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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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[Editorial] 9 questions for Neil Gorsuch: Our view (USA Today, 03/19/17)
"There’s nothing to stop a judge from talking about his previous cases, his legal thinking or past Supreme Court rulings. In that spirit, here are some questions that the senators ought to ask and that Gorsuch ought to answer: ... This just scratches the surface of questions senators should ask Gorsuch, who, at 49, could influence the nation’s laws for more than three decades. Like all nominees, the judge deserves a fair hearing to determine whether he falls within the broad judicial mainstream and has a healthy respect for precedent. That standard will be impossible to assess if the witness ducks or parries every question he is asked."

Editorial Ask Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch the hard questions. It matters (Los Angeles Times, 03/18/17)
"Senators should engage the nominee in a serious discussion of his views about the Constitution, the role of precedent and how the court should adapt general principles to changing social and scientific circumstances. And Gorsuch should respond in kind by speaking as frankly as he can, demurring only about specific cases that are likely to come before him.... Democrats are justifiably angry that the Republican majority never allowed hearings or a vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s eminently qualified nominee to replace Scalia.... Scalia’s version of originalism led to him dissent stridently from rulings recognizing rights .... Those decisions were a natural outgrowth of earlier rulings in which the court secured other rights that the Constitution didn’t explicitly guarantee, such as a right to marry someone of another race (or the right to marry at all)"

Editorial: State senator wisely withdraws Gorsuch resolution (Herald Bulletin [IN] , 02/26/17)
"Indiana legislators would never stand for a Congressional legislator telling them how to vote on a hot topic. ... But up until Thursday, there was an attempt to reverse the tactic and tell Indiana's U.S. senators how to vote on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. State Sen. James Buck, a longstanding conservative Republican from Kokomo, had authored Senate Resolution 24 calling for U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young to vote to confirm the nomination.... he was funneling his own wishes, not those of Hoosier voters. It was pushing a state conservative's agenda onto a Democratic U.S. senator and a Republican U.S. senator who can both determine the will of Hoosier voters by the calls and letters they receive."

[Editorial] Before considering Gorsuch, give Judge Garland a hearing in Washington (Anniston Star [AL] , 02/23/17)
By the editorial board: senators have a little less than a month to do right by Merrick Garland, the traditions of the Senate and the U.S. Constitution. In short, senators owe Judge Garland a hearing and a vote before taking up Gorsuch’s nomination.... Republican senators decided to go on strike, to play for time on the chance that a Republican would replace Obama as president.... Senators are not required to vote for a president’s nominee. They insult their legislative body and the Constitution by refusing to vote on a president’s nominee.

[Editorial] Kettles, pots and Grassley (Hawk Eye [Burlington. IA], 02/06/17)
"Please, Sen. Grassley, spare us your indignation. The Iowa Republican heads the Senate Judicial Committee and complained last week about Democratic reaction to President Donald Trump’s nominating Neil M. Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.... Only 11 months ago, the senator was presented with the same credentials in Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Yet, for 11 months, Grassley sat on the nomination, refusing to do his job.... When Grassley and Senate President Mitch McConnell decided after Justice Antonin Scalia died last February they would deny Obama the opportunity to name his third justice, it seemed the shenanigans couldn’t get worse. But they did. In late October, Republicans said they’d do the same if the Democratic nominee was elected president.... It hasn’t stopped party members from trying to rewrite history."

EDITORIAL: Give Gorsuch fair, tough hearing (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 02/05/17)
"Gorsuch by all accounts fits the desired mold for conservatives .... Democrats’ anger over the Republican refusal to even consider President Obama’s nomination as Scalia’s replacement — Merrick Garland — remains palpable, and rightly so.... The burden here lies with Senate Republicans. Gorsuch ... deserves a fair hearing — just as Garland did, but didn’t receive. Fair, however, doesn’t mean soft, or a rubber stamp. Scrutiny of Gorsuch’s past, his credentials and his philosophies must be thorough and exhaustive. ... Republican lawmakers cannot take on the role of partisan protectors. They need to be open-minded to Gorsuch’s potential deficiencies and the possibility that better choices are out there. Just because Trump believes Gorsuch is the best person for the job doesn’t make it so, and Republicans on Capitol Hill should feel no obligation to meekly give Trump what he wants on this.... Most important now, therefore, is finding the ideal candidate within that framework, one with reassuring dedication to legal precedents and principles without hints of prevailing ideological agendas. ... Rigid, across-the-board conservatism shouldn’t be the primary consideration in a new justice — and there are some Republican senators out there who would agree."

