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Putting GOP Obstruction of Judges In Perspective (People For blog, 09/08/15)
Paul Gordon: "A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when Democrats took over the Senate after the 2006 midterms. A week after those elections, Senator Patrick Leahy – who was about to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee – criticized Republicans for blocking votes on more than a dozen of Bush’s qualified nominees.... in 2007, Leahy and new Majority Leader Harry Reid worked together to make sure the Judiciary Committee and full Senate fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities. During those two years, the Senate vetted and confirmed 68 of Bush’s circuit and district court nominees. In fact, the Democratic Senate had already confirmed 26 of Bush’s judges by this same point in the year (September 8 of 2007). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has so far confirmed only five Obama judges.... Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 31 today. As the chart below shows, Democrats in the Senate during Bush’s last two years did not allow the number of judicial emergencies to increase in a similar fashion, and in fact the number generally remained steady or decreased during most of those two years.... L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, President Obama’s nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals... was nominated in November with the support of his two home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey. He could and should have been confirmed long ago. ... now that his nomination is ready for a floor vote, Senator Toomey is apparently collaborating with his party leadership’s plans to delay that vote for as long as possible."

Benched! Summer is over, Republican obstruction is not (Justice Watch, 09/08/15)
"Since January, the number of current judicial vacancies has gone up over 50 percent. Quickly confirming the 20 nominees in committee and 9 pending on the Senate floor would be a first step to stemming the vacancy crisis. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have immediately returned to their politically-motivated strategy of delaying all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Today, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley postponed the scheduled committee vote of three nominees for the second time. John Vazquez, Wilhelmina Wright, and Paula Xinis were initially scheduled to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee before the Senate’s summer break. Grassley postponed that vote too. ... Vazquez would fill one of New Jersey’s four judicial emergencies, which is more than in any one state other than Texas. Wright would also fill a judicial emergency in the District of Minnesota."

Fully staff our district court (Colorado Springs Gazette, 09/06/15)
Deb Walker: "Historically, when a district court seat becomes vacant in Colorado, our two senators work together to screen possible candidates and provide some potential nominees to the president. Each of the last two vacancies were filled using a joint-senators bipartisan screening committee, and the president nominated someone within six months of the vacancy announcement. This year, it appears that Sens. Gardner and Bennet are each creating separate committees that will not work together and will not generate a joint list to the president....A fully staffed Colorado district court is vital because it keeps our judicial system open and accessible for Colorado citizens and businesses that need timely resolution of disputes ... our district court is overworked and understaffed because we have not increased the number of judges since 1984, despite immense population growth since then."

In Georgia, Barack Obama’s GOP judicial nominee is more than an ad for (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 08/29/15)
Jim Galloway: "This is Dax Lopez, who was appointed five years ago to a DeKalb County state judgeship by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. ... He would be the first Latino in Georgia appointed to a lifelong position on the federal bench — if he survives U.S. Senate confirmation.... In a season of Donald Trump and talk of mass deportations, opposition to Lopez is also worrisome to Republicans attempting to expand their party’s demographic reach.... didn’t I mention that Dax Lopez is both Latino and Jewish?... the Jewish community is a highly valued GOP constituency with clout that extends well beyond the financial. Those critical of Lopez’s GALEO membership will have to tread carefully. Should they stray into xenophobia, they’ll have two angry constituencies to deal with rather than one."

