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McConnell's Personal Partial Shutdown (Bloomberg News, 03/04/15)
Jonathan Bernstein column: "Two months into the new Congress, the Senate has confirmed only two executive-branch nominees .... And no judges at all. This inaction doesn’t get headline coverage, but it should. As judicial vacancies increase, people have to wait for trials .... Through March 4, 2007, Democrats had already confirmed 18 of George W. Bush's nominees: eight judges, including a circuit court judge, and 10 executive-branch officials. ... simply refusing to allow most positions to be filled is an abuse of power, and McConnell needs to be called on it."

More Delay on the Restrepo Nomination (People For blog, 03/04/15)
"Qualified jurists nominated for federal judgeships way back in November are still waiting to have a committee hearing scheduled. They include Kara Farnandez Stoll, who would be the first woman of color on the Federal Circuit, and L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, who would be the first judge on the Third Circuit with experience as a public defender. The Third Circuit vacancy has been designated a judicial emergency, and with another vacancy on that court opening on July 1, it is even more important not to keep delaying Restrepo's already overdue hearing. Yet a Grassley spokeswoman told The Legal Intelligencer ... that she "couldn't even estimate" a timeframe for Restrepo's hearing.... when the Democratic Judiciary Committee considered Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general.... the committee was able to hold confirmation hearings on six judicial nominees and advance two to the full Senate. It was also able to advance an additional four judicial nominees the week after voting on Mukasey."

Forum editorial: Survival of species is the goalinf (INFORUM [ND], 03/03/15)
"The Red River Zoo in Fargo continues to enhance its reputation as one of the nation’s protectors and rescuers of endangered species. ... The zoo has grown both in the number of exhibits – including the wildly popular wolf pack – and in its collaborative world-class species conservation research.... Great work is underway out there."

Editorial: For the love of the manatees (Ocala Star Banner [FL] , 03/03/15)
"That 200,000 people a year would venture to an off-the-beaten-path place like Crystal River to see a one-of-a-kind slice of nature like the manatees resting in Three Sisters is testament that it is something not only worth seeing, but worth protecting."

Editorial: And now to celebrate a small species victory (Corvallis Gazette-Times [OR], 03/02/15)
"Rep. Peter DeFazio ... paused while he was back home to celebrate a victory: In just over two decades, a 3-inch Oregon minnow has wriggled back from the brink of extinction, and a lot of people deserve some praise for that. Federal wildlife managers formally announced a few weeks ago that the Oregon chub has been removed from the Endangered Species List — the first fish ever taken off the roster of imperiled species.... Credit goes to the ESA, but it also goes to private property owners and stakeholders who worked together to secure havens and habitats for the fish — and the other species who call those shallow waterways home.... We’d like to celebrate more such successes, not only locally, but globally. "

EDITORIAL: Sen. Jim Inhofe embarrasses the GOP and the U.S. (Washington Post, 03/02/15)
"SEN. JIM Inhofe (R-Okla.) chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee — and he seems determined to make that fact a national embarrassment. Mr. Inhofe delivered a Senate floor speech about the “hysteria on global warming” .... However, one could just as easily point out that, despite some bitter temperatures on the East Coast, the Northern Hemisphere is set to break the record for the least amount of cold air ever. All of this is really beside the point: Global warming is a long-term and worldwide trend. The fact that it’s cold at one place on the Earth at one point in time does not undermine the contention that industrial greenhouse-gas emissions are warming the planet over the course of decades. There is no reasonable doubt that the world is heating up. ... The Republican Party should be mortified by the face of their environmental leadership."

EDITORIAL: Californians must treat drought as a way of life (San Angelo Standard Times [TX] , 03/01/15)
"Californians must step up their water conservation efforts and ensure there is adequate water for the environment.... We should take a page from Australia’s survival guide and clearly establish now that the state will provide enough water to maintain a healthy environment, the underpinning of a healthy economy."

World-Herald editorial: Bald eagle’s return a great story (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 03/01/15)
"Banning DDT, prohibiting the killing of eagles, improving water quality in many lakes and rivers, protecting nesting sites and restoring eagles to areas where they had been eliminated meant that by 2007, the bald eagle could be removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.... the rebound in Nebraska and Iowa is every bit as impressive.... The bald eagle’s return is a conservation story of the finest kind."

