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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Acts on Judge Lucy Koh's 9th Cir. Nomination (Findlaw, 09/15/16)
U.S. Ninth Circuit blog By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq.: "Koh's "strong hand and sharp tongue," as the San Jose Mercury News describes it, has won her plenty of fans, including here at FindLaw and in the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Texas has a judge problem - not enough on the federal bench (Houston Chronicle, 09/15/16)
Brett Barrouquere: "Texas has a problem with judges - mainly that there aren't enough of them on the federal bench. The state has 12 federal judicial openings, the most in the nation, and only five active judges hearing cases in the Eastern District of Texas. And, it is delaying justice in those cases. All this because of the political gamesmanship and dysfunction in Washington, D.C....The lack of judges prompted the U.S. Judicial Conference, which monitors caseloads and languishing judicial vacancies, to declare judicial emergencies in all four of Texas' judicial divisions. Across those districts, there are a total of 10 trial benches unfilled, and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, there are two Texas seats open. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, both Texas Republicans, hold seats on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which would seem to make it easier to get a judge through the Senate.... Five nominees are pending. But, they need to get full U.S. Senate approval by November if they have any hope of being seated before Obama leaves the White House"

Bring on the judges [BY WJW EDITORIAL BOARD] (Washington Jewish Week [DC], 09/14/16)
"The Republican-led Senate, which had been dragging its feet in considering Obama’s federal court nominees, announced earlier this year that it will not act on any more appointments until the president’s term ends in January. That effectively put Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination as Supreme Court justice in deep freeze and does the same for every other judicial nominee. That makes no sense. There are 96 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 58 nominations pending. It is the Senate’s job to act on those nominations and not to use its constitutional role for political purposes. Each of the nominees deserves a hearing. The Senate should fulfill its mandate to advise and consent."

Tom Cotton continues two-year blockade of judge confirmations (Arkansas Times, 09/14/16)
Max Brantley: "Sen. Tom Cotton continues to mount a one-man blockade to confirmation of judges to the depleted federal court of claims. Thanks as ever to Glenn Sugameli of Judging the Environment, a judicial nominations project, for the update. Tuesday, Cotton again blocked votes on five nominees twice approved unanimously by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to a court with six vacancies. Cotton said he's not convinced the court needs more hands. Despite the two years of deliberation on these nominations and support from his own party, Cotton characterizes the process as a "rubber stamp" of presidential nominations. With the Senate needing unanimous consent to move a vote, Cotton alone blocked it. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said in a statement: '... Senate Republicans' obstruction playbook leaves no court behind. It spans from the very top, with their complete refusal to give a hearing and a vote to Chief Judge Merrick Garland, to the article III circuit and district courts, to the article I Court of Federal Claims, where citizens go to sue their government. This blockade of all five CFC nominees makes no sense, especially because not a single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee raised a concern about these nominees either during the committee hearings on these nominations 2 years ago or during the Committee debate 2 years ago or last year.' You could say Tom Cotton does not play well with others."

Learn how state's judicial vacancies impact residents (Sun Sentinel [FL], 09/14/16)
Jan Engoren: According to the Sun Sentinel, more than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida five of 37 district judge slots (14 percent) are unfulfilled. Linda Geller-Schwartz, state policy advocate for the National Council of Jewish Women, said, "Of the six judicial vacancies in the federal courts in Florida, four of them are considered judicial emergencies. One of these positions has been vacant for over two years. Yet, some of our senators seem unconcerned that their failure to hold Judiciary Committee hearings is creating an untenable situation." "They need to be reminded that justice delayed is justice denied," she said.

Bring on the Judges [Editorial] (Jewish Exponent [PA], 09/14/16)
"The Republican-led Senate, which had been dragging its feet in considering Obama’s federal court nominees, announced earlier this year that it will not act on any more appointments until the president’s term ends in January. That effectively put Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination as Supreme Court justice in deep freeze and does the same for every other judicial nominee. That makes no sense. There are 96 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 58 nominations pending. It is the Senate’s job to act on those nominations and not to use its constitutional role for political purposes. Each of the nominees deserves a hearing. The Senate should fulfill its mandate to advise and consent."

