Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Our View; Compromise fails to solve judge openings (News Journal [DE] , 07/18/13)
"Republicans ... have held up confirmation of presidential appointments for years. The biggest problem is the number of federal judiciary vacancies because Republicans will not vote for the nominees.... the bigger battle, the judicial nominees, was left untouched. The fight is over the president’s legacy. Judges usually stay in office long after a president leaves. When President Obama came into office, 60 percent of federal judges were Republican. If all of the current openings were filled by President Obama, the Republican affiliation would fall to below 50 percent. Therefore, the Republican fight has been to stall confirmations. Our trial courts need those seats filled. The functioning of our courts is more important that partisan politics. We have opposed Democratic politicking when George Bush was president. The president won. He gets to pick, we said then. And we say it again now. Barack Obama won. He gets to pick the judges."
Editorial, 8/18: Keeping things in working order (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 07/18/13)
"A decade ago, filibuster abuse was focused mainly on judicial appointments, and that was bad enough. Now the syndrome has spread to executive appointments. ... Meanwhile, one of 10 judicial seats remains empty because of a stalled nominations process. One-third of those vacancies qualify as a judicial emergency, the president of the American Bar Association noted recently....the power of the filibuster needs to be rolled back so government can function properly....By voting to end the filibuster, Johanns continued a Nebraska tradition. Last decade, it was Sen. Ben Nelson who broke gridlock. Sadly, Sen. Deb Fischer continues to march to the beat of the tea party drummer, displaying no hint of proud Nebraska independence."
EDITORIAL: A filibuster deal, but gridlock remains; A Senate rules change is still in order. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI], 07/17/13)
"[C]ount this Editorial Board among the skeptics doubting that one day’s deal is sufficient to end the stranglehold that the modern-day filibuster has had on the Senate’s ability to function. ...Like Mondale, we reject calls to eliminate the filibuster entirely. ... It should not be a roadblock to governance.
Its recent use by the GOP minority to cripple agencies Republicans wish did not exist — the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — crosses that line. So does using the filibuster to block judicial appointments, which Reid’s threatened change and Tuesday’s deal regrettably left unchallenged....Uncertainty thus still surrounds the NLRB — not to mention some 180 lower-level executive branch appointees and 23 federal district court nominees awaiting Senate approval. While it was welcome, Tuesday’s deal leaves the filibuster as available for obstructing presidential appointments as it has ever been. Only a rules change will allow the filibuster and orderly governance to coexist."
The "Filibuster" Fight Was Really About Our Core Values -- And It's Not Over (Huffington Post, 07/16/13)
Richard (RJ) Eskow: "Republicans need to be stopped, not just from blocking administrative appointments, but also from their unprecedented embargo against approving Presidentially nominated judges. They've hijacked the Federal court system from top to bottom, stacking it with corporation-compromised judicial extremists. Vacancies are at unprecedented highs. This theft of an entire governmental branch must be publicized - and stopped."
Sen. Hatch Misleads 'This Week' About His Role in Judicial Filibusters (People For blog, 07/15/13)
"On ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah claimed that he takes the “principled position” of voting against filibusters of judicial nominees:...But... he’s made a habit of voting “present” or not voting at all. Because a motion to break a filibuster requires 60 affirmative “yes” votes to succeed, not voting or voting “present” in effect supports the continuation of the filibuster.
Hatch voted “present” on efforts to break Republican filibusters of Obama judicial nominees Caitlin Halligan, Goodwin Liu, Jack McConnell and Robert Bacharach. He did not vote at all in cloture votes on nominee Andrew Hurwitz and in the second cloture vote on Halligan."
