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Tuesday’s Mini-Report, 1.12.16 (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 01/12/16)
Steve Benen: "Luis Felipe Restrepo’s judicial nomination was delayed for 425 days. He was confirmed yesterday by a vote of 82 to 6. If Restrepo faced so little opposition, why was his nomination delayed for such a ridiculously long time? Because Senate Republicans too often like playing reckless games."

Anti-immigrant fervor drives Georgia GOP batty (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 01/08/16)
Jay Bookman: "Judge Dax Lopez is by almost all accounts a conservative Republican, appointed to the DeKalb bench by a conservative governor. Before joining the judiciary he worked in Republican causes, and is a member of the Federalist Society .... Yet at the behest of people such as Phil Kent, a man with a long history of racist writings, and D.A. King, a well-known anti-immigrant extremist, the nomination of Lopez as a federal judge is being blocked. U.S. senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue have refused to allow the Lopez nomination to be considered by their Senate colleagues ... (UPDATE: Isakson at least is now signaling openness to the nomination.)"

Letter: Did Grassley, Senate really get to work? (Daily Globe [MN], 01/07/16)
Glenn Sugameli: "Justice delayed from lack of judges is justice denied for people and businesses in Iowa, Minnesota and throughout the nation. In each of President George W. Bush’s final two years, a Democratic Senate confirmed all his judicial nominees pending on the executive calendar in December. In contrast, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) unjustifiably delayed 14 lifetime and five other judicial nominees awaiting December Floor votes, even though Minnesota, Iowa and all other nominees were approved on Judiciary Committee voice votes. All seven home-state Republican senators (including Sens. Grassley and Joni Ernst) recommended their nominees and urged their prompt approval."

Filling Federal Court Vacancies in a Presidential Election Year (U. RICH. L. REV., 01/07/16)
by Prof. Carl Tobias

Letter to the editor – Glenn Sugameli (Greene County News [IA], 01/07/16)
"U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)’s Opinion Column: Review of 2015 — Senate goes to work (Dec. 31) cites the fact that lawmakers “considered nominations” to support his claim that the “Senate succeeded in breathing life back into the world’s greatest deliberative body.” In his role as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, however, Sen. Grassley must know that the Senate spectacularly failed its advise and consent constitutional duty to not only “consider nominations,” but to vote on them. In 2015, the Senate only voted on 11 federal judges, all of whom were confirmed (the fewest since 1960). Vacancies have increased more than 50 percent in one year while those the U.S. Courts declared to be judicial emergencies soared from 12 to 32."

Confirm Restrepo, other nominees promptly (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 01/06/16)
Philadelphia Bar Association leaders letter: "More than a year ago, President Obama nominated U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Although he is eminently qualified, Restrepo's nomination has hung in limbo while the Senate delayed scheduling a confirmation vote.... This delay, however, exemplifies a serious crisis in our federal court system. Dozens of judicial nominations have been delayed due solely to Senate politics. A diminished judiciary deprives parties of their day in court, reduces the quality of our justice system, and erodes public confidence. Pennsylvania is among the hardest-hit states. Four other nominees have been awaiting confirmation since July ... Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Robert Casey Jr. have praised the qualifications of all of them. We call on the Senate to expedite the confirmation process for all judicial nominees and deliver access to justice for all."

EDITORIAL: Logjam in the U.S. Senate: In a familiar election-year ritual, nominations to top jobs can’t get a confirmation vote (Washington Times, 01/05/16)
"If you have been nominated by the president for a federal judgeship, a top job in the executive branch or a government job related to finance and banking, you shouldn’t quit the job you have now. There’s a backlog of nominees waiting for confirmation votes, and there won’t be many of those in the new year."

Forum editorial: Still no nominee for circuit (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead [ND], 01/05/16)
"Judge Kermit Bye of Fargo announced more than a year ago he would take senior status on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. He did so early in 2015. Yet, there still is no nominee to fill his position. ... The process is taking longer than it should.... In the 125-year history of North Dakota, no woman has served as judge on the federal district court or federal circuit court. ... The bar has changed a lot during that time. ... North Dakota, the senators and the president could make history by speeding the nomination of a qualified woman."

Still vacant after all these years (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/05/16)
Sharon McCloskey: "Near the end of 2005, U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard stepped down from his seat on the federal bench in eastern North Carolina .... in 2009 the senators threw their support behind federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker.... But once President Obama nominated her in 2013, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr — who for years took his senate colleagues to task for holding up judicial nominations — inexplicably blocked the nomination .... Plenty of seats elsewhere have been filled, and the number of district court openings deemed a “judicial emergency” is now 32. All of the seats have been open for only a year or two — except for Howard’s."

