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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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The Big Deal if the Senate Turns Right (Bloomberg News, 03/30/14)
ALBERT R. HUNT, BLOOMBERG VIEW: "If Republicans take control of the Senate in this year’s elections, it would be, as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. might put it more graphically, a big deal.... Appointments: Senate confirmation for all but the most routine nominations would be a slog. Republicans might repeal the so-called nuclear option rule, which requires only 51 votes (not 60 to break a filibuster) to confirm an executive or judicial appointment short of the Supreme Court."

Rubio's Delay Increases Urgency of Florida Judicial Nominations (People For blog, 03/24/14)
"The situation in Florida is so dire that even if every vacancy were to be filled tomorrow, it would not be enough to take care of the courts’ growing workloads. In fact, the Judicial Conference has requested a number of new judgeships for the state ... the nominees were recommended by Sen. Rubio, along with Sen. Bill Nelson, based upon the recommendations of a bipartisan committee the two senators put together. Yet to date Sen. Rubio –unlike Sen. Nelson—has not signed the “blue slips” the Senate Judiciary Committee customarily requires before nominees are given a committee hearing. This is cause for some concern in light of Sen. Rubio’s refusal last year to sign off on other Florida nominees to seats that he himself had recommended."

End the blue-slip filibuster now! (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 03/24/14)
STEVE SEBELIUS: "Nevadans know all about this because of the tragic miscarriage of justice that was the 2012 nomination of Elissa Cadish, an excellent, well-qualified state District Court judge nominated to the federal bench. But because Republican Sen. Dean Heller didn’t like the way Cadish had answered a questionnaire about gun rights, he refused to sign her blue slip. ... The system has been abused, and Nevadans already have suffered because of it. "

White House feeling blue over blue slips (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 03/24/14)
Steve Benen: "In states with one or two Republican senators, judicial nominees get stuck – the GOP doesn’t need to filibuster them, the party can simply block these nominations in their infancy. (In a couple of cases, Republicans are using blue slips to block nominees they’d personally endorsed.) ... Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), perhaps best known for filibustering Obama judicial nominees after giving his word that he would never filibuster a judicial nominee, told Politico, “There’s no basis for this kind of contempt for the traditions of the United States Senate, and it’s disgusting to me that it’s even being talked about.”"

A Commendably Speedy Process for a Vermont Judicial Recommendation (People For blog, 03/24/14)
"The senators of Vermont, and especially Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, have shown the country what an exemplary process for identifying potential district court judges looks like. ... Just a little over two months after senators became aware of the vacancy and nearly three months before the vacancy actually becomes open, the White House has received a recommendation and can start the vetting process. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy knows how important this is. Senators in Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado have also moved quickly to make timely recommendations for recent vacancies in their states. Would that every senator did."

White House losing patience on judicial nominations (Daily Kos, 03/24/14)
Joan McCarter: "Texas, with nine vacancies, seven of which have reached the status of "judicial emergency," a designation made by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts because of the length of the vacancies. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have refused to cooperate in identifying possible nominees. Cruz all but admits to the hostage-taking, saying they would be happy to play along if only "they got more amenable nominees." ...There are a number of reforms Leahy could embrace short of just throwing out blue slips"

EDITORIAL: Before coal ash spill, GOP was bashing environmental rules, groups (News & Observer [NC], 03/22/14)
"McCrory’s push to put “job creators” first also played a role in DENR shielding Duke Energy from lawsuits – over coal ash leaks – that were about to be brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of several environmental groups. And it was only last December that state Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata mocked the SELC as “ivory tower elitists” for filing a lawsuit that has blocked construction of a replacement for the Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks.... What those “ivory tower elitists” have been doing is trying to protect people from toxic coal ash while the McCrory administration was thwarting their efforts....The governor can say all he wants to Duke Energy, but it won’t mean much until he, his appointees and Republican legislative leaders admit they have a new appreciation for the value of environmental regulation and the groups dedicated to protecting the environment."

Column: Thoughts on how to fix Congress (Detroit News [MI], 03/21/14)
Lee Hamilton: "Congress needs to work, not be hamstrung by loyalty to a filibuster rule that has outlived its purpose. Other key processes also need mending. The confirmation of presidential appointees is absurdly slow, seriously jeopardizing a president’s ability to govern.”

West Texas Judges Talk About the Need for More Judges (People For blog, 03/18/14)
"Judge Ferguson discussed the importance of creating new judgeships and filling vacancies in existing ones ... He also described how the enormous caseload harms the deliberative process we expect from judges ... Chief Judge Fred Biery of the Western District discussed what it was like not having enough judges to handle the caseload:"

Severe Conditions in Texas Courts (People For blog, 03/17/14)
"The Judicial Conference asked Congress to create two new judgeships and make permanent a temporary judgeship in the Eastern District, create two new judgeships in the Southern District, and create four new judgeships in the Western District. They also asked that a fifth, temporary judgeship be created for the Western District. Districts listed in the Conference's request are among those most in need. But even within that group, Texas districts stand out for the severity of the crisis. In its cover letter to Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Conference urged immediate action on the five worst districts, two of which were in Texas"

Fitzsimon: Judge nomination (Greenville Daily Reflector [NC], 03/15/14)
Chris Fitzsimon: "There has never been an African-American judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and for some reason Senator Richard Burr seems intent on keeping it that way.... And it’s not because there are questions about May-Parker’s qualifications or that she is an especially controversial pick for the court. Burr knows that because he himself endorsed May-Parker for the job in a letter to President Obama on July 21, 2009."

