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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Jeff Sessions dissed Hawaii as 'an island in the pacific.' Hawaii is not amused (PennLive [PA], 04/21/17)
John L. Micek column: being America's Attorney General is a demanding gig, requiring a mastery of the law, an understanding of the intricacies of politics and the ability to skillfully navigate the halls of power. But one of the things it does not require, apparently, is an understanding of basic American geography. Thus has current AG Jeff Sessions found himself in hot water over some intemperate remarks about America's 50th state .... Sessions was talking about the second of the Trump administration's thwarted travel bans, which U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii blocked,... it's not surprising to learn that its residents and elected leaders were pretty aggrieved by Sessions' dismissal.

Letter: Gorsuch was confirmed by a shabby political maneuver Republicans will regret (, 04/21/17)
Milton Weiss: Judge Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed ... the seat he is filling is not "the Scalia seat" but the one stolen by Republicans from its rightful occupant, Judge Merrick Garland. Through a shameful political maneuver, President Obama's nominee was not even given the courtesy of a Senate hearing, much less a vote. Instead we have Neil Gorsuch, the darling of the right-wing Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers, and other big money corporate interests. ... The shabby Republican political trick of refusing to consider President Obama's nominee for the last year of the Obama presidency, coupled with the nuclear option employed to break the Democratic filibuster will have significant future consequences. ... The day will come when Republicans will regret their clever but reprehensible action in having stonewalled the nomination of Judge Garland and in so doing damaged the reputation and future functioning of the United States Senate.

Commentary, Chris Carlson: Idaho will regret 'nuclear option' (Lewiston Tribune [ID], 04/21/17)
"For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter, we have Idaho's senior U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product, no less, to thank. In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama's nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, one of Crapo's expressed reasons was a perception on his part that Garland was weak on Second Amendment rights. In voting to secure Court of Appeals 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don't see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning. Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second Amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo's case, it is so ironic that he invoked Garland's perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the "nuclear option," which literally shatters Second Amendment protections. All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and, in particular, Western states."

Editorial: Trump needs to break deadlock on WNY judgeship (Buffalo News [NY], 04/20/17)
"The federal court vacancy is especially vexing. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo is the only full-time district judge in Buffalo. There is an enormous backlog of civil cases here, a bad situation .... President Barack Obama’s nomination of Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet for the vacancy sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee last year before being derailed by election year politics in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is sticking with Sweet for the opening, and he has the leverage to block any nominee of President Trump. Senate traditions give senators the power to reject a court nominee from their home state. Schumer could use that “blue slip” veto to block a nominee until Sweet’s name is resubmitted. If Trump refuses to do that, he would either have to negotiate some sort of deal with Schumer or hope the Senate removes the blue slip veto.... The federal judicial caseload here remains overwhelming. The backlog of civil and criminal cases makes this area among the worst in the nation. Because criminal cases receive priority, civil cases continue to get pushed back. On average, it takes five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo.... The unfilled judgeship is different – no one is doing that work, adding to the delays in administering justice. Trump needs to nominate an acceptable candidate as quickly as possible."

McConnell further divided Senate (Missoulian [MT], 04/20/17)
Chuck Aker, Letter to the Editor: I am disappointed in U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell! ... McConnell started this battle when he would not allow the Senate to reject or confirm President Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court. McConnell was more interested in further dividing the Senate, rather than allowing senators to work as statesmen/women. McConnell is not a statesman and his action invoking the nuclear option on April 6 has further created a Senate divided. McConnell has misused his Senate majority power and needs to be replaced.

Letter: Never forget the name Merrick Garland (Santa Cruz Sentinel [CA], 04/19/17)
Ronald T. Beebe: Now we have a Thief Justice, sitting in the stolen Supreme Court seat that should rightly have gone to Merrick Garland. Let us never forget his name, Merrick Garland. As for the new guy, don’t mention his name at all. For the rest of his life always refer to him as the Thief Justice and everyone will know exactly who you are talking about.

Justice Gorsuch and the Failure of the Senate (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/18/17)
Jim Brosnahan, Guest Post: Nothing in what now-Justice Gorsuch testified to or what the ten million dollars in TV ads supporting him said gave the slightest assurance he will uphold the Constitution against this president.... what should be the standards for Supreme Court nominees?... First, being in the habit of applying reasonable doubt about the proper outcome of any matter as the case is first addressed....Second, a talent and love for both induction and deduction. ... Thirdly, an empathetic sense of the effect of a ruling on persons negatively impacted by it. ... Justice Gorsuch struck out on all three of my criteria.

