Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Birth control must wait for a ninth justice (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 05/17/16)
"The Supreme Court needs a ninth justice.... The entire disappointing process demonstrates, yet again, how the lack of a ninth justice is seriously affecting the court’s ability to conduct its business.
It’s been two months since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit. Garland has provided the Senate with a 142-page questionnaire listing his employment record, opinions and public remarks. He’s met with 46 senators, including 14 Republicans.
Yet the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to express no interest in holding a hearing on his nomination. The senators’ resistance is nothing more than base partisan obstructionism.
Neither the court’s calendar nor the importance of its rulings is based on the national election schedule. The Senate’s holdouts are depriving all Americans of their third branch of government."
Editorial: Another case for filling U.S. Supreme Court vacancy (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 05/17/16)
"Once again, the stubborn refusal by Senate Republicans to act on the president's nominee to fill the court's vacancy is undermining the court's rule and delaying justice.... the larger problem is a high court so paralyzed it cannot function as a final word on constitutional rights. Bumping these cases to the lower courts fosters a patchwork legal system, where rights are defined by the geography of individual judicial circuits. Since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the court has deadlocked three times, leaving the nation without clarity in the law, the Supreme Court's very constitutional purpose.
Senate Republicans have made clear they do not intend to act on President Barack Obama's highly qualified nominee, federal appellate Judge Merrick Garland, currently chief judge of the D.C. circuit, arguing the next president should fill the vacancy. All parties before the court deserve a fully functioning bench, and justices need to be deciding cases, not engineering legal settlements. This court has a singular role, and it needs to fulfill it.
Senate Republicans need to get on with their jobs and take up the nomination. The vacancy is creating uncertainty across the judicial system. There is no just reason to delay the resolution of the serious cases that come before this court. One branch of the government is being held hostage by another, and it's time to return the balance of power to the democratic system."
Confirmation vote is about who can serve as federal judges (Justice Watch, 05/16/16)
"Tonight the Senate will vote on the nomination of Paula Xinis to be a district court judge in Maryland. It is just the seventh confirmation vote on a judge this year, and Xinis, who is endorsed by both Maryland senators and has been rated “unanimously well qualified” by the American Bar Association, should be easily confirmed. ... Xinis’ professional background in civil rights and indigent defense is precisely the sort that, as a matter of overwhelming statistical fact, the federal bench lacks. The absence of such experience comes at the expense of fair courts and sound judicial decisionmaking, as Justice Byron White observed while serving on the Supreme Court with longtime civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall. ... The Judiciary Committee voted Xinis onto the floor via voice vote, without any opposition. The same result should hold with her confirmation vote. If not, the senators who vote against her will be sending a dispiriting message to our nation’s legal community, including law students beginning their careers: If you want to be a judge, the easiest path forward is a career spent protecting the powerful, and anything else will lead to smear campaigns and personal attacks."
Supreme Court vacancy watch Day 93: At least one federal judiciary nominee will get a vote (Daily Kos, 05/16/16)
Joan McCarter: "There were 19 judicial emergencies during the mid-point of George W. Bush's final year in office, a number that had been reduced by the Democratic Senate and a judiciary chair and Senate leader who took their jobs seriously. The Garland blockade is an extreme manifestation of what the Republicans have purposefully done to the federal judiciary—but it sure doesn't tell the whole story."
It’s Not Just Merrick Garland: Republicans Are Blocking So Many Nominees It’s Caused a Judicial Emergency: The judicial confirmation rate under the Republican-controlled Senate is less than half of what it was when Democrats held power under George W. Bush. There are so few judges that it’s hurting the country. (Daily Beast, 05/16/16)
JAY MICHAELSON: "“It’s absolutely absurd,” Marge Baker, executive vice president of liberal group People for the American Way (PFAW) told The Daily Beast. PFAW has been tracking the issue closely and released new findings this week. “And it’s qualitatively different from anything that has gone before.”... Over the past sixteen months, the Senate has confirmed 17 lifetime-appointment judges. In the same period in 2007-08, the Democrat-led Senate confirmed 45; in 1991-92, when Democrats controlled the Senate and George H.W. Bush was president, it confirmed 82. In other words, the GOP Senate is confirming just 38 percent as many judges as the Democratic 2008 Senate, and 21 percent of the Democratic 1992 one.... PFAW’s own analysis, released this week, revealed that under Grassley’s leadership, the judicial confirmation rate has been 25%. Leahy’s was 58%. A recent PFAW press release dubbed Grassley the “Do-Nothing Chairman.” ... Baker told The Daily Beast that the truly shocking inaction is on lower court nominations.
