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Judges as job creators: Expanding economic growth by filling judicial vacancies (Justice Watch, 09/25/15)
"We also know that vacancies mean long delays for the people and businesses who need the courts to protect their rights and resolve disputes—delays that often mean justice is denied entirely. Now a new study sheds light on another real-world impact of judicial vacancies—the economic harms they cause not just for individual litigants, but for entire communities. The new study from The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm, focuses on the Eastern District of Texas,... According to the report, compared to the current baseline, filling the two current vacancies would create 78,188 jobs and an $11.7 billion increase in “real gross product”—the output of goods and services in the region—by 2030. If the vacancies are filled and two judgeships are added, 148,398 jobs would be created and real gross product would shoot up by $22.1 billion."

Montez: Colorado can’t afford a vacancy on our overworked federal court (Colorado Statesman, 09/24/15)
Guest Commentary By Dave Montez: "In a refreshing moment of bipartisan unity, the entire Colorado congressional delegation — all seven members of the House and both U.S. senators — support legislation introduced this summer to add two new judgeships to the District Court for Colorado. ... The District Court’s caseload backlog problem will only get worse if one of the current seats is left vacant in April."

“Coming apart at the seams”– the terrible impact of the GOP war on the federal courts (Progressive Pulse [NC], 09/23/15)
Rob Schofield: "Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a fine op-ed by Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell yesterday about the inexcusable obstructionism in which the GOP is engaging with respect to President Obama’s federal court nominees.... Rampell goes on to cite North Carolina as one of the states in which this obstructionism has reached a ridiculous level."

Editorial: U.S. Senate needs to quit stalling judicial appointments  (Pocono Record [PA] , 09/22/15)
"[J]ustice is not served when you can’t get a date to hear your case — when the backlog of cases is so huge that it could be months or even years before a judge hears your argument. That is the situation in the nation’s federal courts, where the vacancy rate is high, case loads are high, yet the pace of judicial appointments has fallen to a 60-year low.... This is not for lack of qualified candidates, mind you; it’s sheer politics in the U.S. Senate. Take Pennsylvania, which has six vacancies in the federal court and five nominees pending. One of them, Luis Felipe Restrepo of the U.S. District Court, has the support of both Democratic Sen. Robert Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for his nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet he waited nearly seven months before the Senate Judiciary Committee — unanimously — to advance his nomination to the Senate floor. More than two months have passed and nothing more has happened....As a Republican himself, Sen. Toomey should chastize his colleagues for playing politics and remind them of their obligation to appoint judges."

Republicans are clogging the judicial pipeline (Washington Post, 09/22/15)
Catherine Rampell column: "Motivated by a desire both to make President Obama look bad and to delay any judicial appointments until there’s (possibly) a Republican in the White House, GOP senators have thrown obstruction after obstruction in front of the judicial appointment process. As a result, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed only six federal judges in 2015.... It’s the slowest pace in over six decades .... The number of judgeships has not kept pace as the U.S. population has increased.... Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, publicly endorsed the nominee for the Southern District of Florida, but seven months later still hasn’t returned his blue slip. Without it, the nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, won’t get a hearing. In other cases, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), has received the relevant blue slips but delayed holding confirmation hearings and votes on the nominees. In still others, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delayed or outright refused to schedule floor votes for nominees. This happens, I should note, even when the judicial nominees are not the least bit controversial."

Letter: Time to step up for judge (Sentinel [Carlisle, PA], 09/22/15)
John Neurohr: "Back in November of 2014, President Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Either Sen. Toomey is unwilling to go to bat for a nominee that he has repeatedly supported publicly, or he doesn’t have enough clout with GOP colleagues to move the vote forward. Either way, it’s bad news for his constituents."

John Cornyn Blocks Judges From Getting Confirmed Because He's Mad About Other Judges He Confirmed: GOP senators want credit this year for judges they confirmed last year. OK! (Huffington Post, 09/18/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) blocked three of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees from getting votes Thursday because he said Democrats confirmed too many judges last year that Republicans wanted to take credit for this year.... But Cornyn glossed over the fact that everyone in the Senate, including him, voted to confirm those 11 nominees in the lame duck session. Three were from his home state of Texas and he had been pressing Democratic leaders to hold votes to confirm them -- in that lame duck session. "I certainly will be urging those Texas judges, including Judge Mazzant, to move through during the lame duck session so we can get these judges on the bench," Cornyn told a Texas newspaper in November. It's not unusual for the Senate to confirm judges in a lame duck session. Democrats held votes on 20 of Bush's judicial picks in the lame-duck after the 2002 elections. The Senate confirmed nominees in lame-duck sessions after the 2004 and 2006 elections. In the 2010 lame-duck, the Senate confirmed 19 judicial nominees. The bottom line is that Republicans just don't want Obama to fill court vacancies with his judicial picks."