Why Texas Has a Serious Judicial Vacancy Problem (Texas Lawyer, 09/12/16)
John Council: With 12 federal judicial vacancies, Texas has more empty benches than anywhere else in the country. It's becoming a serious problem, especially in venues such as the Eastern District of Texas, which is home to the nation's busiest patent docket. Down from eight active judges to just five, the Eastern District's docket has now ballooned to 1,261 weighted cases per court, the highest in the nation. The dearth of federal judges in the Lone Star State has not gone unnoticed by the U.S. Judicial Conference, which monitors caseloads and languishing judicial vacancies. It has declared judicial emergencies in all four of Texas' judicial divisions, where a total of 10 trial benches are unfilled, and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where two Texas seats are open.

Federal judge retirements surge, next president to remake courts (Examiner, 09/12/16)
Paul Bedard column: "The next president won't just have a chance to pack the U.S. Supreme Court, but also lower circuit and district courts as judges take retirement at a record rate. At a rate of more than one a week, federal circuit and district judges are quitting full-time work and going on "senior status," which creates a bench vacancy .... , the number of judges taking "senior status" in the last year has surged more than at any time over the past three decades. The Brookings Institution said that 56 district and circuit judges have left this year, compared with 38 in former President George W. Bush's last year, and at least eight more have signaled their plans to semi-retire.... the next president will be given a chance to remake the court system by filling 115 lower court vacancies, 14 percent of all district and circuit judgeships, Brookings said. According to court analysts, the judges the next president will appoint will remake the court for the coming 40 years, including the Supreme Court."

Garland snub just the tip of judicial obstruction iceberg (The Hill, 09/12/16)
Brielle Green: "Across the nation, dozens of judicial seats remain vacant. After Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2014 election, the confirmation process came to a screeching halt. Since then, only 22 nominees have been confirmed, leaving a record 90 judicial vacancies....By refusing to act, senators are creating a judicial crisis by actively refusing to do their job. Many of these vacancies are considered judicial emergencies, causing overloaded dockets and delaying justice for many. ... nominees are supported by their home state senators, both Democrats and Republicans.... our nation’s empty courts will continuously flood with cases that may not be heard until senators do their jobs."

Eye on Boise: Senators spar over judge confirmations (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 09/10/16)
Betsy Z. Russell: "Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., asked unanimous consent that the Senate immediately vote on all 20 pending nominees – including Nye – with no further debate. She said that with the Senate’s failure to act on a big backlog of federal court judge nominees, “Justice is being severely delayed in these jurisdictions.... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., responded with a counterproposal: A “bipartisan package of four.” McConnell said he’d support allowing a vote on one district court nominee from California, two from Pennsylvania, and one from Utah. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., objected, noting that the proposal would pass over the first two nominees on the list – the two who have been waiting the longest, and the only two African-Americans among the first 15 on the list. “That to me is unacceptable,” he said. “The perception alone should be problematic to all of us in this body.” Nye is No. 18 on that list of 20 nominees awaiting full Senate votes. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week held hearings on five more district court nominees from Texas. Idaho has been down to just one active federal district judge since July 3, 2015, when longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge took senior status."

What happens when a Muslim judge turns out to be a Methodist? (McClatchy newspapers, 09/09/16)
Hannah Allam: "Interest this week in the first Muslim nominated to the federal bench has drawn attention to another judge facing a tough confirmation battle and whose background has prompted questions over Muslim identity. No sooner had Muslim advocacy groups sent out news releases praising the nomination Tuesday of Washington lawyer Abid Riaz Qureshi than a question arose among U.S. Muslims on social media: What about Judge Abdul Karim Kallon? Kallon left his birthplace of Sierra Leone when he was 11 and moved to the United States, where he would go on to graduate from two Ivy League universities, win confirmation for a federal judgeship and then become the first black nominee from Alabama for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Given Kallon’s accomplishments, it’s easy to see why Muslims would be eager to claim him as one of their own. The problem is, he’s Methodist. .... [Former Northern District of Alabama Chief Judge] Clemon recalled calling Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby about supporting Kallon in 2009. “He said, ‘Can’t you get him to change his name?’ ” Clemon recalled. Shelby and fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions ended up pushing through Kallon’s confirmation for a district seat. That support appears to have dried up, however, since Obama nominated Kallon for a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Atlanta-based court that considers cases from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. When asked for comment, spokespeople for both senators provided only a joint statement saying they’d withhold approval from any Obama nominee."

