Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Judicial vacancy highlights Washington dysfunction (Wisconsin State Journal, 05/22/15)
"The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has been waiting for more than five years for Washington to fill a vacant judicial seat. The empty post increases the workload for other judges and could delay court decisions affecting Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.... The vacancy predates Johnson. But when he took office in 2011, he blocked a nominee who President Obama had picked for the job. ... Johnson owns this embarrassing episode more than anyone because it has dovetailed with his nearly five-year tenure. ... Wisconsin’s U.S. senators should be able to get this important job filled without adding any more time to a five-year standoff that has weakened Wisconsin courts."
Rolly: Collateral damage (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/21/15)
Paul Rolly column: "Utah's federal court has had a vacancy for more than a year because the U.S. Senate cannot seem to get its act together to confirm Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish — even though President Barack Obama initially nominated her in September and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has had nothing but praise for the pick. When the Senate failed to vote on her last year, Obama renominated her in January. Hatch said he expected her to be confirmed within weeks. Finally, four months later, the vote on Parrish, who was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February ... The Senate finally confirmed her, unanimously, Thursday."
How long did it take a unanimous Senate to confirm two judges? (Washington Post, 05/21/15)
Al Kamen column: "The Senate Judiciary Committee approved both Parrish and Olvera without dissent back in February.
The Senate, embroiled in a long-running, bitter and partisan battle over judicial confirmations, has, with Thursday’s votes, confirmed a total of four judges so far this year."
Senate Has Confirmed Just Two Judges in 2015 (Wall Street Journal, 05/20/15)
Jacob Gershman: "Even by the standards of Congress, that’s a remarkably slow pace ... One thing is certain, the trickle of confirmation votes this year isn’t helping the judiciary empty its backlog of civil cases. As The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo reported in April, more than 330,000 such cases were pending as of last fall—a record—up nearly 20% since 2004, according to judiciary data."
Want to be called ‘Your Honor?’ You may have to wait for that (Washington Post, 05/19/15)
Al Kamen: "The Senate, as it heads into the Memorial Day recess next week, has so far this year confirmed only two judges, both of them from Texas, home of GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Five other candidates have been awaiting a full Senate vote, and it’s not clear they’re going to get one this week. Three of them (including one from Texas and another backed by Utah GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee) have been pending since February. There are another 12 waiting in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eight still need a hearing, and another four have had their hearing and are awaiting a vote. That vote could come on Thursday — though probably not. As it stands, there are 57 federal judicial vacancies, up from 43 at the beginning of this year. In contrast, a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2007 had confirmed 18 nominees by now (though some were holdovers from 2006), and the vacancies had dropped from 56 at the beginning of the year down to 50 by mid-May"
EDITORIAL: Our View: Let Ladder Ranch keep helping wolves (Santa Fe New Mexican, 05/18/15)
"For 17 years, Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in Sierra County has been a place where endangered Mexican gray wolves could find temporary refuge. Now, with a decision by the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission, that refuge is gone.
On May 7, commissioners decided to deny a permit that would have continued to allow the ranch to provide pen space to wolves that either were being released into, or temporarily released from, the wild. The governor should reverse the commission’s denial.
The re-introduction of the wolf to the wild needs as much support as possible ... Requiring the permits smacks of unnecessary government intrusion on the actions of a private landowner.... helping save the wolf is a much stronger position than helping allow a creature that so many love die out. By green-lighting the permit, Martinez has a chance to become a hero."
Judicial nominee ignored by Congress (Sun Sentinel [FL], 05/18/15)
Letter to the Editor, by Mara Shlackman: "In February, President Obama selected Mary Barzee-Flores as the nominee to fill the vacancy on the Federal Southern District Court of Florida. ... Even after the courts declared the vacant seat a "judicial emergency" (a sign that a judge is needed as soon as possible), for almost three months, justice has been held up for residents of South Florida, because Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not called a hearing to confirm the president's nominee.
I hope Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson will put pressure on Grassley to call a hearing to confirm Judge Barzee-Flores. Justice for Floridians should not be delayed due to political obstructionism."
