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Tom Cotton saying no (again)  (Arkansas Times, 09/22/16)
"Just say no: Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is keeping up his one-man blockade of five judges to fill vacant seats on the Court of Federal Claims, the venue for citizens to file claims against the U.S. government for matters such as tax disputes and government contracts. The nominees have been held up for two years, despite the fact that the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee has twice approved them unanimously. The chief judge of the claims court has said it badly needs the vacancies filled. But Cotton, who again last week blocked a vote on the confirmation, is interested in obstruction for obstruction's sake. At the moment, the court contains eight Republican appointees and three Democrats, and adding President Obama's five nominees would even the balance. Cotton insists the court's caseload doesn't warrant filling the vacancies."

Comment | Promise of regular order in Senate (Courier-Journal [KY] , 09/22/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "It is past time for the GOP-led chamber to fulfill its constitutional duty for advising and consenting on President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees. Once Republicans captured a Senate majority, the leaders promised they would implement regular order ... Notwithstanding President Obama’s aggressive consultation with all home-state senators to pursue suggestions of well-qualified, consensus nominees, many Republicans have not collaborated to recommend names. The Judiciary Committee has also conducted hearings for rather few nominees ... McConnell has dramatically stalled the pace of final debates, if warranted, and chamber ballots. Indeed, the Senate has confirmed merely 20 circuit and district nominees, averaging one a month since Republicans became the majority. This markedly contrasts to the 68 judges whom the Democratic chamber majority helped approve in President George W. Bush’s final two years. The number of vacancies has more than doubled from 40 to 89, while the number of emergencies has soared from 12 to as high as 35, the current number. There are presently three circuit nominees and 19 district nominees waiting for yes or no votes. The Judiciary Committee reported all of the district nominees with no dissent, and Republican home-state senators recommended 11 of the 19 nominees. Delayed confirmations have many deleterious effects. ... Before Obama’s presidency, the custom was to approve every qualified, moderate nominee on the floor before recesses like the one that begins in early October. The closest comparison to the present situation is September 2008 when the Democratic Senate Majority conducted hearings on and confirmed 10 Bush district nominees in that month. The GOP leaders can start rectifying the vacancy crisis and restoring regular order by according all nominees on the floor votes before leaving to campaign."

SCOTUS for law students: The missing Justice (SCOTUSBlog, 09/22/16)
Stephen Wermiel: "Senate Republican leaders announced that the next president should be allowed to fill the vacancy because the presidential primary season had already begun. There is no actual precedent for this argument, but Republican senators have continued to press the claim that the voters should choose who will nominate the next Justice. For their part, Democrats have refuted the idea that there is any practice or precedent of waiting to fill a Supreme Court seat in a presidential election year. They have accused the Republicans of prolonged, partisan delay and obstruction. ... With the Supreme Court so closely divided on many of the major issues of the day, the partisan struggle over who will fill the vacancy is, perhaps, not surprising, even if the extreme extent of Senate inaction is unprecedented."

Scott Crass: "There is a Judicial crisis in America and Mitch McConnell doesn’t care. Senators are not doing their jobs or fulfilling their Constitutional responsibilities and Senate leaders cite statistics that totally ignore the severity of the crisis.... in the nearly 21 months since Republicans have taken control of the Senate. They have confirmed 22 nominees, essentially one for each month. Conversely, 68 of President George W. Bush’s nominees were confirmed during the same period and that was when the opposite party controlled the Senate. Worse, Republicans have sought to obfuscate that with disingenuous talking points and technicalities .... Another judge from Tennessee has been on the docket for nearly a year. ... Judges are being slow walked for no apparent reason."

These 618 Editorials by 297 newspaper editorial boards in 49 states and DC represent well over 90 percent of the newspaper editorial board opinions revealed by comprehensive online research. Click on State names on first page for Editorial Board links/excerpts for each State.

Mitch McConnell Just Tried Skipping Over Cory Booker’s Judicial Nominee Again: Instead of trying to compromise, the Majority Leader’s proposed votes are becoming more partisan. (Medium, 09/21/16)
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: "Sen. Cory Booker, D. N.J., spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday about ... obstruction at all levels of the federal judiciary, including district and circuit court nominees pending on the Senate floor.... On September 7, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., tried skipping over his nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Julien Neals), in addition to a Tennessee nominee (Edward Stanton III) by offering a “bipartisan package” of four nominees equally from Republican and Democratic states. Neals and Stanton have been waiting longest for a vote on the floor. And they happen to both be African American. Booker rightly pointed out the obvious: The perception of skipping over those two nominees in particular should be problematic for everyone. On Tuesday, Booker tried getting votes on the next seven nominees in line — including Neals and Stanton — but McConnell said no. McConnell cited figures comparing the number of judges President Obama and President George W. Bush have had confirmed — a meaningless comparison given the number of vacancies they faced — and offered a different package of nominees. Unlike his bipartisan package two weeks before, these four nominees were more partisan — and skipped over Booker’s nominee, whose vacancy is now an emergency.... Every district court nominee currently pending on the Senate floor was voice-voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and every nominee on the floor — ones recommended by both Democrats and Republicans — have the support of their home-state senators (including 16 Republicans)."

