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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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EDITORIAL: President, Senate must begin filling federal court vacancies, including 2 in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 11/17/14)
"[T]here is a very real problem in filling vacancies to the lower federal courts. The issue is most pressing here in Western New York....Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has recommended that the president nominate Denise O’Donnell, a former U.S. attorney, to replace Skretny and Lawrence J. Vilardo, one of Western New York’s top litigators, to replace Arcara. The president has yet to nominate either one. Both are respected by Democrats and Republicans and, as such, deserve to be nominated and then confirmed. There are 62 vacancies on the federal courts, with 36 nominees pending, and 28 future vacancies, with two nominees pending. The vacancies only worsen delays in the federal court system. The president has a duty to nominate qualified people for the vacancies, and the Senate has a duty to investigate and vote on the nominees. Talk of Supreme Court vacancies is an argument for another day. The president and the Senate need to deal with the immediate problem in the lower courts."

PD Editorial: A bold step on climate change  (Press Democrat [CA] , 11/16/14)
"In short, human activity is contributing to climate change, and we are approaching the point of no return. Against that backdrop, the landmark agreement between the United States and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a major breakthrough. The antagonistic reaction from coal-country Republicans who will lead the next Congress is an even larger disappointment."

The Register's Editorial: Nation needs Grassley's leadership (Des Moines Register [IA] , 11/15/14)
"One of the Judiciary Committee's most important duties is to recommend whether the Senate should give its blessing to the president's nominees to the federal judiciary. The confirmation process has become mired in partisan rancor .... As a member of the committee and as a rank-and-file senator, Grassley has done his part to perpetuate if not exaggerate those confirmation wars. In his new role as chairman, Grassley should work to end them. That would be a major accomplishment in the interest of improving the reputation of the Senate and the functioning of the federal courts. ... Every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote from the Senate with a simple majority prevailing. ... Senators should respect the president's constitutional appointment power by confirming even nominees they may disagree with. Grassley has a mixed record on that point. In the past he voted for nominees whose politics he opposed because he agreed with the principle of presidential prerogative. But in recent years he has become increasingly partisan, casting votes against otherwise highly qualified nominees he considers too liberal.... It is time for these destructive confirmation wars to end. Now that he is to become chairman of the committee that acts as a gatekeeper for judicial nominees, Grassley has the opportunity to make that happen, and he should."

Mercury News editorial: China climate pact at least sets back deniers (San Jose Mercury News [CA] , 11/15/14)
"But at its core, the pact shows that the Chinese government accepts the scientifically proven impact of carbon emissions on the rapidly warming climate and wishes to be seen as doing something about it. This is in contrast to a newly empowered Republican Congress, however, which considers it all a joke."

EDITORIAL: Grassley is a good fit for Judiciary (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 11/14/14)
"We’re confident that Grassley will treat judicial appointments and other nominees fairly, and resist pressure to delay and obstruct purely for political ends. We don’t want a “rubber stamp,” but we also don’t want competent, qualified nominees to be sacrificed to political brinkmanship."

Editorial: U.S.-China climate deal offers hope  (Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, 11/14/14)
"Last week’s historic U.S.-China agreement on carbon emissions could be a turning point in the world’s climate change strategy if both sides live up to their promises. ...For the United States, China’s pledges dampen a long-standing excuse for congressional inaction."

Editorial: Promising move on climate change but what will Republicans say now? (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY] , 11/14/14)
"Now that China has committed to producing enough zero-emissions energy by 2030 to power the entire United States, Sen. Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans will have to find a new excuse for doing nothing about climate change.... Longer term, it also makes sense that the world's largest country wants to avert massive droughts, floods, rising sea levels, superstorms and the resulting conflicts, suffering, chaos and costs. If anything is shocking, it's the lack of urgency in the U.S. Congress, especially among Republicans, to protect our descendants from climate disaster."

Saturday's Letters: ELECTION MANDATE (Florida Times-Union, 11/14/14)
Damien Filer: "Until the remaining vacancies are filled — and there are more than 60 of them — the shortage of judges will mean a backlog of cases that makes access to justice difficult for many Americans. If our Florida senators want to show they are in Washington to get the job done, then moving quickly to fill the remaining court vacancies is a good start. The Senate should remain in session until it has cleared its calendar of pending judicial nominees."