The Register’s Editorial: Why climate change deniers warmed up to this scientist (Des Moines Register [IA], 02/28/15)
"If the scientific community isn’t telling you what you want to hear, you might just have to buy your own scientist. That pretty much sums up the public perception of the relationship between the fossil fuels industry and Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist frequently cited by groups denying a link between climate change and human behavior."

EDITORIAL: NC wildlife officials abandon their duties by abandoning the red wolf  (News & Observer [NC], 02/28/15)
"The red wolf population is now estimated at about 100, down from 130 in 2003, a decline caused mostly by hunting. To stop the toll on red wolves, the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of conservation groups sued the Wildlife Resources Commission seeking a ban on coyote hunts in the recovery area. Last May, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ordered a stop to the hunts until the case could be heard. Meanwhile, the Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to work together to manage coyotes and protect the red wolves. The SELC later settled its lawsuit with an agreement that would ban night coyote hunting in the recovery area. But rather than find a way to cull coyotes and save wolves, the Wildlife Resources Commission now wants to abandon the red wolf recovery effort.... The commission’s proposal contradicts its mission and the settlement agreement. The Southern Environmental Law Center representing groups supporting the red wolf recovery – Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Welfare Institute – has sent the commission a letter calling on the commission to rescind its resolutions and abide by its agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to promote the recovery of the red wolf. Bringing back the red wolf is challenging, and coyotes complicate the mission. But the answer isn’t to give up and start shooting."

Editorial: Climate change is real, Congress isn’t (Daily Astorian [OR], 02/24/15)
"A consortium of businesses is preparing for climate change, and they don't care whether the pending dynamic is manmade.... Congress is failing us on a broad range of pressing matters. None are quite as big as climate change."

Mercury News editorial: Delta's health should take priority over pumping (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 02/24/15)
"The Delta smelt count dropped to the lowest level in recorded history. The impact on salmon was equally horrendous. The state reported that 95 percent of the juvenile Chinook salmon that spawned in the upper Sacramento River died because of the poor water conditions. Rising water temperatures and lower river levels also resulted in the growth of invasive plants that damage water quality. California can't let this degradation of the largest estuary west of the Mississippi continue. ... The Delta smelt is merely the canary in the coal mine when it comes to preserving the estuary's health. Further degradation to the Delta will ultimately threaten the quality of the drinking water for Northern California residents."

EDITORIAL: Taking flight; Monarch butterfly faces many challenges; one of them shouldn't be humans. (Houston Chronicle, 02/20/15)
"To save the monarch, the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to act to classify the monarch as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Only then will the agency be able to develop the comprehensive plan needed to restore long-term, healthy populations of monarchs. Butterflies are a critical pollinator of plants. Most plants need a pollinator to reproduce. If the monarch goes extinct, not only will we lose one of nature's most magical creatures, we will experience a drop in plant diversity."

Right enraged by filibuster tactics they once embraced (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 02/20/15)
Steve Benen: "By the fall of 2013, the Senate Republicans’ filibuster abuses had reached a level unseen in American history. The GOP minority declared that it would simply refuse to consider any judicial nominee, no matter how qualified, for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – and they would maintain this position until 2017 at the earliest. Left with no choice, Senate Democrats executed the so-called “nuclear option,” restoring the chamber’s traditional rules that allowed the Senate majority to confirm federal judges."

Judicial Selection in Congress’ Lame Duck Session (Indiana Law Journal , 02/20/15)
Carl Tobias: This Article first scrutinizes the Obama Administration confirmation and nomination processes. It then critically explores selection and concludes that Republican obstruction instigated the most open positions the longest time. Because this deficiency undermines swift, economical, and fair case resolution, the Article suggests ideas to promptly decrease the remaining unoccupied judgeships after the session commences.

Republican Inaction as Judicial Emergencies Jump (People For blog, 02/20/15)
"Texas now has seven judicial emergencies, more than a third of the national total. Two of them have nominees who should have advanced to the Senate floor last week, but were delayed when Republicans decided to delay the scheduled committee vote on four fully vetted district court nominees by two weeks simply because they could. Another of the newly designated emergencies is in the Third Circuit. The good news is that district court judge L. Felipe Restrepo was nominated to fill this seat way back in November, and that he has the enthusiastic support of his home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey. The bad news is that Chairman Grassley continues not to schedule a hearing for this highly qualified nominee (or any other)."

