Editorials and Opinion
Gerth | Judicial standoff exposes broken system (Courier-Journal [KY] , 03/19/16)
Joseph Gerth: "The system is broken.
But I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know.
The nomination of Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the subsequent killing of the appointment is proof.
The grown-ups need to take charge and fix it.
A little bit of history: There are currently 83 court vacancies on federal court benches across the United States, not counting the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court that was created when Justice Antonin Scalia died.
Three of those vacancies are in Kentucky, the home state of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and it's a disproportionate share no matter how you look at it.
And those vacancies are among the oldest in the nation.... U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said the White House talked to McConnell’s office a year or so ago about appointing Hughes to the court. Apparently, McConnell would hear nothing of it even though Hughes has been hailed as an excellent, centrist judge – including by some conservatives who have practiced before her."
The politics and hypocrisy of federal judgeships (Dallas Morning News, 03/18/16)
Dallas Morning News editorial board Opinion Blog by Jim Mitchell: "I find it ironic that Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz put up five names to fill other federal court vacancies in the courts that cover Texas....I’m glad the senators have put forward their recommendations. Retirements and hefty caseloads have put the federal judiciary into crisis mode — too many cases and not enough judges. But both men had been very slow to recommend candidates to fill long-standing vacancies on the federal courts. Now the GOP is slow-walking Garland’s nomination .... We should demand a timely review of these choices. But, oh, wait, that’s what Obama is asking the GOP to do for Garland."
Considering whether Haywood is qualified through the lens of an appeal she lost (CA3blog, 03/18/16)
Matthew Stiegler: "Republican Senator Pat Toomey reportedly thinks Third Circuit nominee Rebecca Ross Haywood isn’t qualified. Yesterday I looked at whether Haywood is qualified by examining her legal experience. I concluded that her experience as an AUSA and a federal clerk compares favorably with the court’s recently appointed judges. We can also approach the question of whether Haywood is circuit-judge material from a different angle. Being qualified isn’t just about experience, it’s also about ability. ... Bottom line, I saw nothing in Haywood’s performance in Brown that would support Toomey’s charge that she is unqualified. All I see is a first-rate advocate with the makings of an outstanding judge."
A Circuit Court Nominee for Mitch McConnell to Consider (People For blog, 03/17/16)
"President Obama today continued to work to make sure that our nation’s appellate vacancies are filled with qualified judges. Specifically, he has nominated Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes to the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Upon confirmation, she would become the first woman from Kentucky on the 6th Circuit.
This seat has been vacant since Judge Boyce Martin retired back in 2013. The court’s caseload is so heavy that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has officially designated the vacancy as a judicial emergency.
This nomination comes after long and extensive consultations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, the nominee’s two home state senators. In fact, press reports from more than two years ago noted that Justice Hughes was being vetted by the White House. No one can credibly claim that the president didn’t engage in adequate consultation.... There is a judicial emergency that needs to be filled, and a qualified nominee stands ready to fill it."
President Obama Nominates Rebecca Ross Haywood to the Third Circuit (New Jersey Appellate Law Blog , 03/17/16)
Bruce D. Greenberg: "Like Judge Garland, Ms. Haywood has excellent credentials for the post to which she has been nominated, as Matthew Stiegler’s CA3 Blog documents here. Predictably, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is up for re-election this year, has already come out against her nomination, asserting that Ms. Haywood is “not suitable for such an important lifetime position.” Her record, discussed above and detailed in part here, appears to rebut that criticism.
Unlike in the case of Judge Garland, where a moderate Democrat has been nominated to fill the seat of an extremely conservative Republican, which is one of the objections asserted by Republicans to the Garland nomination, Ms. Haywood, a Democrat who would be the first African-American woman to sit on the Third Circuit, has been tapped to take the place of another Democratic woman judge. Senator Toomey’s objection to Ms. Haywood thus seems even less well-founded and more opportunistic than most politically-based opposition to judicial nominees. If a President cannot nominate a well-qualified woman to replace a woman of the same party on the Third Circuit, what appointment can a President make? ... it is unfortunate that such a worthy nominee probably will not get a hearing, due to the opposition of one of her home state Senators. Pennsylvania’s other Senator, Bob Casey (D-PA), issued a ringing endorsement of Ms. Haywood’s nomination, one that, regrettably, will most likely fall on deaf ears."
