Editorials and Opinion
Editorial: I-1401 will help protect endangered species (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 10/10/15)
"Can Washington stop the slaughter of the elephants in Africa, tigers in Asia, or sharks on the high seas? The obvious answer is no.
But we might save some if the financial inducements for traffickers are removed. ...Respect for nature is almost bred into Washingtonians, and the lions on Africa’s savannahs deserve the same regard we hold for the salmon in our rivers or the elk in our mountains."
Editorial: Senate should quickly confirm judicial nominees (Knoxville News Sentinel [TN], 10/09/15)
"Tennessee's three federal judicial nominees are waiting for their Senate confirmation, and the slow pace of moving the nominations through that chamber has aroused suspicions that perhaps the delay is politically motivated.... All three have the support of Tennessee's Republican U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, who have called for the nominees' speedy confirmation....During the last two years of President George W. Bush's administration, the Democratic majority in the Senate confirmed 68 judges. Likewise, a Republican-controlled Senate confirmed 73 judges during President Bill Clinton's final two years.... The more intangible factor is the delay of justice, not only for defendants but also for victims of crime and their families. As [law Prof. Carl] Tobias noted, it is difficult for people to get trial dates and to get their cases heard. This is the issue the Judiciary Committee needs to address with considerable attention. Justice delayed is not justice served. The three Tennessee nominees should be confirmed so they can start to work and bolster the federal judicial system in the state. That would improve the nation's ability to administer justice effectively."
Editorial: Leadership crisis for GOP (News & Observer [NC], 10/09/15)
"The speaker’s chair needs a practical leader who recognizes that rabid partisanship must not be allowed to bring the government to a standstill. Even if the GOP continues to block some of the president’s goals, delay approval of his judicial nominees and do nothing until the next president takes office, that’s preferable to seriously damaging the nation’s economy and its global standing."
Editorial: Fight ivory, other species trafficking here (Herald [WA] , 10/09/15)
"Since passage in 1972 of the federal Endangered Species Act and in 1973 of an international treaty on endangered species, trafficking in ivory and other products from those species has been illegal....the Obama administration announced it was changing regulations to ban interstate trade of most ivory and cut off commercial imports of ivory.
Voters now have the opportunity to strengthen laws here that would make it riskier and potentially more costly for traffickers in endangered animal products to come through Washington state, joining similar efforts in New York and California, that would make those major ports less attractive to traffickers.... Washington state is a long way from the African savanna and Asian forests, but our position as a state with major ports of entry requires state residents to address the issue of endangered animals and the trafficking in ivory, fur, meat, shells, organs and more."
Editorial: Action due on court nominees (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 10/07/15)
"Edward Stanton III ... has the support of Tennessee's U.S. Senate delegation — both members of the Republican majority — in his quest for Senate confirmation to fill a vacant judicial post on the district court.
It would be a shame for Stanton to become mired in the growing logjam of judicial appointments created by senators who seem determined to delay fulfilling an important responsibility of their office until after the next president takes office in 2017.
In fact, Stanton is one of three nominees from Tennessee awaiting action on their nominations by President Obama to fill vacancies on the federal bench.
Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. and Chattanooga attorney Travis McDonough also are being kept in a holding pattern — McDonough since last November.
If you're wondering if Congress has all but abandoned the business of governing in favor of engaging full time in partisan warfare, consider this: During the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 judges; during President Bill Clinton's final two years in office, the Republican Senate confirmed 73 judges. But only six judicial nominees have been confirmed since Republicans regained majority control of the Senate last January.... the indisputable fact is that the criminal justice system needs judges. ... The Senate could score some much-needed credibility points with the public if it buckles down and gives Stanton and other nominees to the federal bench a fair and impartial decision about their future."
Views of the News: DELAYING JUDGE NOMINEES IMPEDES CIVIL COURT CASES (Redlands Daily Facts [CA], 10/06/15)
Howard Hurlbut, Guest columnist: "There is such a shortage of federal judges across America that critical civil cases often must wait three to four years for a hearing.
Since 1990, there has been a 39 percent increase in district and circuit court filings, but only a 4 percent increase the number of judgeships. Congress has not passed a major increase in judges for 25 years.... The Senate has nearly 70 judicial vacancies waiting to be filled. This year Republicans have confirmed only six of Obama’s nominees."