Editorial: Senate’s nuclear war (Toledo Blade [OH] , 07/15/13)
"Judicial nominations have been increasingly politicized in recent years; Democrats held up many of George W. Bush’s nominees. But never before has the Senate minority been as irresponsible as Republican senators are today toward President Obama’s nominees....The third branch of government, the judiciary, also is compromised. Case dockets cannot move because federal courts don’t have enough judges....Senator McConnell promised Senator Reid, essentially, that after a short period of fun and games, he would allow nominations to proceed. But he has not kept his word....what is at stake is not partisan gain. It is the ability of the federal government to function."
Obama Nominates Pro-Business Corporate Lawyer To Bench, Republicans Are Poised To Filibuster Anyway (Think Progress, 07/10/13)
Ian Millhiser: " when George W. Bush was president, Grassley voted to confirm Judge Janice Rogers Brown to the tenth seat on the DC Circuit and he voted to confirm Thomas Griffith to the eleventh seat on the DC Circuit. Now that a Democrat is nominating judges, however, he suddenly believes that the court is so packed that there’s no need to confirm Millett to its ninth seat."
Past gridlock, we're approaching system meltdown on judges (MinnPost [MN], 07/10/13)
Eric Black: "If Republicans continue to filibuster on these grounds, it seems only reasonable that Democrats will soon announce that any future Republican president who happens to get elected needn't bother nominating anyone to any federal judgeships at all because to confirm any such nominees would only be to reward the Republicans for refusing to confirm Obama's nominees."
Filibuster showdown looms over Obama appointments to agencies, judgeships (The Hill, 07/09/13)
Brent Budowsky: "The battle will continue over pending nominations to the National Labor Relations Board and will reach a crescendo over confirmation votes for pending judicial nominations, especially the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. ... Filibusters are being abused to destroy the ability of the federal judiciary to have sufficient judges to administer justice and uphold the role of law. Filibusters are being used to "pack the court" by obstructing confirmation of judicial nominees offered by a president whose ability to govern the Senate minority seeks to destroy with tactics unprecedented in the history of the nation."
Confirming Phillips for the Tenth Circuit (Casper Star Tribune [WY] , 07/07/13)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Because openings in 17 appellate judgeships and a quarter of Tenth Circuit posts can slow the delivery of justice, Obama must swiftly nominate, and the Senate rapidly consider, talented nominees for the circuit vacancies. All senators should vote to confirm Gregory Phillips, as the nominee is well qualified and noncontroversial and has the Wyoming senators’ enthusiastic support."
Why is Susan Collins backing Grassley move on appeals court judges? (Sun Journal [ME] , 07/07/13)
Douglas Rooks, former daily and weekly newspaper editor: "it was curious that Collins would invest her credibility in Sen. Charles Grassley’s campaign to “reform” the District of Columbia [U.S.] Court of Appeals – the nation’s most important court ...Grassley wants to reduce the D.C. Circuit court’s number of justices from 11 to 8, supposedly because the court has an insufficient workload, and transfer the seats elsewhere. This is a ludicrous contention. ... In a recent op-ed, Collins repeated the misleading arguments about the D.C. court’s workload. ... Two wrongs don’t make a right. Democrats blocking a single nomination in 2006 hardly justifies Republicans blocking three nominations in 2013..... Susan Collins wants it both ways – to appear as a moderate even though she’s supporting a transparently partisan plan to block judges."
The district court disaster (Washington Post, 07/02/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Republicans, in January 2009, extended the war over the judiciary down to the bottom level.... Republicans have not been unified against all district judges, but they have made confirmation a much more difficult hurdle, with most Republicans requiring 60 votes for confirmation (even if there’s not actually a cloture vote in most cases.) ... It’s not only about obstructing existing vacancies; but also about the total number of federal judges. ... from 1961 through 1990, Congress regularly added seats to keep up with the population, but that slowed during the Clinton presidency and ground to a complete halt after 2002. The result is justice delayed … and delayed … and delayed....Republicans should really return to a time when district court vacancies are filled quickly and relatively easily."