Mitch McConnell Tried Skipping Over the Two Longest-Waiting Judicial Nominees. They’re Both Black Men. (Medium, 09/09/16)
The Leadership Conference: "Senate Democrats took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to ask for votes on noncontroversial pending judicial nominees. With 90 current vacancies on the federal judiciary — and 32 judicial emergencies — Democrats were asking for something to help alleviate a judicial vacancy crisis manufactured by the Republican leadership’s obstruction. But they were also asking for something that could have been done in just minutes.... Sen. Cory Booker, D. N.J., was there to wonder why McConnell had skipped the next two nominees in line. One of them was Julien Neals of New Jersey who was nominated in February 2015 and who’s been waiting for a vote on the Senate floor for more than 10 months. The other was Edward Stanton III of Tennessee, who was nominated in May 2015 and whose nomination also has been waiting for more than 10 months on the Senate floor. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, both Republicans, wanted Stanton confirmed last year."

Sen. Casey: Stop the Obstruction and Do Your Job (Medium, 09/09/16)
"In May, I walked onto the Senate floor and made a motion to confirm all judicial nominees for federal district court seats pending before the full Senate, including two from Pennsylvania. I felt compelled to take action since the pace of judicial confirmations has slowed to a trickle while the number of judicial vacancies has skyrocketed since Republicans took over the majority in 2014. Despite the fact that the Senate has confirmed just 22 judges so far this Congress, compared to the 68 the Democrat-controlled Senate confirmed in the final two years of the Bush administration, and despite the fact that judicial vacancies have increased more than 100 percent in the last two years, the Majority Leader quickly shot down my motion.... Senate Democrats have gone to the floor to make over 20 confirmation motions for district court nominees, including 5 just this week. ... Pennsylvania currently has four pending district court nominees, all distinguished judges nominated with bipartisan support from my colleague Senator Toomey. Two of these nominees, Susan Baxter and Marilyn Horan, passed out of the Judiciary Committee with unanimous support and are now among the 18 district court nominees, all vetted and deemed fit by the Judiciary Committee, awaiting full-Senate confirmation votes. Pennsylvania’s other two excellent district court nominees, John Younge and Robert Colville, have inexplicably been blocked from even getting a committee vote, despite their obvious qualification for the federal bench. There is simply no legitimate reason to block any of these nominees. Unfortunately, the district court is not the only place Senate Republicans are obstructing nominations. It took more than a year for the Senate to confirm the eminently qualified Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to his seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the Senate again has before it an excellent nominee to that court, Rebecca Haywood, who deserves prompt consideration and a vote. She was nominated almost six months ago, yet Republican leadership has not taken a single step toward considering her nomination."

The Media Should Not Give Republicans A Pass On Unprecedented Obstruction Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees (Media Matters for America, 09/08/16)
Senate Republicans are engaging in unprecedented obstruction, which includes a historic blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and exceptional obstruction of judicial nominations to district and circuit courts. Media should point out that Republican senators cannot credibly use the fact that is an election year as an excuse not to move forward with confirmations.

It Took 228 Years For An American President To Nominate A Muslim For The Federal Bench (Think Progress, 09/07/16)
Ian Millhiser: "Obama made diversity a high priority in his judicial nominations throughout his presidency.... Qureshi is the first Muslim attorney nominated to the federal bench in a nation where Muslims make up about 1 percent of the total population. Moreover, while Qureshi’s nomination is historic, there is no guarantee that he will be confirmed. ... Judicial confirmations slowed to a crawl the moment Republicans regained the Senate last year."

Recess is over: Time to confirm judges (Brookings, 09/06/16)
Russell Wheeler: "Federal courts are already partially shutdown. Of 852 federal district and circuit judgeships, 87 were vacant on September 6. Thirty-eight of the 49 pending nominees have been waiting longer than has Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama on March 16. These vacancies, many of which are longstanding, have serious consequences for litigants and for sitting judges on vacancy-riddled courts in Texas and other states, as explained here and here. As documented below, the current Senate has veered from the precedents created by recent similarly situated Senates. Since the January 2015 shift in Senate party control, district and circuit vacancies have more than doubled while confirmations have grown by less than a tenth. ... At this point in President Bush’s term, 207 district and circuit judges had taken senior status, versus 286 so far in Obama’s term (judges taking senior status create almost all vacancies). More vacancies call for more confirmations"