Justice delayed (Butler Eagle [PA], 10/06/15)
Letter to the Editor by John Neurohr: "Back in November 2014, 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....We have a serious problem with federal court vacancies here in Pennsylvania, most especially here in Western Pennsylvania.
While Pennsylvanians experience justice delayed and denied every single day, it’s time for Sen. Toomey to do his job. Now that the Senate has returned from recess, a full vote for Restrepo should be his first priority."
Tennessee judicial nominees caught in Senate logjam (Knoxville News Sentinel [TN], 10/05/15)
Michael Collins column: "Judicial nominee Edward Stanton III of Memphis sailed smoothly through his confirmation hearing last week, with both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators extolling his qualifications for the federal bench and calling for speedy confirmation of his nomination.
But the Senate has been anything but speedy when it comes to confirming judicial nominees.
Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. has been waiting eight months for the Senate to confirm him as the newest federal judge in Tennessee’s Middle District.
Travis McDonough has been waiting even longer. President Barack Obama nominated the Chattanooga attorney last November for a judgeship in Tennessee’s Eastern District, but the Senate has yet to put his nomination to a vote.
Crenshaw and McDonough are caught in a logjam of judicial nominees awaiting a vote by the Senate. Only six judicial nominees have been confirmed since Republicans regained majority control of the Senate last January."
Senate Gets Around To Filling Court Vacancy After 1,069 Days: One down. Dozens more to go. (Huffington Post, 10/05/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "-- It took them nearly three years to do it, but the Senate on Monday confirmed a desperately needed judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
The Senate voted 69 to 21 to confirm Dale Drozd. The seat he fills has been empty for 1,069 days and is a judicial emergency, meaning the workload exceeds 600 cases or has totaled between 430 and 600 cases for more than 18 months.
Drozd was easily confirmed, yet he waited 327 days for a vote. Why? Because Republicans are intentionally slow-walking President Barack Obama's judicial nominees. ... Judge Lawrence O'Neill may be the happiest person of all about Drozd's confirmation. He serves on the busy Fresno court that Drozd now joins. In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, O'Neill described the work schedule he keeps in order to juggle his more than 1,000 cases: 75-hour weeks, at least one full day every weekend and no breaks on holidays.
He credits the media for keeping pressure on the Senate not to blow off the entire judicial branch of government.... Judge Lawrence O'Neill may be the happiest person of all about Drozd's confirmation. He serves on the busy Fresno court that Drozd now joins. In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, O'Neill described the work schedule he keeps in order to juggle his more than 1,000 cases: 75-hour weeks, at least one full day every weekend and no breaks on holidays.
He credits the media for keeping pressure on the Senate not to blow off the entire judicial branch of government."
The Disgraceful State of Judicial Nominations (Huffington Post, 10/05/15)
Nancy K. Kaufman: "This year the capacity of the federal court system to keep up with its caseload is seriously in question. Judicial vacancies are rising and the Senate is likely to confirm the smallest number of nominees since 1953. ... ll six were voted out of committee with bipartisan support and ultimately confirmed unanimously on the Senate floor, and yet were forced to wait an average of 80 days for a floor vote.... wo judicial nominees pending for over six months have not yet had a confirmation hearing -- although if confirmed, both would end a judicial emergency."
Tennessee judicial nominees caught in Senate logjam (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 10/04/15)
Michael Collins column: "the number of vacancies on the courts has increased from 43 to 67 since January. The number of “judicial emergencies,” meaning the remaining judges can’t keep up with the caseload, has more than doubled, jumping from 12 to 31 since January.
By comparison, during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 judges. Similarly, the Republican Senate confirmed 73 judges during President Bill Clinton’s final two years in office."
How Republican obstruction is destroying the third branch of government (Daily Kos, 10/03/15)
Joan McCarter: "Their obstruction of judges is wrecking that branch, too, and the individual judges.... there's an empty seat in that California district that's been open for more than 1,000 days; judges normally take 500-600 cases annually, but have more than 1,000 in this district; reaching that average caseload would require six new judgeships. That's just one district.