Sen. Pat Toomey flip-flops, lifts block on judicial nominee (Daily Kos, 05/15/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has been feeling some heat back home for blocking a judicial nominee for a seat that has been vacant long enough to create a judicial emergency in the third circuit U.S. court of appeals.... Miraculously, the minute that Toomey said he had to wait until the background check was done, the "new background check has been completed.""
Sen. Pat Toomey insists he's not blocking the judicial nomination he's totally blocking (Daily Kos, 05/14/15)
Joan McCarter: "Sen. Pat Toomey inexplicably has been blocking a judicial nominee whom he actually endorsed and has been supporting since 2013....But now he's taking a new approach, by denying that he's holding up the nomination, while he's clearly holding up the nomination.... Except, as Huffington Post notes, that's not true. His fellow Pennsylvanian, Democrat Bob Casey, provided his blue slip back in November and the committee's investigation of Restrepo continued apace—the one thing has nothing to do with the other."
Nomination deserved (Williamsport [PA] Sun-Gazette, 05/14/15)
Alison Hirsch, Letter to the Editor: "More than six months ago, in a rare case bipartisanship, Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey both publicly supported the nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo for an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold a hearing for Judge Restrepo despite initially having support from both Pennsylvania Senators....Senator Toomey could be putting more pressure on Senator Grassley to move this nomination forward. When these kinds of vacancies go unfilled, court cases get backlogged and justice is unnecessarily delayed."
EDITORIAL: Toomey needs to explain himself regarding judge (Observer-Reporter [PA], 05/14/15)
"It’s not uncommon for a member of the U.S. Senate to put a temporary block on a judicial nominee over philosophical or political differences.
Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is doing that right now with President Obama’s nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. And on whose recommendation did the president make this nomination? Why, it was none other than Sen. Pat Toomey.
We kid you not. Toomey is throwing a roadblock in front of his own judicial choice.... An aide to the senator said Toomey “hopes it gets done this year.”
This year? It’s only May. One would hope that Restrepo’s nomination advances well before the end of 2015, considering that he already has been cooling his heels since last November."
Pat Toomey Insists He's Not Holding Up A Judicial Nominee He's Holding Up (Huffington Post, 05/13/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) insisted Wednesday that he's not blocking one of his own judicial nominees for political reasons -- even as he is still refusing to give the Senate Judiciary Committee the green light to give that nominee a hearing.... Toomey's reason for not submitting his blue slip doesn't really work, though. For starters, it wouldn't interfere at all with the committee's background review of Restrepo if the senator turned in his blue slip -- as Casey did.... Delays on Restrepo's hearing come at a time when Republicans are slow-walking Obama's judicial nominees. The Senate has confirmed only two district court judges this year. By contrast, Democrats had confirmed 18 district or circuit court judges by this point in President George W. Bush's seventh year in office.... It's not clear when Restrepo will get a hearing. He's already waited 182 days, as of Wednesday, which is more than double the amount of time that other recent nominees to the same Pennsylvania court have waited. Judge Cheryl Krause, confirmed in 2014, waited 34 days for a hearing after being nominated. Judge Thomas Vanaskie, confirmed in 2009, waited 90 days for a hearing.
Casey spokesman John Rizzo said that his senator is ready to get Restrepo confirmed already."
Toomey's Explanation for Restrepo Delay Raises More Questions (Huffington Post, 05/13/15)
Paul Gordon: "Since Judge Restrepo already had a thorough background investigation for his confirmation to the district court in 2013, why does it take half a year to complete one that covers only the short interval since then? It took less time to do background checks and proceed to hearings for people nominated at the same time but who had not already been thoroughly vetted by the Judiciary Committee.
And why didn’t Toomey make this simple and quick explanation when asked by the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery earlier this month? Instead, he took the time to say that he didn’t have time to explain, then he ducked into a senators-only elevator.
And why didn’t Sen. Grassley mention this when asked by Bendery on the same day, before the crush of bad press that Toomey is now responding to? When asked when the hearing would be, Grassley cited only the blue slip and said nothing about an ongoing background investigation. (After the media scrutiny of Toomey began to mount, Grassley cited the background investigation rather than the lack of a blue slip as the cause of the delay.)