John Cornyn and Ted Cruz’s Texas: A State of Judicial Emergency (Justice Watch, 09/06/16)
"For years, they’ve systematically delayed and obstructed filling federal judicial vacancies in Texas, including on federal trial courts and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals .... the epicenter of this growing problem is Cornyn and Cruz’s home state of Texas, which continues to have far more vacancies and judicial emergencies than any other state in the country.... Texas wouldn’t have enough judges even if every bench were filled. According to the Judicial Conference of the United States—headed by Chief Justice John Roberts—Texas needs at least nine new judgeships to meet its growing federal caseload .... As Judges Davis and Martinez explained in their requests for a faster nomination process, judicial vacancies threaten the fair administration of justice, and undermine the Constitution’s promise of equal justice under law. In Texas, the 12 current judicial vacancies have been without a judge for a combined 25 years."

Senate must confirm Tennessean to the federal bench: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has failed to allow a vote for Edward Stanton in the West Tennessee District. (Tennessean, 09/05/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Stanton is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of the Tennessee Republican Senators. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Stanton on Oct. 29 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Stanton is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Western District needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote. The Western District currently has one vacancy in five active judgeships. This means that the court lacks 20 percent of its active judicial complement, which frustrates efforts to promptly, inexpensively and fairly resolve disputes. Because criminal prosecutions receive precedence under the Speedy Trial Act, litigants participating in civil suits experience difficulty securing trial dates and concluding their litigation....Stanton and many other well qualified, mainstream nominees have waited months for debates and votes. Senators Alexander and Corker have requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Majority Leader, has failed to schedule it. Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on Stanton and sixteen remaining district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans have rejected these requests.... The Western District judiciary and individuals and businesses litigating in federal court deserve a full bench, while Stanton merits a final vote."

Commentary: Senate needs to confirm federal judges for SC (Greenville [SC] News, 09/05/16)
TOMMY TOBIN, Guest Columnist: "The Supreme Court vacancy is just one of the more than 90 open seats in the federal judiciary around the country.... In more than 30 jurisdictions, the demands on judges are so immense they have been labeled “judicial emergencies.” South Carolina is one such “judicial emergency.” ... Nominated in February, both Donald C. Coggins Jr. and Donald Beatty are still awaiting Senate action.... Our state’s senators, and the entire Senate, should act to address federal judicial vacancies here in South Carolina and across the country."

10% of judicial emergencies are in EDTX, the preferred venue for patent litigation (IP Watchdog, 09/02/16)
Steve Brachmann: "Congressional inaction in the face of federal judicial appointments has been a pretty big story during the current political cycle.... there are 93 total federal judicial vacancies affecting the U.S. system of courts. This includes 32 vacancies which are considered to be judicial emergencies.... Three of the judicial emergencies, just less than 10 percent of all judicial emergencies in the U.S. federal court system, are in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.).... These vacancies are troubling from an intellectual property standpoint because E.D. Tex. is a preferred venue for parties looking to bring patent infringement suits against defendants. ... With the judicial vacancies in E.D. Tex., the concern is that a growing docket of patent infringement cases could create a bottleneck for the court, greatly increasing the amount of time that it takes the court to issue a decision. Business litigation is typically given a backseat to criminal litigation in district courts .... Judge Gilstrap could be deciding as much as 20 percent of all patent infringement cases filed in U.S. district courts. The fact that one judge could be deciding as much as one-fifth of the patent infringement docket at the district court level seems a little less than democratic. It’s not as if the executive branch of the federal government hasn’t nominated anyone to fill these seats, although not every vacancy would be filled even if each nominee were approved by Congress. There are a total of 57 nominees pending for federal judicial vacancies, including 42 for district courts. There’s one pending nomination that would fill a seat in E.D. Tex.... E.D. Tex. isn’t the only district suffering from multiple judicial emergencies. In the state of Texas alone, there are two emergency vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (S.D. Tex.) and four in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas(N.D. Tex.). There are also five judicial emergencies across the circuit of appellate courts"

Guest Column: An unjustified stall on Garland nomination (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 09/02/16)
CLAY LATIMER and INA DAVIS: "It has been 147 days since President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Senate adjourned for summer recess on July 15, there were 83 vacancies on the nation’s federal courts waiting for committee hearings or votes in the Senate. There are currently 86. Among those 86 vacancies, 31 of them have been deemed by the Judicial Conference of the United States as judicial emergencies. There are 22 qualified nominees on the Senate floor waiting for a vote and 30 more waiting for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take action. The pace of overall judicial confirmation under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is on track to become the slowest in more than 60 years. The federal judiciary affects every aspect of our lives, from school to health care to marriage, yet it remains woefully understaffed. We must urge our lawmakers to do their jobs and fill the judicial vacancies immediately."