Filling the federal court vacancies (The Hill, 11/14/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Obama has actually enjoyed remarkable success in nominating and confirming very qualified mainstream candidates while shattering all records for diversity vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and sexual preference. Because Republicans and Democrats agree that filling the 60 federal court vacancies with qualified consensus jurists is essential to delivering justice, they should promptly cooperate to propose and appoint excellent judges."

Burr, Hagan join to support judicial nominee (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 11/13/14)
Editorial writer Doug Clark’s Blog: Off The Record: "

Judiciary Committee hearing today for Middle District nominee Loretta Copeland Biggs (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Sharon McCloskey: "if confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status. Her addition to the court would be welcome news and would begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench. But another nominee, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — chosen by the President to fill the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina — continues to languish. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold the “blue slip” indicating his support for her for, despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations."

Editorial | A key climate deal (Courier-Journal [KY] , 11/13/14)
"As the world’s two leading producers of greenhouse gases, the United States and China can lead the way in reducing dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum and thereby reducing carbon emissions linked to climate change.... Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell ... should be heartened that China has joined the United States to fight such pollution. It was just last month, while campaigning, that he said “no on else is going to do that.” ...Far from acknowledging his error, Mr. McConnell issued a statement bashing the president"

Editorial: A Major Breakthrough on Climate Change (New York Times, 11/13/14)
"The deal jointly announced in Beijing by President Obama and China’s president, Xi Jinping, to limit greenhouse gases well beyond their earlier pledges ... the agreement cuts the ground from under people like Mitch McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, and others who have long argued that there is no point in taking aggressive steps against greenhouse gases as long as major developing countries refused to do likewise."

Editorial Why the U.S.-China climate deal is so important (Los Angeles Times, 11/13/14)
"Conservative Republicans seem to see the battle against climate change as a costly and unnecessary war on cheap and plentiful energy. ... In truth, there is a dollar cost either way, and studies estimate that the price of ignoring climate change — in the form of flood, drought, crop loss and so forth — is far higher than that of doing something about it."

Letter of the Day: A chance to address judicial backlog (Tampa Tribune [FL] , 11/13/14)
Mark Ferrulo: "there is a critical opportunity for senators to demonstrate that they can set aside differences and get the people’s work done. How? By moving quickly to fill the remaining judicial vacancies that have hamstrung our court system. Federal courts rule on cases that directly impact our lives, including cases addressing pollution, immigration, bankruptcy, equal rights, access to health care and more. But without adequate staffing, cases get backlogged, and justice cannot be served. There are more than 60 judicial openings across our federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months or even years due to partisan gridlock and obstruction. Across the country, these vacancies are seriously impacting citizens’ ability to have their day in court."

Commentary: Addressing backlog of judicial nominees: A “must” for the upcoming lame duck session (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Rob Schofield: "Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. As we’ve detailed at length in this space previously, two of these vacancies are here in North Carolina and one has sat empty for eight years. In such an environment, it is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote....In the 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed."

EDITORIAL: Climate breakthrough (Baltimore Sun, 11/12/14)
"With EPA rules on carbon already under assault by Senator McConnell and others in his party, one can just imagine the scramble to deep-six any agreement with China. That can't be allowed to happen, particularly when further progress on the international stage now looks possible."

Voters tired of inaction by officials, judicial vacancies (Tallahassee Democrat [FL] , 11/12/14)
Letter to the Editor by Damien Filer: "there is no reason for Congress not to get to work doing the people’s business. One area where critical work needs to be done is to fill court vacancies. All Americans deserve timely access to courts staffed with qualified judges to ensure justice is served on a range of important issues. The Senate’s failure to confirm nominees in a prompt manner has led to a crisis in our courts."

Editorial: Bold step on climate change (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 11/12/14)
"The agreement between the United States and China to curb carbon emissions is a historic step toward addressing the dire threats posed by climate change."

Editorial: U.S.-China climate deal offers new hope: Our view; The two biggest greenhouse gas producers have been locked in a 'you go first' standoff. Until now. (USA Today, 11/12/14)
"The objections from McConnell, Inhofe and others boil down to this: China should do more to curb its emissions. The U.S. shouldn't do anything. It's hard to see that approach flying in Beijing, or any other world capital."