EDITORIAL: U.S. district judge makes wrong decision on immigration order (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 02/19/15)
"In a surprising decision on Monday, a U.S. district judge in Texas, Andrew S. Hanen, ruled that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration can’t move forward. Hanen is a George W. Bush appointee who’s been critical of Obama’s immigration policies in the past. "

The Obama Years (New York Times, 02/19/15)
Charles M. Blow Op-Ed column: "One could argue that the Supreme Court — the judicial Divine Nine — has shaped the Obama presidency as much as Obama has. That’s not to say that he hasn’t done an amazing job of shaping the judiciary in this country himself. In addition to appointing two new members to the Supreme Court — both women, a first for any president — he has completely transformed the lower courts.... Toobin laid out the diversity of the Obama transformation .... This is huge."

Republicans Should Move Judicial Nominations Next Week (People For blog, 02/19/15)
"With the Republican-controlled Senate returning to town next week, one of the things they should turn their attention to is moving judicial nominations. Because vacancies are always opening up on the courts, the Senate has to confirm a number of judges just to keep even. So far in the 114th Congress, we are not keeping even.... the Judiciary Committee should vote these four nominees out, and the full Senate should promptly hold a confirmation vote. It is also past time to hold hearings for people who were nominated more than three months ago, like Third Circuit nominee Luis Restrepo (nominated November 12)."

The most misleading statements in the judge’s ruling against Obama’s immigration plan (Washington Post, 02/19/15)
Wonkblog by Max Ehrenfreund: "A decision from the federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, has thrown the U.S. immigration system into chaos. As the Obama administration prepares an appeal in order to carry out its plan to grant a legal status to some four million undocumented immigrants, a close look at the opinion by Judge Andrew S. Hanen reveals some ... misleading or ill-informed passages."

EDITORIAL: Setback for immigrants sets back the nation (News & Observer [NC], 02/18/15)
" A last-minute decision by a federal judge in Texas has caused bitter disappointment for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who expected they would be able to apply for work permits and protection from deportation under a presidential executive action. Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an injunction Monday halting the executive action.... The development was an immediate setback for young undocumented immigrants, but it should discourage all who believe in the impartiality of courts and the decency of the American character. The injunction may well be dissolved on appeal, and in the long run the Obama administration is confident that the president has acted on solid legal ground. In the meantime, we have the spectacle of a judge who has been an outspoken critic of U.S. immigration policy straining to thwart the protections with the barest of legal support. the report said, it would lead to a $197 million increase in tax revenue over five years. Despite such reports, Hanen, an appointee of President George W. Bush, found that one of the states suing, Texas, would be harmed because it would have to meet the cost of issuing driver’s licenses to some undocumented immigrants. ... This sort of transparent politicking from the bench is increasingly common as conservatives ask the courts for what they cannot attain through legislation."

EDITORIAL: A Judge’s Assault on Immigration (New York Times, 02/18/15)
"Judge Hanen — who last month invoked a biblical flood in describing illegal immigration into that community — has spoken out aggressively against Mr. Obama’s immigration policy in the past, saying it “endangers America” and is “an open invitation to the most dangerous criminals in society.” Indeed, his earlier opinions were the reason Republican governors and attorneys general pushed to get their suit into his district.... He danced around the fundamental point — as the Supreme Court reiterated as recently as 2012 — that setting immigration policy is the prerogative of the federal government, not the states."

Op-Ed Texas judge's immigration ruling is full of legal holes (Los Angeles Times, 02/18/15)
Erwin Chemerinsky & Samuel Kleiner: "U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen's decision to block the Obama plan to defer deportation for about 5 million immigrants here illegally ignores a basic principle of government: For better or worse, the executive branch of government always has discretion as to whether and how to enforce the law. The judge's lengthy opinion is wrong as a matter of law and, worse, is based on xenophobia and stereotypes about immigrants. It is very likely to be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and, if necessary, the Supreme Court.... Judge Hanen, appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, has the reputation of being especially conservative on immigration issues. That tone underlies his opinion, especially as he spoke of immigrants being “terrorists” and “criminals.”"

