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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Senate to Vote Today on Four Federal District Court Nominees (People For blog, 02/24/14)
"Republicans refused to hold votes on these nominees for months, and now that they are being called on their obstructionism through filibuster-ending cloture votes, they’re making the votes take as long as possible by demanding that each take hours of “post-cloture debate.” This is especially ridiculous for nominees whom the Republicans actually support. Not only is this delaying confirmation of judges in these particular states; it’s also delaying nominees in other states waiting in line for their turn, including many for posts that have been deemed “judicial emergencies.” This delaying tactic from Republicans not only slows what should be a simple process, it deprives these states’ constituents the fully functioning justice system they deserve."

New Rules, Same Results on Capitol Hill (Newsweek, 02/21/14)
Pema Levy: "gridlock over the president's judicial nominees persists. And it's not just North Carolina. Across the country, the federal judiciary has 96 vacancies: 80 in the federal district courts and 16 in the appellate courts. Thirty-nine are considered judicial emergencies. According to an upcoming analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, there were just 35 vacancies at the same point in President George W. Bush's presidency and about 60 at the same point in President Bill Clinton's. There are 32 judicial nominations waiting for a final vote on the Senate floor."

Will McCain and Flake Let GOP Obstruct AZ Nominees? (People For blog, 02/21/14)
"In fact, only five Obama judicial nominees have actually been allowed by the GOP to have their committee vote held as scheduled. The last time they let one through on time was in 2011, and that was for an Arizona nominee to replace the murdered Judge John Roll. Perhaps they will make another Arizona exception this time. Arizona has 13 federal district judgeships, but six of them are vacant. And because of the high caseload in Arizona courts, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated all six of the vacancies as “judicial emergencies.” ... The six nominees were originally scheduled for a committee vote on February 13, but the hearing was cancelled due to a snowstorm. Then came a week’s recess. ... Since Flake is on the committee, eyes will be particularly focused on him. Can he convince his GOP colleagues not to prolong the crisis in his state by delaying the vote? Will he even try?"

Trial Courts Update: Vacancies Higher After Filibuster Reform (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 02/21/14)
Alicia Bannon: "Three months after Senate Democrats reformed the filibuster rules for executive and judicial nominees, Senate obstruction continues in new forms, and courts and litigants are paying the price. When the Senate returns from its holiday recess on Monday, February 24, it should move forward on confirming pending judicial nominees. ... 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)."

Obama is light on recess appointing (Charleston Daily Mail [WV], 02/21/14)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "The Jan. 28 editorial, "Will the president show better listening skills?" states, "The president also is fighting at the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the Constitution and bypass the U.S. Senate — claiming they are in recess when they are not — to make judicial nominations." In fact, the court case only involves Executive Branch recess appointments for a simple reason. As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported, President Obama has never made a recess judicial appointment (unlike President G.W. Bush who made two, and Clinton who made one).... President Obama has routinely consulted very conservative home-state Republican senators and obtained their strong support to confirm consensus judicial nominees. Vacancies without nominees are concentrated in Kentucky, Texas and a few other states."

Read Stuff, You Should (Bloomberg News, 02/19/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Remember, the filibuster hasn’t been eliminated; it has been changed so that a simple majority can defeat it. But the minority still can stall, and Republicans have continued filibustering every nomination (and in many cases, using every stalling technique available to them."

Fight over judicial nominees on two fronts (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 02/19/14)
Steve Benen: "since December, the Senate has confirmed just one judge: Robert Wilkins was approved to serve on the D.C. Circuit. There are 32 other judicial nominees who’ve cleared committee and are awaiting floor votes....GOP senators may not be able to filibuster these nominees anymore, but they’re still relying on every possible procedural trick they know to prevent qualified judges from receiving confirmation votes. In some cases, Republicans are announcing their opposition to nominees they personally recommended. In others, they’re taking advantage of the blue-slip process. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has occasionally taken the lead in refusing Democratic efforts to consider non-controversial nominees as a bloc. (Alexander is an odd choice to lead on this issue, given that how much credibility he lost when he broke his word on this very issue.)"

