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Tensions rise over judicial nominees (The Hill, 09/18/16)
Lydia Wheeler: More than four dozen judicial nominees are in limbo as President Obama’s term draws to a close. Senate Democrats are blasting their Republican colleagues for not only blocking the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but also 53 other judges in the lower courts, calling their obstruction “unprecedented” and “irresponsible.” “These are supposed to be nonpolitical positions,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary, said. “I’ve been here longer than anybody else, I’ve never seen anything so irresponsible.” In the last two years of the George W. Bush presidency, Leahy said, the Democratic majority confirmed 68 of his judges. In Obama’s last two years, the Republican majority has confirmed 22 judges. “We put through 10 of them in September just before we recessed for the election,” Leahy said. “They’re not willing to follow the Constitution, they won’t do their job.” The Alliance for Justice (AFJ) said Congress is on track to have the lowest number of confirmations since the session that ran from 1951 to 1952. Of Obama’s 54 judicial nominees, 25 are waiting action on the Senate floor and 29 are before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judicial Nominee Backlog Still Mired in Partisan Politics (NBC News, 09/18/16)
LUKE RUSSERT and MIKE BRUNKER: There are currently 96 federal judicial vacancies and 58 nominees pending, according to the U.S. Federal Courts.... Already, the Federal Bar Association, the professional organization for private and government lawyers and judges practicing and sitting in federal courts, has stated that "high numbers of vacancies on the federal bench, coupled with increasing caseloads, are creating significant and unprecedented obstacles for the prompt administration of justice in our federal courts."... Sen. Patrick ... Leahy's staff has noted that when he was the Judiciary chairman during the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency, 68 judicial nominees were confirmed by the Senate.

President Obama Weekly Address: It’s Time for Republicans in Congress To Do Their Jobs (The White House, 09/17/16)
"The Republicans who run this Congress aren’t doing their jobs. Well, guess what? Congress recently returned from a seven-week vacation. They’ve only got two weeks left until their next one. But there’s a lot of business they need to get done first.... they have made Merrick Garland, a Supreme Court nominee with more federal judicial experience than any other in history, wait longer than any other in history for the simple courtesy of a hearing, let alone a vote. ... We just need a Congress that works as hard as you do. At the very least, we should expect that they do their jobs – and protect us from disease, help us recover from disaster, keep the Supreme Court above politics, and help our businesses grow and hire."

Guest Column: Time to act on Merrick Garland nomination (Delaware County Daily Times [PA], 09/17/16)
Erica Wilson: "The Supreme Court is being hurt by having only eight justices.... Obstructionist senators would rather use the court as a political chip indeed. Today Sept. 13 will mark 181 Days since President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland. This is a new and very unfortunate record in American history. The longest amount of time that had ever passed for a Supreme Court nominee to reach a floor vote in the Senate. The Senate needs to do its job! Then the Supreme Court can do its job too!"

Congressional Report Details A Starving Judiciary (District Sentinel [DC], 09/16/16)
Sam Sacks: President Obama is staring down mounting judicial vacancies around the country. As a result of Senate obstruction, he will likely be the first executive in nearly two decades to leave office with federal district courts less staffed than when he was sworn in. There are 673 district judgeships around the nation, and 75 of them are currently vacant. That’s an 83 percent increase from when President Obama took office, when there were only 41 vacancies, according to data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). That’s also a reversal of what happened during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. From the first year to the eighth year of the Clinton administration, district court vacancies declined 55 percent to 42 from 93. Throughout the George W. Bush presidency, vacancies also fell—a 45 percent decrease to 32 from 58.

Texas has a judge problem - not enough on the federal bench (Houston Chronicle, 09/15/16)
Brett Barrouquere: "Texas has a problem with judges - mainly that there aren't enough of them on the federal bench. The state has 12 federal judicial openings, the most in the nation, and only five active judges hearing cases in the Eastern District of Texas. And, it is delaying justice in those cases. All this because of the political gamesmanship and dysfunction in Washington, D.C....The lack of judges prompted the U.S. Judicial Conference, which monitors caseloads and languishing judicial vacancies, to declare judicial emergencies in all four of Texas' judicial divisions. Across those districts, there are a total of 10 trial benches unfilled, and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, there are two Texas seats open. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, both Texas Republicans, hold seats on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which would seem to make it easier to get a judge through the Senate.... Five nominees are pending. But, they need to get full U.S. Senate approval by November if they have any hope of being seated before Obama leaves the White House"

