Editorials and Opinion
U.S. Senate should end wait for two Oklahoma judicial nominees [Editorial] (Oklahoman, 11/18/16)
The Oklahoman Editorial Board: NEXT month, it will have been a year since Suzanne Mitchell and Scott Palk were nominated to fill judgeships on the U.S. District court for the western district of Oklahoma. It's high time these two qualified candidates be placed on the bench.
Instead, their nominations are each being held hostage by the games that U.S. senators play in Washington, D.C. Oklahoma's two senators, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, should declare that enough's enough and press Senate leadership to get Mitchell and Palk approved.
What a Trump presidency means for the D.C. judiciary and government (Washington Post, 11/18/16)
Colbert I. King column: President Obama nominated Abid Qureshi to become a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Superior Court Judge Todd Edelman was nominated by Obama in April to serve on the D.C. District Court. As was Superior Court judge Florence Pan.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) recommended all three nominees to Obama. Norton’s recommendations were based upon the findings of a Federal Law Enforcement Nominating Commission that she formed to help her screen candidates. Obama, as did President Bill Clinton, extended senatorial courtesy to her in connection with federal appointments in the District.... The nominations of Qureshi and Edelman will die along with Norton’s commission when the Senate adjourns next month. Pan’s nomination has been reported by the Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor and could possibly receive a vote before adjournment.
How Trump Can Reshape the Courts (Bloomberg News, 11/17/16)
Noah Feldman column: The Republican Senate has blocked or delayed many of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees; his Supreme Court pick of Judge Merrick Garland is just the most visible. ...There are a stunning 81 district court vacancies, which is 12 percent of the total of 677 judgeships. ... what happens in the lower courts does much more to determine the nature of law in the U.S. than the occasional interventions of the justices on high. In four years, Trump could affect the district courts powerfully and the appellate courts to a more limited degree. Over eight years, all bets are off.
LETTER: Crisis in our courts (New Jersey Hills Media Group, 11/17/16)
Natalie Peck: Judge Merrick Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama more than eight months ago .... However, judicial obstructionism isn’t limited to the U.S. Supreme Court. We should now be acutely aware that the United States is in the midst of a judicial crisis, leaving Americans with impaired access to the judicial system.
Beyond the Supreme Court, there are currently 102 federal court vacancies with 59 pending nominees. Thirty-eight of the vacancies represent “judicial emergencies.”
New Jersey alone has three vacancies, with Judge Julien Neals of Bergen County waiting more than 19 months for a hearing following his nomination. These vacancies result in NJ’s federal judges juggling caseloads nearly double what is manageable.
Senator Cory Booker has lamented that “continued judicial vacancies means the American people must wait a year or two or longer to receive justice in a case” while reminding us that justice delayed is justice denied. In September, he called out Senator Mitch McConnell for attempting to skip over long-standing nominees Julien Neals and Edward Stanton III.
Another Voice: Nominee to federal court deserves a Senate vote (Buffalo News [NY], 11/16/16)
Carl Tobias: On March 15, President Obama nominated Kathleen Sweet, a longtime Buffalo lawyer, for a vacancy on the Western District of New York federal court. She is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of New York Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sweet’s nomination on Sept. 8 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote.... Deciding cases without one-fourth of the authorized judgeships places increased pressure on the court’s judges. Indeed, the vacancy that Sweet would fill has been declared a “judicial emergency” because it has remained open 617 days.... Numerous Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on Sweet and 19 remaining district court nominees who need final votes, but other members have objected. If the GOP had followed regular order, Sweet would have received a floor vote long ago.... senators must conduct Sweet’s debate and vote when they return for the lame-duck session."
Judicial loss could be city of Memphis' gain [Editorial] (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 11/16/16)
Partisan politics likely have blocked United States Attorney Edward Stanton III’s chance to be appointed to a federal judgeship.
That is a loss for the federal judiciary and the residents of the West Tennessee federal judicial district.... Stanton has the strong backing of Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both influential Senate Republicans.
During a Senate confirmation hearing, Alexander said Stanton is well-qualified for the job, adding "Edward Stanton will be an asset to the federal bench." ... A confirmation vote on Stanton’s nomination has been on hold in the Senate for more than 18 months. He is one of 52 Obama judicial nominees in limbo. Twenty-three, including Stanton, are awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
Alexander and Corker both said they did not expect any of President Obama’s nominees to be confirmed before he leaves office.