EDITORIAL: Confirmation Limbo: It’s still too hard to staff the government (Washington Post, 02/18/14)
"IT’S BEEN three months since Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats used the “nuclear option” in the Senate to unilaterally change the rules to limit filibusters on most presidential nominations. So far, though, there’s been no flood of confirmations. Part of the explanation is continuing GOP obstruction, as unfounded as ever. But it also turns out that the nuclear option wasn’t the panacea some made it out to be. It remains unacceptably hard to staff the government.... Uncontroversial nominees — and even those who rub some legislators the wrong way but are well qualified — should fly through the Senate. Instead, many are stuck waiting for floor time. When Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) tried to get two uncontroversial judges confirmed by unanimous consent last week, Republicans demanded hours of pointless debate. GOP lawmakers look set to mercilessly attack Debo Adegbile , the president’s talented choice to run the Justice Department’s civil rights team. In fact, the betting is that Republican senators, still smarting from Mr. Reid’s nuclear attack, will force the chamber to waste valuable time on all sorts of nominees."

Another candidate awaits news on federal judicial nomination (Arkansas Times, 02/17/14)
Max Brantley: "Though Moody's nomination isn't considered controversial — and is supported by both Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman — it has been held up by a general blockade of presidential appointments by Republicans in the Senate. Votes to end filibusters on a number of routine appointments, including Moody's, are set to begin Feb. 24. That's the same day that filing opens for Moody's seat. If his confirmation isn't completed by the end of the filing period March 3, Moody will file again."

Why The Senate STILL Isn’t Able To Get Anything Done Even After The ‘Nuclear Option’ (Think Progress, 02/13/14)
Ian Millhiser: "Just one judge has been confirmed so far in 2014 ... Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) began the process necessary to confirm four judges on Wednesday night, but this process will still take days to complete and will only confirm a small fraction of the 32 judicial nominees awaiting votes."

GOP Blockade of Unopposed Ark. Judicial Nominees Disrupts Local Election (People For blog, 02/13/14)
"Sen. Mark Pryor stood up yesterday to urge his colleagues to allow a vote on the two Arkansans, but Republicans would have none of it.... But the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, Chuck Grassley, objected. Why? Because Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year (although Pryor actually voted against the change). It is important to note Grassley's situational ethics. In 2005, when it was George W. Bush's nominees who were at issue, he publicly supported the effort of Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster altogether for judicial nominees, and to make that change in Senate rules by majority vote."

Pryor's reward for helping Republicans: obstructionism (Arkansas Times, 02/12/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of a handful of Democrats who declined to support the so-called nuclear option, a rule change to eliminate the filibuster of judicial nominees. The thanks he got today? A Republican refused to grant him unanimous consent to win approval of the nominations of two non-controvesial judicial appointees — Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville. Glenn Sugameli, who heads the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project, sent me the exchange from the Senate floor. ...Why is Grassley punishing Arkansas, whose senators didn't support the rule change (he noted Pryor's vote) and whose senators, Democrat and Republican, support the nominees? ... Grassley is, of course, also a hypocrite. Sugameli notes that Grassley supported a nuclear option in 2005 when the shoe was on the other foot."

Pryor: Urgency on vote on judicial nominations (Arkansas Times, 02/11/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is pressing for a Senate vote this week to confirm two non-controversial judicial appointees in Arkansas — Circuit Judge Jay Moody for a district judgeship in Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a seat in the western district of Arkansas.... It won't be easy, unless John Boozman puts his weight behind it. Republicans haven't been allowing floor votes on judicial nominations. 32 are in waiting. Only one vote so far this year."

While the GOP Fiddles, Judicial Emergencies Mount (People For blog, 02/07/14)
"That refusal to agree to confirmation votes even for nominees that no one opposes is why we have so many nominees (32) pending on the Senate floor. Four of those stalled nominees would fill vacancies in Michigan's Eastern District, two of which have now been designated as judicial emergencies. ... Finally, the committee was allowed to vote on January 16, and all four Michigan nominees were approved with overwhelming bipartisan support (three of them unanimously). In the three months since the GOP stopped consenting to judicial nominations, five vacancies have been newly designated as judicial emergencies, two of them in Michigan. Across the country, the number of judicial emergencies has reached 39."

