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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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The Senate’s shame: Merrick Garland deserved a hearing for Supreme Court [Editorial] (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/05/16)
By the Editorial Board: 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 a particular judicial ideology. As a result of this abdication of responsibility, it will be harder to get justices like that in the future. Indeed, the Senate has established a terrible precedent that makes it less likely that any president will be able to get a Senate controlled by the other party to confirm his Supreme Court nominees, however wise and well-qualified. This was a study in Washington politics at its worst — political and constitutional malpractice — and it will have a lasting consequence.

In our opinion: The GOP should think twice before exercising the 'Nuclear Option' for Supreme Court nominees [Editorial] (Deseret News [UT] , 12/05/16)
"Republicans in the Senate should transcend partisanship and bring back the Senate filibuster rule with regard to presidential nominees and non-Supreme Court judicial appointments....While the 2013 change undoubtedly made things more efficient, it eliminated an important minority check that helps guard against “bad” decision-making made by the majority.... Unfortunately, the Republicans who railed against the rule change three years ago are more interested in payback than restoring the procedure they were trying to protect at the time. ... Republicans are deluding themselves if they believe their current majority status is a permanent condition. ... they should at least resist the temptation to extend the “nuclear option” to include Supreme Court nominees, which is something they are actively considering. If they make this mistake, history suggests they can eventually expect to receive a taste of their own medicine."

Our View: Like limited government? Then don't kill the filibuster: Editorial: Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain understand that government was never supposed to be a wrecking ball. (Arizona Republic, 12/05/16)
"Arizona’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake demonstrated a keen understanding of the need to restrain the majority from becoming a runaway train when they voiced support for maintaining the Senate’s filibuster rule. In urging fellow Republicans not to change the rule that essentially requires 60 votes to move legislation or -- perhaps most importantly -- confirm a Supreme Court justice -- these two Arizonans showed their enduring commitment to conservative ideals. Our nation’s founders understood the need for restraint in governing.... When one party fully dominates two branches of government, the need for careful reflection is more pronounced. Donald Trump’s tempestuous nature makes it especially important for Congress to take its time and listen to opposing views before acting. The filibuster can help that happen.... McCain signaled that he might reconsider his position in favor of keeping the filibuster if Democrats are particularly uncooperative. Given the refusal of Senate Republicans to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, McCain and other Senate Republicans have little reason to expect cooperation from Democrats."

FEATURED EDITORIAL: Constitutional malpractice (Toledo Blade [OH], 12/02/16)
"Judge Merrick Garland is returning to his work on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, his nomination for the Supreme Court killed without a vote by a Republican Senate majority more concerned with partisan politics than with doing its job. The behavior of those who disposed of his nomination stands in sharp contrast to his own record and reputation as a nonideological judge.... The argument that the President was a lame duck, so therefore his Supreme Court nominee should not get a hearing, is both disingenuous and irresponsible. ... Granted, a president must nominate justices the Senate can reasonably be asked to confirm.... President Obama did that. He did his job. He picked the very judge Senator Hatch said would be a moderate choice. 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. It was pure partisan politics"

Editorial: Respecting the President (Valley News [NH], 11/26/16)
"There is also a compelling argument that when presidents are performing their constitutional duties or exercising their constitutional prerogatives, those actions have to be regarded as legitimate, even if one disagrees strongly with them. Here are two examples from the Obama years when we think his critics crossed this line. ... The other is more recent yet: the refusal by Republican senators to take up the nomination of Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court this year, thereby ignoring their constitutional mandate to advise and consent on nominations to the high court. By our lights, both of these were signs of disrespect not only for President Obama but also for the office itself, and ones that we hope will not be repeated."

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.

Editorial: Confirm Merrick Garland, and end the partisan pettiness over the Supreme Court  (Los Angeles Times, 11/15/16)
"Now that the U.S. Senate is back in session, it should hold hearings on and — barring the unlikely emergence of some disqualifying information — approve President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.... Senate Republicans ... invoked the supposed custom — which they fabricated from whole cloth — that the Senate doesn’t act on Supreme Court nominations in a presidential election year.... McConnell will achieve a short-term political gain at the cost of long-term damage to the court and to the traditions of bipartisan comity to which he often has paid homage. In recent years, members of both parties in the Senate have undermined one of those traditions: the notion that the president is entitled to significant deference in choosing members of the court, so long as the nominees are professionally well-qualified, free of scandal, possessed of a judicial temperament (which includes a respect for precedent) and within the broad mainstream of legal thinking. But the Republicans’ decision to stonewall Garland’s nomination carried this politicization to scandalous extremes."

Editorial [Print headline: Injustice for Garland: The GOP bet paid off. That doesn't make it right] (Washington Post, 11/11/16)
"There is plenty of time, in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, to give President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing and put his nomination to a vote. That vote should be favorable: Mr. Garland, 63, is able, moderate, respected and seasoned, an appellate jurist who has previously been confirmed, with significant Republican support, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Of course, this will not happen, because it does not suit Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and his fellow Republicans. … the majority leader’s ploy wrought harm to basic norms of democratic accountability."

