the circuit cannot properly manage its current caseload without another active judge.
The problem should be easy to solve. On November 12, 2014, with the support of Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, President Obama nominated District Court Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to fill the spot. Yet, 176 days later, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has not even held a hearing on Judge Restrepo’s nomination.... Judge Restrepo has already waited nearly three times as long for his committee hearing as the average wait for Obama’s other circuit court nominees."
Sen. Toomey obstructing his own judicial nominee to spite Obama (Daily Kos, 05/06/15)
MichaelMorrillPA: "one area that doesn’t get enough attention is the unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s cabinet nominees and federal judges.... this crisis affects all citizens because it creates a backlog of cases that undermines our system of justice ... Back in November, Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on the bipartisan recommendation of our PA senators.... However, in the six-plus months since his recommendation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has still not scheduled a hearing for Judge Restrepo. And Senator Toomey could change that, if he were so inclined to push harder to fill the vacancy.
Empty judgeships mean justice delayed is justice denied for people and businesses in Pennsylvania."
Harry Reid Calls Out Pat Toomey on GOP Blocking of Restrepo (People For blog, 05/06/15)
"Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid condemned Senate Republicans for obstructing Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo. Although home state Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania publicly expressed support for him half a year ago when he was first nominated, he has blocked the Judiciary Committee from holding a hearing. Whether he is doing this on his own or at the request of committee chairman Chuck Grassley is a mystery, since Toomey has refused to state why he is blocking a nominee he supports....It isn't like Pennsylvanians haven't asked. In fact, some traveled to Washington earlier this week to visit Casey and Toomey's DC offices personally, but Toomey's office reportedly refused to meet with them."
Judge vacancies cause significant delays (Des Moines Register [IA], 05/06/15)
Donna Red Wing, Letter to the Editor: "Sen. Chuck Grassley continues to delay federal judicial nominations. Since he became chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the senator has only scheduled three hearings on these vital posts, despite glaring judicial emergencies.... Despite Judge Restrepo’s impressive qualifications, his nomination to the Third Circuit has stalled for more than five months. While Judge Restrepo has waited for Grassley to schedule a hearing, the seat he will fill on the Third Circuit has become a “judicial emergency,” a designation given to courts where a vacancy is causing significant delays.
While Senator Grassley tarries, qualified candidates like Judge Restrepo are left in limbo, and everyday Americans have to wait to get their day in court."
Long Delayed 3rd Cir Nominee Luis Restrepo to Wait Even Longer (Findlaw, 05/06/15)
U.S. Third Circuit blog By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq.: "Even after six months, the Senate is still stalling on President Obama's nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo for the Third Circuit.
When Restrepo was nominated last November, he was one of a cohort of seven nominees to federal judgeships. The Senate has held hearings on only two of that group, so far. ... Restrepo is an uncontroversial nominee. Indeed, before being nominated for the Third Circuit vacancy, he had recently been confirmed for a district court position in 2013. ... The delay in hearing Restrepo's nomination is largely the result of Republican opposition to Obama. Stalling judicial appointments has become routine practice over the past years."
Pat Toomey is blocking his own judicial nominee (Daily Kos, 05/06/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is ... blocking a federal judge he recommended, ... Toomey still hasn't given his "blue slip" for Restrepo to the Judiciary Committee.... the vacancy Restrepo would fill has become a judicial emergency in the six months that he's been waiting for a committee hearing.... Which in turn means justice is not being delivered in a timely manner."
New Congress, New Round in Senate Fight Over Obama’s Judges (Roll Call, 05/05/15)
David Hawkings column: "The locus of the new fight is L. Felipe Restrepo, chosen by the president six months ago for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He’s the only person Obama has picked for eight current vacancies on the regional appeals courts. The seat has been open for 18 months, and as a result, the caseload recently became so backlogged that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts declared a “judicial emergency” for appeals out of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee is convening its third hearing of the year Wednesday afternoon to hear from judicial nominees, and Restrepo is not invited. ... The staff for Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said the Iowa Republican is not embracing this approach. Instead, they say the committee is still reviewing the latest background check — something of a curiosity, given that only two years ago the FBI conducted a thorough review of the 56-year-old Restrepo’s life before he was confirmed (on a voice vote) for his current job as a federal trial court judge in Philadelphia.... Adding to the mystery behind the Restrepo delay is the fact that one of the judge’s most important public supporters, Republican Patrick J. Toomey, has not returned the endorsement form (known as a “blue slip”) the committee requires from each home-state senator before a judicial confirmation process begins. He and Pennsylvania’s other senator, Democrat Bob Casey, jointly recommended Restrepo for the lower court, and last fall Toomey declared “he will also make a superb addition to the Third Circuit.”