Puzzling stall of federal judgeship nomination in Georgia (Atlanta Injury Law Blog, 01/04/16)
Ken Shigley [Past GA Bar President]: "Dax Lopez is a judge of the State Court of DeKalb County, nominated by lame-duck President Obama to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. District court in Atlanta, as an apparent bipartisan compromise to fill the seat with Republican approval. Surprisingly for an Obama nominee, Judge Lopez is a conservative Republican, a longtime member of the conservative Federalist Society, and a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute which is the forerunner of the current Republican Leadership for Georgia program. He was initially appointed as a judge by conservative Republican Governor Sonny Perdue, cousin of US Senator David Perdue. He is also Hispanic .... Judge Lopez is a good judge worthy of a promotion. As a conservative Republican and member of the Federalist Society, he was a surprising choice for the current administration. He would have seemed a more likely choice for a Cruz or Rubio administration if either of them were to win next November."

Judicial Confirmations in 2016: The Myth of the Thurmond Rule (Justice Watch, 01/04/16)
Kyle Barry: "The Thurmond Rule is not real. It is a myth, a figment of the partisan imagination invoked to give an air of legitimacy to a strategy—blocking even the most noncontroversial of judicial nominees—that is pure obstruction.... Going back to Reagan, the Senate has confirmed an average of 16 judges in the second half of presidential election years, and in 2008 the Democratic Senate confirmed 22 judges in the last seven months of the George W. Bush administration, including 10 district court judges in September. It is telling that these numbers well exceed the 11 confirmed in all of 2015, when the Senate was supposedly operating under “regular order.”... All this historical data was perhaps best summed up by Chuck Grassley himself, who in 2008 spoke at a hearing dedicated to arguing that the Thurmond Rule does not exist: “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term,” and the Thurmond Rule, Grassley said, is “plain bunk.”"

Justice denied in Texas (Dallas Morning News, 01/01/16)
Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: "This editorial is correct when it states that “U.S. senators have a long tradition of delaying confirmations of judges.” Nowhere is that tradition more longstanding or damaging than in Texas, which is ground zero for the “confirmation wars.” Texas now has two lengthy 5th Circuit vacancies and seven protracted district court vacancies, eight of which the U.S. courts designate as “judicial emergencies,” because of their prolonged nature or the courts’ huge dockets. None of the nine Texas vacancies has a nominee due in large measure to the failure of GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to suggest well-qualified, consensus candidates for White House consideration and nomination. The senators’ lack of cooperation means that justice delayed is justice denied for businesses and individuals who litigate in Texas federal courts."

Grassley Playing Politics With Federal Judge Confirmations (Blog for Iowa, 12/31/15)
Trish Nelson: "Sign the petition from CREDO and Daily Kos to Republican Senators: Stop playing politics and get federal judges confirmed."

How Conservative Does A Latino Need To Be? (Peach Pundit [GA], 12/30/15)
Mike Hassinger, Peach Pundit Deputy Editor: "DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez’s nomination to the federal bench is being held up, according to Daniel Malloy in the AJC, because US Senator David Perdue, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, believes that the opinions of convicted felon DA King and professional huckster Phil Kent carry more weight than those of genuine, long-time conservatives. Lopez, by all accounts a sharp attorney with a fine legal mind, once sat on the Board of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, an organization that doesn’t support rounding up all illegal immigrants and sending them home. While GALEO has opposed immigration restrictions and advocated for a path to citizenship, Lopez “abstained from GALEO’s policy votes and fundraising,” and resigned entirely once he was nominated to the federal bench....Lopez would be a great asset to the federal court. He’s exactly the kind of conservative Georgians should want to become federal judges."

Chairman Grassley oversees "worst year for judicial confirmations in over half a century" (Bleeding Heartland, 12/30/15)
"Two nominees for judicial vacancies in Iowa are among 14 "consensus" nominees whose confirmations did not come up on the Senate floor before the winter recess, contrary to what was once "routine practice" in the Senate. People for the American Way pointed out in a November 9 blog post that even though Grassley "promised to process [judicial] nominees in the order he received them," he "leapfrogged" Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, whom President Barack Obama nominated in mid-September, "over ten longer-waiting district court nominees." Ebinger would fill a vacancy in Iowa’s Southern District, which is not a judicial emergency. Most of the non-controversial nominees left hanging until the new year would alleviate judicial emergencies"

Fix our broken country (Arizona Range News, 12/30/15)
Kathy Robbins: "Did you know that there are judicial emergencies all over this country and that the republican majority in the Senate ignores justice for all by slow-walking judicial nominations to deal with these emergencies? They are doing that because they don’t want we the people to seek justice in our courts."