That includes the president’s high-profile nomination of Merrick Garland ... The partisan standoff over the judicial nominees has particularly impacted trial judges, who, in some incidences, have had to deal with heavier caseloads because of judicial vacancies.
If pending nominees are not confirmed by the end of the year, their nominations will be sent back to the White House. That would give Alexander and Corker a chance to recommend Stanton’s nomination be sent back to the Senate.
Would the Trump administration listen to two of its party’s respected senators? Miracles can happen.
Confirming Judges in the 2016 Senate Lame Duck Session (U. Penn. Law School Journal of Constitutional Law, 11/14/16)
Professor Carl Tobias descriptively scrutinizes the nomination and confirmation regimes throughout the administration of President Barack Obama. The article critically evaluates selection, finding that persistent Republican Senate obstruction resulted in the greatest number of unoccupied posts for the longest duration, briefly moderated by the 2013 detonation of the “nuclear option,” which constricted filibusters. Nevertheless, the article contends when the Grand Old Party (GOP) attained a chamber majority, Republicans dramatically slowed the nomination and confirmation processes after January 2015. Therefore, openings surpassed ninety before Congress is scheduled to reassemble. Because this dilemma erodes rapid, inexpensive, and equitable disposition, the article suggests how the Senate should promptly reduce the multitude of unfilled judgeship once the lame duck session commences.
Law professor: U.S. Senate needs to confirm Oklahoma federal judge (Oklahoman, 11/13/16)
Carl Tobias column: On Dec. 16, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Suzanne Mitchell, who has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Western District of Oklahoma since 2013, for a vacancy on that district court. Mitchell is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the strong support of Oklahoma Republican Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Mitchell on May 19 with no dissent. Nonetheless, her nomination has languished on the floor since then, primarily because GOP leaders refused to grant her a final debate and vote. Because Mitchell is an experienced, moderate nominee and the Western District requires all of its vacancies filled, the Senate must swiftly conduct her confirmation debate and vote.
Confirm Stephanie Finley for the Western District of Louisiana (Shreveport Times [LA], 11/13/16)
Carl Tobias: On Feb. 4, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Stephanie Finley, who has served as the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Louisiana over six years, for a vacancy on the Western District. She is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of Louisiana GOP Sens. David Vitter and Bill Cassidy. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Finley on June 16 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Finley is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Western District of Louisiana needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct her final debate and vote.
Ted Cruz Knows Better Than to Suggest Shrinking the Supreme Court (Houston Press [TX], 10/31/16)
Dianna Wray: Of course, slow pedaling judicial nominations is par for the course with Cruz. He and fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn have made a habit of delaying and blocking federal judicial appointments to everything from the federal trial courts to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This is how the Republican-dominated Senate rolls as a whole. The Senate confirmed only 11 judges in all of 2015, the lowest single-year total since 1960, according to the Alliance for Justice. With only 11 more judges confirmed so far in 2016, this Congress is on pace for the lowest number of judicial confirmations since the 82nd Congress, back in 1951 and 1952. While this tactic probably plays beautifully to Republican constituencies — they're opposing President Barack Obama so much that he can barely even get judges confirmed — it has led to increased workloads and delays in trials for federal courts that handle thousands of cases per year. Right now, 10 percent of the U.S. district federal judgeships are vacant and many of the other judges are handling massive caseloads.
Congress simply won’t do its job [Editorial] (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 10/30/16)
Express-News Editorial Board: the Senate left town without doing its job of advice and consent. So another branch — the Supreme Court — is down a justice and at 4-4 gridlock. Along with a whole lot of other vacancies, the GOP majority has refused to act on President Barack Obama’s nomination of the highly qualified Merrick Garland to the court. He was nominated by a Democrat, you see. We read nothing in the Constitution about waiting until after the next election if you control the Senate but not the White House. The Supreme Court’s new term, by statute, begins the first Monday in October, and it generally ends in June or July. This is not a trifling matter…. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, promised a return to normalcy, which is to say “regular order.” … this kind of dysfunction deserves a simple question for congressional leadership: Why won’t you do your jobs?