Obama District Court Vacancies So High They're 'Breaking Historic Patterns,' Report Finds (Huffington Post, 07/02/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "There are currently 65 district court vacancies out of 677 judgeships, or a 10 percent vacancy rate, the report found. By contrast, former President George W. Bush averaged a 4.4 percent district court vacancy rate during his fifth year in office.... a major reason for the district court vacancies is that senators -- namely Republican senators -- simply aren't making recommendations to the president in the first place."
Letter to the Editor: Courts too important to succumb to politics (Des Moines Register [IA] , 06/23/13)
Donna Red Wing, executive director, One Iowa: "I agree with Sen. Chuck Grassley’s sentiment on the importance of the judiciary, ... But given the court vacancy rates, the pending nominations and the fact that one in 10 judgeships remains vacant, I would respectfully ask him to consider appropriate candidates in a timely manner....our senator has called for the elimination of three seats on the D.C. Circuit, based on what he perceives to be lighter caseloads. This is a mistake. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has primary responsibility for significant national cases"
The Endless Battle Over Judicial Nominees (New York Times, 06/23/13)
David Leonhardt: "If every recent president had a confirmation rate as high as Mr. Bush’s, Democrats might have placed 25 more trial judges on the federal bench.
The difference is especially notable, legal experts say, because Democratic presidents have generally avoided nominating passionate liberals, while Mr. Bush did not shy away from putting strong conservatives in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia on appellate courts. ... Republican senators have often declined to sign off on any nominees for judgeships in their home states, as Senate custom holds. As a result, today’s vacancies are disproportionately in states, like Texas and Georgia, that have no Democratic senators. Mr. McConnell has also proved masterly at finding reasons to delay a vote"
Editorial: Approve judicial nominees (Daily Iowan, 06/19/13)
"President Obama nominated three high-profile lawyers to fill the vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.... Grassley’s analysis is little more than partisan blustering. Unlike the attempted 1937court-packing power grab by Roosevelt, Obama is not seeking to create new seats on the Court of Appeals to tilt the court’s partisan balance in his favor. Obama seeks only to fill judicial vacancies in accordance with his Constitutional job description.... Grassley argues that the court’s relatively low caseload requires such a reduction in seats, but an April report from the nonpartisan Judicial Conference of the United States, a group led by Roberts, recommended keeping the number of judges on the D.C. court at 11. The actions and the rhetoric of Grassley and the rest of his Senate partisans smack ultimately of obstructionism."
The Register's Editorial: Grassley's 'court-packing' analogy goes astray: An independent commission, not politics, should guide the distribution of federal appeals judges (Des Moines Register [IA] , 06/17/13)
"Rather than adding judges to the federal appeals court, Obama is proposing to fill three existing vacancies on the appeals court, which is allotted 11 full-time judgeships by Congress.
Filling vacancies on the federal courts is the president’s constitutional duty. Unless any of the three is found to be unsuited for the bench, the Senate should confirm them....U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, an alumnus of the D.C. circuit, explained in a law review article that, because of the nature of the cases the D.C. circuit hears, the court is unique among the appeals courts. In any case, if there were a workload imbalance, you might think the federal judges who administer the appeals courts would have recommended this change. But they have not. ... Grassley voted with the majority to confirm all three of Bush’s appointments to the court during his presidency, bringing the court to its full complement of 11 judges."
Stop playing politics with federal court (Bangor Daily News [ME], 06/16/13)
Opinion by Megan D. Hannan: "When Kayatta was confirmed in February — 13 months after his nomination — Collins said, “The people who rely on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit waited far too long for a full complement of judges.”... But also on May 23, Collins signed on as a cosponsor of legislation proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to eliminate the three vacant positions on the D.C. court.... Collins voted to confirm three judges to that court when George W. Bush was president, including twice voting to fill the 10th seat and once to fill the 11th seat.... President Barack Obama recently presented three new nominations to the D.C. Circuit. Call on Collins to stop playing politics with the court system, to end the filibusters to all federal courts, and to vote on these nominees, one way or the other."
