Editorials and Opinion
Senate Republicans’ Shameful Start to the Supreme Court Term — A Sharp Contrast to 2005 (Medium, 09/29/16)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "The last time the Supreme Court had a September vacancy heading into the start of a new October Term was in 2005, when George W. Bush was President and Republicans controlled the Senate, as they do now. ... The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for Roberts from September 12–15. Roberts was voted out of Committee on September 25, and swiftly confirmed by the Senate on September 29, 2005, a mere 62 days from his nomination in July.... the Senate Judiciary Committee promptly held confirmation hearings for Alito from January 9–13, 2006. Alito was voted out of Committee on January 24, and confirmed by the Senate on January 31, 2006, 82 days after he was nominated.
In sharp contrast, it’s been nearly 200 days since President Obama nominated Chief Judge Garland to the Supreme Court, with no end to the blockade of his nomination in sight. Until now, the longest the Senate has ever taken to vote on a Supreme Court nominee after one had been named was 125 days."
Editorial: 'New page' as do-nothing as old page in Congress (Journal Star [Peoria, IL], 09/28/16)
"Not only can't the Senate deal with the president's nominee to fill one of the longest vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court in the modern era, it's confirming other federal judges at the slowest pace since Joe McCarthy was drinking excessively and seeing communists around every corner."
Delay of Obama nominee for Eastern District federal judgeship hits five months (Progressive Pulse [NC], 09/28/16)
Melissa Boughton: "It’s been 3,924 days since a federal judgeship in the Eastern District of North Carolina was left vacant. That’s more than 10 years for those who aren’t good at math, or, in layman’s terms, it’s the longest unfilled federal vacancy in the nation.
Today marks five months since former Supreme Court of North Carolina Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy and five months since North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr announced he would block her nomination.... it’s the people and the businesses in the Eastern District who continue to suffer – not the president on his last leg. The U.S. Courts declared a judicial emergency there years ago.
Timmons-Goodson has earned the American Bar Association’s highest rating of “well-qualified,” and would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the state’s eastern district.
In the words of Glenn Sugameli, a senior staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife and expert in federal judicial selection, “It is literally true that justice delayed is justice denied.”"
Process court nominees quickly (News Journal (DE), 09/28/16)
Timothy Hitchings, Letter to the Editor: "Professor Reynolds reminded us of the nomination of Merrick Garland, which the Senate has been neglecting for six months. Here's an answer to that: Amend the Constitution to require that the Senate vote on a president's judicial nomination within 50 days (while the Senate is in session). If the Senate neglects its duty, the nominee takes his or her seat on the bench."
Justice delayed is justice denied (WIZM [WI], 09/28/16)
Program Director, Scott Robert Shaw: "Justice delayed is justice denied. That is why it is important to fill vacancies on our courts. It has now been an unprecedented 6 months since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Until now, a U.S. Supreme Court nominee has never had to wait more than 125 days for a confirmation vote. Republicans who control Congress say the confirmation hearing should wait until after Obama's term ends. But 17 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during an election year, including current Justice Kennedy, a nominee of President Reagan, confirmed by a Democratic Senate 1988, a presidential election year. But senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is among those continuing to refuse to schedule a hearing. Johnson also continues to block the nomination of another justice, Donald Schott, who has been nominated for what is called “the Wisconsin seat” on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This vacancy is the longest in the nation. It has been 2500 days since the opening was announced, but still no confirmation hearing has been scheduled. It is important that our courts not have empty seats. Our members of Congress need to do their jobs, so our courts can properly do theirs."
Perfect storm on climate [Editorial] (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 09/28/16)
THE EDITORIAL BOARD: "since 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."
Another year of Congress, another string of broken promises (Washington Post, 09/27/16)
Catherine Rampell column: "Under Republican leadership, the Senate is on track to work the fewest number of days in a session in six decades. It also took the longest summer recess in the modern era.
It can’t get anyone confirmed, either.
Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, famously can’t get a hearing, but he’s hardly the only nominee being snubbed. The Republican-led Senate has confirmed just 22 federal judges this Congress, putting it on pace for the lowest number of confirmed judges since the 1951-1952 Congress, according to the Alliance for Justice. For context, the Senate had confirmed more than three times as many judges by this point in the final Congresses of previous two-term presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. In all these cases, mind you, presidents had also faced Senates controlled by the opposing party."
Charting Senate dysfunction (Washington Post, 09/27/16)
Catherine Rampell: "So far, just 11 Article III judges have been confirmed this year, the same number confirmed in 2015. That is the fewest judges getting through the process since 1960. And note that in 1960, there were only about a third as many total authorized Article III judgeships as there are today, meaning that the Senate likely had fewer openings to fill back then.
If you’re looking at confirmations over the full course of a two-year Congress (rather than a single calendar year, as charted above), this Senate is currently on pace to have the lowest number of confirmed judges since 1951-1952."
