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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Bill Straub: It seems McConnell just can’t withstand the urge to poke Obama with a stick (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 06/11/15)
"A Pennsylvania seat is open on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Toomey has endorsed President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo. Toomey already is under pressure to address the situation and has offered assurances that the seat will be filled. So Any failure to get his choice through would not only establish that Toomey carries little influence but further alienate the growing Latino vote — Restrepo was born in Colombia. And McConnell wouldn’t be doing himself any favors. Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, who hails from McConnell’s adopted hometown of Louisville, is thought to be in line to succeed Boyce Martin, of Louisville, who resigned in August 2013 as a judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals .... That vacant position has been declared a “judicial emergency’’ by the Judicial Conference – one of 26 currently unfilled slots so designated. If McConnell followed through with his threat, Kentucky would be a vote short on the Sixth Circuit for at least four years, perhaps longer....McConnell would be creating an unholy mess if he ignored Obama’s judicial nominations. Civil trials would literally be backed up for years ... the GOP majority has approved only four federal judgeships. During the last two years of their presidencies, when the Senate was controlled by opposing parties, Republicans President George W. Bush managed to get 10 appeals court judges confirmed while Democratic President Bill Clinton got 15 and Republican Ronald Reagan got 17."

With Senate control, will the GOP stop confirming circuit court judges? (Brookings, 06/10/15)
Russell Wheeler: "There will be at best few appellate confirmations this year, and fewer next year. That, however, may be due less to the majority’s not bringing nominees up for votes and more to the majority’s refusing to allow the administration to submit nominees for vacancies in their states. ... All eight nominee-less circuit vacancies now in place are in states with at least one Republican senator and most are several years old. ... Obama has appointed 53 circuit judges, as had George Bush at this point in 2007 (including three in the first half of the year). Bush appointed 60 in all.... Glenn Sugameli, who monitors nominations closely, told The Hill that senators in three of the seven states “say they are working” to get nominees in place. ... Bush’s immediate predecessors also faced an opposing Senate in their seventh and eighth years but saw more confirmations: Clinton, 15 and Reagan 17."

Columnist blames Ron Johnson for 2,000-day federal judicial vacancy (Capital Times (WI), 06/10/15)
Steven Elbow: "In January of 2010, federal appellate Judge Terence Evans retired from his Seventh Circuit seat. That was 2,000 days ago — nearly five years — and the vacancy has yet to be filled, making it the oldest federal court vacancy in the nation. In the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, lays the blame squarely on one person: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson."

No more showdowns over Obama's judicial nominations? (Examiner, 06/09/15)
Susan Crabtree: "The few battles that remain will take place at the circuit court level, but the Senate has recently taken action on two nominations that had previously stalled, quelling some concerns on the left. Earlier this year, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who faces a tough re-election fight next year, was dragging his heels on declaring public support for Luis Felipe Restrepo, the president's choice to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, ... But in May Toomey issued a blue-slip — a formal sign of support for Restrepo — and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Restrepo this Wednesday. The Judiciary Committee also unanimously approved the appointment of Kara Stoll to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and her nomination should soon move to the Senate floor."

Why Has a Key Federal Judgeship in Wisconsin Been Vacant for 2,000 Days? (Huffington Post, 06/09/15)
Nan Aron: "Wisconsin's vacancy on the Seventh Circuit is the oldest circuit court vacancy in the entire country. ... Senator Tammy Baldwin should be commended for taking action and clearing a path forward for the president to name a qualified nominee. She recently sent a list of eight qualified candidates to the White House for the president to choose from. With a list of names in hand, the president can--and should--act swiftly on his constitutional authority to name a new Seventh Circuit judge. Indeed, one might wonder why Baldwin didn't green light a nomination before now. The reason lies with Wisconsin's Republican Senator Ron Johnson. While Baldwin has bent over backwards to select judicial candidates in a bipartisan manner, Johnson has obstructed at every turn, and recently told the White House to keep waiting, indefinitely."

Benched! History shows “regular order” means appellate court confirmations (Justice Watch, 06/09/15)
"In the last Congress of President George W. Bush’s second term, Senate Democrats confirmed 10 circuit nominees. They included vacancies in states represented by Republicans, Democrats, and mixed delegations. Most notably, Judge Leslie Southwick was confirmed to the Fifth Circuit despite opposition from progressive advocacy groups and three-fourths of the Democratic caucus....President Clinton’s final two years were no different. The Republican-led Senate confirmed 15 circuit nominees, and every one of them were from Democrat-controlled or mixed delegation states.... In President Reagan’s final two years, Senate Democrats confirmed 17 circuit judges. A plurality of those judges was from Republican-controlled states."