Editorial: Supreme Court rules have changed (Daily Camera [CO] , 02/04/17)
"Trump's nominee, our Boulder County neighbor, Neil Gorsuch, is required by a well-worn fiction to declare that he would bring no ideology to the court, no desire to legislate from the bench, only an earnest, freedom-loving loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.... Obama nominated Garland, a centrist previously praised by high-profile Republicans. ... By a variety of accounts, Gorsuch is a nice guy and a smart guy, but anyone who believes he won't join the court's hard-right bloc probably uses "Kumbaya" as a ringtone. Unless the Democrats want to volunteer to play victims in an abusive relationship, they should use every tool at their disposal to oppose the theft of a court seat that would have been Garland's before the rules changed. That means filibustering the Gorsuch nomination and forcing McConnell to abolish the filibuster on high-court nominations in order to get him through."

[Editorial] Moran’s decision disappoints (Manhattan Mercury [KS], 02/03/17)
"Sen. Jerry Moran is a likable guy. It’s too bad that being one of the crowd is so important to him. Last year, for a while at least, he demonstrated genuine political courage. He said Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court and an individual about whom Republicans could find little to criticize, deserved a hearing. He was right. He also was all but alone among Republican senators in holding such a view. It drew him the unwelcome attention of the Judicial Crisis Network and the Traditional Values Network, the latter of which likened him to Judas Iscariot for daring to break Republican ranks. He got the message. Suddenly, through spokespersons, he let it be known that hearings wouldn’t be necessary for him to conclude that Judge Garland wasn’t qualified after all. And just like that, Sen. Moran was back in the fold."

Editorial: Fight Trump’s nomination for Supreme Court (News Times [CT], 02/03/17)
"We see several reasons why Democrats and Republicans with a backbone should not support President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. But this reason alone suffices: He would favor the National Rifle Association and its profit-making agenda of weaponizing as many Americans as possible. This path is insane. ...Harm, not harmony, would ensue if the minority party would acquiesce on this nomination.... On a divided bench, there is no room for an extremist."

[Editorial] Give Merrick Garland a vote: Senate has old business to handle before taking up Trump’s court nominee (Anniston Star [AL] , 02/02/17)
By the editorial board of The Anniston Star: originalism, a theory that demands the U.S. Constitution must mean only what its 18th century authors meant. Thus, a sort of strict mind-reading of men who have been dead for centuries is required. Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court justice who died a year ago, was just such an originalist. So, too, is Neil Gorsuch .... We mention all this because the yearlong debate over Scalia’s replacement is so grossly out of step with the Senate’s reputation for following the rules and debating with honor and good manners....Republican senators refused to formally consider Garland’s nomination. No hearings. No committee vote. No vote of the entire Senate. These senators — including Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa — went on strike, refusing to do a job the U.S. Constitution mandates they do. So here’s the challenge to senators who wish to protect the Senate’s reputation: Before weighing Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch, grant Judge Garland a hearing and a vote on his nomination.... a well-functioning Senate should weigh the merits of all nominees. Any originalist would know that’s how our founders wanted it.

Editorial When the GOP stole Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat, they set the stage for a miserable battle (Los Angeles Times, 01/31/17)
"Trump never should have been handed this opportunity. The seat was Obama’s to fill subject to Senate “advice and consent,” and he fulfilled his constitutional responsibility in good faith, only to be kneecapped by a body that would neither advise nor consent but merely gummed up the machinery in a transparent effort to preserve the court’s conservative majority."... What message do the Democrats send if they allow themselves to accept this theft supinely without exacting any punishment?"

[Editorial] Democrats shouldn’t go scorched-earth on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee (Washington Post, 01/31/17)
"We understand that there are many Democrats, still seething over the GOP’s nakedly partisan refusal to grant Mr. Garland so much as a hearing, who regard the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia almost a year ago as “stolen.”... let the Senate expeditiously but thoroughly probe that nominee on his or her legal qualifications, as well as jurisprudence. And then let the Senate vote"