The same problems are playing out across the whole of the federal judiciary and what it means for the American people is justice delayed.... Part of the problem is that Congress has stopped creating judgeships—it hasn't done it since 1990, and there's been a 39 percent increase in cases filed at district and circuit courts. The other, massive, problem is Republican obstruction of nominees to existing vacancies, from refusing to work with President Obama to name nominees at all, to refusing to allow them to reach the Senate floor for confirmation."
U.S. Senate schedules confirmation vote for Fresno judge nominee (Fresno Bee [CA] , 10/02/15)
John Ellis: "Just a few days ago, Drozd’s confirmation vote was languishing along with other federal judicial nominees.... The caseload crunch in Fresno is so bad that attorneys in civil actions are asked if they will allow a magistrate judge to hear the case. ... The Fresno court sends 3 of every 4 civil cases where parties don’t agree to be heard by a local magistrate judge to Sacramento."
Senator’s claim about judgeships won’t wash (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 10/02/15)
Vanzetta Penn McPherson, retired U.S. magistrate judge for the Middle District of Alabama: "Sen. Shelby’s recent statement that he has “negotiated in good faith to find nominees that will serve our state well” is an absurdity. And here is why. Two years ago, the state’s lone congressional Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, established screening committees for federal district judges in Alabama. ... our two senators have opposed all of the lawyers considered by the president from the committee’s recommendations, and have sought instead to “pick” candidates (as they have in the past) for the federal bench, without regard for a transparent process and with due regard for opposing the president’s prospective choices. Neither senator can cite a single reason for opposing or rejecting the committee’s recommended candidates that is grounded in legitimate questions about an individual’s judicial temperament, character and integrity, legal and/or judicial experience, or commitment to equal justice.... I served on both of the judicial selection committees"
More criticism of the Restrepo-confirmation delay (CA3blog, 10/02/15)
Matthew Stiegler: "The Los Angeles Times has this story [LINK] today (headline: “Republican Senate accused of ‘slow walking’ Obama’s judicial nominees”) that features the delay in confirming Judge Restrepo to the Third Circuit. Yesterday, Paul Gordon of People for the American Way posted this informative analysis [LINK] of the current delays in federal judicial confirmations, also featuring Restrepo.... It’s becoming increasingly clear that, when Senator Toomey’s office said way back in May that he was confident Restrepo would be confirmed “by year’s end,” Toomey knew already the Third Circuit would suffer from this inexplicable delay."
Republican Senate accused of 'slow walking' Obama's judicial nominees (Los Angeles Times, 10/02/15)
Timothy M. Phelps: "Mary Barzee Flores, a former public defender and state court judge in Miami, was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Obama in February on the recommendation of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
But since then, Rubio, in consultation with Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), has blocked Flores from even receiving a hearing in the Judiciary Committee pending “a full review” of her record.
Luis Felipe Restrepo, a former U.S. magistrate and currently U.S. District Court judge in Pennsylvania, was nominated for a powerful circuit court judgeship in Philadelphia in November with the strong endorsement of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of his home state, who said Restreppo would “make a superb addition” to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
But then Toomey blocked progress on Restrepo’s nomination for seven months, and the former civil rights lawyer and native of Colombia is still awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.... There are 11 nominees to lifetime judgeships who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. Twenty-one more Obama nominees, including Flores, have not had committee hearings.
Thirty-eight judicial vacancies are yet to be filled, most of them because Republican senators in their home states — who are accorded a veto by Senate custom — have refused to approve any candidates for the job. There are vacancies that have remained open for four, five, and even nine years, all in states with at least one Republican senator."
Editorial: Cruz, Cornyn dragging feet on crisis-level judicial vacancies (Dallas Morning News, 10/01/15)
"When you go to federal court, you expect to have a judge.
But in Texas, vacancies in the federal judiciary remain unfilled for months, sometimes years. The system is operating under emergency status from the crush of too many cases and too few judges. And Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, the men empowered to recommend candidates to the president, haven’t moved quickly enough to address crisis-level vacancies in a timely manner.
Right now, there are nine Texas vacancies — two on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and seven on its district courts. ... There are only two fewer district court vacancies now than a year ago, and the same number of Circuit Court of Appeals vacancies.
The crisis likely will worsen before it improves.... Cornyn and Cruz need to do better. Most of these vacancies were created by judges who left after giving months of advance notice. Yet the senators just now are beginning to formally seek replacements for some of these positions. ... shouldn’t replacements have been agreed upon months, if not years, ago?... It is most likely foot-dragging on the part of the senators .... Crowded courts and long waits mean higher costs and justice delayed.