And even if we accept the background investigation story, why hasn't Toomey been pushing the committee to hurry it up, considering this is to fill a judicial emergency on a court where a second vacancy will be opening in just a few weeks?
Toomey says he fully supports the nomination. As Inigo Montoya might say, I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means."
Toomey Slow-Walking the Restrepo Nomination: If Senator Toomey Really Wants to Move Judge Restrepo’s Nomination Along, He Should be Writing to Senator Grassley, Not to a Newspaper (Constitutional Accountability Center, 05/13/15)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "Six months since the nomination and the background investigation has not been completed? This is hard to fathom, for several reasons. First, it appears that the investigation has been done -- Committee Democrats have completed their review of it. ... Second, ... Restrepo was confirmed to a seat on the District Court a mere two years ago, following a thorough background check. ... Finally, six other nominees who were nominated on or after Restrepo was nominated back on November 12, 2014 have had their hearings before the Committee.
The Third Circuit seat to which Judge Restrepo has been nominated has been vacant for nearly two years and, as the Post-Gazette reported, has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of the “backlog of cases.” The inexcusable delay in filling this vacancy is hurting everyone within the court’s jurisdiction – individuals and businesses alike – who must depend on the court for justice.... [Sen. Toomey] should march into Sen. Grassley’s office and say that six months is more than enough time for Republicans on the Committee to have reviewed the background check of a sitting federal judge nominated for elevation to the Court of Appeals, particularly when the Committee conducted a full review of that same nominee two years ago."
EDITORIAL: Bully for the black bear (News-Star [LA], 05/13/15)
"During the 1950s and ‘60s Louisiana black bears were on the brink of disappearing, with fewer than 100 remaining in a shrinking habitat. Officials enrolled Louisiana black bears in the Endangered Species Act program in 1992.... official announcement May 20 in Baton Rouge that the Louisiana black bear will be taken off the endangered list.... Barham can enjoy his sunset days as secretary knowing that he succeeded in his goal to assure Louisiana will continue to be home to the teddy bear. The recovery of the Louisiana black bear is an environmental achievement“ worthy of a hearty, “Bully.”"
EDITORIAL: Time to move judicial nomination forward (Citizens Voice [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 05/12/15)
"No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Barack Obama submitted his name....No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Barack Obama submitted his name."
Editorial: Game board unfairly takes aim at gray wolf protector (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 05/12/15)
"Playing tit for tat with an endangered species is not only unproductive; it’s petty. Yet that appears to be what the New Mexico Game Commission did last week when it declined to renew a permit that had been in place for 17 years allowing Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in the Gila mountains to assist the federal Mexican gray wolf recovery program.
Ever since the program began in 1998, the Turner ranch has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide pen space for holding endangered wolves being taken from the wild or being reintroduced into the wilderness.... Landowner rights should not become as endangered as the wolf. Turner should be allowed to use his property as he wishes in cooperation with the federal government, and the commission shouldn’t flex its self-granted power to punish a private landowner to make a statement."
Justice Denied: U.S. Appeals Court Seat Vacant More Than 5 Years (Constitutional Accountability Center, 05/11/15)
"In an attempt to break through obstruction of the federal judicial nominations process, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday submitted to the White House the names of eight possible candidates for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a seat that has been vacant for more than five years. At 1,950 days and counting, this this is the oldest vacancy on the Court of Appeals in the entire country, and the second oldest in the entire federal judiciary.... the President nominated Victoria Nourse in 2010.... Once he took office, Senator Johnson decided to oppose the Nourse nomination, blocking her from even receiving a hearing ... “This vacancy is an utter embarrassment,” said CAC Vice President Judith E. Schaeffer. “Senator Baldwin has bent over backward for years trying to accommodate Senator Johnson on filling this vacancy, but enough is enough""
Letter: Toomey changes view on judicial nominee (Reading Eagle [PA] , 05/11/15)
Michael Morrill: "Back in November, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa ...joined Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in recommending Judge Restrepo. More than six months later, the judge's nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, because Sen. Toomey is blocking his own nominee."
