Editorials and Opinion
Senate to D.C. Circuit Nominees: It's Not You, It's Me (Huffington Post, 11/20/13)
Peg Perl, Staff Counsel, Colorado Ethics Watch: "The number of seats on the D.C. Circuit is set by legislation based on the recommendations of the nonpartisan Judicial Conference of the United States -- Chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. By nominating individuals to fill seats already vacant on that court, President Obama (like President Bush before him who had four nominees confirmed to fill vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit) is merely fulfilling his constitutional duty ... 10 percent of federal judgeships across the country sit vacant. Each empty seat on the bench means slower justice for millions of American citizens and businesses who rely on our judicial system ... A diverse bench simply improves the quality of justice and the public's trust of the institution. Yet, the list of diverse nominees subject to Senate filibusters and delay has just grown by three names."
Sen. Leahy: Arguments of Convenience Block Judicial Appointments; Once described as unconstitutional by the GOP, filibustering has become its default strategy. (National Journal, 11/18/13)
Sen. Patrick Leahy: "Senate Republicans have abandoned this responsibility, using unprecedented filibusters to delay and obstruct President Obama from appointing to the federal bench even nominations that enjoy bipartisan support. Senate Republicans have forced cloture, a procedural mechanism to bring a matter to a vote, to end filibusters on 34 nominees, nearly twice as many nominees than required cloture during President Bush's two terms. Almost all of these nominees were, by any standard, noncontroversial and ultimately were confirmed overwhelmingly.
Republican obstruction has left the federal judiciary often with 90 or more vacancies over the past five years. ... Senate Republicans have abandoned this responsibility, using unprecedented filibusters to delay and obstruct President Obama from appointing to the federal bench even nominations that enjoy bipartisan support. Senate Republicans have forced cloture, a procedural mechanism to bring a matter to a vote, to end filibusters on 34 nominees, nearly twice as many nominees than required cloture during President Bush's two terms. Almost all of these nominees were, by any standard, noncontroversial and ultimately were confirmed overwhelmingly.
Republican obstruction has left the federal judiciary often with 90 or more vacancies over the past five years.... The unprecedented obstruction also has affected the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ... The same Republican senator who in these pages recently cited caseload concerns once noted that "comparing workloads in the D.C. Circuit to that of other circuits is, to a large extent, a pointless exercise. There is little dispute that the D.C. Circuit's docket is, by far, the most complex and time consuming in the Nation.""
Why Are Arizona’s Senators Holding Up Hearings on Arizona Judges? (People For blog, 11/18/13)
"Arizona's federal district courts are currently operating with six of their thirteen judgeships not only vacant but also designated as judicial emergencies, so you'd think that the state's senators would want to expedite the process of confirming five nominees to fill those vacancies. But you'd be wrong.
It turns out that far from ensuring that Arizona's half-empty district courts are fully staffed, either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Jeff Flake or both are keeping all five of President Obama's nominees for Arizona's courts from even getting preliminary hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And because of the secrecy of the so-called "blue-slip" process that is delaying these nominations, we don't know which senator is holding up the nominees or even why they are doing so."
Why Does The GOP Have A Problem With These People? (Huffington Post, 11/13/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "barring extraordinary circumstances, the Senate is supposed to give nominees a vote. Pillard's filibuster is the latest example of how the Senate isn't holding to that standard anymore. Not only is she the third noncontroversial nominee that Republicans have filibustered in the last two weeks, but she is now the 20th Obama nominee who is either currently being blocked or was blocked and ultimately withdrew from the process. Those blockages cause a logjam that reverberates through the judiciary and the executive branch, as positions have gone unfilled at crisis levels dating back to 2007.... 13 judicial nominees have been returned to Obama and were not renominated or withdrew their nominations, four judicial nominees aren't moving because GOP senators won't let them advance in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and three other nominees (two judicial, one executive) were recently filibustered for reasons that had nothing to do with their qualifications.
The diversity of the group is hard to overlook. Ten of the sidelined judicial nominees are women, two are openly gay and nine are minorities (seven are African American, one is Asian American and one is Native American)."
Fixing the blame for the D.C. gridlock (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/13)
Rob Schofield: "The next time someone tells you that the problem with D.C. politics is the refusal of President Obama and folks on what passes for the “left” to “compromise” with conservatives, ask them to read this Huffington Post article about the utterly absurd, take-no-prisoners obstructionism confronting a long and growing list of high-quality nominees put forth by the President to fill numerous vacancies on the federal courts .... And, of course, it’s just coincidence that so many of the stonewalled nominees are women and people of color."