Will Colorado Continue to Be a Model in Filling Judicial Vacancies? (Huffington Post, 08/27/15)
Peg Perl: "Three years ago, Colorado was hailed as a "model for senators across the country"because of the cooperative, timely and successful screening process our then-Senators used to inform the President's nomination for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court of Colorado. It is unclear whether we are still deserving of such praise.... True, the senators are now from different parties, but similar mixed delegations in Florida and Pennsylvania (use joint bipartisan committees to screen potential nominees. However, four months after the future vacancy announcement Colorado's Senators appear to be working on separate tracks. Senator Gardner has created his own selection committee - one that is not bipartisan, but full of Republican supporters - and Senator Bennet appears to be still working on getting his own committee (bipartisan) together. A fully-staffed federal district court is vital because it keeps our judicial system open and accessible for Colorado citizens and businesses that need timely resolution of disputes. The District Court in Colorado, which has not increased the number of judges since 1984, is already overworked and understaffed. Increased workload from 30 years of population growth, plus additional cases arising from increased federal agencies with a regional office in Colorado has lead the full bipartisan delegation to Congress to introduce legislation to increase the number of federal judges from 7 to 9."

Texas judicial vacancy flood means Cornyn, Cruz must act (Fort Worth Star-Telegram [TX], 08/26/15)
Natalie Knight: "By providing more than four-months’ notice, Schneider gave the Texas senators charged with finding his replacement an opportunity to do what they have never done before: fill a judicial vacancy before the judge actually steps down and further weakens an already strained justice system. Avoiding the disruption of a vacancy is, after all, the whole point of giving advance notice. In other states, senators often begin working on a vacancy as soon as it’s announced. But not Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Instead, they have watched vacancies pile up — ignoring, in some cases, more than a year of notice. ... That slow-motion process is contrary not just to common practice nationwide, but to the precedent Cornyn himself established when fellow-Republican George W. Bush was president.... Texas has become the epicenter of a growing judicial vacancy crisis. Including two seats on the Fifth Circuit, Texas has nine current judicial vacancies (the most of any state in the country), three of which have been vacant for more than two years. Seven of the vacancies are officially designated “judicial emergencies” because of crushing caseloads and desperately needed judges.... The Eastern District of Texas is the second busiest court in the country. It’s so overburdened that the Judicial Conference of the United States called for adding two new judgeships, in addition to filling existing vacancies."

Will Cornyn and Cruz stop the flood of judicial vacancies in Texas? (Justice Watch, 08/26/15)
Natalie Knight: "Eastern District of Texas Judge Michael Schneider announced that he’ll leave active duty and take “senior status” .... Texas has become the epicenter of a growing judicial vacancy crisis. Including two seats on the Fifth Circuit, Texas has nine current judicial vacancies (the most of any state in the country), three of which have been vacant for over two years. Seven of the vacancies are officially designated “judicial emergencies” because of crushing caseloads and desperately needed judges."

Senate Leaders on Target to Break Obstruction Record (Huffington Post, 08/24/15)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "In terms of meeting its constitutional responsibility to fill judicial vacancies, the Senate has confirmed a whopping total of five new federal judges to date this year. That's not even one per month. During the same period in 2007, the Senate, with a Democratic majority, had confirmed 26 of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, and went on to confirm another 14 that year. The five confirmations to date by the Senate this year is not just an objectively low number, it's well below the average of 27 confirmations during the same period for each of the last 15 years (that is, through August 7). At this rate, the Senate is on track to make ignominious history - the fewest number of judicial confirmations in the last two years of a presidential term going at least as far back as the Eisenhower Administration. ... they left 14 nominees behind on the Senate floor, twisting in the wind .... all of them are non-controversial, and each cleared the Republican-led Judiciary Committee by voice vote. Making matters worse, more than a third of these nominees would fill seats that the federal judiciary considers to be "judicial emergencies," meaning that the courts on which they would sit are unduly overworked and justice is being delayed.... A good example of the obstruction is Senate leadership's treatment of District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo"

Confirming federal judges during the final two years of the Obama administration: Vacancies up, nominees down (Brookings, 08/18/15)
Russell Wheeler: "The Senate began a month-long recess on August 7, having confirmed five judges in 2015 compared to 26 at this point in President Bush’s seventh year in office and 11 in President Clinton’s. Then, as now, the party that controlled the Senate hoped in 14 months to regain control of the White House and judicial nominations..... • Here is Senator Grassley’s explanation of why the Senate has only confirmed five judges so far this year: “Had we not confirmed ... 11 judicial nominees during the lame duck last year, we’d be roughly at the same pace we were for judicial confirmations this year compared to 2007.” Sixteen, though, is not “roughly” the same as 26; it’s a little more than half. More important, the proper metric for an effective confirmation process is not proportionality among congressional sessions. The proper metric is filling vacancies pursuant to Article II of the Constitution, and on that measure, the Senate is hardly at the same pace as in 2007."