EDITORIAL: Unjust delay: Toomey is to blame for a stalled nomination (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/10/15)
"In November, Sen. Pat Toomey applauded the nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he would make a “superb addition” to the Philadelphia-based court.
Six months later, Mr. Restrepo is not only unconfirmed, but has yet to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an interview, and Mr. Toomey appears to be the reason.... Mr. Restrepo, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2013, is well qualified for the post and the 3rd Circuit needs him. Its judges hear appeals from three states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware — and the district has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of its backlog of cases.... Enough with the games. The 3rd Circuit needs confirmation this month."
Toomey and Republicans: Do your job, confirm Restrepo (The Hill, 05/08/15)
Dolores Huerta: "Republicans are refusing to move forward on hearings and confirmation of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, even though he is supremely qualified to fill this much-needed appointment.
Restrepo is a highly experienced judge whose appointment would be historic for our community.... he would be the first Latino judge from Pennsylvania to serve on the 3rd Circuit Court and only the second Latino judge ever to serve on that court. "
Pennsylvania’s missing judges: Only Texas has more vacancies in its federal judiciary (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/08/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "President Barack Obama nominated Judge Restrepo last November for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals headquartered in Philadelphia on the strong bipartisan recommendation of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. ...
Moreover, since 2013, four empty Pennsylvania federal trial court seats have lacked nominees: three of 12 Western District active judgeships and one in the Eastern District. Pennsylvania labors under more openings than any state except Texas. ... On April 30, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, asked Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to include Judge Restrepo in the Wednesday hearing, but on Tuesday Mr. Grassley suggested that he would set a hearing as soon as Mr. Toomey returns the blue slip.
The judge’s hearing is long overdue, as Mr. Obama first nominated Judge Restrepo six months ago and the vacancy he would fill has been designated a judicial emergency by the federal judiciary. A federal circuit candidate nominated the same day as Judge Restrepo received a March 11 hearing and committee approval six weeks later, while all four nominees in Wednesday’s hearing were tapped the same day as Judge Restrepo or later. Mr. Toomey should return Judge Restrepo’s blue slip without delay and both he and Mr. Casey should quickly recommend superb prospects for each remaining Pennsylvania vacancy."
Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/07/15)
Mike Pound: "1) Just when we started getting used to the idea that the U.S. Senate actually getting things done once in a while, we came across the story of Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, who is awaiting the Senate's confirmation of his appointment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The problem for Judge Restrepo, who currently serves as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia? That would be Sen. Pat Toomey; our junior senator swears that he supports the appointment but he has yet to give the go-ahead on the confirmation hearing, and he's not answering questions about the delay."
Benched! A “thorough vetting” or a needless delay? The Third Circuit Court of Appeals needs another judge. (Juneau Empire [AK] , 05/07/15)
"For the past 675 days, the former seat of Senior Judge Anthony Scirica has sat vacant. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts named the seat a judicial emergency earlier this year because the circuit cannot properly manage its current caseload without another active judge.
The problem should be easy to solve. On November 12, 2014, with the support of Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, President Obama nominated District Court Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to fill the spot. Yet, 176 days later, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has not even held a hearing on Judge Restrepo’s nomination.... Judge Restrepo has already waited nearly three times as long for his committee hearing as the average wait for Obama’s other circuit court nominees."
Sen. Toomey obstructing his own judicial nominee to spite Obama (Daily Kos, 05/06/15)
MichaelMorrillPA: "one area that doesn’t get enough attention is the unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s cabinet nominees and federal judges.... this crisis affects all citizens because it creates a backlog of cases that undermines our system of justice ... Back in November, Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on the bipartisan recommendation of our PA senators.... However, in the six-plus months since his recommendation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has still not scheduled a hearing for Judge Restrepo. And Senator Toomey could change that, if he were so inclined to push harder to fill the vacancy.
Empty judgeships mean justice delayed is justice denied for people and businesses in Pennsylvania."