Letter on nuclear option: How it happened (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 04/18/17)
Wayne Powers: After five years of obstruction, including 79 of Obama’s appointments having been blocked, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed the rules of the Senate to require 51 votes instead of 60 for judges to be confirmed, not including Supreme Court justices. Then Justice Antonin Scalia died, ...Immediately McConnell said there was not going to be an Obama Supreme Court nominee brought to the floor for a vote. Reason: He was in the last year of his presidency. Nowhere in the Constitution is this mentioned. Obama nominates Merrick Garland, a judge who had been confirmed by a large, bipartisan margin ... And then President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. Democrats, possibly stinging from the treatment given by the Republicans to Obama’s nominee, did not get on board. So on April 6, McConnell launched the bomb that brought down the “greatest deliberative body in the world.”

Editorial: Don't Shut Out ABA Review (New Jersey Law Journal, 04/17/17)
"Unfortunately the Trump administration has now advised the ABA that it will be breaking from this long-standing practice, and won't be inviting the standing committee to review the qualifications of potential nominees to provide the White House with a rating that flows from the investigation. Although the ABA president has stated that the standing committee will continue to provide its evaluation and rating to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the administration has shut the standing committee out of its process of evaluating prospective nominees. We can only regret this action. It constricts the administration's ability to weigh an evaluation that is offered through the voice of outstanding members of the bar who have engaged in a lengthy, intensive investigation, including interviews of judges, attorneys and others with knowledge of the nominee. The ABA evaluation serves the public, as well as the executive and legislative branches of our government, by giving an assurance that the judicial nominee meets the high qualifications expected of a judge at any level of the federal court system."

Gorsuch already trying to blow up the Supreme Court (Daily Kos, 04/17/17)
Joan McCarter: If you watched any of the hearings then you won't be surprised to learn that Gorsuch is as smug, arrogant, and entitled as an associate justice as he was as a nominee. His first case, fittingly, is about worker rights and how much you can screw them and he is just so into it.... "His questions drew pushback from Justice Elena Kagan, who said that position would mark a "revolution," though in a technical area of law."

Gorsuch is the face of the new not-normal (Philadelphia Tribune [PA], 04/17/17)
Rachel Sklar: when things are not normal, you cannot behave as though they are. That is why Senate Democrats were right to filibuster the nomination and reject it

The Third Circuit has 3 open seats. Who should fill them? (CA3blog, 04/17/17)
Matthew Stiegler: First, all three seats need to be filled. ... Second, at least two of the three seats should be filled by women. The Third Circuit has only two active judges who are women, the worst gender imbalance of any circuit in the country. Perpetuating that imbalance is unthinkable. Third, both the Rendell seat and the Fuentes seat should be filled by consensus picks. The precedents here are Judges Greenaway and Vanaskie, both nominated by President Obama with a Democratic-controlled Senate to fill seats that opened during President Bush’s presidency. Both were moderate centrists — Greenaway was a federal criminal prosecutor and corporate counsel who clerked for a Republican-nominated judge, Vanaskie was MDPA chief judge with a decade and a half on the federal bench and was a Scranton commercial litigator before that. And both were over 50 when commissioned — Greenaway 52, Vanaskie 56. Yes, Republicans may have stolen the Rendell and Fuentes seats from Democrats by obstruction .... Democrats may fight to fill the Rendell seat with a moderate Democrat, arguing that Republicans stole the seat by Toomey’s indefensible obstruction of Haywood and citing President Clinton’s compromise nomination of Republican Judge Barry as a precedent. That was my view before .... But if Trump tries to fill all three seats with young conservative partisans? Expect a war.

Warren had good reason to filibuster (Lowell Sun [MA], 04/17/17)
Letter to the editor, William Metcalf: The Democrats first exercised the "nuclear option" because the GOP refused to even consider President Obama's judicial nominees for the U.S. appellate courts. The GOP exercised the "nuclear option" because, while Democrats considered President Trump's Supreme Court nominee they refused to vote in the affirmative for him. The Democrats were willing to vote (if only to reject), while the Republicans were unwilling to hold a vote they couldn't win. The adult thing to do would've been to present an acceptable nominee or practice bipartisan politics as it's been practiced for centuries.

