Editorials and Opinion
Sen. Pat Toomey must push for vote to confirm Judge Luis Restrepo (Morning Call [PA], 06/16/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Judging the Environment, Letter to the Editor: "The story, "Senate Judiciary panel vets Pa. nominee," reports that "there's more waiting for" Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo after the "uneventful" hearing on his nomination to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Sen. Pat Toomey, the story said, "noted the unanimous Senate approval when Restrepo was nominated to his district judgeship: 'I hope to see exactly such a confirmation occur this year.'"
But "this year" suggests further needless delays of Restrepo's November nomination to fill a 2013 vacancy the U.S. Courts declared a judicial emergency. Those pressing for swift action include newspaper editorial boards and the Hispanic National Bar Association. A Pittsburgh City Council resolution urged a floor vote before another Pennsylvania Third Circuit seat is vacated on July 1, when Judge Marjorie Rendell takes senior status.
Until Sen. Toomey persuades his majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, to allow a prompt vote, justice delayed from lack of judges will continue to be justice denied."
Editorial: Lack of a wolf plan should have U.S. howling mad (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 06/16/15)
"The public ... deserves to know what that final goal is. According to a 2014 lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife by Defenders of Wildlife [and others] “the absence of a legitimate agency blueprint for Mexican gray wolf recovery underlies the ongoing challenges facing the subspecies’ recovery program. Accordingly, those challenges could be resolved through the production and implementation of a scientifically based and legally valid recovery plan to guide and drive Mexican gray wolf management decisions, such as scheduled releases to promote genetic diversity, necessary limitations on wolf removals by FWS and the public, and delineation of appropriate geographic areas to facilitate wolf recovery.”"
3rd Circ. Judge Restrepo Is Finally Near Confirmation (Findlaw, 06/12/15)
Peter Clarke, JD: "The confirmation hearing went well for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo in early June. After long delays for Judge Restrepo, it shouldn't be long before the 3rd Circuit officially welcomes their new judge to the bench.... Restrepo isn't the only judge currently held in limbo. ... In Philadelphia, there is speculation that Republican Senator Toomey, while publically promoting Restrepo, has secretly delayed the proceedings. Whether or not these calculated delays have taken place, there is an urgent need for judges to take their new posts. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Restrepo's position was labeled a 'judicial emergency vacancy.'"
Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp on the nomination of Bob Rossiter (Hercules and the umpire blog, 06/12/15)
Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp, U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska: "Nebraska is among eight states having a single federal district and only three authorized judgeships. In this group, Nebraska has by far the heaviest docket. For the 12-month period ending September 30, 2014, Nebraska ranked first among these districts in its per-judgeship weighted filings, felony caseload, and supervised release hearings. The prompt confirmation of Nebraska’s newest federal district judge will be essential to ensure that federal litigation in Nebraska is adjudicated promptly and efficiently."
Melgen still being held (Southern District of Florida Blog, 06/11/15)
David Markus: "In other news, a few judges had a smooth hearing with the judiciary committee yesterday. It's very slow going... Hopefully Mary Barzee Flores will be up soon."
The Register's Editorial: Grassley can press "go" on judicial nominees (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/11/15)
"There are 26 "judicial emergencies" in federal trial and appeals courts ... Grassley assures that he is moving ahead on all judicial nominees that have sent over from the White House, including courts of appeals judges, which can be contentious, and trial-court judges, which typically are less controversial.
"The Judiciary Committee is moving nominees through the process in the same timeframe, or even better, as established under the former majority," Grassley said in a statement sent to the Register. Grassley's staff said he is moving judicial nominees out of the committee at the same pace as the committee did during the last two years of President George W. Bush's term, when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats...."I've said from my first day as chairman that I'll seek to move consensus nominees," Grassley said....it is encouraging that McConnell has walked back his threat to block the president's nominees. Both senators should now demonstrate by their actions they mean what they say."
Grassley’s dirty little secret on nominees (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/11/15)
Opinion column By Des Moines attorney John Hearn: "Senator Grassley recently recruited five Iowa lawyers to select two nominees for him to give to the president. As near as I can tell, the lawyers are all die-hard Republicans. Predictably, their nominees are Republicans, and in Grassley’s eyes, more likely to rule for big business and conservative causes in line with Grassley’s own ideology.