My view: Confirm Ronald Russell for the District of Utah (Deseret News [UT] , 10/21/16)
Carl Tobias: "Russell is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Utah Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Russell on May 19 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote.... Russell and many other highly qualified, moderate nominees have waited months for debates and votes. Sens. Hatch and Lee have requested a swift floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the majority leader, has failed to arrange it. Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on many district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans have objected. ... It is past time for the Senate to vote on Ronald Russell."
Our Opinion: Federal courts still stalled by partisanship [Editorial] (Berkshire Eagle [MA] , 10/20/16)
"The spiteful refusal of Senate Republicans to do their constitutional duty and conduct hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee is bad enough, but that high profile vacancy is the tip of the iceberg.
Highly qualified Court nominee Merrick Garland is a victim of the Senate majority's dereliction of duty, but there are more than 90 vacancies in the federal judiciary. This puts an extra burden on judges and slows down the wheels of justice, which is a disservice to people whose cases are stalled. The U.S. court system has declared 35 of the vacancies "judicial emergencies," which has made no impression on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his team.
The stalling is transparently partisan in nature. In the nearly two years that the Republicans have controlled the Senate, only 22 of President Obama's nominees to the federal courts have been confirmed. In the two years that Democrats controlled the Senate during the administration of Republican George W. Bush, 68 of President Bush's nominees were confirmed.... Following Election Day, it would be an impressive gesture of healing if the Senate reversed that trend and moved ahead to fill these vacancies. That much-needed gesture would also ease logjams in courts from New Jersey to Texas"
Senate should vote on Paradise Baxter (Erie Times-News [PA], 10/19/16)
Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: "Paradise Baxter is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Paradise Baxter on Jan. 28 without dissent.... The district currently has four vacancies in 10 active judgeships.... Erie, which is where Paradise Baxter would sit and is Pennsylvanias fourth largest city, currently lacks an active district judge.
It is past time for the Senate to vote on Paradise Baxter."
Sen. Tammy Baldwin Keynotes Madison Lawyer Chapter Kick-off Event to Discuss Garland Nomination and Judiciary Crisis (American Constitution Society Blog, 10/14/16)
Jeff Mandell: "Sen. Baldwin spoke powerfully about the stalled nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the judicial vacancy crisis more broadly and the vital need for our country to move forward: “Leaving one seat vacant prevents our highest court from resolving major legal issues. It threatens the integrity of our democracy and the functioning of our constitutional government. It puts at risk the administration of justice across the country. As Justice Kagan said recently, ‘A tie does nobody any good.’ We need nine.”...She also addressed the vacant seat—by tradition designated for a Wisconsin nominee—on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. That vacancy is the longest running opening on the federal appellate bench, having been open since January 2010. ... And she detailed the procedural delays that have kept President Obama’s nomination of Madison attorney Don Schott from receiving a vote on the floor of the Senate."
Elizabeth Wydra: Justice delayed by GOP inaction on U.S. court nominees (Morning Call [PA], 10/13/16)
"[T]he Constitution's promise of justice and due process is being undermined by Senate Republicans' abdication of their constitutional duty to advise and consent on judicial nominations. Despite an increasing number of vacancies since they gained control of the Senate in 2015, Republicans have confirmed just 22 nominees — a record low since the 1950s when the judiciary was half its current size. Federal courts around the country are short a total of almost 100 judges. Pennsylvania alone has six federal trial court vacancies, three of which have existed for over three years. The state is also affected by two vacancies on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania. Sixteen of the total pending nominees have been in the pipeline for over a year, and 35 of the pending vacancies are considered to be "judicial emergencies," which means the courts on which they exist are excessively overburdened. The refusal of Senate Republicans to hold a hearing, much less hold an up-or-down vote, on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court is especially egregious"
Cotton gets funny in Iowa (Arkansas Times, 10/11/16)
Max Brantley: accompanying Sens. Tom Cotton and Chuck Grassley to town hall meetings ... Cotton is a one-man roadblock to judicial appointees, from the Supreme Court to court of claims, not to mention juvenile justice reform and other useful work. So he's to give Grassley cover on the Republican blockade of President Obama's qualified and non-controversial Supreme Court appointee Garland."