Letter: We have had quite enough of Hatch (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/16/17)
Ryan Hinkins: Hatch's efforts in concert with his party in denying a vote to Judge Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination was nothing short of denying the will of the people. President Barack Obama was elected for a four-year term and was expected to serve all of it, which he did. That included nominating Supreme Court judges.

The Public Pulse: GOP has politicized the Supreme Court (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 04/16/17)
Marylyn Felion: I do not recall any time when Democrats stonewalled a Republican nominee until the Republican president was out of office, thereby stealing a Supreme Court seat. What was done to Merrick Garland was unprecedented and unfair. It may signal the end of securing politically nonpartisan Supreme Court justices. Very sad.

Susan Collins: The Senate moderate who wasn’t (Seacoastonline [Southern ME & NH], 04/16/17)
Column By Douglas Rooks: She saw it differently for Gorsuch; a single nomination was worth abandoning Senate rules. She cited as precedent the 2013 decision by Democrats to end the filibuster for presidential nominees except the Supreme Court, though the situations weren’t comparable. In 2013, Senate Republicans, stunned by Obama’s re-election, filibustered all of his nominees for important posts. ... It’s hard to see what else Democratic Leader Harry Reid could have done, given this wholesale rejectionism. ... She said Judge Gorsuch was mainstream, yet his decisions reflexively favor corporations over employees, even in the case of the trucker fired for driving his big rig out of a snowstorm because he feared freezing, or the Hobby Lobby case, where one corporate CEO’s sensibilities overrode the health care needs of 32,000 employees.

Letter to the Editor by Vincent Miragliotta (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s April 9 op-ed, pleading for the Democrats to cooperate, should be snipped from print copies and tacked to the walls of any political office where interns are to be taught how cleverly crafted hypocrisy, in the presence of enough voter ignorance, can justify otherwise reprehensible behavior.... leave out how you decided that the Senate majority could, nearly a year from an election, dodge its collective responsibility to confirm your opponent’s Supreme Court nominee, for no reason other than “a president of a different party had nominated him.”"

Letter to the editor: Rethink Collins’ suitability as senator after her support for Gorsuch (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/15/17)
Diane Herrle: I was saddened to see Susan Collins choose power and partisan politics over the people of Maine. She voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. This is a judge who ruled to deny a decent education to disabled children. Luckily, his decision was recently struck down by the existing Supreme Court. He has a history of deciding judgments for corporations instead of individuals. This very defective judge will now sit on the court forever because of her choice.

Letter to the Editor by Marijane Hynes (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"Sen. Mitch McConnell’s nauseating op-ed about Democrats needing to work with the Republicans came from the man who said in 2010 that his top priority in government was making Barack Obama a one-term president. ... McConnell will go down in history as one of the major stonewallers of government of our time."

Shame on Democrats? No, shame on McConnell. (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
Larry Sternbane, Letter to the Editor: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in blaming Democrats for the “direct attack on the traditions of the Senate” that led his conference to change Senate rules, conveniently left out the fact that the Senate, under his control, abdicated its constitutional responsibility to advise and consent with regard to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Under Mr. McConnell’s watch, Mr. Garland did not even get the courtesy of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, much less an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate.... This despicable act, to which the Senate Republican Conference acquiesced, was a remarkable showing of disrespect for a sitting president and for Mr. Garland, a well-qualified nominee.

Letter to the Editor by Benjamin Hollander (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"Surely there can be no other reason than that it was then-President Barack Obama making the nomination for Mr. McConnell himself to deny Mr. Garland those same basic considerations he now feels are so important, given Mr. Garland’s long history of bipartisan support in the Senate. Although Mr. McConnell would like to pretend that Mr. Gorsuch’s nomination happened in a vacuum, we must not forget Mr. McConnell’s reprehensible conduct in 2016, when he was presented with a true consensus candidate."

Letter to the Editor by Margaret McKelvey (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"The Senate majority leader’s op-ed was stunning in its hypocrisy, given his treatment of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Even scarier: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) either is blind to his own political behavior and believes what he wrote, or he knows full well that he was being hypocritical but thinks the American people are stupid enough to be taken in."