Edit Memo: The Numbers Make Clear: Republican Senators Still Refuse to Do Their Jobs (People For blog, 09/27/16)
Paul Gordon: "Since the Senate returned three weeks ago:
McConnell has not allowed a vote on any judicial nominees.
The number of Article III vacancies is now 91 (one Supreme Court, 12 circuit courts, 76 district courts, and two Court of International Trade), a vacancy rate about double of that when the GOP took over the Senate last year.
The number of vacancies officially designated as emergencies has increased to 35.
The number of Article III judicial nominees languishing on the Senate floor without a vote has increased to 25
In fact, McConnell has allowed only six judicial confirmation votes in the past six months. Only 20 circuit and district courts and two International Trade nominees have been confirmed so far this entire Congress, which is breathtakingly low by historical standards.
Senate GOP leaders could have done what Democratic leaders did at the same point eight years ago, two months before the election to replace George W. Bush. During the month of September, then-chairman Patrick Leahy held committee hearings and votes for ten Bush nominees, and then-Majority Leader Harry Reid arranged for all ten to be confirmed at the same time by unanimous consent on September 26."
Why the Vacant Supreme Court Seat Still Matters (Forward, 09/26/16)
Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO of NCJW: "Judge Merrick Garland was nominated on March 16 by President Obama to fill that vacancy, but blatantly partisan politics in the Senate have kept him waiting longer than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. There’s been no Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, no committee vote, no debate on the Senate floor or vote to allow senators to weigh in on this nominee.... The absence of a ninth justice will continue to compromise the ability of the highest court to fully do its job. As the Jewish New Year dawns, NCJW will renew its commitment and actions to advocate for the Senate to do its job to fill that critical vacancy."
Letter: GOP obstruction (Post and Courier [SC], 09/26/16)
Ginny Cofer Ross: "President Obama quickly fulfilled his constitutional responsibility, nominating Judge Merrick Garland, one of the most highly qualified candidates ever nominated to the Supreme Court. Now Senate leaders need to do their jobs and give Judge Garland a fair hearing and a vote. ... They are being paid to do a job. They need to do it."
Give Judge Gallagher a final vote (Baltimore Sun, 09/26/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "On Sept. 8, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Stephanie Gallagher, who has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the District of Maryland since 2011, for a vacancy on the district of Maryland. Judge Gallagher is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Maryland Democratic Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Judge Gallagher on Oct. 29 without dissent. However, the nominee has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders' refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote.
Because Judge Gallagher is an experienced, consensus nominee and the district of Maryland needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct her final debate and vote.... Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on Judge Gallagher and 18 remaining district nominees who also need final votes, but Republicans have objected. If the GOP follows regular order, Judge Gallagher will apparently receive a floor ballot soon."
A Presidential Debate Question That Must Be Asked (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/26/16)
Caroline Fredrickson: "If you were president of the United States, how would you work with the Senate to avoid gridlock over confirmation of Chief Judge Merrick Garland or other judicial nominations in a process that currently threatens a shutdown of the federal bench? ... We are in the middle of a Constitutional crisis when it comes to judicial nominations. Not only because of the politics of it all, which are despicable, but because every day Americans are seeing justice delayed as cases languish, sometimes for years, because there simply are not enough judges to hear them. Put simply, Americans are not getting their day in court. Let’s take a look at the numbers to illustrate just how dire the situation is.
More than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. There are over 100 current and known future Article III judicial vacancies – a near record number. A third of these vacancies are considered judicial emergencies by the nonpartisan Judicial Conference. And the numbers are only getting worse. Since just last year, the number of current vacancies has more than doubled, while the number of judicial emergencies has nearly tripled. But leaders in the Senate are picking politics over justice."
Give Garland a hearing (Springfield News-Leader [MO], 09/25/16)
Barry Ulrich, Letter to the Editor: "Before the November elections, I challenge Roy Blunt and Mitch McConnell to convene a Senate hearing for Merrick Garland, ... who was constitutionally nominated to fill the position of the late Justice Scalia. For a party that spouts the Constitution, McConnell and Blunt have failed to do their sworn constitutional duty. There are also 90 judicial vacancies that the Senate has failed to address."
Letter to editor: Alexander's view skewed (Daily News Journal [TN], 09/23/16)
Anne Hawkins: "This is reference to Senator Lamar Alexander's article "GOP Senate shows it's effective" ... the worst one — refusing hearings on President Obama's Supreme Court Justice nominee, Merrick Garland.... Alexander ended his article by saying "When Americans elected a Republican majority in the Senate, they were looking for results and the Republican-led Senate is delivering." Judging from the above, this is not a true statement."