EDITORIAL: Prairie dog vaccine program just might help (Great Falls Tribune [MT], 06/09/15)
"We believe this is a useful project that we hope will help rescue a rare species from the brink of extinction. But this also reveals a larger picture — that driving other species to extinction, whether it be bison, prairie dogs, wolves or other animals, is not in the best interests of most Americans or other world occupants. Even sometimes despised creatures can play a useful role in the ecological landscape. Bats are voracious eaters of insects, even if literature has painted them as scary creatures; bison contributed to the prairie ecosystem, and reintroduction in some locations could help restore part of the Great Plains prairie that is rich in both animal and plant life. We applaud efforts to safeguard the existence of other species on the earth, … We support these steps, and we are confident these efforts, if they succeed, will benefit human beings as well as the animals and plants we help to survive."

Marco Rubio's Obstruction of Justice: The Wrong Verdict for all Floridians (Columbia County Observer [FL], 06/09/15)
Op-Ed by Mark Ferrulo: "More than three months ago President Barack Obama nominated Mary Barzee Flores, a former Miami judge with an illustrious career, to serve as a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida. The vacancy has been open for more than a year, and is formally classified as a judicial emergency, meaning there simply aren’t enough judges to handle the large caseload for this critically important South Florida court. Despite the urgent need to fill this vacancy, Sen. Marco Rubio is blocking her nomination for no reason other than politics. Meanwhile, as long as the position remains vacant, the understaffed judiciary builds a backlog of cases, delaying justice for Floridians. The Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Barzee Flores until it gets “blue slips” of approval from her two home-state senators. Sen. Bill Nelson has turned his in, but Rubio still hasn’t turned in his. The irony is that, after an exhaustive vetting from the bipartisan Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, Rubio joined with Nelson in recommending her to the president in the first place."

Toomey Can Protect the 3rd Circuit from Having Two Simultaneous Vacancies (People For blog, 06/09/15)
"Just as Democrats and Republicans alike worked to confirm a number of President Bush’s circuit court nominees within three weeks of their committee hearings, Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey can work together to make this happen again. They both expressed strong support for Restrepo when he was nominated last year, and they can both see the harm to their constituents if the court has a second vacancy added to the already-existing judicial emergency."

EDITORIAL: G.O.P. Assault on Environmental Laws (New York Times, 06/08/15)
"President Obama has announced or will soon propose important protections for clean water, clean air, threatened species and threatened landscapes. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and other Republicans in Congress are trying hard not to let that happen ... the sage grouse initiative is a legitimate executive action aimed at carrying out Congress’s purpose in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which was to save a species before it disappears."

On Circuit Courts, An Opportunity for McConnell to Show He Can Govern (People For blog, 06/08/15)
"A dysfunctional Senate that will not confirm qualified judges in a timely manner threatens the American ideal of equal justice under law. So after the headlines of the past few days, the eyes of the country are on McConnell, waiting to see if he will cater to the rabidly anti-Obama base and prevent votes on any circuit court nominees, or whether he will – as his spokesperson suggested – govern more responsibly. Fortunately for him, he can make that clear quite easily, by scheduling a vote on Kara Farnandez Stoll, nominee to the Federal Circuit. Stoll was cleared by the Judiciary Committee without opposition more than six weeks ago, on April 23. No circuit or district court nominee has been waiting for a floor vote longer. Another circuit court nominee – Pennsylvanian L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit – will have his hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week. With the bipartisan support of his home state senators and having been confirmed to a district judgeship two years ago, Judge Restrepo is another clear consensus nominee. He should be approved quickly by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where McConnell should schedule a timely vote for him, as well."

Editorial Assembly bill on ivory sales is worth approving (Los Angeles Times, 06/07/15)
"[L]egal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade. AB 96, introduced by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would tighten the rules by barring the sale of almost all ivory in California. (The bill would also ban the importation and sale of endangered rhinoceros horn.) It passed the Assembly last week with bipartisan support. The Senate should pass it too, and the governor should sign it into law.... It's not likely that the courts will see this law as a violation of the Takings Clause under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution. When California outlawed shark fins, a group sued, arguing that the government had taken away the value of traders' shark fins. The courts ruled otherwise, stating that the government was not in violation of the Constitution when it imposed a complete ban on a product determined to be harmful to the species."