Senate Judiciary Committee Acts on Judge Lucy Koh's 9th Cir. Nomination (Findlaw, 09/15/16)
U.S. Ninth Circuit blog By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq.: "Koh's "strong hand and sharp tongue," as the San Jose Mercury News describes it, has won her plenty of fans, including here at FindLaw and in the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Bring on the Judges [Editorial] (Jewish Exponent [PA], 09/14/16)
"The Republican-led Senate, which had been dragging its feet in considering Obama’s federal court nominees, announced earlier this year that it will not act on any more appointments until the president’s term ends in January. That effectively put Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination as Supreme Court justice in deep freeze and does the same for every other judicial nominee. That makes no sense. There are 96 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 58 nominations pending. It is the Senate’s job to act on those nominations and not to use its constitutional role for political purposes. Each of the nominees deserves a hearing. The Senate should fulfill its mandate to advise and consent."

Learn how state's judicial vacancies impact residents (Sun Sentinel [FL], 09/14/16)
Jan Engoren: According to the Sun Sentinel, more than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida five of 37 district judge slots (14 percent) are unfulfilled. Linda Geller-Schwartz, state policy advocate for the National Council of Jewish Women, said, "Of the six judicial vacancies in the federal courts in Florida, four of them are considered judicial emergencies. One of these positions has been vacant for over two years. Yet, some of our senators seem unconcerned that their failure to hold Judiciary Committee hearings is creating an untenable situation." "They need to be reminded that justice delayed is justice denied," she said.

Bring on the judges [BY WJW EDITORIAL BOARD] (Washington Jewish Week [DC], 09/14/16)
"The Republican-led Senate, which had been dragging its feet in considering Obama’s federal court nominees, announced earlier this year that it will not act on any more appointments until the president’s term ends in January. That effectively put Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination as Supreme Court justice in deep freeze and does the same for every other judicial nominee. That makes no sense. There are 96 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 58 nominations pending. It is the Senate’s job to act on those nominations and not to use its constitutional role for political purposes. Each of the nominees deserves a hearing. The Senate should fulfill its mandate to advise and consent."

Tom Cotton continues two-year blockade of judge confirmations (Arkansas Times, 09/14/16)
Max Brantley: "Sen. Tom Cotton continues to mount a one-man blockade to confirmation of judges to the depleted federal court of claims. Thanks as ever to Glenn Sugameli of Judging the Environment, a judicial nominations project, for the update. Tuesday, Cotton again blocked votes on five nominees twice approved unanimously by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to a court with six vacancies. Cotton said he's not convinced the court needs more hands. Despite the two years of deliberation on these nominations and support from his own party, Cotton characterizes the process as a "rubber stamp" of presidential nominations. With the Senate needing unanimous consent to move a vote, Cotton alone blocked it. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said in a statement: '... Senate Republicans' obstruction playbook leaves no court behind. It spans from the very top, with their complete refusal to give a hearing and a vote to Chief Judge Merrick Garland, to the article III circuit and district courts, to the article I Court of Federal Claims, where citizens go to sue their government. This blockade of all five CFC nominees makes no sense, especially because not a single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee raised a concern about these nominees either during the committee hearings on these nominations 2 years ago or during the Committee debate 2 years ago or last year.' You could say Tom Cotton does not play well with others."

Grassley tries to defend his obstruction [Editorial] (Hawk Eye [Burlington. IA], 09/13/16)
"Again, Sen. Charles Grassley made the bogus claim he’s been making since Justice Antonin Scalia died last February — the American people should get to pick Scalia’s replacement.... The president picks justices to the court. And the president did, when he nominated Merrick Garland.... Grassley, with a straight face, has said repeatedly he wouldn’t play politics on this while at the same time he’s playing politics with this by declaring he won’t hold a hearing on Garland’s fitness for the job. He’s doing the bidding for his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will do whatever it takes to block any initiative of President Barack Obama.... We’ve reported on Grassley’s meetings — including the one with his hand-picked constituents at Great River Medial Center — and his declaration of overwhelming support for his obstruction on this important matter didn’t surface at that meeting.... It matters not how he tries to spin it, Grassley has failed in his responsibility as chairman of the judiciary committee to hold a hearing on Garland’s nomination. The court has suffered because of that. The nation deserves a nine-member court."