EDITORIAL: Neil Gorsuch, the Nominee for a Stolen Seat (New York Times, 01/31/17)
"It’s been almost a year since Senate Republicans took an empty Supreme Court seat hostage, discarding a constitutional duty that both parties have honored throughout American history and hobbling an entire branch of government for partisan gain. President Trump had a great opportunity to repair some of that damage by nominating a moderate candidate for the vacancy, which was created when Justice Antonin Scalia died last February. Instead, he chose Neil Gorsuch, a very conservative judge from the federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit whose jurisprudence and writing style are often compared to those of Justice Scalia.... The seat Judge Gorsuch hopes to sit in should have been filled, months ago, by Merrick Garland .... He is even more conservative than Justice Scalia in at least one area — calling for an end to the deference courts traditionally show to administrative agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, that are charged with implementing complex and important federal laws. Given the events of recent days, senators should press Judge Gorsuch on how he would approach constitutional questions that have already arisen out of Mr. Trump’s actions as president"

Editorial: Tit-for-tat politics in our statesman-less land (Journal Star [Peoria, IL], 01/10/17)
"Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Asked recently about promised Democratic attempts to block any Supreme Court nominee of President Trump's, McConnell responded without so much as a wink to let us know he was in on his own hypocrisy. "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," he said. "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."... If there's a "new standard" regarding Supreme Court nominees, it's because McConnell himself saw to it with Obama nominee Merrick Garland, whose chances expired last week without the McConnell- and GOP-led Senate holding so much as a single hearing on him. Obviously Americans "tolerated" that. The real question is whether they should continue to "tolerate" McConnell's willful amnesia, as it's not the first time."

Editorial: Shaheen, Hassan and nominees (Concord Monitor [NH], 01/08/17)
" Republicans stalled for a record 293 days to block President Obama’s nomination of moderate jurist Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in a strategy designed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With his usual shameless hypocrisy, McConnell warned Democrats last week that the public wouldn’t countenance delay but we expect slow action by Democrats eager to pay Republicans back for denying Obama a Supreme Court seat....Shaheen and Hassan will get a chance to vote on several nominees and they should, and almost certainly will, vote to reject any with conflicts of interest or an avowed attempt to destroy the agencies they were picked to lead. On others, they could do New Hampshire and the nation a service by lobbying Republican senators who are not inflexible ideologues, that would be a waste of time, but who have their own reservations about a nominee. Supreme Court nominations must still be passed with 60 votes and Democrats can be expected to filibuster a controversial nominee.... It’s not unheard of for a nominee to withdraw his or her name during or after intense Senate scrutiny. Shaheen and Hassan should make nominees prove that they deserve to hold the positions Trump has named them to."

[Editorial] Will Trump try to stack the courts? (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 01/06/17)
"It’s no mystery why nearly one in eight federal bench slots is empty. Republicans have refused to vote on dozens of President Obama’s nominees .... The vacancies are nearly double the amount that Obama inherited from George W. Bush. The unfilled posts have created a logjam .... By Senate custom, court nominees must pass muster with home state senators. In California’s case this process is especially weighty. The federal appeals court in San Francisco has four vacancies, and six district judgeships are empty across the state. ... Given this “blue slip” process of vetting, the state’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, can block a White House nomination. ... During the Bush administration, the differences were negotiated"

[Editorial] Fill the courts: Federal vacancies delay justice for all (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/05/17)
Editorial Board: the four vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania are the most anywhere. Across the nation, however, there are 112 vacancies, the highest profile being the empty seat on the Supreme Court left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. There are also 86 vacancies in district courts, 17 in circuit courts of appeals, six in the Court of Federal Claims and two in the Court of International Trade. Worse, only 59 candidates have been nominated for the vacancies, meaning there would be no quick way to fill nearly half of those seats even if the partisan bickering were to cease immediately. Forty-one courts have what are called “judicial emergencies”.... None of that takes into account what some observers believe is a pressing need for additional judges in parts of the country.... In Pennsylvania, Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, are known for collaborating on the selection of judicial nominees — and they plan to continue their collaboration. Mr. Casey’s office said the nominees are in limbo because the GOP leadership wouldn’t bring them to a vote. Vacancies slow cases, dragging out justice for victims and hampering the fortunes of companies involved in contract or intellectual property disputes.

Editorial: Julien Neals should be a federal judge (Record [NJ] , 01/04/17)
"[W]hat happened last year to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland – by all accounts, a qualified, centrist jurist who wasn’t even granted a hearing – was without precedent. Garland’s time in nomination limbo was small compared to the experience of another Obama court nominee – Julien Neals, .... Booker has described Neals as one of the “most impressive people” he has met in professional life and said that Neals’ “skill, aptitude, and unique perspective are needed on the federal bench now more than ever.” Neals and Edward Stanton III, a U.S. attorney from Tennessee, both of whom are black, have waited the longest among nominees who have come out of committee.... New Jersey federal judges are needed more than ever since they carry a workload of roughly 700 cases per year. The failure to fill that vacancy says much about our politics today, and provides evidence of why our judicial system is not working as efficiently as it should."