As lawyers, Cornyn and Cruz know what is at stake. Now they need to fix it."
Foreword: The Evolution of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: A New Era of Diversity on the Bench (U. Miami L. Rev., 09/30/15)
Hon. Ursula Ungaro: "2014 was a pivotal year for the youngest circuit court in the nation. Within a four-month period, three new judges were confirmed and sworn in to serve on the Eleventh Circuit—all having clerked for distinguished Eleventh Circuit judges and all of them women. ...This dramatic turnover of a quarter of the court’s authorized judgeships transformed the Eleventh Circuit into one of the most gender-balanced federal appellate courts in the country, with five active female judges to the court’s six active male judges.... By December 2013, however, the court had four judicial vacancies and found itself unable to staff its panels with at least two Eleventh Circuit judges. This compelled Chief Judge Carnes to declare a judicial emergency under 28 U.S.C. § 46(b). ... there are now eleven active judges. But the Eleventh Circuit actually has twelve authorized judgeships .... the addition of the three female judges has ushered in a new era of diversity on the court, which is likely to impact how the court approaches the issues presented to it, particularly social issues."
Senate Democrats Highlight Importance of Functioning Courts (People For blog, 09/30/15)
"Without enough judges, our courts cannot function, and the American people cannot count on vindicating their rights in a court of law. Either despite or because of the harm it causes ordinary Americans, the Republican-controlled Senate has only confirmed six judges all year. In contrast, at this same point in 2007 (Bush’s seventh year), the newly-Democratic Senate had already confirmed 29 of his judicial nominees. With Senate Republicans obstructing the confirmation of judicial nominees at every step of the way, the number of vacancies has skyrocketed from 40 at the beginning of the year to 64 as of October 1, an increase of 60 percent. Judicial emergencies have jumped from 12 to 31 in the same time.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer recently took to the Senate floor, highlighting in particular three vacancies in his home state:... Yesterday, Dick Durbin of Illinois stood up on the Senate floor and delivered an eloquent statement about the damage caused by obstructing votes on qualified nominees... And tying in to the Senate’s recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, Patrick Leahy of Vermont focused yesterday on several highly qualified Latino nominees being slow-walked by the GOP-controlled Senate:...Senator Leahy cited supportive statements for Restrepo made by Pennsylvania’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey. Yet Toomey, who has far more influence with GOP leadership than Democratic senators, has been noticeably silent in the face of Majority Leader McConnell’s refusal to schedule a confirmation vote for the nominee."
Federal Judges Are Burned Out, Overworked And Wondering Where Congress Is: The people hearing your cases are drowning in work because the Senate isn't filling vacancies. (Huffington Post, 09/30/15)
Jennifer Bendery: For many district and circuit court judges, going to work means doing their job -- plus the jobs of other judges who are supposed to be there, but aren't. That's because federal courts are full of vacancies that aren't being filled by the Senate, and Congress hasn't created new judgeships in many states for decades, despite skyrocketing caseloads.
Litigants are waiting years for their civil cases to be heard because criminal cases take precedence. Judges are struggling with burnout.... The Huffington Post talked to half a dozen federal judges about how court vacancies and the lack of new judgeships affect their workloads. All of them said they feel like they're underwater and desperately need more judges"
Editorial: Senate should confirm Drozd as federal judge in Fresno (Fresno Bee [CA] , 09/30/15)
"[T]here are other less attention-grabbing partisan disputes that also tear at the fabric of our country. One of them is the U.S. Senate’s failure to confirm federal judges.... What a shame it would be for justice if the Senate continues to ignore its responsibility to evaluate the judicial nominees and then vote them up or down.... Clearly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has failed to fulfill his promise of showing that the GOP can govern. ... cases in federal courts throughout the land stack up higher and higher. Witnesses die. Memories get fuzzy. And people lose faith in both Congress and the legal system.
Fresno’s federal judges handle one of the nation’s highest caseloads. It’s Leahy’s opinion that Drozd is a “noncontroversial” nominee. He should be confirmed immediately. No wonder Congress has 15.2 percent job approval rating. It can’t even get the easy stuff done."