Politics, not qualifications, is why Haywood won’t be confirmed (CA3blog, 03/16/16)
Matthew Stiegler: "Rebecca Ross Haywood is not going to be confirmed by this Senate. Not because she’s somehow unqualified, not because she “struggled” to answer an interview question from Senator Pat Toomey, and not because President Obama chose a “confrontational approach” to judicial nominations. Haywood won’t be confirmed because Toomey will use his blue-slip power to block her, as he would use that power to block any Obama Third Circuit nominee now. The rest is just a charade,"
Editorial: Rubio’s own (in)actions hurt him in Florida primary defeat (Palm Beach Post [FL], 03/16/16)
"But what also needs to be said is that Rubio lost his home state because he quit showing any interest in his home state. As a senator, he has been a no-show .... Over and over he has shorted his constituents. He has blocked the nomination of Obama’s nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, for the federal bench in South Florida – even though he, Rubio, had recommended her for the post. This partisan gamesmanship may have scored points with the GOP nationally, but it is making it harder for Floridians to get their day in court.... Let’s hope Rubio, in defeat, serves as an example to all who will hold the office in the future: Do the darned job."
A look at Third Circuit nominee Rebecca Haywood’s qualifications (CA3blog, 03/16/16)
Matthew Stiegler: "Senator Pat Toomey reportedly has questioned Rebecca Haywood’s qualifications to be a Third Circuit judge, but a quick comparison of her background with the court’s recently confirmed judges shows that her qualifications compare favorably.... I’d bet the farm that Haywood has more experience arguing cases in the Third Circuit than any recent Third Circuit nominee. ... Unqualified? Hard to square that with her record."
McKeesport native nominated to federal bench (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 03/15/16)
“The president has made an exceptional nomination,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton. “Rebecca Ross Haywood is a lawyer of unparalleled legal ability and judgment; she is also a wonderful person. She will make an outstanding judge.” ... The nomination of Haywood, who is black, is an important step for diversifying the courts, said Tim Stevens, of the Pittsburgh Black Political Empowerment Project.
“There's a dearth of people of color in the courts, either locally or nationally,” he said. “Her nomination is important not only as a person of color but as a person of integrity.”
Two former assistant U.S. attorneys who worked with Haywood and, as private attorneys, faced off against her in court, said she'll make a good judge.
“Aside from possessing the most important quality a judge can have — which is good judgment — Rebecca is brilliant and thoughtful,” said Tina Miller, a criminal defense lawyer who has known Haywood for more than 20 years.
“She'll make an excellent judge,” said Stephen Stalling, a criminal defense lawyer who worked with Haywood for four years. “She has first-rate appellate experience, an excellent legal mind and probably the perfect temperament to serve on the 3rd Circuit: She's intellectually curious, fair-minded and smart as a whip.”
EDITORIAL: Campaign over, but Rubio’s job isn’t done (Miami Herald, 03/15/16)
"Once back in his Senate seat, Sen. Rubio would be wise to eschew the expediencies of politics for the serious work of governance, something voters across the country rightly saw as missing from his portfolio.
For instance, the senator continues to block the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, for the federal bench in South Florida, despite the fact that Mr. Rubio himself recommended her for the position. But he has held up her confirmation by not allowing the Senate Judiciary Committee to go ahead with it. His partisan holdup cheats both Ms. Barzee Flores and his constituents."
Some People Are Still Doing Their Job on Judges (People For blog, 03/15/16)
"President Obama has nominated Rebecca Haywood of Pennsylvania to fill a vacancy on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that opened last July. She would bring to the bench her many years of experience with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where she is now Chief of the Appellate Division. If confirmed, she would be the first woman of color to ever serve on the Third Circuit.... Yet Senate Republicans who are refusing to #DoYourJob with any Supreme Court nomination have also been bottling up President Obama’s lower court nominees, as well. There are already five other circuit court nominees who have yet to be granted hearings before the Judiciary; some have been waiting for more than two months already.