Editorial: Another judicial dirty trick from Senate Republicans (Los Angeles Times, 01/03/17)
"One of 2016’s most spectacular examples of government dysfunction was the U.S. Senate’s outrageous refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. ... the Senate also failed to hold floor votes on [25] Obama nominees for lifetime federal judgeships who had been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee. ... Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused Senate Republicans of setting a “record for inaction on judicial nominations.” Whereas a Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees in the last two years of his presidency, only 22 Obama nominees have been confirmed in the comparable period, ... As with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stonewalling of the Garland nomination, the failure to act on these lower-court nominations is extreme and inexcusable.... It would be utterly understandable if Senate Democrats now retaliated by making it difficult for President-elect Donald Trump to win confirmation for his judicial nominees, especially those slotted for seats that Obama had every right to fill. ... Trump can make a significant gesture toward restoring a measure of normality to the confirmation process. He should resubmit the names of the nominees who received bipartisan support on the Judiciary Committee but were left stranded because of the delaying tactics of his fellow Republicans."

Our View: Go ahead and appoint Garland [Editorial] (Norwich Bulletin [CT] , 01/01/17)
By Bulletin Editorial Board: Senate Republicans have refused to grant so much as a hearing to Garland .... The 115th Congress is to be seated on Tuesday, meaning Obama would have to use a controversial recess appointment, before then, in order to put Garland on the bench.... Such a step is not without precedent, but it would break with longstanding tradition. But the GOP also has broken tradition; the historical average time between nomination and appointment is less than a month. It's been 292 days since Obama first named Garland and the GOP started marshaling its cynical argument about the election year. The GOP has forfeited, along with the Senate's "advice and consent" right, its claim on tradition.... That would go a long way toward showing Republicans that their cynicism can come back to bite them

[Editorial] War on women (Baltimore Sun, 01/01/17)
"Republicans like to claim that the party's "war on women" is a political hatchet job by Democrats, yet the GOP keeps providing evidence that it's real.... Mr. Trump's choices to be attorney general and to run the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Health and Human Services all voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act while serving in Congress — supposedly because it extended battered spouse legal protections to same-sex couples. Yet the measure passed with bipartisan support, just not a "yea" from hardliners Jeff Sessions, Tom Price and Mike Pompeo. Former Senator Sessions and Representative Price also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.... another shoe will drop when Mr. Trump nominates someone to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the position once held by Antonin Scalia and for which Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama and ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate for nearly a full year. If the 21 names Mr. Trump trotted out as possible nominees during the campaign is any guide, his pick is likely to be white, male, middle-aged"

Editorial The Times Editorial Board's 2017 wish list (Los Angeles Times, 12/31/16)
"[W]e fervently wish for: ... A ninth justice for the short-handed U.S. Supreme Court — who should be competent, well-qualified and respected and who should be approved by the Senate without the partisan polarization that denied a seat to President Obama’s deserving nominee, Merrick Garland.... A decision by all 100 U.S. senators to put country before party and to subject Trump’s Cabinet nominees to searching scrutiny. Loyalty to the president isn’t a sufficient qualification to run a government department; he or she also must be prepared to enforce laws enacted by Congress."

Congress must act on voting rights [Editorial] (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 12/31/16)
Express-News Editorial Board: President-elect Donald Trump will have immense ability to diminish voting rights at the precise time when the states have already embarked on restrictions. This poses a danger that only increased congressional attention to restoring the Voting Rights Act to its full authority can combat.... in his designated attorney general — Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions — Trump already has a true believer in the fanciful and convenient proposition that voter fraud is rampant. Not that his Attorney General would need much incentive, but Trump could push Sessions to undertake investigations with self-fulfilling outcomes that enable more restrictions in the states for minority, low-income and elderly voters. Think of more voter ID laws, super sized, and more limitations on early voting, same-day registration and easier registration generally — all abetted by Trump- nominated Supreme Court justices. And a Justice Department, which is supposed to act independently of the president, could refuse to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Tribune Editorial: GOP Senate refuses to do its duty (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 12/30/16)
"This senatorial discourtesy was another example of the dereliction of duty exhibited by the World's Greatest Deliberative Body as its Republican majority dissed the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Antonin Scalia seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Senate Republicans were never shy about what they were up to. Gridlock. For its own sake. Toward the end, of course, Republicans could claim, with no historical or legal basis, that what they were doing was holding those seats, along with more than 50 federal district and appellate judgeships, open for the next president. Who, they hoped, would be a Republican.... Trump won, and to the victor goes the spoils. Or at least the power to appoint. Democrats should consider those appointments seriously, rejecting those who are unqualified or extreme, approving those who make the grade. Come 2020, the Trump administration should be judged in large part on the people it hired."