Confirm Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit (Indiana Law Journal , 10/07/16)
Prof. Carl W. Tobias: "This Article canvasses Selby’s dynamic professional record, the federal judicial selection process under President Obama, and the Seventh Circuit. It ascertains that Selby is an exceptionally competent, mainstream prospect and that the appellate court requires all of its members to deliver justice. However, Republican senators did not collaborate, particularly after they had captured a Senate majority—a circumstance that this presidential election year aggravates. The last section, therefore, proffers recommendations for Selby’s prompt Senate consideration and confirmation."
Bill Straub: If you find the present state of American politics deplorable, you have McConnell to thank (Northern Kentucky Tribune, 10/06/16)
"But that’s only a drop in the bucket compared to what McConnell is doing to the judiciary. Everyone is familiar with the case of U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s choice to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. McConnell vowed to sit on the nomination, leaving the high court to address crucial issues facing the nation during most of its last term and likely all of the current term without a full complement of justices, leading to a series of 4-4 votes that fail to result in establishing precedents. But the bigger story is his apparent desire to destroy the totality of the federal judiciary. Since Republicans regained the majority in the 114th Congress, the Senate has confirmed a measly 22 judges — the fewest since 1952. As a result, the number of empty judge seats on the district and circuit court levels has doubled to 92 and judicial emergencies – where vacancies are leading to serious problems — have tripled to an outlandish 35. “Right now there are scores of empty judgeships across the country and everyday Americans are being denied justice, and GOP Senate leaders have made it clear that they just don’t care,’’ said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice. McConnell, in that lighthearted way of his, dismisses complaints about his handling of judicial appointments by noting that President George W. Bush during his administration got fewer confirmations than Obama – 325 to 327 for Obama to date. That sharp analysis ignores the fact that Obama had more vacancies to fill – 418 to 359 for Bush, leaving Obama with 59 more openings. While Bush got about 91 percent of his judges confirmed, Obama has been limited to 78 percent because of GOP inaction."
Bill Straub: If you find the present state of American politics deplorable, you have McConnell to thank (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 10/06/16)
"But that’s only a drop in the bucket compared to what McConnell is doing to the judiciary. Everyone is familiar with the case of U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s choice to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. McConnell vowed to sit on the nomination, leaving the high court to address crucial issues facing the nation during most of its last term and likely all of the current term without a full complement of justices, leading to a series of 4-4 votes that fail to result in establishing precedents.
But the bigger story is his apparent desire to destroy the totality of the federal judiciary. Since Republicans regained the majority in the 114th Congress, the Senate has confirmed a measly 22 judges — the fewest since 1952.
As a result, the number of empty judge seats on the district and circuit court levels has doubled to 92 and judicial emergencies – where vacancies are leading to serious problems — have tripled to an outlandish 35.
“Right now there are scores of empty judgeships across the country and everyday Americans are being denied justice, and GOP Senate leaders have made it clear that they just don’t care,’’ said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice.
McConnell, in that lighthearted way of his, dismisses complaints about his handling of judicial appointments by noting that President George W. Bush during his administration got fewer confirmations than Obama – 325 to 327 for Obama to date. That sharp analysis ignores the fact that Obama had more vacancies to fill – 418 to 359 for Bush, leaving Obama with 59 more openings. While Bush got about 91 percent of his judges confirmed, Obama has been limited to 78 percent because of GOP inaction."
[Editorial] Justice delayed: Our view; Gamesmanship on nominees extends well beyond the Supreme Court. (USA Today, 10/06/16)
"The Republican-led Senate sure knows how to make history, but not in a good way. By leaving town Sept. 28 without acting on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, it has left a nominee hanging for an unprecedented six-and-a-half-months without so much as a hearing — and left the Supreme Court limping along one justice short and vulnerable to more tie votes.
The foot-dragging extends well beyond the Supreme Court to the rest of the federal judiciary, where more than 50 other Obama nominees await hearings or confirmation votes.... Republicans have extended the typical battles over nominees to the Supreme Court and influential appeals courts down to the trial courts.
While these lower courts get less attention than the Supreme Court, they are the places where most people come in contact with the federal court system. Trial courts hear thousands of cases involving ordinary Americans: Entrepreneurs in contract disputes. Consumers targeted for fraud. Individuals arguing they’ve faced discrimination in seeking housing or a job.