Alexander: The Full Grassley nitpick (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 09/20/16)
Jon Alexander Editorial Page Editor: "For most of his career, Chuck Grassley was an independent, solution-minded senator. Critics aren't unfair when they point to his increasing partisanship of late. His blocking of would-be Supreme Court Justice Garland's nomination process is nothing short of end-running the Constitution for political gain."

Sen. Cory Booker calls out Republicans for blocking Black judicial nominees (Shareblue, 09/20/16)
Tommy Christopher: "Sen. Cory Booker took to the floor to fight for the nominations of Judge Julien Neals to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and of Judge Edward L. Stanton III to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, both of whom were nominated well over a year ago, and both of whom were long ago approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. [Booker said] 'There’s no credible reason why we’re not moving forward, besides partisanship. I just can’t see it. So I would like to rise again and make this request for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations. Regular order would mean that we would go to these two judges who happen to be qualified African-Americans. Regular order would bring us to these long-standing men who have been sitting on the sidelines now for well over a year.' Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of course, blocked Senator Booker’s motion, ... Booker... made this plea two weeks ago, and was sure to point out that the race of these two judges just had to be a coincidence.... Republican obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, including Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, has been unprecedented. And Sen. Booker is justifiably calling it out."

Letter: Senate needs to act on Supreme Court (State Journal-Register [IL], 09/19/16)
Susanne Roa: "It's way past time for the Senate to do their job and take action on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. President Barack Obama did not nominate an extreme left-wing liberal and even if he did, senators have the right to turn down any nomination. It is their responsibility to conduct a vote, no matter who the nominee is. Do the thing they were elected for and that they get paid for. Vote now!"

On Confirming Judges, Senate Just Says No (Jost on Justice: Law & Justice Blog, 09/18/16)
Kenneth Jost: The Senate’s Republican leadership is now in its seventh month of refusing to convene a hearing on Obama’s nomination of the veteran federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. But the GOP’s refusal to consider Obama’s judicial nominees goes much further than that. Even as unfilled judicial vacancies have more than doubled over the past two years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now all but shut down consideration of any of Obama’s judicial nominees. The 90 vacancies include 34 that are characterized as “judicial emergencies” based on caseload figures. The policy extends to noncontroversial judicial nominees for U.S. district courts even when supported by home-state Republican senators, according to Glenn Sugameli, who has been tracking federal court nominations since 2001 on a website now called Sugameli, who now works as a staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, calls the obstruction “unprecedented, unjustifiable, and harmful to businesses and individuals for whom justice delayed is justice denied.”... Sheldon Goldman, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a longtime expert on judicial nominations and confirmations, agrees that the broader inaction on Obama nominees has no historical precedent. The record of the current Senate over the past two years is “the worst in American history in terms of obstruction and delay.” ... McConnell defends the Senate’s current record by noting that the Senate has confirmed a few more Obama judges, 329 in all, than it did for Bush in his eight years: 326. Sugameli says the comparison is misleading because of the larger number of vacancies in the Obama years.

Gazette opinion: What Congress leaves behind [Editorial] (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 09/18/16)
"In a Senate floor speech last week Tester summarized the unproductive Congress and noted that the Senate has been in session in 2016 the fewest days in 60 years.... Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Tester chided the Republican leadership for refusing to even have a hearing on the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland. “Now the Supreme Court is as dysfunctional as Congress,” Tester said. The court has been unable to resolve some cases without a tie-breaking ninth justice.... The obvious solution is to keep the House and Senate in session till they complete their work."

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.

OUR VIEW | Encouragement for the Elwha [Editorial] (Kitsap Sun [WA], 09/17/16)
By the Kitsap Sun editorial board: "The Olympic Peninsula's restored river continues to demonstrate the resiliency of nature, this week with the news that steelhead trout and sockeye salmon are being seen in the Elwha River in places where they haven't been observed in a century. It's evidence the historic removal of two dams is working as more species adapt and migrate up the free-flowing river.... In early 2015, scientists found candlefish at the mouth of the river, after 60 years without seeing the threatened species of smelt. That was a great signal for salmon recovery"

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!"

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."

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."

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."

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.

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."

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."

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."

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.

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."

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."