“I’ve been following this issue for thirteen years,” she said. “District court vacancies were never in play—they were routine. But now, the obstructionism has gotten down to the district court level.”
A similar point was made in a New York Times op-ed by the recently retired Judge Shira Scheindlin .... Indeed, the number of “Judicial Emergencies”—a formal designation by the federal court system for when the per-judge caseload is so high that it endangers access to justice—has nearly tripled in the last two years, from 12 in January 2014, to 32 in April 2016.
By way of comparison, there were 19 such judicial emergencies at this point in George W. Bush’s second term—and the number had gone down since the Democrats took control of the Senate."
Sen. Pat Toomey’s hypocrisy about judges is clear (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 05/15/16)
John Neurohr, Letter to the Editor: "Sen. Pat Toomey, feeling the pressure from constituents, decided to try to save political face by attempting to move two Pennsylvania U.S. District Court nominees to the Senate floor for a vote ahead of other stalled nominees who have also been blocked by Senate GOP leadership.... From facilitating Senate GOP leadership delay of the confirmation of Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for a seat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to delayed action on the five current District Court vacancies in Pennsylvania and one current 3rd Circuit Court vacancy, Mr. Toomey has not been doing his job on judicial vacancies for years. Add to this the fact that Mr. Toomey has joined the politically motivated, unprecedented stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and the irony of his sudden prioritization of judicial nominees is pretty apparent.
What needs to happen is Senate Republicans should allow all District Court nominees currently in limbo to have an up-or-down vote immediately. If Mr. Toomey is feeling the pressure to do his job and move nominees, he ought to pressure Republican leadership to do it the right way."
Toomey two-faced on federal judge vacancies | Editorial (Express-Times [PA], 05/15/16)
"Pat Toomey can't have it both ways.
This week Pennsylvania's junior senator made a request of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Call a vote to allow the Senate to act on the appointments of two federal judge nominees in western Pennsylvania, for seats that been unfilled for years....The sand-in-the-gears approach to elevating federal judges isn't just a hindrance to justice, it's a disgrace.... there is no federal judge in the entire northwest corner of the state.... This a problem for the entire country, not just Pennsylvania. And it's beyond hypocritical of Toomey to expect that any judge deserves special treatment when he and most other GOP senators are blocking hearings — much less an up-or-down vote — on President Obama's choice of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.... McConnell made it clear to Toomey that Pennsylvania isn't going to cut in line. Nine other judges cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee have been in the pipeline longer than the Pennsylvania nominees.... if Toomey wanted to make a sensible pitch for fair play he could have done what Sen. Bob Casey did — call upon McConnell to schedule votes for all the federal judge candidates who have committee approval.... the business of the courts — which, while it can't be totally depoliticized, would be improved greatly by respecting the Constitution and acting on federal judge nominees who are ready to go."
Editorial: Grassley's court maneuver threatens his legacy, reputation (Des Moines Register [IA], 05/15/16)
"It has been three months since Grassley first declared that he wouldn’t hold hearings for any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Obama, and the public outcry shows no signs of tapering off. ... Grassley seems destined to be remembered largely for this single, petulant act of politically motivated obstructionism.... By announcing, within hours of Scalia’s death, his intent to prevent any Obama nominee from getting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley did more than stake out a controversial position on an issue. He called into question his own integrity and he created the appearance, at least, that he was putting politics ahead of the national interest.... Grassley hasn’t helped his cause with his claim that by blocking any Obama nominee to the court, he is simply “letting the people have their say” on the matter this November.