Burr’s judicial obstruction part of a pattern (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/07/13)
Rob Schofield: "North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is blocking, without explanation, the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to be the first African-American judge in the history of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Sadly, as this infographic from the good folks at the Alliance for Justice in D.C. makes clear, the stonewalling of diverse court appointments by President Obama is a pernicious and widespread problem.”
REPUBLICANS OBSTRUCTING NOMINEES AGAIN (LIPPITT'S POLICY AND POLITICS BLOG, 11/03/13)
John A. Lippitt: "Republicans are back to blocking the President’s nominees for judgeships and executive branch positions by filibustering. ... Currently, there are roughly 90 vacancies for judgeships, many of which are considered judicial emergencies. These vacancies are having a negative impact on the functioning of the federal courts and their ability to deliver justice for the American people in a timely manner."
Texas still suffering from a shutdown of its own — in the federal judiciary (Dallas Morning News, 11/01/13)
Nan Aron Op-Ed: "Texas still suffering from a shutdown of its own — in the federal judiciary. ... When there are not enough judges, delays can stretch from months into years. Memories can fade, witnesses can die, families can be bankrupted. It’s a problem in much of the country, but the epicenter of the judicial vacancy crisis is Texas. Right now seven federal district court judgeships are vacant in Texas without even a nominee proposed to fill them. Two Texas seats on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also are vacant without nominees. One of these judgeships has been vacant for nearly five years; two others have been vacant for more than two years. (So, yes, former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also shares responsibility.) Seven of the vacancies are so severe that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has declared them judicial emergencies. ... Sens. Cruz and Cornyn didn’t get around to naming a committee until shortly after April Fools’ Day. The Fourth of July had passed before the committee asked for applications from potential nominees"
Vacant Judgeships = Long Wait for Florida Scales of Justice (Orlando Advocate [FL], 10/31/13)
Stephanie Carroll Carson: "Florida justice is not swift these days, in part because of empty judicial benches in federal courtrooms in the state. Right now four are vacant - one has been for more than 600 days - with three more vacancies on Florida's federal courts expected by next year....Currently Senator Marco Rubio will not give approval, saying he "takes his Constitutional responsibility to review lifetime judicial appointments" very seriously and cites concerns about Judge Thomas' record in state court." Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, said she shares Ferrulo's concerns about the empty Federal bench seats in Florida and pointed out that it was Rubio who suggested Judge Thomas to the President initially. They both believe the senator changed his position about the moderate judge - who is African-American and openly gay - after pressure from his Tea Party supporters."
Judge shortage: Senate should act quickly on appointments (San Jose Mercury News [CA] , 10/29/13)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "With the Senate's return from its recess, the chamber must decisively address the judicial vacancy crisis, which did not take a holiday. It has left nearly 10 percent of judgeships vacant over an unprecedented four years, a situation that the partial government shutdown and sequestration's already crippling effects on the courts have exacerbated."
Republicans' Texas and national judicial shutdowns must end (The Hill, 10/28/13)
Brent Budowsky: "Voters who despised the government shutdown and threats of driving America into national default, caused by recent extremism of Republicans in Washington, will equally despise the judicial shutdown caused by Republicans in Texas and the U.S. Senate. When Texas Republican senators refuse to suggest nominees to fill judicial vacancies for federal judicial posts serving Texas, and when Senate Republicans use obstructionist tactics and filibuster abuses to refuse to confirm highly qualified judicial nominees proposed by President Obama, the result is a judicial shutdown that destroys justice and harms all Americans. ... there are now nine Texas federal judicial vacancies, six of which constitute judicial emergencies. Similar problems exist in states that are represented by conservative GOP senators."
People in Silicon Valley yawned at the shutdown. They shouldn’t have. (Washington Post, 10/17/13)
Timothy B. Lee, The Switch blog: "Shutdowns, poorly-targeted spending cuts, and filibusters are preventing the government from performing basic services that they've performed without difficulty for decades. For example, a recent analysis by the Brennan Center finds that Congress has not only failed to fill judicial vacancies in a timely fashion, it's also failed to create new judgeships to keep up with population growth. As a result, federal judges are facing "unprecedented workloads." The resulting delays drive up the cost of litigation for technology companies along with everyone else."