Friday’s Mini-Report, 9.18.15 (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 09/18/15)
Steve Benen: "It’s not a bipartisan problem: Senate Republicans are confirming judicial nominees at a rate so slow, the current pace is unlike anything we’ve seen in more than six decades. When the Beltway assumes, “Both sides play the same partisan game,” that’s wrong."

Justice suffers (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 09/18/15)
Mardin Aminpour letter to the editor: "While Phillip Martin has rightly criticized Sen. Cruz for not fixing the emergency caused by the delay in filling the Texas judicial vacancies, Sen. John Cornyn’s role in creating this mess should not be overlooked. After all, Texas’ oldest vacancy dates back to 2011.... Sen. Cornyn should once again work across party lines. Both senators should right the wrong now by filling the vacancies."

2015-16 judicial confirmation slowdowns has little precedent in Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations (Brookings, 09/18/15)
Russell Wheeler: "Senate Republicans’ aggressive slowdown in judicial confirmations so far in 2015—and what is likely to be a continued slowdown through 2016—are contrary to the confirmation records in the final two years of the other two-term presidencies since 1961—Ronald Reagan, William Clinton, and George W. Bush.... Like President Obama, those presidents submitted nominations to a Senate controlled by the other party. In each of those president’s final two years in office, the Senate confirmed a fifth or more of their full eight-year complement of district and circuit judges.... Anticipated invocations of the mythical “Thurmond Rule”—dictating a shutdown of nominations at some point from early to the middle of a presidential election year—will not stand up well to these data."

Congratulations, GOP. You're Confirming Judges At The Slowest Rate In 60 Years. "It's just appalling." (Huffington Post, 09/17/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Senate Republicans are confirming federal judges at the slowest rate in more than 60 years, fueling a "politically motivated vacancy crisis" in the nation's courts, according to an analysis released Thursday by Alliance for Justice.... The kicker is that when each of Obama's nominees finally did get a vote, they were confirmed unanimously -- meaning they had strong bipartisan support all along. [Chart] ... the numbers speak for themselves. When comparing Obama with his White House predecessors, in terms of the number of judges confirmed in their last two years in office, the current Senate isn't even close to keeping pace. [Chart]"

Washington cuts on track to impact courts (Newsday [NY], 09/17/15)
David P. Miranda Op-Ed: "All four New York federal district courts are categorized as "congested" by court administrators. That means that their caseloads exceed the average caseloads for the entire federal system. On average, it takes about two years to bring a civil case to trial around the country; because of congestion and judicial vacancies, some federal courts in New York require more than twice that time."

Why won't Rubio speed process for judicial nominee Flores? (Sun Sentinel [FL], 09/16/15)
Kyle Barry & Randall Berg Op-Ed: "Yet again, a qualified judicial nominee whom Rubio claims to support is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rubio refuses to do anything about it. In 2013, Rubio allowed Sen. Chuck Grassley, then ranking Republican on the committee, to put the brakes on Middle District of Florida Judge Brian Davis for nearly two years before he was confirmed. This time it's Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores whom Grassley (now the committee chairman) is holding up, but Rubio's response has been the same: stand idly by while the people of Florida wait for a judge."

Editorial: Empty seats on federal bench a ‘judicial emergency’ (Palm Beach Post [FL], 09/15/15)
"“Justice delayed is justice denied.” In other words, failure to give redress in a timely manner is the same as giving no justice at all. Today, it is an unfortunately apt description of U.S. federal courts, which are overwhelmed because the U.S. Senate refuses to fill dozens of judicial vacancies. ... More than two dozen federal courts, including the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, have declared “judicial emergencies.” They cite a lack of the necessary jurists to handle growing caseloads as complex as drugs, racketeering and financial scams. The Southern District in Miami is so backed up that the Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to create three new judgeships. But even that has not been enough to move senators, including Florida’s Marco Rubio, to fill vacancies."

