Editorials and Opinion
Congress should fill judicial vacancies (Miami Herald, 11/18/14)
Letter to the Editor by Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida: "Currently, there are more than 60 judicial openings across the federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months, or even years, because of partisan gridlock and obstruction. All across the country, these vacancies are seriously hurting citizens’ ability to have their day in court. The lame-duck session in Washington provides senators, including Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, a chance to address this growing crisis. At least two dozen nominees are or will soon be awaiting confirmation votes. Senators need to act quickly and in a bipartisan spirit to make the most of the session by filling the judicial vacancies with qualified nominees."
Senate Republicans Use Lame Duck To Block Their Own Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 11/18/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed Senate Judiciary Committee action by a week on nine judicial nominees for no evident reason. That group includes three Texas nominees with strong support from Texas Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R). Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is refusing to submit his so-called "blue slip" to advance a Utah judicial nominee he's previously praised as "well known and highly regarded." And Republicans are forcing four Georgia judicial nominees with strong support from Georgia's GOP senators to each wait an extra day before they can get confirmed."
EDITORIAL: President, Senate must begin filling federal court vacancies, including 2 in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 11/17/14)
"[T]here is a very real problem in filling vacancies to the lower federal courts. The issue is most pressing here in Western New York....Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has recommended that the president nominate Denise O’Donnell, a former U.S. attorney, to replace Skretny and Lawrence J. Vilardo, one of Western New York’s top litigators, to replace Arcara. The president has yet to nominate either one. Both are respected by Democrats and Republicans and, as such, deserve to be nominated and then confirmed. There are 62 vacancies on the federal courts, with 36 nominees pending, and 28 future vacancies, with two nominees pending. The vacancies only worsen delays in the federal court system. The president has a duty to nominate qualified people for the vacancies, and the Senate has a duty to investigate and vote on the nominees. Talk of Supreme Court vacancies is an argument for another day. The president and the Senate need to deal with the immediate problem in the lower courts."
The Register's Editorial: Nation needs Grassley's leadership (Des Moines Register [IA], 11/15/14)
"One of the Judiciary Committee's most important duties is to recommend whether the Senate should give its blessing to the president's nominees to the federal judiciary. The confirmation process has become mired in partisan rancor ....
As a member of the committee and as a rank-and-file senator, Grassley has done his part to perpetuate if not exaggerate those confirmation wars. In his new role as chairman, Grassley should work to end them. That would be a major accomplishment in the interest of improving the reputation of the Senate and the functioning of the federal courts. ... Every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote from the Senate with a simple majority prevailing. ... Senators should respect the president's constitutional appointment power by confirming even nominees they may disagree with. Grassley has a mixed record on that point. In the past he voted for nominees whose politics he opposed because he agreed with the principle of presidential prerogative. But in recent years he has become increasingly partisan, casting votes against otherwise highly qualified nominees he considers too liberal.... It is time for these destructive confirmation wars to end.
Now that he is to become chairman of the committee that acts as a gatekeeper for judicial nominees, Grassley has the opportunity to make that happen, and he should."
EDITORIAL: Grassley is a good fit for Judiciary (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 11/14/14)
"We’re confident that Grassley will treat judicial appointments and other nominees fairly, and resist pressure to delay and obstruct purely for political ends. We don’t want a “rubber stamp,” but we also don’t want competent, qualified nominees to be sacrificed to political brinkmanship."
Saturday's Letters: ELECTION MANDATE (Florida Times-Union, 11/14/14)
Damien Filer: "Until the remaining vacancies are filled — and there are more than 60 of them — the shortage of judges will mean a backlog of cases that makes access to justice difficult for many Americans. If our Florida senators want to show they are in Washington to get the job done, then moving quickly to fill the remaining court vacancies is a good start. The Senate should remain in session until it has cleared its calendar of pending judicial nominees."
Filling the federal court vacancies (The Hill, 11/14/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Obama has actually enjoyed remarkable success in nominating and confirming very qualified mainstream candidates while shattering all records for diversity vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and sexual preference. Because Republicans and Democrats agree that filling the 60 federal court vacancies with qualified consensus jurists is essential to delivering justice, they should promptly cooperate to propose and appoint excellent judges."