Texas suffers as Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn neglect to appoint judges (Dallas Morning News, 08/31/16)
Column by Lisa Blue: "Our senators must demand that their fellow committee members hold a hearing to consider Chief Judge Garland immediately. And our senators need to make sure Texas' courts are fully staffed as well. Texas is home to the largest number of judicial vacancies in the country, a total of 12 vacancies at the district and circuit court levels. All of them have been declared judicial emergencies because of their extreme caseloads.... Senators Cruz and Cornyn seem set on understaffing not only the Supreme Court and courts around the country, but also the courts right here in Texas. In March, the president named five nominees for the U.S. District Court vacancies in Texas. Yet, like Chief Judge Merrick Garland, these nominees have just lingered. Texans deserve a fully functioning judiciary."

Sentinel Editorial: Senate race's biggest issue shouldn't be 'who do you support?' (Keene Sentinel [NH], 08/25/16)
"For weeks, the biggest “issue” in New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race has been the presumed front-runners’ allegiance to presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And that’s a bad thing, because it means voters aren’t hearing their positions on immigration, the Middle East, taxes, energy, climate, trade, judicial appointments and other real issues a senator must deal with."

Confirm Julien Neals for the district of New Jersey (The Hill, 08/25/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Neals is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Neals on Nov. 5 without dissent. However, the nomination has languished on the Senate floor ever since, primarily due to Republican leaders’ refusal to permit Neals’ confirmation debate and vote. Because Neals is an experienced, consensus nominee and the New Jersey District needs all of its judges, the Senate must swiftly arrange his confirmation debate and vote.... Chief Judge Jerome Simandle has been asking the Senate to promptly fill the openings since they became empty.... The chief judge concluded that the “vacancies each at least one year old” and the huge caseload pressures make New Jersey a “judicial emergency”"

More Blunt Truths From Republicans, Please (Bloomberg News, 08/25/16)
Jonathan Bernstein: "If congressional Democrats had retained the majorities they held back in 2009-2010 ... not only would Democrats have confirmed a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia -- and Obama would likely have nominated someone younger and more liberal than Merrick Garland – but most of the current 11 vacancies in circuit courts and 72 vacancies in district courts would have been filled with confirmed judges. Instead, Deace makes the preposterous claim that Republicans “rubber-stamped all of Obama’s administrative and lower court judicial appointments.”"

Vacancies create emergency in federal courts, by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board (Sun Sentinel [FL], 08/23/16)
"An emergency exists in Florida's federal court system and the group responsible for fixing the problem — the U.S. Senate — just yawns and shrugs its collective shoulders. .... And it's not just Florida that is suffering. More than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida, five of 37 district judge slots, 14 percent, are unfilled. ... With a smaller number of judges taking on the growing responsibility, workloads increase, delays lengthen and costs rise.... "It's like an emergency room in a hospital," said Southern District Chief Judge Federico Moreno. " ... Eventually you burn out."... justice delayed is justice denied. It's now so bad in Florida that four of the vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies." ... in states that have both a Republican and Democratic senator, it is easy for one of them to stop such a vote, which in Florida is what Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did on Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores"

Letter: Sweet also deserves a vote on nomination  (Buffalo News [NY], 08/22/16)
Frank Housh, Esq.: "Merrick Garland has now been waiting longer than any other Supreme Court nominee. Garland deserves to be considered by the Senate, and so do the American people who need a functioning judiciary. But Garland is not the only nominee waiting for the Senate to do its job. Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet, nominated by President Obama in March to fill the U.S. District Court vacancy in the Western District of New York, has been waiting since March 8. While the Supreme Court vacancy is devastating, the majority of cases never make it to the highest court; they are heard by the nearly 900 lower Federal Court judges nationwide. Ten percent of these seats sit vacant, however, because the Senate majority places ideology above the public good.... I urge the Judiciary Committee to report her nomination out of committee so Sweet can receive full consideration by the Senate as soon as possible. She – like all pending nominees – deserves a vote on the merits. When it comes to confirming judges, the Senate needs to do its job."