Burr’s shameful stonewalling on court seat (Herald Sun [NC] , 03/15/14)
Guest columnist, Chris Fitzsimon: "And it’s not like the court is running smoothly while Burr stonewalls. The seat in the Eastern District has been vacant since December 2005, making it the longest federal district court vacancy in the country. Sharon McCloskey with NC Policy Watch reported last fall that in the past seven years the district’s caseload grew so much that it took longer for a civil case to move from filing through trial than in any other district in the country except one in California."

Senators Cornyn and Cruz Don't Help Texas Nominee (People For blog, 03/13/14)
"Several days ago we asked what Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz would do at this week's business meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which they both serve. Would they stand up for their home-state's Fifth Circuit judicial nominee Gregg Costa? Or would they side with their fellow Judiciary Committee Republicans and let them delay Costa's scheduled vote for at least two weeks for no reason except to obstruct an Obama nominee? ... The vote was delayed."

Playing games with judicial nominees (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 03/12/14)
Steve Benen: "There’s no substantive reason for Senate Republicans to filibuster nominees they support, but they’re doing it anyway, over and over again, to deliberately waste time and annoy Senate Democrats."

Nuclear Revenge: GOP Now Obstructs Judges With Unanimous Support (Talking Points Memo, 03/12/14)
Sahil Kapur: "Senate Republicans voted unanimously to confirm three judicial nominees on Wednesday after over 41 of them of them attempted -- and failed -- to filibuster each of them the previous day.... They openly admit they're retaliating over the Democrats' rules change.... As of Wednesday, 153 nominations were pending on the Senate floor."

Will Texas Senators Help Delay 5th Circuit Judicial Nominee Gregg Costa? (People For blog, 03/11/14)
"This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on several judicial nominees, including Fifth Circuit nominee Gregg Costa of Texas. With two Texans on the committee and the vacancy having been designated a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz have the ability – and the responsibility – to make sure that vote isn't needlessly delayed by their GOP colleagues.... Arizona Sens. Flake and McCain persuaded their colleagues not to delay a committee vote on six desperately needed district court nominees for a state overrun with judicial emergencies."

EDITORIAL: Our View: No time to ease pressure on Duke Energy (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 03/09/14)
"The Southern Environmental Law Center sued in 2012 over the failure of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Perdue's watch to regulate Duke's coal-ash dumps effectively. The group says the situation changed under McCrory-appointed DENR chief John Skvarla - it got worse. A judge's ruling Thursday condemned Duke's behavior and DENR's haplessness. ... the state should apply a firm hand in enforcing the judge's ruling while looking for other violations."

Arkansas judicial nomination creeps to completion against Republican obstructionism (Arkansas Times, 03/05/14)
Max Brantley: "The nomination had been pending for months, delayed by a general Republican roadblock to judicial confirmation.... , Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy blasted the Republican obstruction again. It was clearly illustrated first by a 98-0 vote to confirm a Puerto Rican judge after 41 Republican senators voted to continue a filibuster on the nomination. Before a recent Democratic-backed rule change, those 41 votes would have been enough to block the confirmation vote, notes Glenn Sugameli, who follows the judicial process for Judging the Environment and sends me information along the way."

41 GOP Senators Try To Filibuster Judge, Then Confirm Him Unanimously (Talking Points Memo, 03/05/14)
Sahil Kapur: "Forty-one Republican senators voted Wednesday to filibuster Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez of Puerto Rico, a nominee to be a U.S. district court judge. Their attempt failed because under new rules established by Democrats, "cloture" on most presidential nominees requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. So the nominee moved forward, 57-41. Then the Senate proceeded to a final vote on the nomination, which passed 98-0, capturing the Republican senators who had just attempted to filibuster Delgado."

Flake and McCain's Next Steps for AZ Nominees (People For blog, 02/28/14)
"[T]ahe Arizonans find themselves at the back of a ridiculously long line, with 28 nominees ahead of them. … McCain and Flake have already demonstrated their willingness to exercise their influence with those of their GOP colleagues who serve on the Judiciary Committee. Now the question is whether they will try to persuade the rest of their colleagues to end the blockade and eliminate the bottleneck so the Senate can get to the Arizona seats in a timely manner.”