Sen. Leahy: Constitution Day: Protecting our democracy (Washington Times, 09/13/16)
Sen. Patrick Leahy: "partisan obstruction of a Supreme Court nomination is not only unprecedented but it is contrary to the constitutional design of the Framers. Senate Republicans’ shutdown of any consideration of the Supreme Court nominee diminishes both of the other co-equal branches of government. It imposes a novel time limit on one of the most important constitutional roles of our president. And it diminishes the role that our highest court can play while it operates with a long-standing vacancy.... In 2010, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Chief Judge Garland would be “a consensus nominee” and there was “no question” he could be confirmed to the Supreme Court.... There is still time for the Senate to correct its course and consider Chief Judge Garland’s nomination. There should not be an empty seat on the bench when the Supreme Court convenes on the first Monday in October. If there is, it will represent the disrespect that Senate Republicans have not only for the president’s powers under the Constitution but for the independent judiciary that the Constitution created."

Garland snub just the tip of judicial obstruction iceberg (The Hill, 09/12/16)
Brielle Green: "Across the nation, dozens of judicial seats remain vacant. After Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2014 election, the confirmation process came to a screeching halt. Since then, only 22 nominees have been confirmed, leaving a record 90 judicial vacancies....By refusing to act, senators are creating a judicial crisis by actively refusing to do their job. Many of these vacancies are considered judicial emergencies, causing overloaded dockets and delaying justice for many. ... nominees are supported by their home state senators, both Democrats and Republicans.... our nation’s empty courts will continuously flood with cases that may not be heard until senators do their jobs."

Federal judge retirements surge, next president to remake courts (Examiner, 09/12/16)
Paul Bedard column: "The next president won't just have a chance to pack the U.S. Supreme Court, but also lower circuit and district courts as judges take retirement at a record rate. At a rate of more than one a week, federal circuit and district judges are quitting full-time work and going on "senior status," which creates a bench vacancy .... , the number of judges taking "senior status" in the last year has surged more than at any time over the past three decades. The Brookings Institution said that 56 district and circuit judges have left this year, compared with 38 in former President George W. Bush's last year, and at least eight more have signaled their plans to semi-retire.... the next president will be given a chance to remake the court system by filling 115 lower court vacancies, 14 percent of all district and circuit judgeships, Brookings said. According to court analysts, the judges the next president will appoint will remake the court for the coming 40 years, including the Supreme Court."

Why Texas Has a Serious Judicial Vacancy Problem (Texas Lawyer, 09/12/16)
John Council: With 12 federal judicial vacancies, Texas has more empty benches than anywhere else in the country. It's becoming a serious problem, especially in venues such as the Eastern District of Texas, which is home to the nation's busiest patent docket. Down from eight active judges to just five, the Eastern District's docket has now ballooned to 1,261 weighted cases per court, the highest in the nation. The dearth of federal judges in the Lone Star State has not gone unnoticed by the U.S. Judicial Conference, which monitors caseloads and languishing judicial vacancies. It has declared judicial emergencies in all four of Texas' judicial divisions, where a total of 10 trial benches are unfilled, and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where two Texas seats are open.

The president, the Constitution and the Supreme Court (Washington Times, 09/12/16)
Elizabeth B. Wydra: "(Of course, the third branch of government needs to play its constitutional role too — hopefully, the current unprecedented and irresponsible blockade by Senate Republicans of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland, will not be a recurring theme in our constitutional narrative.)"

Op-Ed California's notoriously liberal ‘9th Circus' court of appeals is growing more centrist (Los Angeles Times, 09/11/16)
Ben Feuer: "The court’s reputation for leftist judicial activism is so legendary that conservative groups mount perennial efforts to split up the 44-judge court .... Obama’s appointees have been less predictably left-leaning in their judgments, particularly on criminal matters. Nearly 60% of Obama’s 9th Circuit appointees are former criminal prosecutors (a percentage that will increase if Lucy Koh, nominated in February, is confirmed).... Obama’s appointees are arriving at some conservative outcomes. Former prosecutor Jacqueline Nguyen, for example, wrote an opinion approving Royal Dutch Shell’s oil-drilling plan off the coast of Alaska against a challenge by environmental groups under the Endangered Species Act, and over a dissent from Carter appointee Dorothy Nelson. Nguyen also dissented in another case to say that a police officer might reasonably have used his Taser on the neighbor who was 40 feet away from an arrest taking place. Likewise, Mary Murguia, another former prosecutor, joined two Republican-appointed judges in holding that cancer-causing diesel exhaust doesn’t qualify as the kind of health-endangering “hazardous waste” that would allow citizens to sue a polluting rail yard. Yet another former prosecutor, Paul Watford, who is frequently mentioned for a Supreme Court seat, dissented from a decision favoring a capital punishment prisoner. Even though he didn’t like the result, he said, Watford concluded binding precedent meant the inmate filed his death penalty challenge too late.... Yes, it still has more of its rulings overturned by the Supreme Court than other circuit courts, but that isn’t because of an extreme political bent; rather, it’s because of the large number of cases the court hears and the willingness of states within its jurisdiction to experiment with novel laws. ... Ultimately, because the 9th Circuit has grown more centrist, it’s the next president’s picks that could have an outsized effect."