Jimmy Carter's Most Important Legacy: Female Judges (The New Republic, 08/13/15)
Gwyneth Kelly: "Carter appointed 41 female judges—five times as many as all his predecessors combined.... Since his presidency, with the notable exception of Reagan, every president has surpassed Carter’s record. As of August this year President Obama has appointed a record 131 female judges, including two female Supreme Court justices .... His outlook has been borne out in countless studies that have shown the impact of gender on the legal process. A 2005 Yale study found that in sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases the gender of judges “mattered more than [their] ideology in determining outcomes.” Female judges ruled in favor of plaintiffs more often than male judges, and male judges who were on a bench alongside female judges ruled in plaintiffs’ favor more than twice as much as judges on all-male panels. Last year The New York Times reported that judges with daughters, who are exposed to the reality of women’s lived experiences, are more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights."

EDITORIAL: Well-staffed court: Casey and Toomey must push the choices forward (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 08/10/15)
"It’s easy to dismiss the necessity of well-staffed, high-functioning courts — until you need one. But the wheels of justice turn more slowly when a judge’s chair is empty. As of Aug. 6, 67 judicial vacancies were pending in federal courts. Look ahead to future retirements already scheduled and the system will see another 16 judges depart by next July.... One casualty of the hostile relations between Democratic President Barack Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress has been the inability — sometimes unwillingess — to approve qualified judicial nominees before they become hostages in unrelated political battles. Pennsylvanians got a taste of that with the case of U.S. Judge Luis Restrepo. His nomination by Mr. Obama to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals languished for eight months until the Senate Judiciary Committee in July moved it in position for a floor vote. Last week the president named three candidates to fill long-standing vacancies ... To get this far, the nominees have already been vetted by a selection committee set up jointly by Pennsylvania’s senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey. Together they should keep any political shenanigans at bay and push the nomination process forward."

U.S. Senate drags its feet on federal judicial nominations (Fresno Bee [CA] , 08/07/15)
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK By John Ellis: "It’s well known that Fresno’s federal judges are overworked and struggling under the weight of one of the nation’s largest caseloads. The U.S. Senate, however, appears in no hurry to help. Federal legislation that would approve more judges for California’s Eastern District, which includes courthouses in Fresno and Sacramento, is going nowhere. And there appears to be no hurry to approve U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii’s replacement.... So far this year, the Senate has confirmed just five judges, which puts it on track for its worst confirmation year since 1969 .... U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill is the lone Fresno district judge. Ishii has taken “senior status,” which allows him to work in retirement, but he’s reduced his caseload by half. “In light of the incredible need for judicial resources in the Eastern District of California, I must admit that I am at a total loss to understand the delay at the Senate level for confirmation,” O’Neill said. “While it affects negatively federal judges, it ultimately affects the rights and legitimate expectations of the members of the public that we serve.” To get an idea how bad it is in Fresno and Sacramento, the non-partisan Judicial Conference of the United States has recommended that Congress double the number of judges in the Eastern District from the current six to 12."

Editorial: Cheers and jeers (Gainesville Sun [FL], 08/07/15)
"The wheels of justice are grinding to a halt in a number of federal courts, thanks in part to Florida's junior U.S. senator. Federal courts have 31 declared judicial emergencies, including three in Florida, due to vacancies and a backlog of cases. ... Just five of Obama's judicial nominations have been confirmed in 2015, far behind the pace of other presidents in their seventh year, according to the report. A nominee for the Southern District Court of Florida, Mary Barzee Flores, has been blocked for more than five months from even having a hearing. The Why Courts Matter coalition estimates there have been more than 38,800 missed cases due to the backlog and about every 24 minutes a new case is added to that backlog because of vacancies."