Toomey’s office declined to discuss the missing blue slip, but spokeswoman E.R. Anderson said Toomey still supports confirmation “and hopes it gets done this year.” ... Restrepo would be the second Latino ever on the Third Circuit."
Toomey supports Restrepo’s CA3 nomination. Now he’s blocking it. (CA3blog, 05/05/15)
"US Senator Pat Toomey is blocking a hearing on the Third Circuit nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo ... This is a shocking. In November, Toomey loudly endorsed Restrepo’s nomination ... in a press release ... A follow-up report by Jennifer Bendery ... on Huffington Post added [an] embarrassing exchange ... Mind-boggling."
Pat Toomey Is Blocking His Own Judicial Nominee, For Some Reason (Huffington Post, 05/05/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is preventing one of his own judicial nominees from moving forward, for reasons nobody seems to understand.
Toomey has long supported Luis Restrepo, who President Barack Obama nominated in November to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. ...But Toomey is now blocking Restrepo's nomination by not submitting his so-called "blue slip" ... Pennsylvania's other senator, Bob Casey (D), turned his in back in November.
When asked Tuesday if he's withholding his blue slip, the Republican senator gave The Huffington Post a confusing answer.
"No, I'm not. Well, let me explain how that works to you. But I've got to run for this lunch," he said, walking away quickly. "But I support his confirmation."
Toomey said he didn't have any new concerns about Restrepo and that he would turn in his blue slip. At some point.
"I will be submitting it at the appropriate time," he said, before disappearing into an elevator.
Aides to Toomey didn't offer much clarity. His spokesman said only that the senator "supports Judge Restrepo" and will "continue working for Judge Restrepo's confirmation and hopes it gets done this year.""
Why the holdup on Third Circuit judge nominee? (Philadelphia Daily News [PA], 05/05/15)
Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine: "Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on pending judicial nominations, the first one in eight weeks. One person the committee should hold a hearing for, but who is not on tomorrow's list, is a nominee for a vacancy on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, based here in Philadelphia - a vacancy that has been designated a judicial emergency.
The nominee for that spot, federal District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, was nominated by President Obama back in November. He's exactly the kind of person we want serving on the bench. ... Despite the fact that Restrepo has the support of both of our state's senators and is entirely qualified for the job, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has refused to hold a hearing for him. Why the needless delay?
Of course, this isn't only about Restrepo specifically. It's about our courts being adequately staffed so that they can do the critical work they are meant to do."
Advise and Consent… (Johnson Post, 05/04/15)
"In 1995, with Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House, Republican Senators Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne created a nine-member bipartisan panel made up of five Democrats and four Republicans. The partisan split was in deference to fact that Democrat Clinton would make the appointment. That process ultimately produced three stellar candidates, including current federal District Judge Lynn Winmill, who was nominated and confirmed and continues to serve with great distinction. Crapo and Risch could have adopted a similar approach when respected Judge Edward Lodge announced his decision to move to “senior status” in September of last year. That they did not, and that only in the last few days has there been any news about the judicial position, might indicate that the senators aren’t really much focused on producing a candidate that will be both acceptable to them and to the person who under the Constitution actually makes the appointment, Barack Obama.... This political reality cries out, if indeed Idaho’s senators really want to see a judicial appointment while Barack Obama is still in office, for something like the bipartisan approach Craig and Kempthorne employed twenty years ago. ... Idaho, of course, is unique in that the state has never had a woman federal district judge. ... a vacant federal judgeship that comes around maybe once in a generation really doesn’t belong exclusively to two U.S. senators or even to a president. The important job belongs to Idaho and given the nature of Idaho and national politics shouts out for a high degree of transparency."
EDITORIAL: Delays in filling two federal court seats shortchange the legal process in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 05/03/15)
"Buffalo is now without a single active federal district judge. That will worsen what is already one of the nation’s worst backlogs of civil cases. It is up to the president and Senate to act swiftly to fill the two federal judicial vacancies.... This is not just an inconvenience. Not when it comes to a federal legal system in which it takes, on average, more than five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo. The delays are unconscionable, and more so because the solution is obvious.