Letter of the Day: A chance to address judicial backlog (Tampa Tribune [FL] , 11/13/14)
Mark Ferrulo: "there is a critical opportunity for senators to demonstrate that they can set aside differences and get the people’s work done. How? By moving quickly to fill the remaining judicial vacancies that have hamstrung our court system. Federal courts rule on cases that directly impact our lives, including cases addressing pollution, immigration, bankruptcy, equal rights, access to health care and more. But without adequate staffing, cases get backlogged, and justice cannot be served. There are more than 60 judicial openings across our federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months or even years due to partisan gridlock and obstruction. Across the country, these vacancies are seriously impacting citizens’ ability to have their day in court."
Commentary: Addressing backlog of judicial nominees: A “must” for the upcoming lame duck session (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Rob Schofield: "Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. As we’ve detailed at length in this space previously, two of these vacancies are here in North Carolina and one has sat empty for eight years. In such an environment, it is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote....In the 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed."
Judiciary Committee hearing today for Middle District nominee Loretta Copeland Biggs (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Sharon McCloskey: "if confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status.
Her addition to the court would be welcome news and would begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench.
But another nominee, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — chosen by the President to fill the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina — continues to languish. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold the “blue slip” indicating his support for her for, despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations."
Lame duck session is personal for some people (Washington Post, 11/12/14)
Al Kamen: "The 16 district (trial court) judges pending also offer ground for compromise — in part because they’re not up for the more important appeals court seats. Two of them already have “unanimous consent” agreements, so they are assured of putting on the robes.
Most of the rest enjoy solid GOP backing, including four backed by Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, four from Pennsylvania supported by Sen. Pat Toomey and two from Kentucky, including one who’s Sen. Rand Paul’s neighbor and friend. Another eight district court nominees are expected to be on the floor next week, including three who are backed by Texas GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
So if anyone’s looking for any easy “See? We can get things done,” chest-thumpers, nominees may be the place to start."
Voters tired of inaction by officials, judicial vacancies (Tallahassee Democrat [FL] , 11/12/14)
Letter to the Editor by Damien Filer: "there is no reason for Congress not to get to work doing the people’s business. One area where critical work needs to be done is to fill court vacancies. All Americans deserve timely access to courts staffed with qualified judges to ensure justice is served on a range of important issues. The Senate’s failure to confirm nominees in a prompt manner has led to a crisis in our courts."
GUEST COLUMN: Tester, Daines wrong on Equal Access to Justice Act (Missoulian [MT], 11/12/14)
Mike Garrity: "The Missoulian’s article on citizen enforcement of natural resource laws would have been more informative for readers had it concentrated on why the U.S. Forest Service keeps losing lawsuits over and over for the same reasons instead of the fees awarded to plaintiffs’ attorneys under the Equal Access to Justice Act.... While the timber industry wants the public to focus on the cost of litigation, it’s a pittance compared to the majority of the agency’s $1 billion budget in Montana over the last five years that provides corporate welfare for the timber industry to extract resources from publicly owned forests for private profit.... any costs awarded under the Equal Access to Justice Act goes entirely to attorney fees, not the organizations they represent. The article also neglected to make clear that it costs the conservation groups thousands of dollars each time they sue the federal government because, even if we win, only the attorneys are reimbursed for the time they spent on the case."
EDITORIAL: New GOP Congress and President Obama have a chance to break Washington’s gridlock (Kansas City Star, 11/09/14)
"On many issues, there is room for modest accomplishments, if not much more. Consider judicial appointments. For the last few years, Republican senators have delayed or blocked many of Obama’s nominees. They now have the power to do so more effectively, but they also have the obligation to ensure a functional judiciary. The same goes for other executive appointments, including the just-announced nominee for attorney general. Obama, for his part, must choose moderates whom Republicans can confirm. And cross your fingers that a Supreme Court vacancy doesn’t come up. That would almost certainly become a bitter partisan fight that could derail everything else."
The Parties Can and Should Come Together on Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: "vacancies can and should be filled during the lame-duck session. ...Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who faced opposition Senates, saw the confirmation of twenty percent of their total judicial appointments during the last two years of their second terms. There's no reason this can't hold true for President Obama."