Editorial: No more delays Senate should not let federal judicial nominations languish (Miami Herald, 02/06/14)
"No one has ever accused Judge Thomas of bias on the bench. But once Sen. Rubio dropped his support, Judge Thomas’ nomination was doomed. It was an embarrassment for Florida in every way.... Sen. Rubio issued a statement after the announcements, saying he welcomed the nominations and doesn’t “anticipate having an objection to moving forward” on them. That’s good to know, and we’ll hold him to his word.... Sen. Rubio, again along with Sen. Grassley, did hold up the confirmation of another Obama appointee from Florida who is African American. Nassau County Circuit Judge Brian Davis waited almost two years before his nomination was finally confirmed last December. Again, Sen. Grassley accused the judge of bias. There’s nothing in Judge Davis’ public record to back up these accusations.... The delays are driven, almost entirely, by crass partisanship. The result is U.S. District Court vacancies that go unfilled, literally, for years. That’s justice delayed, justice denied. And it’s entirely the fault of the U.S. Senate."

EDITORIAL: The River of ash (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 02/06/14)
"Other utilities have adopted cleaner means of coal ash disposal. Duke should do the same.... “Duke’s coal ash pollution is threatening rivers, lakes and drinking water in every part of North Carolina,” Frank Holleman, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said just last month. His group is leading a lawsuit seeking to force Duke to clean up coal ash pollution....more should be done to prevent the next accident there or somewhere else."

EDITORIAL: Our View Getting ahead of the next coal ash leak (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 02/05/14)
"What can Duke do? Clean the unlined ponds. Recycle the coal ash or move it to dry, lined landfills. That’s what two South Carolina utilities have agreed to do in settling a lawsuit with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Catawba Riverkeeper and other groups.... Duke also is facing a lawsuit, this one from state of North Carolina and environmental groups, over more than a dozen coal ash ponds, including Riverbend’s. The groups note that Riverbend’s ponds already are leaking small amounts of chemicals into Mountain Island Lake, something Duke acknowledges."

Editorial: Federal court puts Arctic drilling on ice; Shell Oil called off its 2014 plans for drilling in offshore Alaska, after a federal appeals court challenged federal leasing practices. (Seattle Times [WA] , 02/03/14)
"His decision follows the federal appeals court ruling that said the U.S. Department of Interior’s oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea violated the law, with faulty oil production estimates that had consequences for forecasting environmental hazards.... the court is saying it wants serious evaluations of environmental and safety risks with real numbers — not the back-of-the-envelope estimates previously accepted so lucrative auctions can proceed."

PICKING NEXT FEDERAL JUDGE; World-Herald editorial: Court vacancy needs attention (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 01/29/14)
"The current list of federal court vacancies is long — 79 U.S. district court judges and 16 more on appeals court benches. Only 55 replacements have been nominated to fill those 95 openings. Another 19 vacancies will occur this year, including one in Nebraska ... Filling these vacancies is important. Crowded federal court dockets increase the caseload for sitting judges and slow citizens’ access to justice. ... Nebraskans can hope this process moves efficiently, so this vacancy doesn’t linger on that list."

Hearing on Arizona Nominees Shows Why Courts Matter (People For blog, 01/29/14)
"Fortunately, Flake and McCain can help ensure quick confirmations. Since Flake is on the Judiciary Committee, perhaps he will persuade his GOP colleagues not to do what they have done with nearly every other Obama judicial nominee: demand a delay in the committee vote once it is scheduled, with no explanation or apology. ... there are 29 judicial nominees waiting for a floor vote, many of them who could and should have been confirmed last year. Their confirmation would reduce the current vacancy rate by nearly a third. Another three nominees will probably join them next week. So the Arizona nominees will be at the back of a very, very, long line. If McCain and Flake want to help Arizona's overworked courts, they need to push Mitch McConnell to allow quick votes on all the nominees who are already being stalled on the floor."

We're About to Find Out if the Senate is Working Again (Mother Jones, 01/16/14)
Kevin Drum: "If Republicans insist on cloture for every nominee, it will tie the Senate in knots since it eats up a few days of time to work through each cloture vote. Democrats will win them eventually now that it only takes 51 votes, but they can't afford to spend two months of floor time in order to confirm 29 nominees. So if Republicans play hardball, they could still block most of Obama's nominees."