Yet the Senate adjourned with more than 90 judgeships vacant — more than 10percent of the federal judiciary.
That’s the largest number since 1992 ... In the past two years, this Senate has confirmed just 22 of Obama’s nominees.
When many seats on the bench are empty and caseloads are heavy, justice is delayed. One seat on the North Carolina trial court has been empty for 11 years.
The problem is simple: Senate Republicans are shirking their constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on judicial nominations. Americans deserve enough federal judges to hear their disputes and a Supreme Court with a full complement of nine justices to rule on national issues."
Editorial: Burr needs to end petty political games, back Timmons-Goodson judicial appointment (Capitol Broadcasting Company [NC], 10/05/16)
The opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company: "A current federal District Court judgeship for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for 11 years. It is longer, BY FOUR YEARS, than any other judicial vacancy in the federal courts system.
The confirmation of a nominee to replace Judge Malcolm Howard, who retired Dec. 31, 2005, has been embroiled in partisan political games that have ensnared at least three nominees. It is time for Sen. Richard Burr to bring them to an end.... In June 2013 Jennifer May-Parker, chief of the appellate division for the U.S. Attorney’s office for eastern North Carolina, was nominated. She’d been recommended by, among others, Sen. Burr. She’d have been the first black judge seated in the Eastern District – 27 percent of the population in the 44 counties is African-American. ... Burr never explained why he didn’t forward May-Parker’s name. ... Obama didn’t make another nomination until late April of this year – recommending Patricia Timmons-Goodson – a former justice on the N.C. Supreme Court and vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. If Timmons-Goodson gains Senate approval, she’d be the first African-American on the Eastern District federal bench.
Immediately Burr, ... announced he’d block the nomination.... Civil trials take longer to get resolved, ... it is a growing problem. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts ... says it is an emergency and help is needed.
Burr voted against North Carolina native Loretta Lynch, the first African-American attorney General and has opposed two highly qualified black women nominated for the U.S. District Court. ... cynicism and dejection, given Burr and the rest of the Senate’s action on judicial nominations, is well earned.
While the political games surrounding the approval of a judge for the Eastern District may not have started with Burr, it is time – after 11 years -- for him get over it, declare victory and bring this vicious cycle to an end. Patricia Timmons-Goodson is a good and qualified nominee. She will be an excellent addition to the federal bench in eastern North Carolina – and relieve the backlog from 11 years of neglect.
Before the end of the year, Burr should announce he’s made his political point, support her nomination and demand the same from Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s other senator. The two should press for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and approval by the full Senate."
EDITORIAL DAPA case unheard by unfilled Supreme Court (Monitor [McAllen, TX], 10/04/16)
"Every political poll conducted, to date, has listed immigration as a leading priority among Americans. Yet a case that is key to one of our nation’s most divisive issues is not being decided because of politics outside of the courts august chambers because just across the street, in the halls of Congress, Senate leaders have decided not to hold a vote to confirm President Obama’s choice to succeed Scalia.
We do not believe that is how our Constitution meant our country to be run. And certainly not for so long.
Justice Scalia died nine months ago .... In delaying to hold confirmation hearings on President Obama’s pick for nomination of Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans are in essence holding hostage one of our nation’s top issues.... Nevertheless, Republicans have been holding hearings to fill the more than 20 vacancies in federal district courts. And just two weeks ago, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on five Texas judges.
Surely Americans will not forget how these Senate Republicans failed to perform their duties. Surely Americans will remember how long our nation’s judicial system was forced to operate without a full court."
Obama slams Republican senators for failing to fill Supreme Court opening (Arkansas Times, 10/04/16)
Max Brantley: "The U.S. Supreme Court is back at work one justice short because of the unprecedented roadblock Republican senators have thrown up to considering President Obama's nomination of the thoroughly uncontroversial Merrick Garland to fill the late Antonin Scalia chair.