One Of The Biggest Losers Of 2015 Was An Entire Branch Of Government: Federal courts got screwed by Senate Republicans. (Huffington Post, 12/30/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "The Senate only confirmed 11 federal judges this year -- the lowest number in more than half a century. At the same time, court vacancies jumped from 42 to 66, and the number of courts with "judicial emergencies," where judges face staggering, unmanageable caseloads, more than doubled.... The Senate adjourned in December without confirming 19 judicial nominees who were ready for a vote. None are controversial; they all cleared the Judiciary Committee without opposition. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pushed them into next year to drag out the process. It's hurting the court system -- and the people it serves. Civil cases are being delayed for years at a time. Judges are burning out trying to keep up. Semi-retired judges are pulling full-time hours to help keep their courts from collapsing under their own weight. The Senate is effectively strangling parts of the judicial system.... There's also the paradox of Republican senators blocking their GOP colleagues' nominees just to spite Obama."

Opinion | The grinch who stole the federal courts (Courier-Journal [KY] , 12/30/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "In mid-December, as the Senate hurtled toward the intersession recess, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, played the Grinch who stole the federal courts’ Christmas. McConnell refused to allow yes or no final votes before the recess for any of 19 well-qualified, consensus judicial nominees, all of whom the Judiciary Committee approved without dissent .... McConnell’s inactivity means that 14 nominees must wait at least until Feb. 22 for consideration. Moreover, the federal courts will experience 75 vacancies, 31 of which are “judicial emergencies” due to their protracted length or huge caseloads, by the Jan. 11 date when the Senate will return.... The notion that the new GOP Senate majority’s pledge to reinstitute chamber regular order mandated delaying all 19 nominees’ consideration is absurd, especially because the Senate had consistently voted on packages of nominees ahead of prolonged recesses, most recently and relevantly in the Bush Administration."

A Call for Additional Federal Judges (The Docket [Denver, CO Bar Association], 12/28/15)
Sean R. Gallagher and James M. Lyons: "31 years later, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado is still only allocated seven active Article III judges. The time has come for Congress to create and fund two new Article III judges for the District of Colorado."

Everything You Need To Know About How Republicans Are Running The Senate, In One Number (Think Progress, 12/27/15)
Ian Millhiser: "If you want to understand how the Senate has functioned since Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took over as Senate Majority Leader last January, the number 11 offers a clear window into McConnell’s entire philosophy of governance — or perhaps, non-governance. According to the Federal Judicial Center, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 11 judges this year. That compares to 40 during President George W. Bush’s seventh year in office, 34 during President Bill Clinton’s seventh year, and 44 at this point in Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Notably, all three of these presidents also spent their seventh year during a period of divided government when the opposite party controlled the Senate, and yet judicial confirmations only slowed to their current crawl under Majority Leader McConnell....the Senate confirmed 6 appellate judges during Bush’s seventh year in office, 7 during Clinton’s seventh year and 10 under Reagan."

EDITORIAL: Cecil’s revenge: A tragic killing puts lions on the endangered list (Pitt News [PA] , 12/26/15)
"Cecil, the majestic lion shot and killed by a Minnesota dentist in Zimbabwe, was a senseless statistic in the war on Africa’s kings of the jungle. But good has come from the tragedy — amplified concern for these beautiful animals and the importance of added legal protection. To that end, the Obama administration on Monday placed lions in central and western Africa on the endangered species list."

EDITORIAL: The better days of the California condor (San Diego Union-Tribune [CA] , 12/25/15)
"A species doesn’t get much closer to extinction than did the California condor. There were just 22 of these birds in the world in 1983 .... Today, there are more than 420 California condors ... This bird with a scraggly head and a 9-foot wingspan remains endangered. But it is flying higher today than at an time in 30 years."

Vote on Nominee: Letter to the Editor on Judicial Confirmation (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 12/25/15)
Eric Marsh: "It has been more than a year since President Obama nominated federal Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., both recommend his nomination. One of the most important components of a senator’s role is to give advice and consent on federal judicial nominees. Across the country, due in large part to a concerted effort by Senate Republicans to stall nominations of qualified judges, we are in the midst of a federal court vacancy crisis. Reports suggest that Toomey obstructed the nomination hearing while commenting publicly about what a fantastic nominee Restrepo is. This is politics at its worst."

Editorial Hope for the threatened African lion (Los Angeles Times, 12/23/15)
"After two decades of dramatic decline, African lions are finally getting the status that they, sadly, deserve. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that it would list one subspecies of lion as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act and another subspecies — of which only 900 remain in Africa — as "endangered," meaning it is at risk of extinction. The tough new regulations are a welcome move to protect these extraordinary animals, which find themselves under tremendous environmental strain.... Animal welfare groups petitioned the U.S. government to list the animals nearly five years ago."