Benched! To understand the vacancy crisis, you have to look at vacancies (Justice Watch, 09/14/15)
"[J]udicial selection isn’t a political game of comparing total confirmations. The real measure is not the number of judges confirmed but whether the number of vacancies is falling and the judiciary is fully staffed. So long as vacancies are growing, justice in America is being needlessly denied, and confirmations that can’t keep pace are just a drop in the bucket. As it happens, Obama has had over 40 more vacancies than did Bush at this same point in his presidency, providing a far better explanation for higher confirmations than the notion of preferential treatment for Obama nominees. With vacancies factored in, Obama is actually behind the rate at which Bush appointed judges.... This Senate has confirmed only six judges so far in 2015, the worst single-year pace since 1953. As a result, the number of current vacancies has gone up over 50 percent and the number of judicial emergencies has gone up over 150 percent."

Toomey delays judge confirmations: Timothy D. McNair (Erie Times-News [PA], 09/10/15)
"Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., needs to do his job. One of the most important parts of a senator's job is to give advice and consent on federal judicial appointments. A concerted effort by Senate Republicans to stall nominations of qualified judges has led to a federal court vacancies crisis. ... Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in the number of federal judgeship vacancies, and our Western District is suffering the most. Across the state, critical court cases are being delayed in district courts as the caseloads pile up on overworked judges. In the meantime, justice delayed is justice denied for thousands of Pennsylvania citizens and businesses waiting for their cases to be heard....If he is in full support of Restrepo, which he says he is, and wants to see him confirmed, Toomey is in a position to demand GOP leadership schedule a full Senate vote."

Martin: Justice suffers while Cruz delays judicial nominations (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 09/09/15)
Phillip Martin: "with nine vacancies in Texas’ federal courts — and no nominees recommended from Sens. Cruz or Cornyn to fill any of those empty judge chairs — the delays are only going to get worse."

Graphic shows amazing, unprecedented obstructionism of President Obama’s judicial nominees (Progressive Pulse [NC], 09/09/15)
Rob Schofield: "Anisha Singh at the Center for American Progress has produced a remarkable new infographic on the absurd obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees."

Senate confirms one judge — don’t expect the pace to pick up soon (Washington Post, 09/09/15)
Al Kamen: "Despite the Senate’s unanimous confirmation Tuesday of a district court nominee from Missouri — making Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) the first Democrat to get a judge confirmed this year in his or her state — things don’t look good for President Obama’s judicial and ambassadorial nominees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put word out to the various committee chairmen that there won’t be hearings or votes on nominees this week. ... 20 nominees for federal district courts now awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee will be stalled for a while longer. (Seven other nominees, including one for an appellate court who are already on the Senate floor may be in the same boat. Some have been waiting more than 10 months.)"

Benched! Summer is over, Republican obstruction is not (Justice Watch, 09/08/15)
"Since January, the number of current judicial vacancies has gone up over 50 percent. Quickly confirming the 20 nominees in committee and 9 pending on the Senate floor would be a first step to stemming the vacancy crisis. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have immediately returned to their politically-motivated strategy of delaying all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Today, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley postponed the scheduled committee vote of three nominees for the second time. John Vazquez, Wilhelmina Wright, and Paula Xinis were initially scheduled to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee before the Senate’s summer break. Grassley postponed that vote too. ... Vazquez would fill one of New Jersey’s four judicial emergencies, which is more than in any one state other than Texas. Wright would also fill a judicial emergency in the District of Minnesota."

Putting GOP Obstruction of Judges In Perspective (People For blog, 09/08/15)
Paul Gordon: "A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when Democrats took over the Senate after the 2006 midterms. A week after those elections, Senator Patrick Leahy – who was about to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee – criticized Republicans for blocking votes on more than a dozen of Bush’s qualified nominees.... in 2007, Leahy and new Majority Leader Harry Reid worked together to make sure the Judiciary Committee and full Senate fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities. During those two years, the Senate vetted and confirmed 68 of Bush’s circuit and district court nominees. In fact, the Democratic Senate had already confirmed 26 of Bush’s judges by this same point in the year (September 8 of 2007). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has so far confirmed only five Obama judges.... Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 31 today. As the chart below shows, Democrats in the Senate during Bush’s last two years did not allow the number of judicial emergencies to increase in a similar fashion, and in fact the number generally remained steady or decreased during most of those two years.... L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, President Obama’s nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals... was nominated in November with the support of his two home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey. He could and should have been confirmed long ago. ... now that his nomination is ready for a floor vote, Senator Toomey is apparently collaborating with his party leadership’s plans to delay that vote for as long as possible."