The Senate Could Immediately Reduce the Vacancy Rate by a Third (People For blog, 01/16/14)
"Just a few days into the new session of Congress – with Senate Republicans having forced renominations of more than 50 judicial nominees – the Judiciary Committee has now fully vetted and advanced 29 of those nominees to the full Senate. For many of them, it is their second time on the Senate floor, since the committee approved them last year, too – unanimously in almost all cases.,,, If McConnell allowed it, the Senate could vote this week to confirm these 29 nominees. ,,, Among these 29 nominees are eight who would fill vacancies that have been formally designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Confirming them would resolve 22% of our nation's judicial emergencies."

Filling judicial vacancies to protect the progressive legacy (Reuters, 01/13/14)
Prof. Herman Schwartz: "vacancies have risen to more than 65 percent; at a comparable point in the Bush administration, vacancies had fallen by 39 percent. As of January 7, there were still 16 appellate and 77 trial court vacancies, with 9 pending appellate and 44 district court nominees. In total, roughly 11 percent of all federal judgeships are still vacant, with 36 judicial emergencies. Before the Democrats’ filibuster repeal, the Senate had confirmed only 76 percent of all Obama nominees, compared to 90 percent during a comparable period in the Bush administration. ... In an unparalleled abuse of the blue slip privilege, 90 percent of the federal court vacancies that Obama is now unable to fill are in states with a Republican senator."

Our opinion: Congress should pass legislation now (Great Falls Tribune [MT], 01/12/14)
"Dislodging some of the logjams in the Capitol would do some good. Montana’s two new federal judges, Brian Morris and Susan Watters, were approved by the U.S. Senate and sworn into office last month. A recent controversy over holding up appointments through a filibuster in the U.S. Senate raised some hackles, as Democrats changed rules to make it more difficult for opposition senators to block President Barack Obama’s federal judgeship appointments....Voters have tired of squabbling and bickering, and would appreciate, as we would, efforts to compromise and to work out problems, rather than continuing more months of stalemate.... Congress should pass a farm bill, act on judicial appointments, and make additional progress to help restore some of the luster to what was once a highly respected branch of the federal government."

Morning report: judges  (Arkansas Times, 01/09/14)
Max Brantley: "The Senate Judiciary Committee had Obama judicial nominations, including Moody's and another from Arkansas, on its agenda this morning. They've all been pushed back a week ... Looks like more GOP obstructionism. Comments Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who follows the federal judiciary on further delays for Moody and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville: 'There is no reason for further delay other than obstruction as they are well qualified consensus nominees who deserve final votes. This only hurts the other judges in Ark. And people litigating in federal court there for no reason.'"

Republicans Obstruct Judicial Nominees They Supported Last Year (People For blog, 01/09/14)
"Among the 29 nominees delayed for no reason this morning are nine nominees who were approved by the committee last year but were denied a confirmation vote due to GOP obstructionism. All nine had been approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, eight of them unanimously....Another 15 of the nominees delayed today were scheduled for committee votes last year, but those votes were repeatedly delayed by the GOP."

Republican reversals on judicial nominees stymies White House (Daily Kos, 01/08/14)
Joan McCarter: "Two Republican senators have withdrawn their support of federal judge nominees they had previously recommended to President Obama. Sen. Marco Rubio withdrew his endorsement of William Thomas to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has pulled his support from Jennifer May-Parker, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina that he put forward. The Florida seat has been vacant for 20 months and is categorized as a judicial emergency. Rubio put Thomas forward, back in 2012, then backtracked, refusing to provide a "blue slip" to the Judiciary Committee to advance the nomination. The North Carolina seat have been vacant since January 1, 2006, making it the longest-running vacancy in the federal judiciary."

Shaheen’s vote to alter Senate’s filibuster rules was a vote for progress (Telegraph [Nashua, NH], 01/05/14)
Mike Pignatelli Op-Ed: "no longer can tea party Republicans gridlock the government and our judicial system by refusing to hold a simple up or down vote on federal judges"

Editorial: Thumbs down (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/03/14)
"Thumbs down to the Obama administration for failing to nominate a replacement for U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, who moved to senior status 14 months ago. Meanwhile, Fresno's federal courthouse labors under one of the highest caseloads in the nation and, as The Bee's John Ellis reported on Dec. 28, judicial employees there anxiously await Ishii's replacement. Don Fischbach, a Fresno attorney who chaired a screening committee of potential nominees set up by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, told Ellis that the committee long ago finished its work."