The bottleneck must end. The president continues to do his job by nominating qualified jurists to serve on our nation’s courts. Haywood and all of the other judicial nominees should receive the timely and fair consideration contemplated by the Constitution."
Ron Johnson's Revisionist History (People For blog, 03/14/16)
"There’s good news and bad news regarding Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and the longtime effort to fill that state’s vacancy on the Seventh Circuit, which has been empty for more than six years.
The good news is that, almost two months after Donald Schott’s nomination, Johnson has at last said he has signed his “blue slip” of approval to the Judiciary Committee. ... The bad news is that Johnson’s statement announcing this is also a needless attack against any number of Democrats, including Baldwin. ... Sen. Johnson may not have wanted the commission to work on the circuit vacancy, but he is apparently not being accurate when he says what his reasons were. That’s because the Seventh Circuit seat was a judicial emergency when the commission began its work and all through the time that it was considering potential district court nominees.... . Perhaps he should tell his constituents the real reason.
In the meantime, he could do Wisconsinites a great favor by pressing his fellow Republican, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, to hold Schott’s confirmation hearing as soon as possible. This seat has been vacant for far too long."
Edit Memo: Not Just the Supreme Court: Republicans’ Blockade of Judicial Nominees Started Long Before SCOTUS Vacancy (People For blog, 03/14/16)
"In 2013, Grassley sought to eliminate three vacant judgeships from the critically important 11-member DC Circuit Court of Appeals, rather than allow Obama to fill any of them. ... With the tacit cooperation of home state senator (and fellow Republican) Pat Toomey, Grassley did not even hold a confirmation hearing until seven months after Restrepo’s nomination, even though Toomey claimed to support the nomination and Restrepo had already been thoroughly fully vetted for a district judgeship just two years earlier. He was approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last July, but then languished on the Senate floor for half a year until Republicans finally allowed a confirmation vote in January. President Obama has nominated a number of highly qualified and respected individuals to serve on circuit courts around the country. Donald K. Schott of Wisconsin for the 7th Circuit ... Justice Myra Selby of Indiana for the 7th Circuit ... Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl of North Dakota for the 8th Circuit ... Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama for the 11th Circuit ... Judge Lucy Haeran Koh of California for the 9th Circuit"
Senator Burr’s absurd blockade of a judge in his home state (Courier-Tribune [NC], 03/09/16)
Chris Fitzsimon column: "An African-American has never served as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina and Senator Richard Burr apparently intends to keep it that way, judging by his knee-jerk opposition to President Obama’s latest nominee to fill a seat on the court that has been vacant for 10 years, the longest vacancy in the country.... Burr cited a letter he wrote to President Obama endorsing May-Parker in reply to the question about why he was holding up a hearing on the nomination of May-Parker for the court. Seven years later, the Eastern District is still struggling to cope with its caseload with the vacancy to the point that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has designated it an emergency to fill the seat. And NC Policy Watch reported in 2014, in the prior 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.... Obama announced a new nominee for the court, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson from Fayetteville, a widely respected jurist .... It’s a solid choice for a seat that should have been filled years ago and Burr is doing North Carolina and the federal judiciary a disservice by playing political games now."
Johnson and GOP should answer Constitution's call (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI], 03/07/16)
Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: "The Constitution is clear. It is the president's obligation to fill vacancies on the federal bench and the Senate's duty to provide "advice and consent" on those nominations. There is no exception to these constitutional duties in an election year.... Obstructionism is nothing new for Johnson. In Wisconsin, there also has been a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for nearly six years, and Johnson has refused to give his approval to the nominee, Donald Schott, despite the fact that Johnson recommended him to the president.
The people of Wisconsin are being robbed of a voice on the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court. The Constitution is calling. It's time Johnson answers the call."