“Not very often do the people have a chance to express the view on, ‘Do you want a very liberal person put on the court or a conservative person put on the court?’” Grassley says.
Not very often? More like never. Supreme Court justices aren’t selected through any sort of popular vote — and for good reason. They’re not politicians, and issues of constitutional rights are best not determined on Election Day.
And that’s the fundamental and inescapable problem with Grassley’s contrived “let the people speak” rationale for refusing to hold hearings. It’s built on a framework of contradictory assumptions that conflict with past practice and the U.S. Constitution, and aren’t even grounded in reality:
First, there’s the notion that the general public — not just the president and the Senate — ought to have some say in selecting Supreme Court justices via the November presidential election. It’s bizarre that Grassley, who often complains the court is “too politicized” and doesn’t adhere to strict readings of the Constitution, would even suggest this.
Second, there’s the assumption that presidential elections are single-issue referendums as to what sort of justices belong on the high court. Even now, with Scalia’s seat publicly held hostage by Grassley, voters say they’re far more concerned with a dozen other domestic and foreign issues.
And finally there’s Grassley’s inexplicable assertion that while we can’t rely on the last two presidential elections to determine the will of the people, we will be able to rely on the next one."
Sen. Burr’s absurd blockage of a home-state judge (Daily Reflector [Greenville, NC], 05/15/16)
Chris Fitzsimon Op-Ed: "An African-American has never served as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina and Sen. Richard Burr apparently intends to keep it that way, judging by his knee-jerk opposition to President Obama’s latest nominee to fill a seat on the court that has been vacant for 10 years, the longest vacancy in the country."
Letter: Timmons-Goodson is qualified (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 05/13/16)
Lena Johnson: "In April, President Obama nominated Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to serve as a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Sen. Richard Burr has vowed to block the nomination of this highly credentialed, highly respected public servant on local and national levels, and highly deserving woman. Sen. Burr, your constituents say, enough is enough with political shenanigans.
It's time to do the work you were elected to do for the good of the citizens of this state. This U.S. District judge position has been vacant for more than 10 years. The people in the Eastern District covering 44 counties deserve better than another lengthy, unnecessary delay."
Senators have duty to act on Obama's pick for court: Editorial (Republican [Springfield, MA], 05/12/16)
"Recalcitrant Republicans have absolutely no legitimate reason to keep Garland on the shelf. The president did his job. Now it's up to them to do theirs. ... Republicans love to cite the Constitution – when it's convenient. McConnell and his allies would do well to take another look at the document, specifically at Article II, Section 2.
Then they should schedule confirmation hearings."
Mitch McConnell Says Elections Are ‘Not An Excuse’ For Senators To Skip Work: But he still won’t give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a confirmation hearing — because there’s an election. (Huffington Post, 05/12/16)
Marina Fang: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday warned senators not to use the election as “an excuse not to do our work.”
“Some have said because it is an election year, you can’t do much. I’d like to remind everyone: We’ve had a regularly scheduled election in this country every two years since 1788, right on time,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, we can’t do it because we have an election next year.’ And people have said, ‘We can’t do whatever it is because we have an election this year,’” he continued. “It is not an excuse not to do our work.” Sound familiar? The upcoming presidential election is the reason McConnell and other Republicans have cited for not granting a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee."
Bill Straub: McConnell failed to spin his political magic, co-opt Tea Party wing of GOP in Senate (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 05/12/16)
"McConnell, seemingly not content to simply destroy the federal government’s legislative and executive branches, has taken a real sledge hammer to the judiciary. He remains steadfast in his refusal to consider Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, U.S. District Court Judge Merrick Garland, despite polls that show Americans overwhelmingly demand confirmation hearings.
Meanwhile, McConnell is stonewalling other federal judgeships.
“The Senate has not confirmed a single judicial nominee in a month,’’ Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Tuesday. “Not one. And yet, Republicans continue to claim the Senate is back to work. When qualified nominees who were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee are left waiting for months, the Senate is not working. It is not fulfilling its constitutional role and it certainly is not doing the job of the American people who deserve prompt justice in our courts.”"