The president blasted the senators today. Solidly among the obstructionists are Arkansas's senators, Tom Cotton and John Boozman .... Boozman and Cotton have been in the thick of all this. But Cotton has been particularly obstructive, also mounting single-handed blockades to filling vacancies on the federal court of claims"
Supreme Court Docket Reflects Dysfunction (American Constitution Society Blog, 10/04/16)
Joshua Smith: "For 234 days, the Supreme Court has been attempting to function with only eight members. This is in spite of President Obama’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, undisputedly the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in decades. Despite his credentials, Judge Garland has become a political football, with the Senate refusing to even grant him a hearing during a heated election year. Senate leaders have articulated numerous justifications for this delay, but none counter two simple facts. First, the president is elected for a full four year term without regard to the electoral calendar. Second, on six occasions in the 20th century, Supreme Court justices were confirmed during a presidential election year. ... As of today, there are 108 current or impending federal judicial vacancies, 35 of which are considered emergencies. As these seats remain unfilled, dockets are paralyzed, straining the resources of sitting judges. The result is delayed, denied justice to those who rely on our courts to vindicate their rights."
Our Opinion: A do-later Congress (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 10/03/16)
"There’s still that Supreme Court vacancy. Republican senators are responsible for that. More than six months after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Senate has still refused to consider him. No one in modern history has waited longer for a hearing.
Republicans decided to deny President Barack Obama the chance to fill the seat opened by the death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia. Also stalled was the nomination in April of former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to serve on the federal district court for eastern North Carolina."
GOP Admits Obama Judge Count Is More Important Than Fixing Judicial Crises: Republican senators are damaging an entire branch of government, and hiding behind a bogus statistic. (Huffington Post, 10/01/16)
Michael McAuliff & Jennifer Bendery: "Republicans won back the Senate, and in these final two years of Obama’s term, they’ve confirmed just 22 judges ― the slowest pace since 1952. (By comparison, Democrats approved 68 of George W. Bush’s judges in 2007 and 2008, and Republicans approved 73 of Bill Clinton’s nominees in his administration’s last two years.)
As a result, the number of empty judge seats has doubled to 92, and judicial emergencies have tripled to a stunning 35.... While Bush did get fewer confirmations than Obama ― 325, compared with Obama’s 327, according to Alliance for Justice ― he also had far fewer vacancies to fill. Just 359 seats opened during Bush’s eight years, while Obama has had 418. That means the need for new judges has been greater during Obama’s administration, with 59 additional vacancies to fill. And it means that by objective standards, Obama is being treated far worse than Bush by the Senate. While Bush got about 91 percent of his judges confirmed, Obama is at 78 percent."
How Barack Obama Lost the Judicial Nomination Standoff: Or did he win after all? (Slate.com, 09/30/16)
Dahlia Lithwick: "In March of 2009, Obama vowed to put the “confirmation wars behind us” and picked, as his very first judicial nominee, David Hamilton—a moderate, white, 14-year veteran of the federal bench—for an open seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It should have been a snoozer. ... Comparing Obama’s selection of the unassuming Hamilton with the petting zoo of right-wing ideologues that George W. Bush had feted in the Rose Garden immediately after assuming office, Obama’s choice was tame....Months later, when it finally came time to vote, Hamilton was confirmed with a vote of 59–39. Lugar was the only Republican to vote yes. Hamilton has served with distinction since then. ... But the refusal to hold even a hearing or a vote for Judge Garland transcends the prior trend of ugly confirmation battles .... Today, as a result of Republican obstruction of Obama’s judicial nominations in the Senate, 35 courts are sufficiently shorthanded as to be designated “judicial emergencies.” When Obama took office in 2009 there were 12 such designations."
Senate leaves bench in need [Editorial] (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 09/30/16)
THE EDITORIAL BOARD: "The focus of Senate Republicans’ dereliction of constitutional duty has been on their refusal to engage in the confirmation process for highly qualified Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
But during this two-year congressional session, confirmations at all levels of the federal judiciary have slowed to a trickle, resulting in a growing number of judicial vacancies and an expanding backlog of cases that reduce access to the courts and justice.... Four nominees await confirmation to U.S. district courts in Pennsylvania. Judges Susan Baxter and Marilyn Horan have been nominated to the bench in the Western District of Pennsylvania and cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to schedule a final vote. Judge John Younge, nominated to a seat in the Eastern District, and Judge Robert Colville, nominated to the Western District, have not received hearings. The Judiciary Committee also has not scheduled a hearing for Rebecca Haywood, who was nominated in March to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, where she would be the first black woman to serve if confirmed. Sen. Pat Toomey has not submitted a "blue slip" that is required to start that process."