Letter to the editor: King’s vote against Gorsuch was well-reasoned (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/15/17)
Bruce Bartrug: Sen. King’s public forum concerning the nomination of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, … Over 600 people attended, … Of the 77 persons who spoke at the forum, only 13 supported Gorsuch. In an article in the Press Herald on April 4, Sen. King clearly indicated his reasons for deciding not to vote for Gorsuch. Those reasons included his research into Gorsuch’s judgments, as well as the way Gorsuch responded to questions at his nomination hearing.

Letter to the Editor by Myron Beckenstein (Washington Post, 04/15/17)
"Even if the Democrats planned to filibuster the nomination, it did not follow that the “nuclear option” had to be invoked. That was discretionary. In his op-ed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not mention Judge Merrick Garland, even though Mr. McConnell again stretched the limits of what could be done just to deny Mr. Garland a seat on the Supreme Court. It isn’t fairness Mr. McConnell is seeking; it is partisan supremacy no matter the cost to the nation."

MINI: This is why Democrats opposed Gorsuch (Sioux City Journal [IA], 04/14/17)
Thomas E. Hudek, Letter to the Editor: Democrats opposed Mr. Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court because: 1) It was a stolen seat. Merrick Garland should at least have had an up-or-down vote. 2) Gorsuch has sided with corporations over working-class people 100 percent of the time.

Letter: Nothing flawless about Gorsuch process (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 04/14/17)
Sue Griswold: millions of us will recall that this nomination was stolen from our last president and given to the present White House occupant, while that occupant and his staff remain under FBI investigation for contacts with Russia. Yes, Sen. Grassley looks to have some of the flawless skills of a consigliere to a major crime family.

Opinion How Mitch McConnell stole a Supreme Court seat (Los Angeles Times, 04/14/17)
Dave Hoen, Letter to the Editor: Isn’t it ironic that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) single handedly decided who should serve on the Supreme Court by blocking Merrick Garland from being considered after he was nominated in 2016 by President Obama and then invoking the nuclear option to confirm Neil Gorsuch, all in an effort to replace the strict constructionist Antonin Scalia with another strict constructionist, Gorsuch?

Why Opposing Trump Isn't Like the GOP Obstructing Obama: The political press won't stop gaslighting anti-Trump Democrats and progressives (Rolling Stone, 04/14/17)
Joshua Holland: In the 230-year period between the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and Barack Obama's election, opposition parties blocked a grand total of 68 presidential nominees. In the three years and 10 months between Obama's inauguration and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to eliminate the filibuster for lower court nominees, Republicans had blocked 79 of them – that's 54 percent of the historic total in just under four years. ... Mitch McConnell, moved to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees after the Democrats filibustered Donald Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch, who had come off as aloof and unresponsive during his confirmation hearings and offered no reason for refusing to meet with two (women) Democratic senators. ... Obama's nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland, is the only candidate in the history of the United States to be denied a hearing by the opposition. ... Democrats and progressives are outraged that Republicans effectively stole a seat that might have shifted the Court's ideological balance to the left for the first time since 1971. But the both-sides-do-it reporting we've seen makes their fury seem illogical, a simple case of sour grapes.

Jeff Flake Probably Regrets Hosting This Town Hall: He took serious heat for healthcare and boxing out Merrick Garland. (Esquire, 04/14/17)
Jack Holmes: Flake also touched on the issue of Supreme Court nominations. How'd that go? "What happened to Merrick Garland's vote?!" Jeff Flake's constituents overwhelm him w/ boos over Gorsuch talk —via @Morning_Joe — Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 14, 2017 While the tactic Republicans used to deny Merrick Garland a confirmation vote for nearly a year might not have been a filibuster, the effect was the same—and it was unprecedented. Flake's smile while trotting out this excuse betrays the fact that he knows this as well as anyone. The cynicism that now dominates Beltway politics—particularly among Mitch McConnell and his caucus—is really breathtaking.

Letter attacking Kaine, Warner the height of hypocrisy (News Virginian [Waynesboro, VA], 04/14/17)
William D. Trent, Letter to the Editor: Republicans in the Senate “failed their mission” by refusing to even hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, last year. In fact, they didn’t just fail their mission to the citizens they represent. They failed their mission — failed their solemn oath, even — to do the job mandated of senators by the U.S. Constitution.