Grassley’s time is up (Iowa City Press-Citizen, 03/04/16)
Robert Humble, Letter to the Editor: "While chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Grassley has slowed federal judicial confirmations to a halt. There are currently 81 judicial vacancies and 39 pending judicial nominations; the Judiciary Committee hasn't been this unproductive since 1953. And as of yesterday, Senator Grassley has said there will be no hearings for an Obama nominee to fill the vacancy at the Supreme Court.... We need lawmakers that won’t bring the courts to a standstill for political reasons."
Scot Ross: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Obstruction (Cap Times [WI], 03/03/16)
Op-Ed: "While his words may not provide any clarity, his history is a guide — when it comes to the federal judiciary, obstructionism is Johnson’s game and political considerations get priority over a well-functioning court.
Look no further than the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for evidence, where Johnson’s antics have resulted in the longest-running vacancy on the appellate court in the nation. As a result, decisions in critical federal cases like Wisconsin’s voter ID law were left deadlocked.
Just as clear as Johnson’s track record of obstructionism on judicial appointments is the language of the United States Constitution that he, as an elected official, has sworn an oath to uphold. It is the duty of the president of the United States to nominate judges to the federal courts and justices to the Supreme Court. And it is the job of Ron Johnson as a member of the Senate to give these nominations fair consideration, to “advise and consent,” not “obstruct and delay.”"
US Senate blocks too many nominees (The Olympian [WA], 03/03/16)
James Stehn, Letter to the Editor: "It should come as no surprise that the GOP, led by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, is zealously opposed to any nomination to the Supreme Court by President Obama at this time.
The Republicans have been blocking countless nominations, leading to vacant judicial posts since Obama was elected (twice — by large popular votes!). I missed the “no fourth-year nominations” clause in my copy of the U.S. Constitution."
Judicial vacancies need to be filled (Albany Times Union [NY], 03/02/16)
Daniel W. Coffey, Albany County Bar Association president: "A recent disturbing trend is to leave judicial slots at both the national and state level unfilled for long periods of time, ... This trend reflects a lack of respect as to the vital function our independent judiciary plays as our third branch of government, and a lack of understanding as to how a shorthanded court necessarily delays the timely administration of justice for those who appear in our courts.... it is unfair to leave judicial vacancies open for any extended period of time and expect the courts to be able to deliver high quality and timely decisions .... We urge that all of our courts, at both the appellate and trial court levels, be returned to and kept at full strength, which benefits not only our judges, but also the litigants whom we represent."
In Eastern NC district, 10 years of waiting for a judge (News & Observer [NC], 03/01/16)
MARK DOROSIN AND BRENT DUCHARME: "In the wake of the recent death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, politicians and the public have been debating the timing of a Supreme Court nomination and the potential effects of leaving the seat empty for over a year.
Sadly, there has been no similar public discussion of the 76 vacant judgeships on the 94 federal district courts and 13 federal appellate courts that hear the thousands of cases each year that never reach the Supreme Court.... In 2005, Judge Malcolm Howard, one of four then-active federal judges sitting in the Eastern District, vacated his seat and assumed part-time senior status with the court. More than a decade later, Howard’s former seat remains unfilled, and there are no nominees."
Juan Williams: GOP hits new low on court (The Hill, 02/29/16)
"By pledging not to hold confirmation hearings for any Obama nominee to the high court, McConnell has reached new depths of disdain for the president.... Now McConnell’s view of responsibly governing descends to the unprecedented low of refusing any Obama nominee the courtesy of a simple visit to the Senate for an introductory meeting. ... What is newsworthy is that the strategy has now reached a nadir that involves a vulgar show of disrespect for the constitution, the presidency and the courts.... Doing the job of allowing the nation’s courts to function does not seem to be on the GOP agenda.
As Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell recently reported: “Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 11 federal judges, the fewest in any year since 1960. Only one appeals court judge was confirmed, the lowest number since 1953. As a result, there are 76 vacancies (including Scalia’s) for Article III judgeships, nearly twice as many as there were when Republicans regained Senate control in January 2015.”
A year of 4-4 rulings by the divided Supreme Court will negate the constitutional role of the high court. ... McConnell and Grassley’s obstruction of Obama’s judicial nominees for lower courts has already created a crisis in which there aren’t enough judges on the federal bench to hear cases requiring timely adjudication."