Our View: Moving forward as a nation [Editorial] (Joplin Globe [MO], 11/10/16)
"Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will be one of his first opportunities to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find a court justice who understands that his or her role is to interpret the Constitution, not to seek to overturn previous court decisions."

Editorial: Hearing the forgotten (Boston Herald, 11/10/16)
"Almost immediately he will have to come up with a Supreme Court nominee who will be able to pass muster in a more closely divided Senate."

Editorial | Trump must work to heal fractured nation (Tribune-Democrat [Johnstown, PA], 11/10/16)
"We also hope Trump holds true on his promise to nominate nonpartisan candidates to the Supreme Court. They should be intelligent people with sharp legal minds who understand the court’s role and how it relates to the social issues facing the United States. Vitally important is that he chooses people with keen insight of the First and Second Amendments and who will work to interpret them as they were written by our Founding Fathers."

Editorial: America needs chance to heal (Tribune Star [IN], 11/10/16)
"The elephant in the room, of course, is the Supreme Court vacancy. Both parties need to agree on a nonpartisan appointment, not someone who will commit to overturning previous court decisions but a superior legal mind who understands the role of the court to interpret the Constitution and who is open minded about social questions that divide the country."

Editorial: A time to heal for job ahead (Daily Press [VA] , 11/10/16)
"Because the Republican Party chose to resist constitutional expectations and refused to vote on President Barack Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, President-elect Trump's first prominent decision will likely be to select a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia. The Senate Judiciary Committee specifically left the position open in the hopes of this eventuality, so there is every reason to believe that his selection will be greeted with unconditional enthusiasm. We hope his choice, and any future judicial nominations, will be thoughtful and deliberate people rather than kneejerk ideologues."

Editorial: The Apprentice: White House Edition (Telegram & Gazette [MA], 11/10/16)
"The one Republican most openly engaging in post-election gloating was Mitch McConnell, feeling vindicated for blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. The Senate leader has in effect granted Mr. Trump a five-year term while confining Mr. Obama to a three-year term in nominating Supreme Court justices. It's a move sure to haunt Republicans some day, just as the practice of “Borking” – the Democratic precedent of blocking the highly qualified Robert H. Bork’s nomination simply because of his conservative views - has come back to haunt Democrats."

Choosing president, not a monarch [Editorial Board] (Orange County Register [CA] , 11/09/16)
"With respect to vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court, nominations should be made with an understanding that public confidence in the court is essential to public confidence in government. The Senate has the power to reject a nominee who might put that confidence at risk for any reason. That’s just one of many checks and balances that are built into our system to limit the power of those who are elected to high public office."

Editorial: For America, a test like no other (Concord Monitor [NH], 11/09/16)
"The biggest threat, other than the possibility that Trump will be too quick to respond with military force when provoked by foreign leaders, lies with his ability to determine the composition of the Supreme Court for a generation or more. A more conservative court could mean an end to a woman’s control of her reproductive future and less rather than more protection for the rights of minorities and workers. A failure to act, by the United States and thus the world, to take steps necessary to slow global warming could lead to the drowning of major cities, famine, drought and the mass migration of hundreds of millions of people."

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?

Editorial [print headline: Have Republicans learned nothing?] (Washington Post, 10/28/16)
Editorial Board: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) raised the prospect of an indefinite Republican blockade around the vacant Supreme Court seat. Irresponsibly, Senate Republicans have refused to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat of Antonin Scalia, who died in February. Now Mr. Cruz seems to be suggesting that this willful dysfunction be carried into the new Congress and presidency. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” he said. Mr. Cruz did not say he would oppose a nominee submitted by Ms. Clinton, which would be within the bounds of normal political discourse. Rather, he has suggested that Republicans in the Senate, if facing a Democratic president, simply not act. Crudely, his message is: We lost the presidency, so let’s take our marbles and go home. Such thinking seems to come easily to the senator who led the 2013 government shutdown. But it runs against the oath Mr. Cruz took as a senator to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office.”

Our View: Supreme Court could remain hobbled [Editorial] (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 10/28/16)
"This week, Ted Cruz became the second Republican senator to hint that, if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, the GOP will block any nominee she chooses to join the Supreme Court, leaving the court unable to break ties in crucial cases. Already, the GOP majority has refused to schedule a vote on Merrick Garland, the D.C. Appeals court justice nominated by President Obama to fill a vacancy left in February by the death of Antonin Scalia"