Editorial: GOP field loses serious candidate: LINDSEY GRAHAM (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 12/23/15)
"The editorial pages of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal agree. Both lament the withdrawal of Lindsey Graham from the GOP’s presidential sweepstakes. The South Carolina senator ranked among the outstanding candidates in the field.... He voted to confirm Obama nominations to the Supreme Court because he believes elections have consequences and presidents deserve deference in judicial selections. Ideologues believe Graham’s standards apply to Republican presidents but not to Democrats."

Toomey plays politics on judicial appointments: Whatever Toomey has accomplished on judges, his work is not over. (York Daily Record [PA], 12/23/15)
Christine Stone letter to the editor: "Sen. Pat Toomey’s defense of his record on judicial appointments (“Bipartisan cooperation on judicial appointments”) fails to tell the full story. ... Toomey trumpets Third Circuit nominee Judge Restrepo, but it will take Restrepo more than a year to be confirmed (a vote is scheduled for Jan. 11). It was Toomey who allowed Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to delay Restrepo’s confirmation hearing for seven months, and it was Toomey who then allowed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay Restrepo’s floor vote for another six months. ... He makes no mention of another Third Circuit vacancy, the seat formerly held by Judge Marjorie Rendell, that’s already been empty more than 150 days without a nominee. With a year left in office, there is plenty of time for President Obama to appoint Judge Rendell’s replacement. In 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, Bush nominated a Fourth Circuit judge in March who was confirmed in May. Toomey should be working with Sen. Casey and the White House to promptly name a nominee for this important vacancy, and then make sure the nominee receives fair consideration in the Senate. After the delays endured by Judge Restrepo, it’s the least he can do."

Editorial: Graham’s parting triumph (Post and Courier [SC], 12/22/15)
"Sen. Graham has consistently bucked the bitter divisiveness that perpetuates Washington gridlock. He reached across the aisle to forge a senatorial accord breaking the impasse on judicial confirmations, which has been a thorny challenge for presidents of both parties."a

With Grassley's help, two Iowa federal judge nominees leapfrog Nebraska's (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 12/21/15)
Joseph Morton: "Nebraska’s legal community had hoped to see Omaha attorney Robert Rossiter Jr. confirmed as the state’s next federal judge by the end of this year. Instead, Rossiter will be cooling his heels at least a few more months after a couple of Iowa nominees cut in front of him.... Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was blunt when asked why two pending nominations from his home state had been bumped up the calendar. “Because I’m chairman of the committee,” Grassley said, referring to his position as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.... Grassley said he asked McConnell to get the two Iowa nominations scheduled in the next batch. Judicial nominations have become a political football in the Senate, and it’s common for the process to drag on for months — even when a nominee is not controversial. So far this year the Senate has confirmed 11 judges. So when a nominee such as Rossiter loses his place in line, it can mean a significant delay in filling a court vacancy. ... Grassley acknowledged that he had heard from Nebraska’s senators, both of whom have pushed for Rossiter’s approval. “I’ve been hearing from them for six weeks, maybe two months,” Grassley said....[Sen.] Fischer has repeatedly called for a speedy confirmation, saying Nebraska has a “small bench and a full docket.”... The situation will probably become even more dire in October, when Bataillon becomes president of the state bar association and is expected to cut down on his caseload. Fischer told The World-Herald last week that she was disappointed in the news that Rossiter was bypassed but showed little desire to criticize Grassley. “We’ll get it done,” she said. “Everybody runs their committee differently.” Grassley noted that home-state favoritism in moving nominations is nothing new. He said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., acted similarly when he was running the committee. Grassley also had a simple answer when asked what he would say to Nebraskans waiting for their judge. “That they’ll get him soon after the Iowa judges are approved,” Grassley said."

USA TODAY Editorial Board: Farewell, Lindsey Graham: Editorial: South Carolina senator has a talent for telling the truth (USA Today, 12/21/15)
"Graham’s conservative without being a rigid ideologue. He voted for both of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees on the grounds that “elections have consequences,”"

Editorial: Another legal attack on the Chesapeake (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 12/21/15)
"The American Farm Bureau is once again appealing—this time to the U.S. Supreme Court—a lower court’s decision upholding the EPA’s authority to establish and enforce its plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.... The groups’ arguments have previously been rejected both by U.S. District Court and, unanimously, by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.... These repeated court appeals have failed because the EPA is pursuing its role as stipulated by the Clean Water Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972.... Reagan took the EPA and its role in cleaning up the bay very seriously....Now, in an unwelcome case of déjà vu, come the court filings of 92 Republican congressmen and 22 attorneys general—all but two of them Republican—siding with the Farm Bureau in the case. ... The Supreme Court is expected to decide early next year whether it will take the case. A decision to let the lower court’s ruling stand—sending the petitioners home for good—would be welcome news indeed."