Senate splits town, leaves judicial nominees hanging (Washington Post, 08/06/15)
Al Kamen column: "The Senate has confirmed only five judges so far this year, the fewest judges confirmed since 1953, when nine judges were confirmed, according to a count by the liberal Alliance for Justice.... But as the Senate left town ... it left nine other judicial nominees twisting at least until September .... Schumer, with three of his state’s nominees pending, called the GOP’s slow-walking on judicial nominations “a disgrace,” noting that, by the end of July, 2007, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 25 judges compared to five this year. Grassley countered, blaming the Democrats for “ramming” through 11 nominees in the lame duck session while they still controlled the Senate. Grassley, assuming the GOP somehow would have confirmed those nominees, said those 11 should have been counted for this year, bringing the total to 16 or “roughly at the same pace” as in 2007, and thus the Senate was “moving at a reasonable pace. “So put that in your pipe and smoke it, ” Grassley told Schumer."

Sen. Cory Gardner bucks Sen. Michael Bennet — and tradition — by forming his own judicial selection committee (Colorado Independent, 08/06/15)
Kyle Harris: "Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner broke with the tradition of respecting senatorial seniority and announced that he’ll be putting together his own judicial evaluation committee to vet applicants eager to be Colorado’s next federal judge. Senior Sen. Michael Bennet is in the process of forming his own bipartisan committee. Traditionally, that’s what senior senators do. And, traditionally, the junior senator would work with his colleague. As for Bennet, he’s happy to consider Gardner’s second committee’s nominations. “We will have an ongoing bipartisan process and will welcome any recommendations that they submit,” Bennet’s spokesman Adam Bozzi told The Colorado Independent. Gardner’s office didn’t reply to our requests for an interview about why he formed the second committee rather then working with Bennet on a speedy process.... why do it without Bennet?"

Grassley continues confirmation wars on judges (Des Moines Register [IA], 08/01/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias letter to the editor: "Sen. Chuck Grassley perpetuates the confirmation wars by engaging in payback that ignores his constitutional duty to reduce court backlogs by allowing votes on excellent, consensus nominees. The most relevant precedent is 2007 when the Senate had a Democratic majority, who processed President George W. Bush nominees. At this point, the Democrats had confirmed 25 judges, versus five this year. Even if you count the 11 who were confirmed in the 2014 lame duck session of Congress, as Grassley argues, that still leaves nine more well qualified, consensus nominees unanimously approved by Grassley’s Judiciary Committee on the floor who deserve votes. Aside from numbers, which can show anything, the Senate has a constitutional duty to fill vacancies, especially judicial emergencies, which have doubled on the GOP’s watch. The people who are hurt are individuals and businesses that litigate in federal courts and the judges who are overwhelmed by huge caseloads: Justice delayed is justice denied."

Editorial: Grassley joins race to bottom on political rhetoric (Des Moines Register [IA], 08/01/15)
"U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is apparently taking civility lessons from Donald Trump. In an exchange with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York over confirming judges, Grassley resorted to a taunt more appropriate for a schoolyard than the floor of the United States Senate. Schumer criticized the slow pace of judicial confirmations since Republicans took control of the Senate, and he pushed for a vote on three federal district judges in New York State. Grassley defended his party’s record .... Apart from cooking the numbers, Grassley’s immature poke at a fellow senator was undignified ... We had given Grassley the benefit of doubt that he would use his gatekeeper role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to end the judicial confirmation wars. Our optimism was not warranted."