Editorial: Cheers and Jeers (Gainesville Sun [FL], 06/06/15)
"Jeer: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials, for suggesting that the endangered status of the Florida panther may need to be reviewed. Wildlife advocates told a GateHouse Media reporter that the agency is rejecting scientific evidence in claiming that having a panther population near 200 shows the animal is no longer endangered."

Your opinions: Letters to the editor for June 5 Judge nominee should be allowed hearing (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 06/05/15)
John Neurohr Jr.: "In November, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Seven months later, the nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee; ... It's time for Toomey to back his public support for Restrepo by pushing Grassley to hold a hearing."

Senate Judiciary Committee votes out four desperately needed district court nominees (Justice Watch, 06/04/15)
"Three of the four would fill officially designated “judicial emergencies,” and the fourth, a nominee to the Western District of New York, would sit in a Buffalo courthouse that is now without an active judge for the first time in at least 55 years. These nominees were voted out of committee with bipartisan support, and should be immediately confirmed so they can start working for the American people. ... On Mitch McConnell’s watch, the number of judicial vacancies, including those designated as judicial emergencies, has steadily grown over the last five months. But with the four nominees voted out of committee today (and the three pending nominees they join on the Senate floor), McConnell and the Republican majority have an opportunity to do the right thing: confirm them now."

EDITORIAL: Fill vacancies in Alabama federal courts (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 06/02/15)
"Fuller's departure, as welcome as it is, highlights another worrisome issue for the federal courts in Alabama – the now even greater number of vacancies on the bench, a matter of genuine concern. In addition to the seat Fuller held in the Middle District now being vacated, three other judges – two in the Northern District and one in the Middle District – have taken senior status and thus carry reduced caseloads. Beyond that, there is an Alabama vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The courts' ranks are depleted and these vacancies need to be filled.... It's time for some serious bipartisan effort among Shelby and Sessions and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell -- something beyond the acknowledged discussions that have gone on for months – to propose nominees to the president that they all can support. There's no shortage of Alabamians qualified to serve on the district and circuit courts. Those courts are below the number of judges established for them, and those seats should be filled."

Editorial: Population peril (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 06/02/15)
"Population problems of many sorts are outlined in the latest Free Inquiry magazine. Some examples: ... “The rate of plant and animal extinction is about 1,000 times higher than the natural rate . ... Other species ... are going extinct at the highest rate since the extinction that wiped out most dinosaurs 65 million years ago.” • “For most of Earth’s recent history, our atmosphere has contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Today, we are at 400 ppm and climbing, a level that essentially locks in significant climate change ... . The increase of CO2 in the oceans is... the highest it has been in about 20 million years.” • “About 90 percent of the ocean’s population of large fish has been wiped out by overfishing and other human activity.”"

Open process to seek new Idaho Court of Appeals judge yields four finalists: Three women, one man (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 06/01/15)
Betsy Z. Russell: "Here’s an interesting contrast: While Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch pursue a secret process to name a recommended replacement for longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who will take senior status July 3, a much different and more open process is under way to replace the retiring state Court of Appeals Judge Karen Lansing.... I reported on April 27 on Risch and Crapo’s secret process for naming a replacement for Lodge; at the time, multiple sources said just four candidates had been interviewed, all of them men, though at least five prominent female Idaho attorneys had applied. Idaho is the only state in the federal 9th Circuit that has never had a woman judge on the U.S. District Court bench; it’s one of just two in the nation. After my article appeared, Risch and Crapo issued a statement saying that both “men and women” were being interviewed and that the process was “ongoing.” “We want a confidential process,” the two senators said in their statement. The word is that now at least two women have been interviewed, but I've received no confirmation of that as yet from the senators."

Editorial: Confirm judge (Republican Herald {PA], 05/30/15)
"No one has suggested that U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is anything other than highly qualified for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet, in another testament to the Senate Republican majority’s willingness to use highly qualified nominees as political pawns, Judge Restrepo’s nomination has gone nowhere in the six months since President Obama submitted his name.... the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has designated the 3rd Circuit vacancy as a judicial emergency.... the Judiciary Committee, which strongly endorsed Judge Restrepo’s ascension to the district bench three years ago, should convene a hearing and move the nomination toward final approval."