Eye on Boise: Senators spar over judge confirmations (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 09/10/16)
Betsy Z. Russell: "Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., asked unanimous consent that the Senate immediately vote on all 20 pending nominees – including Nye – with no further debate. She said that with the Senate’s failure to act on a big backlog of federal court judge nominees, “Justice is being severely delayed in these jurisdictions.... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., responded with a counterproposal: A “bipartisan package of four.” McConnell said he’d support allowing a vote on one district court nominee from California, two from Pennsylvania, and one from Utah. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., objected, noting that the proposal would pass over the first two nominees on the list – the two who have been waiting the longest, and the only two African-Americans among the first 15 on the list. “That to me is unacceptable,” he said. “The perception alone should be problematic to all of us in this body.” Nye is No. 18 on that list of 20 nominees awaiting full Senate votes. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week held hearings on five more district court nominees from Texas. Idaho has been down to just one active federal district judge since July 3, 2015, when longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge took senior status."

Editorial: Stone-walling of Garland nomination dereliction of duty (Citizens Voice [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 09/09/16)
"The Senate Republican leadership’s legacy, as the congressional session winds down, is already clear. It is one of blind obstruction rather than achievement, as emphasized Thursday by Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland’s visit to Capitol Hill. Garland is the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, widely regarded as the nation’s second most important appellate court, behind only the Supreme Court itself. He ascended to that position after being confirmed in 1997. The 23 Republican senators who voted against him at that time did not question his qualifications; they did not want to fill the seat to reduce the size of the court. Though a centrist and highly qualified, Garland is the nominee to wait the longest for a confirmation hearing in U.S. history.... The ongoing stone-walling of the Garland nomination is an absurd dereliction of the duty to govern."

Legacy: blind obstruction [Editorial] (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 09/09/16)
"The Senate Republican leadership’s legacy, as the congressional session winds down, is already clear. It is one of blind obstruction rather than achievement, as emphasized Thursday by Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland’s visit to Capitol Hill. Garland is the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, widely regarded as the nation’s second most important appellate court, behind only the Supreme Court itself. He ascended to that position after being confirmed in 1997. The 23 Republican senators who voted against him at that time did not question his qualifications; they did not want to fill the seat to reduce the size of the court. Though a centrist and highly qualified, Garland is the nominee to wait the longest for a confirmation hearing in U.S. history.... The ongoing stone-walling of the Garland nomination is an absurd dereliction of the duty to govern."

What happens when a Muslim judge turns out to be a Methodist? (McClatchy newspapers, 09/09/16)
Hannah Allam: "Interest this week in the first Muslim nominated to the federal bench has drawn attention to another judge facing a tough confirmation battle and whose background has prompted questions over Muslim identity. No sooner had Muslim advocacy groups sent out news releases praising the nomination Tuesday of Washington lawyer Abid Riaz Qureshi than a question arose among U.S. Muslims on social media: What about Judge Abdul Karim Kallon? Kallon left his birthplace of Sierra Leone when he was 11 and moved to the United States, where he would go on to graduate from two Ivy League universities, win confirmation for a federal judgeship and then become the first black nominee from Alabama for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Given Kallon’s accomplishments, it’s easy to see why Muslims would be eager to claim him as one of their own. The problem is, he’s Methodist. .... [Former Northern District of Alabama Chief Judge] Clemon recalled calling Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby about supporting Kallon in 2009. “He said, ‘Can’t you get him to change his name?’ ” Clemon recalled. Shelby and fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions ended up pushing through Kallon’s confirmation for a district seat. That support appears to have dried up, however, since Obama nominated Kallon for a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Atlanta-based court that considers cases from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. When asked for comment, spokespeople for both senators provided only a joint statement saying they’d withhold approval from any Obama nominee."

Mitch McConnell Tried Skipping Over the Two Longest-Waiting Judicial Nominees. They’re Both Black Men. (Medium, 09/09/16)
The Leadership Conference: "Senate Democrats took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to ask for votes on noncontroversial pending judicial nominees. With 90 current vacancies on the federal judiciary — and 32 judicial emergencies — Democrats were asking for something to help alleviate a judicial vacancy crisis manufactured by the Republican leadership’s obstruction. But they were also asking for something that could have been done in just minutes.... Sen. Cory Booker, D. N.J., was there to wonder why McConnell had skipped the next two nominees in line. One of them was Julien Neals of New Jersey who was nominated in February 2015 and who’s been waiting for a vote on the Senate floor for more than 10 months. The other was Edward Stanton III of Tennessee, who was nominated in May 2015 and whose nomination also has been waiting for more than 10 months on the Senate floor. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, both Republicans, wanted Stanton confirmed last year."