Republican Claims About Judicial Nominations Combine Gross Inaccuracies With Banal Observations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "Hatch and Gray persist in their bizarre view that it was improper for President Obama to fill longstanding vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, and they complain that rules reform has led to "controversial judges." These claims ignore the fact that President George W. Bush filled exactly the same seats on the D.C. Circuit when they became vacant during his administration, and his appointees included controversial judges Janice Rogers Brown (confirmed by a vote of 56 to 43) and Brett Kavanaugh (confirmed by a 57 to 36 vote)....Of the 62 federal judges confirmed in 2014 so far, 45 -- or 73 percent -- were confirmed with 90 or more votes in favor; 56 nominees -- or 90 percent -- were confirmed with bipartisan support....Senate Republicans have relentlessly obstructed President Obama's judicial nominees"
Coastal damages lawsuit goes on, as it should: Editorial (Times-Picayune [LA] , 11/05/14)
"Ironically, the Jindal administration is suing the Army Corps of Engineers for wetlands destroyed during the four decades the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was in operation. The state wants $3 billion for restoring the marshes. So, it's OK to sue a federal agency for destroying wetlands but not oil and gas companies? Both arguably are responsible for damage. Why give one group a pass and go after the other?"
Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges (Huffington Post, 11/05/14)
Paul Gordon: "During the upcoming lame duck session, the Senate has an opportunity to finish up a critically important task where they can act quickly by unanimous consent or voice votes: confirming two dozen judicial nominees....Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader.... Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader."
Editorial: With campaigns done, now Obama and GOP must lead (Dallas Morning News, 11/05/14)
"Republicans, who will control all of Congress in January, must show they can do more than obstruct the president and his party....A good time to test-drive this is during the lame-duck session before the new Congress is seated in January.
One must-do is the matter of funding the federal government, as a stopgap measure expires Dec. 11 — precisely the kind of measure that has caused past D.C. governance to grind to a halt. Other issues are stalled Obama nominations. ...
This newspaper has been critical of congressional Republicans for their obstinacy — and will remain so if they continue on that path."
Judicial Confirmations (New York Times, 11/04/14)
Letter from Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "The last three presidents to serve two terms were confronted by a Senate controlled by the opposition party during their last two years in office. But in every case, of all the judges the three presidents saw confirmed, about 20 percent were confirmed during those two years. In other words, 20 percent of their total confirmations came during the last 25 percent of their time in office. Although it is safe to presume that confirmations would slow down in a Republican Senate, neither the White House nor Senate Democrats should yield to the narrative of an inevitable confirmation shutdown."
Opinion: Tester and Daines wrong on Equal Access to Justice Act (Independent Record [MT], 10/26/14)
Mike Garrity: "Montanans should also find it disturbing that Montana’s Republican Congressman, Steve Daines, and Democratic Senator, Jon Tester, have both said it’s the Equal Access to Justice Act that needs to be changed to keep attorneys from getting paid when they successfully sue the federal government. ... perhaps they would benefit from reading a little of the very long history on the purpose of attorney fee laws. For instance, take the words of Chief Judge Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who was appointed by President Reagan. “Lawyers must eat, so they generally won't take cases without a reasonable prospect of getting paid,” Kozinski wrote in the 2008 Moreno v. City of Sacramento ruling. “If private citizens are to be able to assert their civil rights, and if those who violate the Nation['s] fundamental laws are not to proceed with impunity, then citizens must have the opportunity to recover what it costs them to vindicate these rights in court.’ Congress emphasized the importance of attorneys' fees in cases seeking injunctive relief, where there is no monetary light at the end of the litigation tunnel: ‘If successful plaintiffs were routinely forced to bear their own attorneys' fees, few aggrieved parties would be in a position to advance the public interest by invoking the injunctive powers of the Federal courts.’”