Letter: Senate needlessly delays judge confirmations (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/29/15)
Glenn Sugameli: "Thomas Burr's May 22 article noted Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parrish's "eight month wait" for the 100-0 Senate vote that confirmed her as a federal district judge. Remarkably, Sen. Orrin Hatch was only able to deliver on the second half of his January pledge to push for "swift and unanimous confirmation." To be fair, state Judge Jose Olvera, Jr.'s 100-0 confirmation to fill a U.S. Courts declared judicial emergency in Texas suffered the exact same delays, despite the January promise of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, to "continue pushing for [his] swift confirmation." Parrish and Olvera were first nominated Sept. 18, 2014, and were approved on a Judiciary Committee voice vote on Feb. 26, 2015 (the same day as Attorney General Loretta Lynch). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's continuing unjustifiable delays of other consensus judicial nominees harm people and businesses, as a lack of judges means justice delayed is justice denied. As The Wall Street Journal reported on April 6: "In Federal Courts, the Civil Cases Pile Up: Record number of pending actions delays some suits for years.""

Cornyn and Cruz Are Devastating Texas Courts (People For blog, 05/29/15)
"Even with judicial nominees they themselves recommended, Cornyn and Cruz don't lift a finger to help to prevent delays in committee or on the floor. Just ask Jose Rolando Olvera, who was denied a floor vote until nearly three months after his approval by a unanimous Judiciary Committee in February. That's particularly ironic, since at Olvera's hearing, Cornyn had said that he and Cruz would push for his "swift confirmation." But even worse than this snail's pace post-nomination is the senators' foot-dragging pre-nomination, as they delay making recommendations to fill vacancies in the state's federal courts. Even if there were no vacancies in Texas, the state would need more judges: The Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to add eight new judgeships in the Lone Star State. But Texas, in fact, does have judicial vacancies – nine of them, seven of which have been designated as judicial emergencies (meaning the current caseload is too much for the judges to handle). Not one has a nominee, because Cornyn and Cruz have shown little interest in recommending nominees to the White House in anything approaching a timely manner."

Editorial: Protecting the pollinators (Providence Journal [RI] , 05/28/15)
"Europe has banned three types of the pesticides known as neonicotinoids, widely used on U.S. crops but feared by some researchers to endanger bees. With U.S. environmental groups pushing for their elimination here, the accelerated review of their impact is welcome.... the loss of honeybees and other pollinators may be signaling broad problems with U.S. ecosystems. The more researchers discover now, the better the chance of averting a crisis."

Editorial: BLM overreached with Richfield ATV plan (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 05/28/15)
"One anomaly of the Obama administration has been the Bureau of Land Management's willingness to continue state resource-management plans that were pushed through in the waning days of the Bush administration. Those plans in Utah have been decidedly friendly to motorized use and oil and gas exploration. So friendly, in fact, that BLM opened itself up for lawsuits. Environmental groups obliged by filing such suits, and in 2013 U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled in their favor on one suit involving ... spectacular features like the Henry Mountains, Factory Butte and the Dirty Devil River. Tuesday's order from the judge is forcing BLM to review the plan to see if the heavy network of off-road vehicle trails is destroying cultural artifacts left by residents 800 years ago.... He is just requiring BLM to do what it should have done originally, and that is document both the cultural resources and the impact on those resources from ATV traffic. The environmental groups successfully argued that BLM can't claim to protect antiquities when it doesn't even know what's there."

Op-Ed: 'Strange' vs. 'simple old American' names (Los Angeles Times, 05/28/15)
Karthick Ramakrishnan: "it seems worth pointing out that unfamiliar names are not necessarily a barrier for advancement. A prominent circuit court judge, and likely next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, is named Padmanabhan Srikanth "Sri" Srinivasan."

Editorial: Obama’s bee report has a hole in it (Fresno Bee [CA] , 05/27/15)
"Billions of dollars and a third of the nation’s food supply are at stake. So it’s only right that the Obama administration is taking up the plight of the honeybee, a linchpin of our food system. The only thing wrong is that the plan doesn’t go far enough.... the task force stops short of direct recommendations about curbing the use of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that’s applied to crops.... At a minimum, we need to speed studies about the pesticides, and either clear them of the collapse, or make hard decisions about their continued use."