Confirm Judge Restrepo (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 07/31/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Today, as in 2007, a Pennsylvania federal district court judge's unopposed nomination to the Third Circuit requires a final vote in a Senate the president's party does not control. On March 15, 2007, a Democrat Senate confirmed President George W. Bush's nomination of Pittsburgh District Judge Thomas Hardiman one week after his Judiciary Committee approval. This precedent is one reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must schedule an immediate vote on Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo's nomination, which the committee approved on July 9. Restrepo would fill one of 28 vacancies the courts have declared judicial emergencies.... As Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on July 7, if Toomey simply asked “to confirm Judge Restrepo immediately, (I'm confident) we could confirm Judge Restrepo to the Third Circuit next week.”

EDITORIAL: THUMBS DOWN: (Idaho State Journal, 07/31/15)
"THUMBS DOWN: To the foot-dragging of Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch on appointment of judicial nominees to fill a vacancy resulting from the retirement of U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge. No hurry, we guess."

Undermining Our Third Branch and Delaying Justice (Huffington Post, 07/31/15)
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee: "Since the beginning of the year, the number of vacancies deemed "judicial emergencies" by the nonpartisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has more than doubled....At this same point in President Bush's second term, after the Democrats regained control of the Senate and I became chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we confirmed 25 judges. That is five times as many judges confirmed under a Democratic majority with a Republican president than today's Senate Republican majority with a Democratic president. The American people should demand that the Senate act. Currently, there are 14 judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor and simply waiting for an up-or-down vote. ... Judge Restrepo also stands to make history. If confirmed, he will be the first Hispanic judge from Pennsylvania to ever serve on the Third Circuit and only the second Hispanic judge to serve on that court. This is hardly a controversial nominee, and yet the Republican majority refuses to schedule a confirmation vote for Judge Restrepo. There are also several qualified nominees being blocked from their appointment to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a court commonly referred to as the "People's Court" because it allows Americans to seek prompt justice against their government. Right now there are eight active judges on the CFC appointed by President Bush and only three active judges appointed by President Obama. The five current nominees waiting for a confirmation vote are, like Judge Restrepo, highly qualified and entirely uncontroversial. They were all nominated more than a year ago, and were approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee twice .... During the last two years of the Bush administration, Democrats confirmed 68 judicial nominees. So far, Republicans have confirmed five."

Chuck Grassley Blocks Judicial Nominees, Then Says GOP Is Doing A Great Job Confirming Them: "Put that in your pipe and smoke it." (Huffington Post, 07/30/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "The Senate has done an abysmal job of confirming federal judges this year. Only five of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees have been confirmed since Republicans took control of the chamber in January. By contrast, when Democrats ran the Senate during President George W. Bush's seventh year in office, they had confirmed 25 of his judicial picks by this point in the year. But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Thursday that he thinks his party is doing a great job with judicial confirmations -- moments after he blocked a Democratic effort to take up a batch of nominees for votes. Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, rejected a request on the Senate floor by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on three district court nominees from his state. None are controversial; all three sailed through the Judiciary Committee last month on voice votes. ... Grassley gets points for sass, but his argument doesn't add up."

Juan Williams: The GOP's judicial logjam (The Hill, 07/27/15)
"the Senate’s Republican majority is already on vacation from the work of confirming judges.... the Senate’s Republican majority is already on vacation from the work of confirming judges."

N.J. shortchanged by Exxon Mobil wetlands deal | Editorial (The Times of Trenton [NJ] , 07/27/15)
"State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union County, was one of the first state lawmakers to express outrage when news broke in March that New Jersey had agreed to accept $225 million from the Exxon Mobil Corporation to settle a decade-long case. The state had originally sought $8.9 billion in compensation for environmental damage done to more than 1,500 of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in the Meadowlands.... Now a state Superior Court has turned down attempts by Lesniak and several environmental groups to intervene in the settlement. Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the activists' attempts to become parties to the suit would "unduly delay" the proceedings. Despite the setback, the settlement's opponents have pledged to continue to keep up the good fight. From Day One, Lesniak and Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel have been wary of the deal – and with good cause.... It's hard not to feel that New Jersey residents are being sold down the river by all this. The Garden State deserves to be compensated for the loss of valuable public resources, not forced into a sweetheart deal of Chris Christie's making."