Another View -- Elizabeth Wydra: The promise and progress of the U.S. Constitution (New Hampshire Union Leader, 09/23/16)
"The promise of justice, for example, is threatened by the unprecedented breach by Senate Republicans of their constitutional responsibilities regarding judicial nominations. Since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, they have confirmed just 22 judicial nominees — a record low since the 1950s when the judiciary was half its current size.
That leaves 90 vacancies on federal courts around the nation, 35 representing judicial emergencies, meaning they are vastly overburdened. These vacancies don’t just affect the nominees. They affect everyone. The speedy trial rights of criminal defendants are threatened. Civil cases are delayed. And citizens are denied timely justice on a range of issues including civil rights, clean air and water, corporate responsibility and reproductive rights.
Perhaps the most well known of those vacant seats is the one on the Supreme Court, rendering the Court unable to reach decisions in tied cases."
JUDICIAL VACANCY HURTING ORDINARY AMERICANS BUT MITCH MCCONNELL DOESN’T CARE (Moderate Voice, 09/22/16)
Scott Crass: "There is a Judicial crisis in America and Mitch McConnell doesn’t care. Senators are not doing their jobs or fulfilling their Constitutional responsibilities and Senate leaders cite statistics that totally ignore the severity of the crisis.... in the nearly 21 months since Republicans have taken control of the Senate. They have confirmed 22 nominees, essentially one for each month. Conversely, 68 of President George W. Bush’s nominees were confirmed during the same period and that was when the opposite party controlled the Senate. Worse, Republicans have sought to obfuscate that with disingenuous talking points and technicalities .... Another judge from Tennessee has been on the docket for nearly a year. ... Judges are being slow walked for no apparent reason."
Comment | Promise of regular order in Senate (Courier-Journal [KY] , 09/22/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "It is past time for the GOP-led chamber to fulfill its constitutional duty for advising and consenting on President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees.
Once Republicans captured a Senate majority, the leaders promised they would implement regular order ... Notwithstanding President Obama’s aggressive consultation with all home-state senators to pursue suggestions of well-qualified, consensus nominees, many Republicans have not collaborated to recommend names. The Judiciary Committee has also conducted hearings for rather few nominees ... McConnell has dramatically stalled the pace of final debates, if warranted, and chamber ballots. Indeed, the Senate has confirmed merely 20 circuit and district nominees, averaging one a month since Republicans became the majority.
This markedly contrasts to the 68 judges whom the Democratic chamber majority helped approve in President George W. Bush’s final two years.
The number of vacancies has more than doubled from 40 to 89, while the number of emergencies has soared from 12 to as high as 35, the current number. There are presently three circuit nominees and 19 district nominees waiting for yes or no votes. The Judiciary Committee reported all of the district nominees with no dissent, and Republican home-state senators recommended 11 of the 19 nominees.
Delayed confirmations have many deleterious effects. ... Before Obama’s presidency, the custom was to approve every qualified, moderate nominee on the floor before recesses like the one that begins in early October. The closest comparison to the present situation is September 2008 when the Democratic Senate Majority conducted hearings on and confirmed 10 Bush district nominees in that month. The GOP leaders can start rectifying the vacancy crisis and restoring regular order by according all nominees on the floor votes before leaving to campaign."
Tom Cotton saying no (again) (Arkansas Times, 09/22/16)
"Just say no: Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is keeping up his one-man blockade of five judges to fill vacant seats on the Court of Federal Claims, the venue for citizens to file claims against the U.S. government for matters such as tax disputes and government contracts. The nominees have been held up for two years, despite the fact that the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee has twice approved them unanimously. The chief judge of the claims court has said it badly needs the vacancies filled. But Cotton, who again last week blocked a vote on the confirmation, is interested in obstruction for obstruction's sake. At the moment, the court contains eight Republican appointees and three Democrats, and adding President Obama's five nominees would even the balance. Cotton insists the court's caseload doesn't warrant filling the vacancies."
Letter to the editor: Garland deserves hearing in Senate (Tulsa World [OK], 09/22/16)
Adil Khan: "Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland deserves a fair hearing by the U.S. Senate. It is the right thing to do. Delaying the hearing is not going to solve any important issues that the country is facing."
SCOTUS for law students: The missing Justice (SCOTUSBlog, 09/22/16)
Stephen Wermiel: "Senate Republican leaders announced that the next president should be allowed to fill the vacancy because the presidential primary season had already begun. There is no actual precedent for this argument, but Republican senators have continued to press the claim that the voters should choose who will nominate the next Justice. For their part, Democrats have refuted the idea that there is any practice or precedent of waiting to fill a Supreme Court seat in a presidential election year. They have accused the Republicans of prolonged, partisan delay and obstruction. ... With the Supreme Court so closely divided on many of the major issues of the day, the partisan struggle over who will fill the vacancy is, perhaps, not surprising, even if the extreme extent of Senate inaction is unprecedented."