[Editorial] The Stolen Supreme Court Seat (New York Times, 12/24/16)
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD: The person who gets confirmed will sit in a stolen seat. It was stolen from Barack Obama, a twice-elected president who fulfilled his constitutional duty more than nine months ago by nominating Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and widely respected federal appellate judge. It was stolen by top Senate Republicans, who broke with longstanding tradition and refused to consider any nominee Mr. Obama might send them, because they wanted to preserve the court’s conservative majority. ... The Republican party line — that it was an election year, so the American people should have a “voice” in the selection of the next justice — was a patent lie.... Can anything be done to repair the harm? One step — as obvious as it is unlikely — would be for Mr. Trump to renominate Mr. Garland. ... At the very least, Mr. Trump could follow President Obama’s example and pick a centrist — someone who commands wide respect and operates within the bounds of mainstream legal thought.

Editorial Who was naughty and who was nice in 2016? (Los Angeles Times, 12/23/16)
"[H]ere’s The Times editorial board’s naughty and nice list for the past year. Naughty ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for refusing even to give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Although McConnell’s tactic paid off in the short term, it perpetuated a scorched-earth politicization of court appointments that could come back to haunt a future Republican president."

[Editorial] Dems should stop griping and get to work (Journal Inquirer [CT], 12/20/16)
"Democrats should do all they can to try to block a new Supreme Court nominee unless the nominee is opposed to the Alito/Thomas/Federalist Society thinking that pervades the Republican segment of the court. The nominee should not be approved unless that person is less reactionary in his or her thinking. Certain Trump appointees should be opposed by a majority of Democrats and moderate Republicans because of their extreme positions. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a noted bigot, should be voted down as attorney general by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats — a coalition that passed President Lyndon Johnson’s landmark civil rights bill. Above all, Democrats should guard against Republicans passing measures that hinder voting rights, such as ID proof, poll closings, and shortened voting hours in minority precincts"

[Editorial] Assessing 2016: Steps forward, but not as many as we would like (Yakima Herald-Republic [WA], 12/18/16)
Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board: "By and large, congressional leaders pointed partisan fingers at each other as action lagged on a range of matters, including the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia."

While gridlock grinds in Washington, justice suffers in Idaho [Editorial] (Idaho Statesman, 12/11/16)
Editorial Board: the fate of Pocatello’s David C. Nye, whom President Barack Obama nominated back in April to a federal judgeship in the District of Idaho. Within days of that nomination our two Republican Senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, chimed in and agreed with their Democratic president that Nye — now serving in the Sixth District Court of Idaho — was an excellent choice and ought to be approved by the Senate. Crapo and Risch introduced Nye to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in June, and that body approved him on July 14 without dissent. Everybody, including us, is supportive of Nye, but nobody has been able to push him over the finish line and put him to work for Idaho –– who desperately needs him. Idaho only has two such judgeships (and has a great argument for a third).... Nye, and many other judges awaiting confirmation by the Senate, languish in the kind of limbo that only gridlock can create.... Why not take 10 minutes to confirm Nye and others for the federal bench and allow them to get to work? Among the theories is that Senate Republican leadership and the rest of the world would be reminded of the GOP’s obstinance to not even consider Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. We are unconcerned about face-saving –– and only hoping for justice, which will have to wait. If 2016 ends without Nye’s confirmation, we’ll all have to pray that President-elect Donald Trump will re-nominate him in 2017 and he can come on board with Senate confirmation.

Garland deserved hearing for high court [Editorial] (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 12/07/16)
"Granted, a president must nominate justices the Senate can reasonably be asked to confirm. He can't ask a Senate dominated by the other party to confirm someone whose judicial philosophy could appeal only to someone who shares the president's politics. He must, when facing such a Senate, choose someone toward the middle. Obama did that. He did his job. The Senate did not do its job. Its refusal to confirm Judge Garland was not based on any flaw in the nominee's character, any deficit in his abilities or even any disagreement with his jurisprudence. But this refusal of the U.S. Senate to do its duty cost a good man a fair hearing. More important, it also cost the nation a potentially fine justice — one more faithful to the law than one of the political parties or ideology."