Fully staff our district court (Colorado Springs Gazette, 09/06/15)
Deb Walker: "Historically, when a district court seat becomes vacant in Colorado, our two senators work together to screen possible candidates and provide some potential nominees to the president. Each of the last two vacancies were filled using a joint-senators bipartisan screening committee, and the president nominated someone within six months of the vacancy announcement. This year, it appears that Sens. Gardner and Bennet are each creating separate committees that will not work together and will not generate a joint list to the president....A fully staffed Colorado district court is vital because it keeps our judicial system open and accessible for Colorado citizens and businesses that need timely resolution of disputes ... our district court is overworked and understaffed because we have not increased the number of judges since 1984, despite immense population growth since then."

In Georgia, Barack Obama’s GOP judicial nominee is more than an ad for Ancestry.com (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 08/29/15)
Jim Galloway: "This is Dax Lopez, who was appointed five years ago to a DeKalb County state judgeship by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. ... He would be the first Latino in Georgia appointed to a lifelong position on the federal bench — if he survives U.S. Senate confirmation.... In a season of Donald Trump and talk of mass deportations, opposition to Lopez is also worrisome to Republicans attempting to expand their party’s demographic reach.... didn’t I mention that Dax Lopez is both Latino and Jewish?... the Jewish community is a highly valued GOP constituency with clout that extends well beyond the financial. Those critical of Lopez’s GALEO membership will have to tread carefully. Should they stray into xenophobia, they’ll have two angry constituencies to deal with rather than one."

Will Colorado Continue to Be a Model in Filling Judicial Vacancies? (Huffington Post, 08/27/15)
Peg Perl: "Three years ago, Colorado was hailed as a "model for senators across the country"because of the cooperative, timely and successful screening process our then-Senators used to inform the President's nomination for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court of Colorado. It is unclear whether we are still deserving of such praise.... True, the senators are now from different parties, but similar mixed delegations in Florida and Pennsylvania (use joint bipartisan committees to screen potential nominees. However, four months after the future vacancy announcement Colorado's Senators appear to be working on separate tracks. Senator Gardner has created his own selection committee - one that is not bipartisan, but full of Republican supporters - and Senator Bennet appears to be still working on getting his own committee (bipartisan) together. A fully-staffed federal district court is vital because it keeps our judicial system open and accessible for Colorado citizens and businesses that need timely resolution of disputes. The District Court in Colorado, which has not increased the number of judges since 1984, is already overworked and understaffed. Increased workload from 30 years of population growth, plus additional cases arising from increased federal agencies with a regional office in Colorado has lead the full bipartisan delegation to Congress to introduce legislation to increase the number of federal judges from 7 to 9."

Texas judicial vacancy flood means Cornyn, Cruz must act (Fort Worth Star-Telegram [TX], 08/26/15)
Natalie Knight: "By providing more than four-months’ notice, Schneider gave the Texas senators charged with finding his replacement an opportunity to do what they have never done before: fill a judicial vacancy before the judge actually steps down and further weakens an already strained justice system. Avoiding the disruption of a vacancy is, after all, the whole point of giving advance notice. In other states, senators often begin working on a vacancy as soon as it’s announced. But not Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Instead, they have watched vacancies pile up — ignoring, in some cases, more than a year of notice. ... That slow-motion process is contrary not just to common practice nationwide, but to the precedent Cornyn himself established when fellow-Republican George W. Bush was president.... Texas has become the epicenter of a growing judicial vacancy crisis. Including two seats on the Fifth Circuit, Texas has nine current judicial vacancies (the most of any state in the country), three of which have been vacant for more than two years. Seven of the vacancies are officially designated “judicial emergencies” because of crushing caseloads and desperately needed judges.... The Eastern District of Texas is the second busiest court in the country. It’s so overburdened that the Judicial Conference of the United States called for adding two new judgeships, in addition to filling existing vacancies."