Opinion: Another perspective on environmental law suits (Independent Record [MT], 10/19/14)
GEORGE WUERTHNER: "The real story is that ultimately environmental lawsuits save the taxpayer money by modifying or stopping frivolous timber sales. ... the Forest Service accounting practices do not include the environmental degradation and potential costs of fixing damage from logging. Logging roads are a major vector for weeds. Logging roads are also a major source of sedimentation in our rivers, degrading trout habitat. Logging can degrade elk hiding cover and displace sensitive but rare wildlife like lynx and grizzly bear."athe Forest Service accounting practices do not include the environmental degradation and potential costs of fixing damage from logging. Logging roads are a major vector for weeds. Logging roads are also a major source of sedimentation in our rivers, degrading trout habitat. Logging can degrade elk hiding cover and displace sensitive but rare wildlife like lynx and grizzly bear."
Editorial: Invest in future, not past (Times-Union [NY] , 10/14/14)
"The Sierra Club lawsuit seeks to reverse the state Public Service Commission's approval of the plan's financing, which calls for National Grid customers across New York — including here — to pick up the tab over the next decade for retrofitting the plant. The Sierra Club has it right."
EDITORIAL: The Senate is unjustly delaying D.C. Superior Court nominations (Washington Post, 10/10/14)
"THERE IS no controversy over the nomination of William Nooter to be a judge on the D.C. Superior Court. His presentation before a Senate committee was so well-received that it took only 18 minutes for him to be unanimously approved. ... But almost a year after Mr. Nooter handily won committee approval, his nomination has yet to make it to the Senate floor."
Vacancies must be filled on Alabama's federal bench: guest opinion (AL.com [AL], 10/04/14)
Leslie M. Proll, director, DC office, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.: "Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby should use the Congressional recess before the November elections to help fill the vacancies on Alabama's federal bench.... Three vacancies currently exist -- one on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and two on Alabama's federal district courts. Each pending for more than a year ... Promoting racial diversity must be a top consideration in selecting the next nominee for the Eleventh Circuit. This Circuit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (25%) of any circuit in the country, yet only one of its twelve judges is African-American.... Since 1891, only white males have represented Alabama on its federal appellate court."
Editorial: Overdue progress on U.S. judges (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 09/25/14)
"Three nominations to the U.S. District Court in Texas' Southern District last week could further signal a welcome end to the state's judicial logjam. Judicial advocates have labeled Texas as the epicenter of a crisis in filling federal judicial vacancies — with the state containing too many of what were labeled judicial emergencies.... Pitman and two other nominees for Texas judgeships had their hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. At that hearing, the state's two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, supported the nominees.
That same kind of support came after the presidential nominations last week.
This is a good sign that both GOP senators are taking their roles seriously.... Even when all vacancies are filled, however, another task remains. That would be acting on the certainty that one of the fastest-growing states lacks enough federal judges in the first place."
Senate’s unfinished business: Fill judicial vacancies (The Hill, 09/17/14)
Raymond M. Lodato: "While several bills are making their way through the upper house, the arena in which it can have the most impact is in confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees. So far this year, the upper house has filled 68 vacancies on the Federal bench, more than in all of 2013. However, even with the increased pace, 60 vacancies remain on Federal district and appellate benches.
Each vacancy in the Federal courts increases the burden on active and senior judges (who work a reduced number of cases in semi-retirement) and delays the administration of justice for individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups seeking resolution of their claims. Nearly two dozen of the vacancies have been classified as “judicial emergencies” because of the length of time they have been unfilled and the number of cases in their jurisdictions."
Confirm Leeson, other U.S. judicial nominees (Morning Call [PA], 09/16/14)
Christine Stone, co-chair of Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values, Letter to the Editor: "With just a handful of voting days left before the Senate leaves for the November elections, Sen. Toomey must play a leadership role in discouraging his party from delaying and obstructing federal court judicial nominees just because they can. Sen. Toomey understands the importance of addressing the nation's judicial vacancy crisis. He should use his considerable influence to get his party to abandon their obstruction and delay of judiciary committee votes and instead send the nominations of consensus Pennsylvania nominees like Wendy Beetlestone, Gerald Pappert, Joseph Leeson, Jr. and Mark Kearney to the full Senate for a vote. When these jurists were nominated, both Sens. Casey and Toomey publicly voiced their strong support. Sen. Toomey also noted that a vote on Mr. Leeson's nomination would mean that for the first time the Allentown courthouse would have two sitting federal district court judges."