Now when Grassley receives the president’s nominees, he will have political cover to say that a committee of Iowa lawyers has already selected the most qualified nominees. Then true to form, he can hold up a constitutionally mandated Senate vote on the president’s nominations, presumably until the next election (a year and one-half away), hoping for a Republican president, who will nominate Grassley’s like-minded nominees."
Bill Straub: It seems McConnell just can’t withstand the urge to poke Obama with a stick (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 06/11/15)
"A Pennsylvania seat is open on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Toomey has endorsed President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo. Toomey already is under pressure to address the situation and has offered assurances that the seat will be filled. So Any failure to get his choice through would not only establish that Toomey carries little influence but further alienate the growing Latino vote — Restrepo was born in Colombia.
And McConnell wouldn’t be doing himself any favors. Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, who hails from McConnell’s adopted hometown of Louisville, is thought to be in line to succeed Boyce Martin, of Louisville, who resigned in August 2013 as a judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals .... That vacant position has been declared a “judicial emergency’’ by the Judicial Conference – one of 26 currently unfilled slots so designated. If McConnell followed through with his threat, Kentucky would be a vote short on the Sixth Circuit for at least four years, perhaps longer....McConnell would be creating an unholy mess if he ignored Obama’s judicial nominations. Civil trials would literally be backed up for years ... the GOP majority has approved only four federal judgeships. During the last two years of their presidencies, when the Senate was controlled by opposing parties, Republicans President George W. Bush managed to get 10 appeals court judges confirmed while Democratic President Bill Clinton got 15 and Republican Ronald Reagan got 17."
With Senate control, will the GOP stop confirming circuit court judges? (Brookings, 06/10/15)
Russell Wheeler: "There will be at best few appellate confirmations this year, and fewer next year. That, however, may be due less to the majority’s not bringing nominees up for votes and more to the majority’s refusing to allow the administration to submit nominees for vacancies in their states. ... All eight nominee-less circuit vacancies now in place are in states with at least one Republican senator and most are several years old. ... Obama has appointed 53 circuit judges, as had George Bush at this point in 2007 (including three in the first half of the year). Bush appointed 60 in all.... Glenn Sugameli, who monitors nominations closely, told The Hill that senators in three of the seven states “say they are working” to get nominees in place. ... Bush’s immediate predecessors also faced an opposing Senate in their seventh and eighth years but saw more confirmations: Clinton, 15 and Reagan 17."
Columnist blames Ron Johnson for 2,000-day federal judicial vacancy (Capital Times (WI), 06/10/15)
Steven Elbow: "In January of 2010, federal appellate Judge Terence Evans retired from his Seventh Circuit seat. That was 2,000 days ago — nearly five years — and the vacancy has yet to be filled, making it the oldest federal court vacancy in the nation.
In the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, lays the blame squarely on one person: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson."
EDITORIAL: Stop ExxonMobil settlement (Daily Record [NJ], 06/10/15)
"New Jersey’s pollution settlement with ExxonMobil for a mere $225 million — out of nearly $9 billion in damages the state had sought from the company in a lawsuit — has been the source of great angst among environmentalists. They’ve labeled the deal a sellout and for good reason .... This deal is so egregiously bad for New Jersey that critics aren’t content to just verbally blast away at Christie and move on. They want to stop this settlement before it’s finalized by the courts .... Seven environmental groups announced plans on Wednesday to jump in on a lawsuit seeking to block final acceptance of the settlement.... The ExxonMobil deal should be blocked. And future settlements with polluters should be devoted primarily to the environment. We urge lawmakers and activists to continue working toward both goals."
Marco Rubio's Obstruction of Justice: The Wrong Verdict for all Floridians (Columbia County Observer [FL], 06/09/15)
Op-Ed by Mark Ferrulo: "More than three months ago President Barack Obama nominated Mary Barzee Flores, a former Miami judge with an illustrious career, to serve as a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida. The vacancy has been open for more than a year, and is formally classified as a judicial emergency, meaning there simply aren’t enough judges to handle the large caseload for this critically important South Florida court.
Despite the urgent need to fill this vacancy, Sen. Marco Rubio is blocking her nomination for no reason other than politics. Meanwhile, as long as the position remains vacant, the understaffed judiciary builds a backlog of cases, delaying justice for Floridians.
The Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Barzee Flores until it gets “blue slips” of approval from her two home-state senators. Sen. Bill Nelson has turned his in, but Rubio still hasn’t turned in his. The irony is that, after an exhaustive vetting from the bipartisan Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, Rubio joined with Nelson in recommending her to the president in the first place."
Why Has a Key Federal Judgeship in Wisconsin Been Vacant for 2,000 Days? (Huffington Post, 06/09/15)
Nan Aron: "Wisconsin's vacancy on the Seventh Circuit is the oldest circuit court vacancy in the entire country. ... Senator Tammy Baldwin should be commended for taking action and clearing a path forward for the president to name a qualified nominee. She recently sent a list of eight qualified candidates to the White House for the president to choose from. With a list of names in hand, the president can--and should--act swiftly on his constitutional authority to name a new Seventh Circuit judge.
Indeed, one might wonder why Baldwin didn't green light a nomination before now. The reason lies with Wisconsin's Republican Senator Ron Johnson. While Baldwin has bent over backwards to select judicial candidates in a bipartisan manner, Johnson has obstructed at every turn, and recently told the White House to keep waiting, indefinitely."
Benched! History shows “regular order” means appellate court confirmations (Justice Watch, 06/09/15)
"In the last Congress of President George W. Bush’s second term, Senate Democrats confirmed 10 circuit nominees. They included vacancies in states represented by Republicans, Democrats, and mixed delegations. Most notably, Judge Leslie Southwick was confirmed to the Fifth Circuit despite opposition from progressive advocacy groups and three-fourths of the Democratic caucus....President Clinton’s final two years were no different. The Republican-led Senate confirmed 15 circuit nominees, and every one of them were from Democrat-controlled or mixed delegation states.... In President Reagan’s final two years, Senate Democrats confirmed 17 circuit judges. A plurality of those judges was from Republican-controlled states."
Toomey Can Protect the 3rd Circuit from Having Two Simultaneous Vacancies (People For blog, 06/09/15)
"Just as Democrats and Republicans alike worked to confirm a number of President Bush’s circuit court nominees within three weeks of their committee hearings, Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey can work together to make this happen again. They both expressed strong support for Restrepo when he was nominated last year, and they can both see the harm to their constituents if the court has a second vacancy added to the already-existing judicial emergency."
No more showdowns over Obama's judicial nominations? (Examiner, 06/09/15)
Susan Crabtree: "The few battles that remain will take place at the circuit court level, but the Senate has recently taken action on two nominations that had previously stalled, quelling some concerns on the left. Earlier this year, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who faces a tough re-election fight next year, was dragging his heels on declaring public support for Luis Felipe Restrepo, the president's choice to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, ... But in May Toomey issued a blue-slip — a formal sign of support for Restrepo — and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Restrepo this Wednesday. The Judiciary Committee also unanimously approved the appointment of Kara Stoll to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and her nomination should soon move to the Senate floor."
On Circuit Courts, An Opportunity for McConnell to Show He Can Govern (People For blog, 06/08/15)
"A dysfunctional Senate that will not confirm qualified judges in a timely manner threatens the American ideal of equal justice under law.
So after the headlines of the past few days, the eyes of the country are on McConnell, waiting to see if he will cater to the rabidly anti-Obama base and prevent votes on any circuit court nominees, or whether he will – as his spokesperson suggested – govern more responsibly.
Fortunately for him, he can make that clear quite easily, by scheduling a vote on Kara Farnandez Stoll, nominee to the Federal Circuit. Stoll was cleared by the Judiciary Committee without opposition more than six weeks ago, on April 23. No circuit or district court nominee has been waiting for a floor vote longer.
Another circuit court nominee – Pennsylvanian L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit – will have his hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week. With the bipartisan support of his home state senators and having been confirmed to a district judgeship two years ago, Judge Restrepo is another clear consensus nominee. He should be approved quickly by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where McConnell should schedule a timely vote for him, as well."
Your opinions: Letters to the editor for June 5 Judge nominee should be allowed hearing (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 06/05/15)
John Neurohr Jr.: "In November, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Seven months later, the nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee; ... It's time for Toomey to back his public support for Restrepo by pushing Grassley to hold a hearing."