June Girard: Don't be distracted by Obama's supposed scandals (Gainesville Sun [FL] , 06/15/13)
"The real scandal is the unprecedented obstructionism regarding judicial and executive branch nominees.
Currently there are three nominees for the D.C. Circuit, which is just below the Supreme Court, that handles all cases invoking federal and executive power. ...No movement by Congress for these important jobs is a scandal."
Fill the Kansas Tenth Circuit vacancy (Kansas City Star, 06/14/13)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Obama cooperated with the Wyoming senators to nominate Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Phillips for Judge O’Brien’s seat, and the Senate will probably confirm Phillips in June, while the president worked closely with the Utah senators to nominate Utah Court of Appeals Judge Carolyn McHugh last week ... Obama did promptly nominate Steve Six, who earned a unanimously well-qualified ABA ranking, to Judge Tacha’s opening in March 2011. Mr. Six competently answered probing questions during his May hearing. Nevertheless, Kansas Republican Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran chose to oppose Six before the panel could vote, and his nomination subsequently expired."
Our Views: Less politics on judgeships (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 06/12/13)
Editorial: The slow-walking of judicial nominations is unacceptable....Obama has selected three apparently qualified nominees for the District of Columbia appeals court. We have no doubt they are liberals; if Mitt Romney were president, they would be conservatives. One of Obama’s nominees is a sitting judge, and one of them served in the Bush administration; overall, there are no surprises here.
The three are qualified and deserve a quick and respectful hearing in Judiciary, and then an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor."
Letter: Judges held hostage (Salt Lake Tribune [UT] , 06/11/13)
Frank Whitaker: "This delay under Obama is bad government. The numbers show an unprecedented and unacceptable degree of partisan obstruction. Any president’s nominees should be considered and voted on in a timely fashion....The people elected Obama to do his job and nominate judges, and we didn’t elect senators to not do theirs and avoid voting on them by employing arcane and undemocratic rules."
Editorial: Stop abusing the confirmation process (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 06/07/13)
"Despite President Barack Obama's re-election, Senate Republicans still are filibustering highly qualified Cabinet-level and judicial picks to hamper the executive and judicial branches. Government and the courts cannot effectively function without confirmed appointments.... Obama wants the Senate to promptly confirm three new nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation's second most important court after the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Republicans would rather reduce the number of seats on the appeals court than allow Obama to fill them. ...Democrats should drop the nuclear option, and Republicans should quit abusing the confirmation process."
GOP obstruction of judicial nominations is ‘unprecedented’ (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 06/06/13)
Phillip Brownlee: President Obama is correct that GOP obstructionism is “unprecedented.” Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, developed an “Index of Obstruction and Delay.” The rating for the most recent Congress was the highest ever recorded. “It approached total obstruction or delay,” he told the Washington Post. The Congressional Research Service also recently concluded: “President Obama is the only one of the five most recent presidents for whom, during his first term, both the average and median waiting time from nomination to confirmation for circuit and district court nominees was greater than half a calendar year.”
Nuke 'em, Harry: Reid should break the minority's filibuster grip (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA] , 06/05/13)
"One of the worst areas in which the Senate has shut itself down is judicial nominations. Many nominees have not been confirmed a year or more after the president sent their names to the Senate.
The motive is simple: Republicans do not want more liberal judges on the federal bench. But instead of insisting on moderation, as they claim, they are simply refusing to fill vacancies....what is happening now is an unprecedented power grab....This president, like others, deserves to staff his administration. Courts cannot do justice with empty benches."
Nominations show democracy on trial in Senate (Politico, 06/05/13)
Nan Aron: "a pattern in which the D.C. Circuit blocked Wall Street reforms, undermined labor rights and rolled back environmental protections. Until recently, there were four vacancies on the 11-member court. Though Republicans allowed one of those vacancies to be filled last month, they are trying to prevent the president from filling the remaining three and restoring balance to the D.C. Circuit."