It's time for Burr to simply do his job (Franklin Times [Louisburg, NC], 05/11/16)
Letter to the Editor: "Last week, Sen. Richard Burr had the opportunity to rise above the typical partisan politics that defines Congress by supporting Patricia Timmons-Goodson's nomination to fill the long-vacant seat on the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina federal district court."
EDITORIAL: Act on Garland nomination (Day [CT] , 05/11/16)
"A sense of duty has not propelled the Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate to act on President Obama's nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. But even if patriotic and constitutional responsibility were not enough to move them, maybe something they hold dearer will force their hands — political expediency.... Swallow your pride, Senator McConnell, and move the Garland nomination forward."
Pat Toomey Tries To Skip The Line And Only Confirm His Judicial Nominees: It didn’t really work out. (Huffington Post, 05/11/16)
Jennifer Bendery: "They are two of 11 judicial nominees ready to be confirmed, but the Senate is barely moving because of McConnell, who is loath to allow votes on any more Obama nominees.... The problem with his request is that eight other district court nominees are in line ahead of his, and traditionally, the Senate confirms them in the order that they arrive from the Judiciary Committee. That means Toomey was asking to make all of those nominees — including those from GOP states like Tennessee and Nebraska, and those that would fill judicial emergencies — wait longer"
Chuck Grassley, The Do-Nothing Chairman (People For blog, 05/11/16)
"Grassley’s committee has confirmed circuit and appellate judges at a glacial pace, especially when compared to a similar period during Senator Patrick Leahy’s chairmanship.... By the end of April 2008, Leahy had worked to confirm 45 judges with only 32 nominations remaining before the Senate. Three of these pending nominees had already cleared the committee and four had already received committee hearings. This means that no action had been taken on just 25 nominations.
During the comparable time period between January 2015 and April of this year, Grassley has only managed to confirm 17 nominees, barely a third the number of Patrick Leahy under George W. Bush. Fifty-two of President Obama’s judicial appointments are still pending. Of these, 12 have cleared the committee, and hearings have been held for an additional 6, leaving 33 with no action having been taken.
In the first 16 months of his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman, Leahy managed to confirm 58% of George W. Bush’s nominees. On the other hand, Grassley has managed to confirm only 25% of Barack Obama’s."
President Obama's Supreme Court Nominee Submits His Questionnaire to the Senate (The White House, 05/10/16)
Neil Eggleston, White House Counsel: "We expect that upon receiving the questionnaire, Senate Judiciary Committee members will do their jobs by reviewing his record, noticing a hearing so that the American people can hear directly from Chief Judge Garland as he answers questions under oath, and giving him a timely vote. Every nominee since 1875 who wasn't withdrawn from consideration has received a hearing and/or a vote. With more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history and a long record of public service, we expect the Senate will give Chief Judge Garland the same fair consideration as prior nominees. The American people and the integrity of our judicial system deserve nothing less."
Letter: Judicial appointments are mired in politics (Times-News [Burlington, NC], 05/10/16)
Glenn Sugameli heads the nonpartisan Judging the Environment judicial nominations project: "Based on my 15 years of tracking federal judicial vacancies and nominations, I offer some national and historical context on your persuasive editorial ... . Justice delayed will continue to be justice denied for North Carolina people and businesses, as U.S. Sen. Richard Burr blocks former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson’s nomination to the Eastern District of North Carolina trial court. In addition to her “bonfides” you cite, the American Bar Association gave Timmons-Goodson’s nomination its highest rating: unanimously well-qualified.
Senator Burr previously blocked, without explanation, President Obama’s first nominee, who Sen. Burr had recommended, for the same vacancy. Empty for more than a decade, it is the nation’s oldest vacancy by more than four years, and the U.S. Courts have declared it a “judicial emergency.”... Senator Burr’s position, however, is in stark contrast to his fellow Republican senators from Mississippi to Wyoming who have worked with the White House to fill all judgeships in their states, and to many more who are continuing to do so. My nonpartisan website has compiled statements by Republican Senators from 14 States supporting pending nominees and urging action to fill their judicial vacancies.
Sadly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is denying a hearing on Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, and delaying floor votes on 20 judicial nominees the Judiciary Committee approved unanimously months ago."