Editorial: Senate needs to get on with Loretta Lynch’s U.S. attorney general confirmation (Seattle Times [WA] , 11/12/14)
"[L]etting this wait until January, when Republicans take control of the Senate, would open the door for political mischief in what should be a painless confirmation. The Senate confirmation process has become increasingly excruciating — with nomination of 33 federal judgeships pending, 16 of them on the Senate floor."

Lame duck session is personal for some people (Washington Post, 11/12/14)
Al Kamen: "The 16 district (trial court) judges pending also offer ground for compromise — in part because they’re not up for the more important appeals court seats. Two of them already have “unanimous consent” agreements, so they are assured of putting on the robes. Most of the rest enjoy solid GOP backing, including four backed by Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, four from Pennsylvania supported by Sen. Pat Toomey and two from Kentucky, including one who’s Sen. Rand Paul’s neighbor and friend. Another eight district court nominees are expected to be on the floor next week, including three who are backed by Texas GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. So if anyone’s looking for any easy “See? We can get things done,” chest-thumpers, nominees may be the place to start."

Editorial: Senate needs to get on with Loretta Lynch’s U.S. attorney general confirmation: Confirming Loretta Lynch to be the next U.S. Attorney General should be the job of this Congress, not the next. (Seattle Times [WA] , 11/12/14)
"The Senate confirmation process has become increasingly excruciating — with nomination of 33 federal judgeships pending, 16 of them on the Senate floor.”

Four reasons why we need judicial confirmations in the “lame duck” (and the Republican takeover isn’t one of them) (Justice Watch, 11/10/14)
Michelle D. Schwartz, Alliance for Justice: "Here are four reasons why the Senate should confirm at least 24 district court nominees—16 of whom are pending on the floor and eight of whom are ready to be reported out of the Judiciary Committee—before the end of the year"

EDITORIAL: New GOP Congress and President Obama have a chance to break Washington’s gridlock  (Kansas City Star, 11/09/14)
"On many issues, there is room for modest accomplishments, if not much more. Consider judicial appointments. For the last few years, Republican senators have delayed or blocked many of Obama’s nominees. They now have the power to do so more effectively, but they also have the obligation to ensure a functional judiciary. The same goes for other executive appointments, including the just-announced nominee for attorney general. Obama, for his part, must choose moderates whom Republicans can confirm. And cross your fingers that a Supreme Court vacancy doesn’t come up. That would almost certainly become a bitter partisan fight that could derail everything else."

Republican Claims About Judicial Nominations Combine Gross Inaccuracies With Banal Observations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: "Hatch and Gray persist in their bizarre view that it was improper for President Obama to fill longstanding vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, and they complain that rules reform has led to "controversial judges." These claims ignore the fact that President George W. Bush filled exactly the same seats on the D.C. Circuit when they became vacant during his administration, and his appointees included controversial judges Janice Rogers Brown (confirmed by a vote of 56 to 43) and Brett Kavanaugh (confirmed by a 57 to 36 vote)....Of the 62 federal judges confirmed in 2014 so far, 45 -- or 73 percent -- were confirmed with 90 or more votes in favor; 56 nominees -- or 90 percent -- were confirmed with bipartisan support....Senate Republicans have relentlessly obstructed President Obama's judicial nominees"

The Parties Can and Should Come Together on Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 11/07/14)
Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: "vacancies can and should be filled during the lame-duck session. ...Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who faced opposition Senates, saw the confirmation of twenty percent of their total judicial appointments during the last two years of their second terms. There's no reason this can't hold true for President Obama."

Editorial: With campaigns done, now Obama and GOP must lead (Dallas Morning News, 11/05/14)
"Republicans, who will control all of Congress in January, must show they can do more than obstruct the president and his party....A good time to test-drive this is during the lame-duck session before the new Congress is seated in January. One must-do is the matter of funding the federal government, as a stopgap measure expires Dec. 11 — precisely the kind of measure that has caused past D.C. governance to grind to a halt. Other issues are stalled Obama nominations. ... This newspaper has been critical of congressional Republicans for their obstinacy — and will remain so if they continue on that path."

Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges (Huffington Post, 11/05/14)
Paul Gordon: "During the upcoming lame duck session, the Senate has an opportunity to finish up a critically important task where they can act quickly by unanimous consent or voice votes: confirming two dozen judicial nominees....Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader.... Eight of these would fill vacancies in three states -- Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky -- where the need is so great that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated them as "judicial emergencies." All three of these states are represented by Republican senators, including the future Majority Leader."