Sen. Casey: Stop the Obstruction and Do Your Job (Medium, 09/09/16)
"In May, I walked onto the Senate floor and made a motion to confirm all judicial nominees for federal district court seats pending before the full Senate, including two from Pennsylvania. I felt compelled to take action since the pace of judicial confirmations has slowed to a trickle while the number of judicial vacancies has skyrocketed since Republicans took over the majority in 2014. Despite the fact that the Senate has confirmed just 22 judges so far this Congress, compared to the 68 the Democrat-controlled Senate confirmed in the final two years of the Bush administration, and despite the fact that judicial vacancies have increased more than 100 percent in the last two years, the Majority Leader quickly shot down my motion.... Senate Democrats have gone to the floor to make over 20 confirmation motions for district court nominees, including 5 just this week. ... Pennsylvania currently has four pending district court nominees, all distinguished judges nominated with bipartisan support from my colleague Senator Toomey. Two of these nominees, Susan Baxter and Marilyn Horan, passed out of the Judiciary Committee with unanimous support and are now among the 18 district court nominees, all vetted and deemed fit by the Judiciary Committee, awaiting full-Senate confirmation votes. Pennsylvania’s other two excellent district court nominees, John Younge and Robert Colville, have inexplicably been blocked from even getting a committee vote, despite their obvious qualification for the federal bench. There is simply no legitimate reason to block any of these nominees. Unfortunately, the district court is not the only place Senate Republicans are obstructing nominations. It took more than a year for the Senate to confirm the eminently qualified Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to his seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the Senate again has before it an excellent nominee to that court, Rebecca Haywood, who deserves prompt consideration and a vote. She was nominated almost six months ago, yet Republican leadership has not taken a single step toward considering her nomination."

The Media Should Not Give Republicans A Pass On Unprecedented Obstruction Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees (Media Matters for America, 09/08/16)
Senate Republicans are engaging in unprecedented obstruction, which includes a historic blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and exceptional obstruction of judicial nominations to district and circuit courts. Media should point out that Republican senators cannot credibly use the fact that is an election year as an excuse not to move forward with confirmations.

It Took 228 Years For An American President To Nominate A Muslim For The Federal Bench (Think Progress, 09/07/16)
Ian Millhiser: "Obama made diversity a high priority in his judicial nominations throughout his presidency.... Qureshi is the first Muslim attorney nominated to the federal bench in a nation where Muslims make up about 1 percent of the total population. Moreover, while Qureshi’s nomination is historic, there is no guarantee that he will be confirmed. ... Judicial confirmations slowed to a crawl the moment Republicans regained the Senate last year."

It’s not too late for the U.S. Senate to do its job (NC Policy Watch, 09/07/16)
Rob Schofield: "The facts of the Merrick Garland nomination still demand action (and indicate that it may still be possible) ... whether its September/October or November/December, the facts on the ground are making it more and more likely that Garland will, in fact, be confirmed. Let’s hope and keep pushing for the former time frame,"

Schrodinger's Supreme Court (Atlantic, 09/06/16)
Garrett Epps: "Senate Republicans have made it clear there won’t be a ninth justice until they know whether their party will hold the White House. President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, a moderate centrist respected by everybody (except perhaps Wayne LaPierre), to replace the late Antonin Scalia"

John Cornyn and Ted Cruz’s Texas: A State of Judicial Emergency (Justice Watch, 09/06/16)
"For years, they’ve systematically delayed and obstructed filling federal judicial vacancies in Texas, including on federal trial courts and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals .... the epicenter of this growing problem is Cornyn and Cruz’s home state of Texas, which continues to have far more vacancies and judicial emergencies than any other state in the country.... Texas wouldn’t have enough judges even if every bench were filled. According to the Judicial Conference of the United States—headed by Chief Justice John Roberts—Texas needs at least nine new judgeships to meet its growing federal caseload .... As Judges Davis and Martinez explained in their requests for a faster nomination process, judicial vacancies threaten the fair administration of justice, and undermine the Constitution’s promise of equal justice under law. In Texas, the 12 current judicial vacancies have been without a judge for a combined 25 years."