By Judith E. Schaeffer: "Senator Tom Cotton (R), the junior Senator from Arkansas, is obstructing the proper functioning of the United States Court of Federal Claims (“CFC”), holding up consideration of President Obama’s nominees to fill five judicial vacancies on a court that is supposed to have 16 active judges. According to Senator Cotton, the CFC does not need those five judges, a claim disputed by the Chief Judge of that very court, who is certainly in a better position to know. ... All of the nominees were approved in February without opposition by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and sent on to the Senate floor for confirmation votes. Nonetheless, and despite the fact that nearly one-third of the judicial seats on the CFC are vacant, not one of these nominees has received a yes or no confirmation vote. ... Like the D.C. Circuit, the Court of Federal Claims is vitally important to those who care about protecting the environment and preserving environmental safeguards. The CFC has exclusive jurisdiction over most “takings” claims against environmental and other protections, .... conservatives have worked hard to put young, ideological nominees on the court, like Victor Wolski, who told the National Journal in 1999 that “every single job I've taken since college has been ideologically oriented, trying to further my principles,” which he described as a “libertarian” belief in “property rights” and “limited government.” It’s no wonder that a conservative Senator is now trying to preserve the status quo on that court."

EDITORIAL: Give horseshoe crabs a break -- before they're gone (Newsday [NY], 07/24/15)
"The board has asked the state to ban harvesting the crabs at town beaches and in Setauket Harbor, to address concerns about overfishing. Given insufficient information about their habitat and whether the population is declining or stable, it's a reasonable request. In environmental matters, erring on the side of caution is almost always a good idea. Beyond the wisdom of preserving species whenever we can, horseshoe crabs are important symbolically and in reality."

“A deficit in our courts”: Senator Sessions and the lack of judicial professional diversity (Justice Watch, 07/24/15)
KYLE C. BARRY: "our federal courts are staffed largely with judges who, in their legal careers before taking the bench, represented only the most powerful in American society, either defending massive corporations or wielding the enormous power of the state against criminal defendants. ... D.C. Circuit Judge Nina Pillard noted how “[t]here’s a sense, somehow, in the process of finding judges or candidates, that being in a large corporate law firm is neutral and being an advocate for people who have been subject to discrimination or retaliation or repression of their speech or their religious beliefs is not neutral, and . . . I would question that.” This skewed sense of what’s “neutral” emerged during Senator Sessions’ questioning of Paula Xinis. ... all judges, regardless of background, are shaped by the perspectives and experiences acquired over many years in the law. Fair and equal courts require a diversity of these perspectives, not any one in particular"

Tom Cotton: There he goes again, playing loose with the facts (Arkansas Times, 07/23/15)
Max Brantley: "I've been noting Cotton's obstruction of confirmation to five vacancies on the federal court of claims, obstruction that seems to play into the interests of a former employer and campaign contributor. Cotton has claimed data shows the court has enough judges. Now comes CQ Roll Call with a lawyer disputing Cotton's information. Lewis Weiner, former leader of the court of claims bar association, says Cotton is using the wrong statistics.... Cotton exercised a single senator's power to block unanimous consent to the nominations, though they have twice been approved by the Judiciary Committee, once when led by Republicans."

ISSUE | FEDERAL COURTS: Judicial picks are democracy's building blocks (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 07/23/15)
Eleanor Levie letter to the editor: "As Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari noted, shaping the federal courts is "one of the more quiet but significant ways a president can influence public law for years to come" ... Anyone who pays attention recognizes that the judicial nominating process is being regularly and shamelessly used for political maneuvering and all-out obstructionism. This onslaught denies President Obama his rightful appointments to the bench, but it also denies all Americans their rightful day in court."