Supreme Court in limbo with Senate holding key (Editorial) (Republican [Springfield, MA], 10/25/16)
"[T]he highest court in the land remains on hold, at least when it comes to certain cases. Fully seven months after President Barack Obama put forth a successor to Scalia, the nominee, appeals court judge Merrick Garland, remains in limbo. Because Senate Republicans dug in their heels from the first, vowing not to consider any nominee – no matter what – until the next president is sworn in early next year. ... Since Senate Republicans vowed to do nothing to fill the high court's vacancy, we've argued in this space that they are playing a fool's game. Though they may be pleasing the base, a clear majority of the citizenry see them as needlessly obstructionist. If something isn't done, and soon, the Supreme Court will have been operating one justice short for a year or more." But now comes a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee arguing that the Senate should fulfill its constitutional duty during the post-election lame-duck session. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona wants the Senate to move quickly on Garland's nomination. For Republicans, the reasoning is indisputable

Editorial: The perils of our polarized politics (Telegram & Gazette [MA], 10/25/16)
"The death of Antonin Scalia has played a critical role, his vacant seat leaving a divided court on all the hot-button issues. Obama tried to appease Republicans by nominating a 63-year old moderate, Merrick Garland. Liberals would have preferred a younger and more liberal choice; while Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has refused even to hold hearings on Judge Garland because “the American people should have a voice in choosing the next justice,” as if the people had no role in electing Obama to a four-year term in 2012."

EDITORIAL: It’s time for Americans to finally settle on directions in serious policy issues (Waco Tribune-Herald [TX] , 10/23/16)
"Republicans have even said that a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court should be decided by the next president — something that we suggested months ago was a colossal strategic blunder, given that President Obama extended an olive branch by putting forward a moderate, well-qualified, 63-year-old jurist after Justice Antonin Scalia died back in February."

Editorial: County ballot issues a mixed bag (Daily Camera [CO] , 10/23/16)
"There is still such a thing as doing your duty, even if you'd rather not. Unfortunately, whether it's Republicans in the U.S. Senate refusing to consider a Supreme Court nominee or county commissioners refusing to keep up roads for which they're responsible, ideologues in safe seats don't seem to care much."

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"

Refusal to consider Garland confirmation is political obstructionism [Editorial] (Citizens Voice [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 10/06/16)
By the Editorial Board: "the justices have decided to avoid major, precedent-setting cases until they are at full strength. That, in turn, is a further condemnation of Senate Republicans, who set a new record every day for the amount of time that partisan political obstruction has interfered with the operation of the judicial branch and, specifically, the Supreme Court. ... The Senate previously had confirmed Judge Garland to the nation’s second most powerful court, by a wide margin, and his service on that court makes him even more qualified and worthy of confirmation to the high court. In brazen defiance of their constitutional duty, Senate Republicans lined up behind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said that they would refuse to conduct the confirmation process for any Obama nominee. Because of that shameful partisanship, the court has been without a full complement of justices for the longest period in its history.... McConnell also has said that he will not consider a nominee until after the next presidential inauguration, but he should change his mind and end the charade that his conduct is anything other than political obstructionism."

[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: The harm of short-handed Supreme Court (Chicago Sun Times, 10/06/16)
"Don’t believe anybody who says the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court has done no harm. Harm is being done every day to millions of undocumented immigrants who live in continued fear of immediate deportation because the short-handed court has been unable to deliver a definitive ruling on a key Obama executive order.... Harm also may be done, ironically, to the agenda of the Republican Party, which should have jumped at a good deal when they could. Short-sighted Senate Republicans have refused for seven months to consider the credentials of Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s safely moderate nominee"

Even SCOTUS loathes tie [Editorial] (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 10/06/16)
By the Editorial Board: "the justices have decided to avoid major, precedent-setting cases until they are at full strength. That, in turn, is a further condemnation of Senate Republicans, who set a new record every day for the amount of time that partisan political obstruction has interfered with the operation of the judicial branch and, specifically, the Supreme Court. ... The Senate previously had confirmed Judge Garland to the nation’s second most powerful court, by a wide margin, and his service on that court makes him even more qualified and worthy of confirmation to the high court. In brazen defiance of their constitutional duty, Senate Republicans lined up behind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said that they would refuse to conduct the confirmation process for any Obama nominee. Because of that shameful partisanship, the court has been without a full complement of justices for the longest period in its history.... McConnell also has said that he will not consider a nominee until after the next presidential inauguration, but he should change his mind and end the charade that his conduct is anything other than political obstructionism."

Perfect storm on climate [Editorial] (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 10/06/16)
"[S]ince Senate Republicans have refused to carry out their own constitutional duty by declining to conduct a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, the D.C. appellate decision could be definitive because the Supreme Court might deadlock, 4-4, on a further appeal."

Congress is a dysfunctional mess [Editorial] (Burlington County Times [Willingboro, NJ], 10/05/16)
"Congress is a dysfunctional mess. ... As far as doing the people's business, well, a kind assessment is that Congress is a hit-and-miss outfit, with far more of the latter than the former.... Among the issues coming and/or returning in 2017: the budget, the debt ceiling, a failing health care system under the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court vacancy or vacancies, ... and on and on. At a time when the art of compromise is so desperately needed in the nation's capital, there's little reason to believe we'll be witness to anything other than greater partisanship and dissension. Congress gets another failing grade for 2016. It's another failure that hurts America."