Editorial, 10/16: 'It's the right thing to do' (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 10/16/13)
"The confirmation process for federal judges has become alarmingly slow, with judgeships remaining vacant for months or years. Usually the delay is the fault of Congress, which refuses to bring confirmations to a vote....The problem has been building for decades and has become worse as the divisiveness in Washington has hardened. Currently, there are 93 vacancies -- more than one of 10 -- on the federal bench, with 52 nominations pending. About a third of those have been classified as “judicial emergencies” by the U.S. Court Administration."
What Can the Government Shutdown Teach Us About Judicial Emergencies? (American Constitution Society Blog, 10/16/13)
Rebekah DeHaven: "Congress’s work on judicial nominations, already gridlocked, has been affected too. The Senate did manage to confirm a few judges. The Senate Judiciary Committee, however, postponed an October 3 hearing to vote on the nomination of U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for 5 other District Court nominees and an October 9 hearing for the nomination of Matthew Leitman to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. ... Many courtrooms across the country are beset with longstanding vacancies. There are 874 federal judgeships throughout the country. More than 10 percent of these, 91 judgeships, are vacant. There are 37 judicial emergencies....Having more than 10 percent of the federal judiciary vacant and 37 official emergencies represents a catastrophe for the administration of justice, and citizens’ access to the courts."
Editorial: Politics the spoiler: A judge's success story is rebuffed by a senator (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA] , 09/30/13)
"The truth is Judge Thomas was the same judge Mr. Rubio supported initially....It probably helped with his far-right support that Judge Thomas was on track to become the first openly gay black man on the federal bench. The failure of the Senate to confirm judicial nominations has hamstrung the federal bench, particularly during the years of the Obama administration (the percentage of confirmations for a president's fifth year in office was 77 percent for Bill Clinton, 92 percent for George W. Bush and 75 percent for Barack Obama). The seat that Judge Thomas would have filled has been vacant 18 months. This is how grubby, shortsighted politics spoils an American success story."
EDITORIAL: Gazette opinion: Senate should step up and confirm Watters, Morris (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 09/24/13)
"We call on the Senate, with the continuing endorsements of U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, to approve these excellent judges expeditiously, an act that would return the state to its full complement of three federal judges and would quell an ongoing judicial emergency that has drawn on far too long. ... confirmations are badly needed. Two of Montana’s three federal judgeships are sitting empty, and that state of affairs has forced senior judges, with limited caseloads, to travel the state to keep dockets moving. The inefficiency has also drawn attorneys and other court personnel into that churn. In a vast, sparsely populated state like Montana, one with Indian reservations, millions of federal acres and an active drug trade, the hardships are even more acute.
Baucus noted in July that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts had designated the Montana vacancies as “judicial emergencies.”"
Marco Rubio: Cash is King! (South Florida Lawyers, 09/18/13)
"Blue slips, schmoo slips: Marco ... he is presently one of the most prolific fundraisers in the country.... So stop being self-centered and complaining about Marco's obstruction of the judicial appointment process, the resultant backlog of cases in the Southern District of Florida, and the attendant delay in access to Justice. He is busy. And after all, have you cut a check?"
Editorial: Justice will be served, eventually (Standard Speaker [Hazleton, PA], 09/18/13)
"Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
Editorial: Ease federal caseloads (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA] , 09/15/13)
"According to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the median time for a federal civil case to proceed from filing to trial has increased by more than 70 percent since 1992, from 15 months to 25.7 months. Since 2000, the number of cases in the system that are more than three years old has increased to 12 percent of the total federal civil docket, up from 5 percent between 1992 and 1999.
Those kinds of delays can be life-altering for an individual in a dispute, or highly disruptive for a business involved in a commercial or proprietary property case.... Less political obstructionism by Republicans holding up appointments to current seats would help, but the judicial conference and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law have calculated that, even if every existing seat were filled, judicial caseloads still would produce delays because new filings have increased by more than 40 percent since 1992. Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts."
Editorial: When justice delayed is unnecessarily denied; More judges need in Delaware, other states (News Journal (DE), 09/10/13)
"What good is it to have a “model judiciary” respected the world over, but yet its reputation is hindered by the everyday reality of understaffing that creates an oppressive federal case load?