Editorial: Jurists can learn from Iowa's Supreme Court (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 05/10/16)
"There's no greater threat to the U.S. justice system than partisan tantrums from those hell-bent on getting their own way. ...
The threat isn't limited to the spat over President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court."
Eva Clayton: Eastern North Carolina deserves to have a federal court judge (News & Observer [NC], 05/09/16)
Former Congresswoman Eva Clayton: "When I heard that President Obama had nominated Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill the long-vacant seat on the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina federal district court, my heart rose. “Finally,” I thought.
After 10 years of waiting, the people of Eastern North Carolina would have a justice of whom we could all be proud. ... The first African-American woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court was now going to be the first African-American judge to serve the Eastern District of North Carolina.... Burr. It is his job to consider judicial nominees, yet almost immediately after Timmons-Goodson’s nomination was announced Burr said he would block it. No vote. No hearing. Not so much as a meeting.
Burr has justified his blocking of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee by saying the American people deserve to have a say so we must wait until after the 2016 presidential election. But in the case of Timmons-Goodson, the people of North Carolina did have their say – twice – and they chose her."
My Turn: Washington could learn from New Hampshire (Concord Monitor [NH], 05/09/16)
Debora B. Pignatelli column: Unfortunately, unlike the case of late Justice Scalia, who received his first hearing in 42 days, Senate Republicans have made it clear that there will never be a hearing to occur at all for Supreme Court nominee Garland. While it would be an unprecedented action for the Senate to ignore its constitutional responsibilities to advise and consent, you might not know that here in New Hampshire, such obstruction would be against state law.
In fact, when I was a New Hampshire state senator, my colleagues, both Republican and Democratic, enacted a bill I co-sponsored that required all state judicial nominees receive a public hearing. It has served our state well."
Burr’s absurd blockade of a judge in his home state (Triangle Tribune [NC], 05/09/16)
by Chris Fitzsimon, Columnist: "An African-American has never served as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Senator Richard Burr apparently intends to keep it that way, judging by his knee-jerk opposition to President Obama’s latest nominee to fill a seat on the court that has been vacant for 10 years, the longest vacancy in the country."
Get to work, senator (Wilmington Star-News [NC], 05/08/16)
Letter to the Editor by Susi Hamilton, N.C. House of Representatives: "Sen. Richard Burr is not doing the job we are paying him to do when he refuses to even consider judicial nominees.
Burr swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which includes the important role of considering judicial nominees to federal courts. However, he refuses to honor that oath by vowing to block the appointment of Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a woman who was elected twice to statewide office and served as the first African American woman on the N.C. Supreme Court, to the federal court.
Our Eastern District seat has been vacant for over a decade.... Do your job, Sen. Burr. Give Patricia Timmons-Goodson a vote."
EDITORIAL: GOP senators refuse to do their jobs (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 05/08/16)
"Most people who refuse to do their jobs get canned. Not so with GOP senators in Congress who refuse to hold hearings or vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.
President Obama nominated Garland, a moderate, in March .... Anti-Obama obstructionists in the Senate should stop their disrespectful dereliction of duty. Alabama voters should demand Sessions and Shelby push for timely action on Garland's Supreme Court nomination."
America’s Trial Court Judges: Our Front Line for Justice (New York Times, 05/07/16)
Former S.D.N.Y judge SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN: "Even as the spotlight shines on the high court, the Senate has refused to confirm dozens of uncontroversial nominees to fill vacancies in the federal trial courts.... Just last week, Senate Republicans refused to vote on 11 federal district court nominees whom the Judiciary Committee had already approved — even those who were supported by Republicans in their home states. During President George W. Bush’s last two years in office, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed about 57 district court judges. Since Republicans took power in 2014, the Senate has confirmed only 15 of President Obama’s trial court nominees.
This is an even bigger problem than Judge Garland’s stalled nomination. Trial court judges do the bulk of the work in the federal court system .... the Senate majority’s policy of delaying qualified district-court nominations on purely political grounds undermines public trust in the impartiality and legitimacy of the judiciary."