EDITORIAL: Support I-1401 and the world’s endangered animals (News Tribune [WA] , 09/30/15)
"[I]llegal hunting of endangered animals.
It’s a huge and profitable business, and it is killing so many animals that many species are on the brink of extinction. ... Now an initiative that will be on Washington voters’ Nov. 3 ballot seeks to make it tougher for the trafficking in endangered species to go unpunished in this state. Voters should approve it.... It’s far too easy in much of the world to traffic in the deaths of endangered species. That’s no reason for it to be easy here, too. Vote to approve I-1401."
EDITORIAL: Sea life dying from human failures (Virginian-Pilot, 09/29/15)
"According to a study this month by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, half of the ocean's vertebrate population has disappeared in just four decades....Whether it's through overfishing, pollution or carbon dioxide emissions that cause the oceans to warm and acidify, humans are harming the planet and its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
The decline has been significant across most species, but it's worse for animals we rely on for food or income.... One in four species of sharks or rays is now under threat of extinction.... Protecting the oceans from exploitation should be part of a worldwide solution .... Reducing pollution and run-off will help take environmental pressure off the oceans' coastal species. So will reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are changing the composition of the oceans themselves.
There is undoubtedly time to reverse the oceans' declines, but only if humans have the will."
Vermont senator calls for confirmation of new Fresno federal judge (Fresno Bee [CA] , 09/29/15)
John Ellis: "The crushing workload isn’t getting any lighter, and still there’s no sign that Dale A. Drozd is close to winning U.S. Senate confirmation as a federal judge in Fresno....Leahy says the Senate can “alleviate the considerable backlog of cases in the Eastern District of California by confirming (Drozd),” whom he called a “non-controversial pending nominee.”"
EDITORIAL Our view: Let the wolves into the wild (Santa Fe New Mexican, 09/28/15)
"Releasing more wolves into the wild is essential in adding genetic diversity to the wild population.... Commissioners’ decisions have made it easier to hunt and kill cougars and bears. They denied a permit to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch to aid in the federal wolf recovery program by providing pen space — a reversal of 17 years of a program that worked. This clearly is a Game Commission hostile to wild animals.
Should the commission not allow the release of additional wolves, we trust that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bosses will use the Endangered Species Act to force New Mexico’s hand. Under federal law, the United States is charged with protecting the endangered wolves and striving to ensure their survival. ... Such short-sightedness on the state level must be fought by aggressive federal action. If the states won’t do the right thing by wolves, the federal government must act, using its authority under the Endangered Species Act."
Judicial vacancies (Durango Herald [CO], 09/26/15)
Matt Kenna: "This caseload backlog problem will only get worse if one of those seven seats on the trial court is left vacant in April. The entire Colorado congressional delegation has introduced legislation to add two new seats to our federal court for a total of nine for the state. Both Gardner and Bennet are co-sponsoring the Senate companion bill. This is commendable, but they should also work together to prioritize filling the vacancy to be created by Blackburn before he leaves the bench. Colorado businesses need this for economic growth, and individuals need this to protect their rights."
Protecting Endangered Species Under the Commerce Clause: People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/25/15)
Jason Rylander, Defenders of Wildlife: "Every single court to consider the question – including the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits – has upheld the federal government’s constitutional authority to protect wildlife through the ESA. But last year, District Court Judge Dee Benson of Utah disagreed, and so the Tenth Circuit will weigh in on what had, until now, been settled law. As I argued in an amicus brief for Defenders of Wildlife and five other national conservation groups, the Tenth Circuit should reverse."
Editorial: The greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken: let science decide (Los Angeles Times, 09/25/15)
"The chicken is one of several species that lawmakers want to pluck out from under the Endangered Species Act through language inserted into the Interior bill, in effect seeking to dismantle the law one species at a time. It also would take gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states off the list of threatened species and prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Sonoran desert tortoise.
Even more troubling is a provision that would halt the service's efforts to tighten restrictions on the importation and sale of ivory in the U.S. as part of a global effort to stop the slaughter of African elephants. Meanwhile, another House bill — to reauthorize defense programs — would de-list the American burying beetle .... decisions about their conservation shouldn't be made by members of Congress and corporate interests. Whether a species is so robust that it does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act must ultimately be a scientific call, not a political one."