This question arises from the failure of Congress to “comprehensively address judicial staffing levels” since 1990. In the 23-year interim, individual judges’ caseloads have increased by 38 percent. ... they are valid reasons that led Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy to sponsor the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013. ... Most important, it also would be constitutionally compliant by assuring defendants and plaintiffs a fair hearing and review of the evidence by a justice who is not overwhelmed by a heavy case load."
Judging Chuck Grassley’s OIP Derangement Syndrome (Oz and Ends blog, 08/16/13)
J.L. Bell: "Sen. Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, has come up with a new tool: a proposal to cut three seats on the DC Circuit while adding two elsewhere.... there are several big holes in his argument ... Grassley’s bill is more hypocritical than other efforts. Furthermore, his performance went beyond hypocrisy into hysteria when he claimed five times in one hearing that President Obama was “packing the court.”... The only person trying to change the number of judges on a court to affect their decisions is Sen. Grassley himself. In implying that President Obama was trying to do the same, he exhibited the dissociative symptoms of OIP Derangement Syndrome."
EDITORIAL: Gazette opinion: 5-week vacation no break from gridlock (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 08/12/13)
"senators alone can act on the backlog of judicial nominations.
Top priority should be given to designated Judicial Emergencies, such the two Montana U.S. District Court judgeships. The Senate Judiciary Committee should quickly send the nominations of Judge Susan Watters and Justice Brian Morris to the Senate for approval and leadership should bring them up for floor vote just as quickly.... The Senate has confirmed 110 executive and judicial nominees, but 200 others are waiting on confirmation. ...It’s time for Congress to started doing its job: ... Confirm good nominees"
Editorial | A nose-holder of a race (Courier-Journal [KY] , 08/11/13)
"Mr. McConnell, famously obstructive in Congress, is likely to become more so as he strives to appeal to the most extreme wing of his party. He has few recent achievements to tout; rather he boasts of his power as the Senate minority leader and what he can obstruct if elected to another term. He is likely to escalate such efforts to prove it. The gridlock to come could leave us all holding our noses."
EDITORIAL: Lawmakers' games leave bench vacant (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 08/09/13)
"A San Antonio-based U.S. district court post has been vacant almost five years. This symbol of partisan polarization shows the inefficiency and irresponsibility of the gridlocked federal government and the Texas politicians who are aggravating the situation.... Texas' Democrats in the House should accept the fact that the Republican senators have the upper hand and work to find a consensus candidate. And the senators should drop the extreme partisanship as well. San Antonians and the rest of the Western District are paying an unacceptable price for partisan gamesmanship. It is past time to send a mutually acceptable recommendation to the White House so a new judge can get to work in San Antonio."
Senate must promptly fill Montana judicial vacancies, vote on DC circuit nominees (Missoulian [MT], 08/06/13)
Carl Tobias Letter to the Editor: "“State needs judgeships filled” (Missoulian editorial, Aug. 2) is correct as to Montana. ... The nation’s second most important court has vacancies in three of 11 judgeships, which it needs filled to deliver justice. The Judicial Conference, the federal courts’ policymaking arm which Chief Justice John Roberts leads, recently recommended to Congress that the court need all 11 seats."
MISSOULIAN EDITORIAL: State needs judgeships filled (Missoulian [MT], 08/02/13)
"Like many other states, Montana currently has open seats for district judges. But since Montana only has three U.S. District Court judgeships to begin with, two vacancies at the same time amounts to a “judicial emergency.”... With the full support of their constituents, Baucus and fellow Sen. Jon Tester ought to provide that pressure – and keep turning it up until the Senate confirms these two judges and extinguishes our judicial emergency."
Democrats Introduce Judges Bill Based on Non-Anonymous Public Statements (People For blog, 07/30/13)
"The Coons-Leahy bill, following the non-anonymous public recommendation of the Judicial Conference, would make two proposed changes to the circuit courts: The Sixth Circuit would get one new judgeship, and the Ninth Circuit would get five new judgeships (one of which would be temporary). This is a contrast to Sen. Grassley's misnamed Court Efficiency Act, which would strip three currently vacant judgeships from the DC Circuit so that President Obama could not fill them, while adding unneeded and un-requested seats to the Second and Eleventh Circuits. The Grassley bill is a transparent partisan effort to rig the DC Circuit."