Mitch McConnell Just Tried Skipping Over Cory Booker’s Judicial Nominee Again: Instead of trying to compromise, the Majority Leader’s proposed votes are becoming more partisan. (Medium, 09/21/16)
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: "Sen. Cory Booker, D. N.J., spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday about ... obstruction at all levels of the federal judiciary, including district and circuit court nominees pending on the Senate floor.... On September 7, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., tried skipping over his nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Julien Neals), in addition to a Tennessee nominee (Edward Stanton III) by offering a “bipartisan package” of four nominees equally from Republican and Democratic states. Neals and Stanton have been waiting longest for a vote on the floor. And they happen to both be African American. Booker rightly pointed out the obvious: The perception of skipping over those two nominees in particular should be problematic for everyone.
On Tuesday, Booker tried getting votes on the next seven nominees in line — including Neals and Stanton — but McConnell said no. McConnell cited figures comparing the number of judges President Obama and President George W. Bush have had confirmed — a meaningless comparison given the number of vacancies they faced — and offered a different package of nominees. Unlike his bipartisan package two weeks before, these four nominees were more partisan — and skipped over Booker’s nominee, whose vacancy is now an emergency.... Every district court nominee currently pending on the Senate floor was voice-voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and every nominee on the floor — ones recommended by both Democrats and Republicans — have the support of their home-state senators (including 16 Republicans)."
Alexander: The Full Grassley nitpick (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 09/20/16)
Jon Alexander Editorial Page Editor: "For most of his career, Chuck Grassley was an independent, solution-minded senator. Critics aren't unfair when they point to his increasing partisanship of late. His blocking of would-be Supreme Court Justice Garland's nomination process is nothing short of end-running the Constitution for political gain."
Sen. Cory Booker calls out Republicans for blocking Black judicial nominees (Shareblue, 09/20/16)
Tommy Christopher: "Sen. Cory Booker took to the floor to fight for the nominations of Judge Julien Neals to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and of Judge Edward L. Stanton III to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, both of whom were nominated well over a year ago, and both of whom were long ago approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. [Booker said] 'There’s no credible reason why we’re not moving forward, besides partisanship. I just can’t see it. So I would like to rise again and make this request for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations. Regular order would mean that we would go to these two judges who happen to be qualified African-Americans. Regular order would bring us to these long-standing men who have been sitting on the sidelines now for well over a year.' Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of course, blocked Senator Booker’s motion, ... Booker... made this plea two weeks ago, and was sure to point out that the race of these two judges just had to be a coincidence.... Republican obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, including Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, has been unprecedented. And Sen. Booker is justifiably calling it out."
Letter: Senate needs to act on Supreme Court (State Journal-Register [IL], 09/19/16)
Susanne Roa: "It's way past time for the Senate to do their job and take action on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.
President Barack Obama did not nominate an extreme left-wing liberal and even if he did, senators have the right to turn down any nomination. It is their responsibility to conduct a vote, no matter who the nominee is. Do the thing they were elected for and that they get paid for. Vote now!"
On Confirming Judges, Senate Just Says No (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 09/18/16)
Kenneth Jost: The Senate’s Republican leadership is now in its seventh month of refusing to convene a hearing on Obama’s nomination of the veteran federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. But the GOP’s refusal to consider Obama’s judicial nominees goes much further than that.
Even as unfilled judicial vacancies have more than doubled over the past two years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now all but shut down consideration of any of Obama’s judicial nominees. The 90 vacancies include 34 that are characterized as “judicial emergencies” based on caseload figures.
The policy extends to noncontroversial judicial nominees for U.S. district courts even when supported by home-state Republican senators, according to Glenn Sugameli, who has been tracking federal court nominations since 2001 on a website now called JudgingtheEnvironment.org. Sugameli, who now works as a staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, calls the obstruction “unprecedented, unjustifiable, and harmful to businesses and individuals for whom justice delayed is justice denied.”... Sheldon Goldman, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a longtime expert on judicial nominations and confirmations, agrees that the broader inaction on Obama nominees has no historical precedent. The record of the current Senate over the past two years is “the worst in American history in terms of obstruction and delay.” ... McConnell defends the Senate’s current record by noting that the Senate has confirmed a few more Obama judges, 329 in all, than it did for Bush in his eight years: 326. Sugameli says the comparison is misleading because of the larger number of vacancies in the Obama years.
Gazette opinion: What Congress leaves behind [Editorial] (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 09/18/16)
"In a Senate floor speech last week Tester summarized the unproductive Congress and noted that the Senate has been in session in 2016 the fewest days in 60 years.... Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Tester chided the Republican leadership for refusing to even have a hearing on the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland.
“Now the Supreme Court is as dysfunctional as Congress,” Tester said. The court has been unable to resolve some cases without a tie-breaking ninth justice.... The obvious solution is to keep the House and Senate in session till they complete their work."