Senate Judiciary Committee votes out four desperately needed district court nominees (Justice Watch, 06/04/15)
"Three of the four would fill officially designated “judicial emergencies,” and the fourth, a nominee to the Western District of New York, would sit in a Buffalo courthouse that is now without an active judge for the first time in at least 55 years. These nominees were voted out of committee with bipartisan support, and should be immediately confirmed so they can start working for the American people. ... On Mitch McConnell’s watch, the number of judicial vacancies, including those designated as judicial emergencies, has steadily grown over the last five months. But with the four nominees voted out of committee today (and the three pending nominees they join on the Senate floor), McConnell and the Republican majority have an opportunity to do the right thing: confirm them now."
EDITORIAL: Fill vacancies in Alabama federal courts (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 06/02/15)
"Fuller's departure, as welcome as it is, highlights another worrisome issue for the federal courts in Alabama – the now even greater number of vacancies on the bench, a matter of genuine concern. In addition to the seat Fuller held in the Middle District now being vacated, three other judges – two in the Northern District and one in the Middle District – have taken senior status and thus carry reduced caseloads. Beyond that, there is an Alabama vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The courts' ranks are depleted and these vacancies need to be filled.... It's time for some serious bipartisan effort among Shelby and Sessions and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell -- something beyond the acknowledged discussions that have gone on for months – to propose nominees to the president that they all can support.
There's no shortage of Alabamians qualified to serve on the district and circuit courts. Those courts are below the number of judges established for them, and those seats should be filled."
Open process to seek new Idaho Court of Appeals judge yields four finalists: Three women, one man (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 06/01/15)
Betsy Z. Russell: "Here’s an interesting contrast: While Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch pursue a secret process to name a recommended replacement for longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who will take senior status July 3, a much different and more open process is under way to replace the retiring state Court of Appeals Judge Karen Lansing.... I reported on April 27 on Risch and Crapo’s secret process for naming a replacement for Lodge; at the time, multiple sources said just four candidates had been interviewed, all of them men, though at least five prominent female Idaho attorneys had applied. Idaho is the only state in the federal 9th Circuit that has never had a woman judge on the U.S. District Court bench; it’s one of just two in the nation. After my article appeared, Risch and Crapo issued a statement saying that both “men and women” were being interviewed and that the process was “ongoing.” “We want a confidential process,” the two senators said in their statement. The word is that now at least two women have been interviewed, but I've received no confirmation of that as yet from the senators."
Editorial: Confirm judge (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 05/30/15)
"No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Judge Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Obama submitted his name.... the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has designated the 3rd Circuit vacancy as a judicial emergency.... the Judiciary Committee, which strongly endorsed Judge Restrepo’s ascension to the district bench three years ago, should convene a hearing and move the nomination toward final approval."
Letter: Senate needlessly delays judge confirmations (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/29/15)
Glenn Sugameli: "Thomas Burr's May 22 article noted Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish's "eight month wait" for the 100-0 Senate vote that confirmed her as a federal district judge. Remarkably, Sen. Orrin Hatch was only able to deliver on the second half of his January pledge to push for "swift and unanimous confirmation."
To be fair, state Judge Jose Olvera, Jr.'s 100-0 confirmation to fill a U.S. Courts declared judicial emergency in Texas suffered the exact same delays, despite the January promise of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, to "continue pushing for [his] swift confirmation." Parrish and Olvera were first nominated Sept. 18, 2014, and were approved on a Judiciary Committee voice vote on Feb. 26, 2015 (the same day as Attorney General Loretta Lynch).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's continuing unjustifiable delays of other consensus judicial nominees harm people and businesses, as a lack of judges means justice delayed is justice denied. As The Wall Street Journal reported on April 6: "In Federal Courts, the Civil Cases Pile Up: Record number of pending actions delays some suits for years.""
Cornyn and Cruz Are Devastating Texas Courts (People For blog, 05/29/15)
"Even with judicial nominees they themselves recommended, Cornyn and Cruz don't lift a finger to help to prevent delays in committee or on the floor. Just ask Jose Rolando Olvera, who was denied a floor vote until nearly three months after his approval by a unanimous Judiciary Committee in February. That's particularly ironic, since at Olvera's hearing, Cornyn had said that he and Cruz would push for his "swift confirmation."