Who Caused the Senate Chaos? (Bloomberg News, 05/26/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... Mitch McConnell took plenty of grief last weekend for the Patriot Act fiasco, after the Senate failed late Friday night to adopt any option for reauthorizing several of the law's provisions.... If the minority insists on fully exercising its right under current rules to require 60 votes for everything, the majority will eventually impose new rules -- as Democrats did in October 2013 on executive-branch and judicial nominations. ... McConnell as majority leader isn’t at fault for Senate dysfunction now, just as Harry Reid wasn’t responsible for Senate dysfunction in the previous few years. But McConnell can be blamed for abusing the rules when he was in the minority."

PD Editorial: Plan Bee to save the pollinators (Press Democrat [CA] , 05/26/15)
"Farmers and scientists have watched with alarm as honeybee colonies died off in recent years. Bees are pollinators, bringing color to backyard gardens and tending crops that feed the nation — almonds, avocados, apples, peaches, plums, pears, blueberries, strawberries, the list goes on....President Barack Obama offered a plan to expand breeding and feeding grounds for bees and other pollinators, including monarch butterflies, another species suffering sharp declines. Obama also directed the Environmental Protection Agency to re-evaluate the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybees. The agency has restricted their use around bee colonies, but, unlike the European Union, it hasn’t enacted a moratorium. ... It’s a cautious, science-based approach that deserves funding to expedite research and public cooperation in maintaining gardens and other spaces where bees and butterflies can thrive. Otherwise, some of our favorite foods may start disappearing from supermarket shelves and kitchen tables."

Justice denied because of so many vacant judgeships (Arizona Daily Star, 05/26/15)
Celinas Ruth Op-Ed column: Our federal court system is crumbling. It is being crushed by the weight of a case overload and a shortage of federal judges.... We, as a nation and in Arizona, are experiencing firsthand: “justice delayed is justice denied.”... uring most of President Obama’s term, a seriously high number of vacancies caused by the failure of the Senate to process Obama’s nominations has slowed the progress of civil cases ... On April 5, the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended Congress add six permanent and four temporary district judges to the district of Arizona to help handle our state’s burgeoning caseload. A civil case familiar to me in Tucson’s Federal District Court has been stalled for three years,"

On the 7th Circuit, It's Time for Ron Johnson to Get Out of the Way (People For blog, 05/26/15)
"Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is once again playing politics with the nation's oldest appellate court vacancy. This time, he's changing the rules when they don't work for him, violating an agreement he previously made with fellow senator Tammy Baldwin. His latest efforts to delay filling a five year-old vacancy on the Seventh Circuit are absurd and should simply be ignored by the White House.... But to make sure he could keep the Seventh Circuit seat vacant for as long as possible, Johnson ensured that the commission not address that vacancy until it first made recommendations for two district court vacancies. Slowing the process even further, the commission was not allowed to work on the second district court vacancy until the president made a nomination for the first one. This meant that it was not permitted to even start looking for potential Seventh Circuit judges until last summer, 15 months after its formation.... The past few weeks have seen plenty of examples of Republican senators trying to keep circuit court vacancies open for as long as possible rather than let President Obama fill them. Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey blocked committee consideration of Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo for half a year, until the local press coverage became too much for him to bear. In Indiana, Republican Senator Dan Coats this month called for the creation of a nominating commission to fill an Indiana slot on the Seventh Circuit. This came as a surprise to Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, who noted that he's been working on identifying potential nominees for over a year consistent with an agreement he and Coats had reached.... President Obama and Senator Baldwin have gone to incredible lengths to accommodate Ron Johnson. Now that the system that he demanded and agreed to has fallen apart, it's time he got out of the way. If he has objections to whoever the president nominates, the proper place to air them will be at a Judiciary Committee hearing."

EDITORIAL: Our Views: Louisiana black bear makes remarkable turn exiting endangered species list (New Orleans Advocate, 05/25/15)
"One of our trademarks, the bear that inspired Teddy bears, is no longer an endangered species, according to federal authorities, although some longtime advocates for conservation dispute the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service....As few as 100 bears are thought to have been living in the 1950s. We don’t want to go back to that level, but we are reasonably confident that the plans by federal and state authorities will not allow that to happen. This has been in discussion for a long time. Still, it’s good that the Black Bear Conservation Coalition and other environmental groups will keep a close eye on this new development.... Nor could it have happened without private citizens like Harold Schoeffler, whose legal action prompted the settlement that listed the bear as a threatened species in 1991. He’s not entirely happy with regulators now and will doubtless be heard on this new step."