Will Cornyn and Cruz stop the flood of judicial vacancies in Texas? (Justice Watch, 08/26/15)
Natalie Knight: "Eastern District of Texas Judge Michael Schneider announced that he’ll leave active duty and take “senior status” .... Texas has become the epicenter of a growing judicial vacancy crisis. Including two seats on the Fifth Circuit, Texas has nine current judicial vacancies (the most of any state in the country), three of which have been vacant for over two years. Seven of the vacancies are officially designated “judicial emergencies” because of crushing caseloads and desperately needed judges."

Senate Leaders on Target to Break Obstruction Record (Huffington Post, 08/24/15)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "In terms of meeting its constitutional responsibility to fill judicial vacancies, the Senate has confirmed a whopping total of five new federal judges to date this year. That's not even one per month. During the same period in 2007, the Senate, with a Democratic majority, had confirmed 26 of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, and went on to confirm another 14 that year. The five confirmations to date by the Senate this year is not just an objectively low number, it's well below the average of 27 confirmations during the same period for each of the last 15 years (that is, through August 7). At this rate, the Senate is on track to make ignominious history - the fewest number of judicial confirmations in the last two years of a presidential term going at least as far back as the Eisenhower Administration. ... they left 14 nominees behind on the Senate floor, twisting in the wind .... all of them are non-controversial, and each cleared the Republican-led Judiciary Committee by voice vote. Making matters worse, more than a third of these nominees would fill seats that the federal judiciary considers to be "judicial emergencies," meaning that the courts on which they would sit are unduly overworked and justice is being delayed.... A good example of the obstruction is Senate leadership's treatment of District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo"

Confirming federal judges during the final two years of the Obama administration: Vacancies up, nominees down (Brookings, 08/18/15)
Russell Wheeler: "The Senate began a month-long recess on August 7, having confirmed five judges in 2015 compared to 26 at this point in President Bush’s seventh year in office and 11 in President Clinton’s. Then, as now, the party that controlled the Senate hoped in 14 months to regain control of the White House and judicial nominations..... • Here is Senator Grassley’s explanation of why the Senate has only confirmed five judges so far this year: “Had we not confirmed ... 11 judicial nominees during the lame duck last year, we’d be roughly at the same pace we were for judicial confirmations this year compared to 2007.” Sixteen, though, is not “roughly” the same as 26; it’s a little more than half. More important, the proper metric for an effective confirmation process is not proportionality among congressional sessions. The proper metric is filling vacancies pursuant to Article II of the Constitution, and on that measure, the Senate is hardly at the same pace as in 2007."

EDITORIAL: Well-staffed court: Casey and Toomey must push the choices forward (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 08/10/15)
"It’s easy to dismiss the necessity of well-staffed, high-functioning courts — until you need one. But the wheels of justice turn more slowly when a judge’s chair is empty. As of Aug. 6, 67 judicial vacancies were pending in federal courts. Look ahead to future retirements already scheduled and the system will see another 16 judges depart by next July.... One casualty of the hostile relations between Democratic President Barack Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress has been the inability — sometimes unwillingess — to approve qualified judicial nominees before they become hostages in unrelated political battles. Pennsylvanians got a taste of that with the case of U.S. Judge Luis Restrepo. His nomination by Mr. Obama to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals languished for eight months until the Senate Judiciary Committee in July moved it in position for a floor vote. Last week the president named three candidates to fill long-standing vacancies ... To get this far, the nominees have already been vetted by a selection committee set up jointly by Pennsylvania’s senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey. Together they should keep any political shenanigans at bay and push the nomination process forward."

Editorial: Cheers and jeers (Gainesville Sun [FL], 08/07/15)
"The wheels of justice are grinding to a halt in a number of federal courts, thanks in part to Florida's junior U.S. senator. Federal courts have 31 declared judicial emergencies, including three in Florida, due to vacancies and a backlog of cases. ... Just five of Obama's judicial nominations have been confirmed in 2015, far behind the pace of other presidents in their seventh year, according to the report. A nominee for the Southern District Court of Florida, Mary Barzee Flores, has been blocked for more than five months from even having a hearing. The Why Courts Matter coalition estimates there have been more than 38,800 missed cases due to the backlog and about every 24 minutes a new case is added to that backlog because of vacancies."