But even worse than this snail's pace post-nomination is the senators' foot-dragging pre-nomination, as they delay making recommendations to fill vacancies in the state's federal courts.
Even if there were no vacancies in Texas, the state would need more judges: The Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to add eight new judgeships in the Lone Star State.
But Texas, in fact, does have judicial vacancies – nine of them, seven of which have been designated as judicial emergencies (meaning the current caseload is too much for the judges to handle). Not one has a nominee, because Cornyn and Cruz have shown little interest in recommending nominees to the White House in anything approaching a timely manner."
Editorial: BLM overreached with Richfield ATV plan (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/28/15)
"One anomaly of the Obama administration has been the Bureau of Land Management's willingness to continue state resource-management plans that were pushed through in the waning days of the Bush administration. Those plans in Utah have been decidedly friendly to motorized use and oil and gas exploration. So friendly, in fact, that BLM opened itself up for lawsuits. Environmental groups obliged by filing such suits, and in 2013 U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled in their favor on one suit involving ... spectacular features like the Henry Mountains, Factory Butte and the Dirty Devil River. Tuesday's order from the judge is forcing BLM to review the plan to see if the heavy network of off-road vehicle trails is destroying cultural artifacts left by residents 800 years ago.... He is just requiring BLM to do what it should have done originally, and that is document both the cultural resources and the impact on those resources from ATV traffic. The environmental groups successfully argued that BLM can't claim to protect antiquities when it doesn't even know what's there."
On the 7th Circuit, It's Time for Ron Johnson to Get Out of the Way (People For blog, 05/26/15)
"Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is once again playing politics with the nation's oldest appellate court vacancy. This time, he's changing the rules when they don't work for him, violating an agreement he previously made with fellow senator Tammy Baldwin. His latest efforts to delay filling a five year-old vacancy on the Seventh Circuit are absurd and should simply be ignored by the White House.... But to make sure he could keep the Seventh Circuit seat vacant for as long as possible, Johnson ensured that the commission not address that vacancy until it first made recommendations for two district court vacancies. Slowing the process even further, the commission was not allowed to work on the second district court vacancy until the president made a nomination for the first one. This meant that it was not permitted to even start looking for potential Seventh Circuit judges until last summer, 15 months after its formation.... The past few weeks have seen plenty of examples of Republican senators trying to keep circuit court vacancies open for as long as possible rather than let President Obama fill them. Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey blocked committee consideration of Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo for half a year, until the local press coverage became too much for him to bear. In Indiana, Republican Senator Dan Coats this month called for the creation of a nominating commission to fill an Indiana slot on the Seventh Circuit. This came as a surprise to Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, who noted that he's been working on identifying potential nominees for over a year consistent with an agreement he and Coats had reached.... President Obama and Senator Baldwin have gone to incredible lengths to accommodate Ron Johnson. Now that the system that he demanded and agreed to has fallen apart, it's time he got out of the way. If he has objections to whoever the president nominates, the proper place to air them will be at a Judiciary Committee hearing."
Justice denied because of so many vacant judgeships (Arizona Daily Star, 05/26/15)
Celinas Ruth Op-Ed column: Our federal court system is crumbling. It is being crushed by the weight of a case overload and a shortage of federal judges.... We, as a nation and in Arizona, are experiencing firsthand: “justice delayed is justice denied.”... uring most of President Obama’s term, a seriously high number of vacancies caused by the failure of the Senate to process Obama’s nominations has slowed the progress of civil cases ... On April 5, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended Congress add six permanent and four temporary district judges to the district of Arizona to help handle our state’s burgeoning caseload.
A civil case familiar to me in Tucson’s Federal District Court has been stalled for three years,"
Who Caused the Senate Chaos? (Bloomberg News, 05/26/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... If the minority insists on fully exercising its right under current rules to require 60 votes for everything, the majority will eventually impose new rules -- as Democrats did in October 2013 on executive-branch and judicial nominations. ... McConnell as majority leader isn’t at fault for Senate dysfunction now, just as Harry Reid wasn’t responsible for Senate dysfunction in the previous few years. But McConnell can be blamed for abusing the rules when he was in the minority."