Editorial: Another step backward on immigration (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 02/18/15)
"President Barack Obama is right on the policy and probably right on the law but wrong on the politics. An activist federal judge in Texas ruled late Monday that Obama is wrong on the law and put the president's latest executive orders on immigration on hold.... Applications from those who came to the United States as children to remain here legally were to start being processed by the federal government today. Now those applicants, who live in our neighborhoods and work in our fields and businesses, are unfairly stuck in limbo.... Hanen is not exactly a neutral observer; the federal judge has been a critic of the Obama administration's approach to immigration in earlier rulings. ... a broad array of legal scholars and previous court opinions have found that the president has wide discretion to set immigration policy, even if Obama pushed the envelope in this case."

Editorial Immigration debate slowed by another partisan sideshow (Los Angeles Times, 02/18/15)
"A federal judge on Monday halted portions of President Obama's executive actions shielding more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. The administration has pledged to appeal. When it does, the courts should act with all due speed to reinstate the president's policies. The judge's injunction adds yet another sideshow .... Hanen's argument is unconvincing. He criticized Obama's immigration enforcement policies in a previous, unrelated case, and he made it clear in this case that he is receptive to the claim that the government failed to follow proper regulatory procedures. The Obama administration counters persuasively — to us, if not to Hanen — that it acted properly and within its legal authority. Ultimately, this is a partisan lawsuit and a partisan injunction, neither of which should stand."

EDITORIAL: Push ahead on immigration after judicial setback in Texas  (Boston Globe, 02/18/15)
"At the eleventh hour, a federal judge in Texas earlier this week put up a roadblock that will temporarily prevent undocumented immigrants from applying for legal and deportation relief. Judge Andrew Hanen’s preliminary injunction, which puts President Obama’s immigration orders on hold, amounts to nitpicking over some procedural technicalities. ... Hanen’s contention that the policy imposes an undue burden on the states is a one-sided political argument, not any kind of proven fact. On the contrary, any costs of the deferred-deportation programs would likely be offset by their economic benefit, .... The 5th Court of Appeals should expedite the matter and issue a stay so that the programs can be launched."

EDITORIAL: The Post's View: Immigration policy, in limbo; Frustration with possible presidential overreach cannot justify judicial overreach (Washington Post, 02/18/15)
"TO THINK, as we do, that President Obama overstepped his authority by shielding more than 4 million illegal immigrants from deportation, with no assent from Congress, does not mean that a federal judge should have license to invalidate the president’s order on the basis of tendentious logic. Yet that’s the effect of a ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Tex., whose well documented distaste for the Obama administration’s immigration policies explains why similarly predisposed Republican-led states turned to him for relief....Judge Hanen agreed with the states that their lawsuit cleared minimum procedural requirements and could go forward. He had to stretch so far to reach even that modest conclusion that we hope an appeals court will lift his stay while the case proceeds."

Editorial: Stalled order; Republicans continue to play politics with a difficult issue by finding their ideal judge. (Houston Chronicle, 02/18/15)
"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his Republican counterparts in 25 other states went venue-shopping not long ago, and on Monday night they got what they wanted when a federal judge based in Brownsville ruled against President Barack Obama's order shielding up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.... The ruling by Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, was no surprise. The George W. Bush appointee has issued several rulings in recent years that reflect his hard-line immigration views (thus the venue-shopping).... There's a good chance the Fifth Circuit will overturn Hanen's ruling."

Judge misread Obama’s immigration program (Miami Herald, 02/18/15)
Cass Sunstein: "Judge Andrew S. Hanen said, the Department of Homeland Security acted unlawfully because it did not allow the public to comment in advance. With this conclusion, Hanen almost certainly overreached. ... Judge Hanen was right to focus on the APA and the technical requirements of the law. But he got the technical argument wrong."

EDITORIAL: Speaker Boehner lands in a familiar spot (Akron Beacon Journal [OH], 02/18/15)
"The president acted carefully, using the discretion available to his office, deferring deportation for those who meet certain qualifications. On Monday, a federal judge in Texas put the president’s executive action on hold. Yet the ruling departs dramatically from the law and precedent."