Now, Republicans Are Killing `Holds' on Nominations (Bloomberg News, 02/27/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "the real guilty party destroying the hold in the Senate is … yup, the Republicans. ...if the minority party is already maximizing delay on every single nomination, then there’s nothing more any individual senator can do to further delay things. Which is exactly what Republicans have been doing, with minor exceptions, during this session of Congress. Beyond that, the truth is that holds won’t work if they’re really just about party-wide opposition to nominations. ... If Paul and McCain really want to preserve holds, the first thing they’ll do is to work against the filibuster-everything strategy their party has been using for five years and has used maximally on nominations over the last few months. Indeed, if they really cared about holds, the most important thing they could have done would have been to undermine the blockades against several executive branch positions and against D.C. Circuit Court positions that produced majority-imposed reform in the first place."

Reid Calls Out Republicans on Obstruction of Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 02/26/14)
"On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) absurd claim that this Congress has done well in confirming judicial nominees. In fact, Republicans have not consented to even one judicial confirmation vote since November. The few votes that have been held since then have been over GOP filibusters."

Editorial: McCrory needs to make a full response to coal ash questions (News & Observer [NC], 02/26/14)
"The coal ash spill is a major event with statewide implications for the safety of drinking water....DENR was willing to let Duke Energy resolve state concerns about two leaking coal ash sites by paying a $99,000 fine with no requirement to move the ponds. The proposed settlement – held up for review after the Dan River spill – came after the state pre-empted suits planned by the Southern Environmental Law Center. When the SELC sued two South Carolina utilities over unsafe coal ash storage, the suits resulted in settlements that had the ash removed to dry storage in lined landfills or recycled as part of building materials. Why didn’t DENR let the same course be taken here?"

Jennifer Bendery: "Grassley's statistics gloss over the broader context of what's going on with Obama's judicial nominees. Obama's confirmations lag behind Bush (by five) and Bill Clinton (by 21) at this point in their presidencies, and roughly 30 of his judicial nominees are gathering dust on the Senate floor as Republicans refuse to consent to hold up-or-down votes. Beyond that, Republicans have been using the "blue-slip process" in the Senate Judiciary Committee to block nominees, including one who would fill the longest-standing district court vacancy in the country. GOP obstruction is a major reason there are now more than 90 judicial vacancies around the country -- dwarfing the 52 at this point in Bush's presidency... The irony may have been lost on the Iowa Republican, but Grassley's defense of GOP cooperation on judges came as he was burning up time on the Senate floor to delay votes on nominees. ..."We have scores of judges, district court judges, and we have a number of circuit court judges, and we're going to in the near future file cloture on all of them," Reid said. "If that's what the Republicans want us to do, then that's what we'll do. The American people will see this colossal waste of time that we've been going through.""

Federal courts under siege (Minnesota Lawyer, 02/25/14)
Barbara L. Jones: "Since the filibuster rules were changed in November 2013, the number of district court vacancies has actually increased from 75 to 80, creating a 12 percent vacancy rate and the highest vacancy level since March 2011. Prior to President Obama taking office, the last time trial courts experienced 80 or more vacancies was in 1994, which saw high numbers of vacancies due in part to the creation of 74 new trial court judgeships in 1990. The current level of trial court vacancies is substantially higher than what existed at the equivalent point in President Clinton’s second term (60) or President Bush’s second term (35)."

GOP court blockage ‘unprecedented’ (MSNBC, 02/25/14)
Adam Serwer: "Since Obama took office, the number of vacancies has remained uncommonly high. In 2008, the average number of district court vacancies was 31 according to the Brennan Center, in 2009, it was 61, and that’s the lowest it’s been – in 2014 the average stands at 78. If this level of vacancies continues until 2016, it won’t just slow down the legal system, it’ll give whichever party takes the White House a new opportunity to remake the federal courts in their own image."

Will McCain and Flake let GOP obstruct nominees? (Nogales International [AZ], 02/25/14)
Paul Gordon: "On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on six district court nominees in Arizona, including James A. Soto of Nogales. Odds are it won’t happen. That’s because delaying the committee vote is a small but reliably constant way that Senate Republicans delay and obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees."

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote (People For blog, 02/25/14)
"The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts. The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. ... Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees. That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in."

Confirm Lauck for Eastern District of Virginia (The Hill, 02/25/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Judge Spencer will assume senior status in late March and it would be preferable to have his seat filled before then. ...Warner and Kaine urged Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee Chair, to speedily conduct a hearing. After the hearing, they should ask Leahy to quickly set a committee vote and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Majority Leader, to rapidly schedule a floor debate and vote. If Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Minority Leader, does not swiftly agree to vote, Reid should seek cloture. Lauck's excellent record means that she warrants prompt approval, while her abilities will help the court maintain its well deserved reputation as the Rocket Docket."

Arkansas federal judgeships before Senate today (Arkansas Times, 02/24/14)
Max Brantley: "The theoretically non-controversial nominations of Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville to federal judicial vacancies are on the U.S. Senate agenda today. They've been delayed for months by Republican obstructionism and even the final votes could take two days because of cloture votes and time-consuming "debate," all part of the GOP plan to squelch as many Obama appointees as possible. Moody and Brooks are both supported by the Republican U.S. senator from Arkansas, John Boozman. But he apparently has no influence when it comes to judicial nomination foot-dragging."