One legal observer said this region could use another three district judges, but at the very least the two open seats should be filled.... Both O’Donnell and Vilardo are outstanding candidates and deserving of the positions. They need to win the necessary approvals and take their seats to begin dealing with the overwhelming amount of work waiting for them.
The courts here received more new filings last year than all but nine of the 94 court systems across the country. It’s no wonder that the backlog of civil and criminal cases ranks among the worst in the nation."
Eye on Boise: Bipartisan panel picked Idaho’s last federal district judge (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 05/03/15)
Betsy Z. Russell column: "“It was the unanimous decision of the commission that Judge B. Lynn Winmill is extremely well qualified for the position,” Craig told the Senate. Winmill’s selection was hailed by all sides, though his background as a Democrat was unquestioned – he was a former county Democratic Party chairman before he became a judge. Craig called him a “long-needed federal judge who is exceptionally well-qualified, honest, hard-working and a community leader,” and told senators, “Although he has an unquestionable Democratic credential, the Republican governor of Idaho also sends his full and unqualified support for this judge.” That was then-Gov. Phil Batt."
Julie DelCour: Here we go again with Senate confirmation delays; Pecked to death by ducks (Tulsa World [OK], 05/03/15)
By JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor: "For the past 20 years, I’ve periodically lamented the sorry pace of judicial confirmations.... In 2012, Oklahoma’s two senators failed to support a qualified Oklahoma appellate court nominee during a filibuster fight. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn later voted to confirm the nominee, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach, to the U.S. [Tenth] Circuit Court .... What was so strange about the filibuster delay was that Coburn had waved Bacharach through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and had described him as “the most qualified nominee I’ve seen in my eight years in the Senate.” ... On April 13, four months into a new Congress, the Senate finally held its first vote on a judicial nominee. Alfred Bennett had waited 297 days, and was confirmed 95-0. That Texas judicial seat had been vacant 769 days, creating a judicial emergency. Other U.S. district judges in the district took up the slack by carrying 430 to 600 cases.
Delays in confirmations do create backlogs in courts all over the country, and hinder the timely administration of justice. It’s one thing if the nominees’ qualifications or judicial philosophy is at issue but in nearly every case that has little to do with delays."
Senate must act on judicial vacancies (Herald News [Passaic County, NJ] , 05/03/15)
"Regarding "Lynch confirmed" (Editorials, April 27) and "Vote on AG not required" (Your Views, April 25):
Readers should consider even longer and continuing delays in the U.S. Senate regarding action on nominees.
Two district court judges were first nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch, with strong support from their Texas and Utah Republican senators. ... U.S. District Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated Nov. 12 on the bipartisan recommendation of his Pennsylvania senators.
New Jersey’s senators need to press to move Restrepo and to fill four District of New Jersey vacancies, two of which have pending nominees.
Empty judgeships mean justice delayed is justice denied for people and businesses." Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor
Senate must act on judicial vacancies (Record [NJ] , 05/01/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "Two District Court judges were first nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch, with strong support from their Texas and Utah Republican senators. ... Senate GOP leadership keeps them in limbo, even though one would fill a courts-declared judicial emergency. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has still not held a hearing on a nominee to fill an emergency on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes New Jersey. U.S. District Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated Nov. 12 on the bipartisan recommendation of his Pennsylvania senators. New Jersey's senators need to press to move Restrepo and to fill four District of New Jersey vacancies, two of which have pending nominees."
Long Past Time to Let 3rd Circuit Nominee Restrepo Have His Hearing (People For blog, 04/30/15)
"Eastern Pennsylvania federal judge L. Felipe Restrepo is among those nominees being obstructed. Confirmed to his current position by the Senate by unanimous voice vote in June of 2013, he earned strong statements of support from home state senators Bob Casey (a Democrat) and Pat Toomey (a Republican) when he was nominated for elevation to the Third Circuit last November.
But since then ... nothing. Chairman Grassley has conspicuously refused to schedule a hearing for him. Although Third Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell announced in late January that she plans to take senior status this summer, thus opening a second vacancy on the court if Restrepo is not confirmed by then, Grassley did not schedule a hearing. And when the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts formally classified the vacancy Restrepo would fill as a judicial emergency in February, Grassley's response was ... nothing."