Editorials and Opinion
The Problem With Congress Might Not Be Fixable (Bloomberg News, 06/15/16)
Cass R. Sunstein: "Congress is in the midst of a breakdown in longstanding institutional norms. The latest example is the Senate's refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court -- a refusal that is probably without precedent.... With the Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on Garland, we’ve entered uncharted territory. The GOP would like to say that the norm for which they are speaking is quite narrow: No Supreme Court confirmations in an election year.
But their behavior is fully consistent with a much broader one: If a party can get away with refusing to confirm a Supreme Court nominee chosen by a president of the opposing party, that’s exactly what it will do. If so, appointments to the high court will become mired in the crassest form of partisan politics.... if a president’s judicial nominees are not confirmed, because the opposing party disagrees with their likely votes, federal courts will lack sufficient personnel to proceed expeditiously."
Henry: Stalling GOP members defile Constitution (Mason City Globe Gazette [IA], 06/13/16)
Reg Henry column: "The Constitution assumes action one way or the other; it does not demand a rubber stamp on any nomination. If senators do not like the president’s nominee, they can give critical advice and withhold their consent — and their constitutional duty is done.
The trouble for would-be naysayers is that president’s nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is objectionably unobjectionable."
OUR PERSPECTIVE: DEEDS AND DUDS: Editorial: Gigs and garlands (Ledger [Lakeland, FL], 06/13/16)
"Today marks four months since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died. Although President Barack Obama has nominated appellate Judge Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, the Republican-led Senate has rejected the idea of even holding hearings for him, much less take the opportunity to vote him down. While many believe the Senate's political gamesmanship is misguided, we're at 120 days so far"
Study Calls Snub of Obama’s Supreme Court Pick Unprecedented (New York Times, 06/13/16)
Adam Liptak: How unusual is the Republican blockade of the nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court? After a comprehensive look at every past Supreme Court vacancy, two law professors have concluded that it is an unprecedented development.... In every one of the 103 earlier Supreme Court vacancies, the professors wrote, the president was able to both nominate and appoint a replacement with the Senate’s advice and consent. This did not always happen on the first try, they wrote, but it always happened."
Why today’s political climate scares judges (Denver Post [CO] , 06/12/16)
John Ingold: "Imagine, at this moment in American politics, that you are a judge.... To your east, in Washington, you see a U.S. Supreme Court hobbling along with only eight justices because of a standoff over who should appoint the ninth. You see political gridlock that has left unfilled 80 other vacancies on the federal bench across the country, according to legal scholar Carl Tobias."
Grassley's SCOTUS delay is hurting Republicans (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/12/16)
Chelle Stoner, Letter to the Editor: "I would like to urge Sen. Grassley to reconsider his stance on allowing a vote on Justice Merrick Garland. I think what he is doing is exactly why so many people are simply fed up with the hard-line intransigence on both sides of the aisle.
The choice to not move forward is hurting Republicans, which in turn is hurting Americans, especially younger Americans, and any faith they may have in the process that our federal government can ever work. That is more important than whether it is or isn’t Justice Garland in the end."
In support of judge Garland (Daily Nonpareil [Council Bluffs, IA], 06/12/16)
K.O. Myers, Letter to the Editor: "President Obama has nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Garland has nearly two decades of experience as a federal judge, and received bipartisan support when he was first appointed to the bench.
There is no question that Judge Garland deserves a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote, a courtesy that both parties have always extended to Supreme Court nominees."
All of America loses by leaving court vacancy open (Hawk Eye [Burlington. IA], 06/10/16)
Rekha Basu column: "A couple of former White House counsels — one to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one to George W. Bush — came to Des Moines last week to warn about not having a fully functioning U.S. Supreme Court. By then, it had been 77 days since Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet Iowa’s Charles Grassley, who heads up the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold the customary committee hearings on the nominee."
Rubio's flip-flop (Miami Herald, 06/10/16)
Ronald Newman, Letter to the Editor: "It is an understatement to attach the phrase “small-minded” to Rubio’s recent opposition to a federal judicial candidate whom he had supported, Mary Barzee Flores (Rubio blocks confirmation of judge he recommended, June 5).
Extreme political partisanship is almost always small-minded, and Rubio’s degeneration into opposing Flores just because she is not decidedly right-wingish will stand as a shameful keynote of his legacy"
Senators Embedded Within a Brain Fog (Democratic Daily, 06/10/16)
Walter Brasch: "The U.S. Senate—under the leadership of Mitch McConnell ... continues to be one of the nation’s leading obstructionists. This time, the Senate isn’t meeting to advise or consent to the President’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court."
Conner Eldridge is trucking (Arkansas Times, 06/10/16)
Max Brantley: "Sen. John ... Boozman has some explaining to do. He is derelict along with colleague Republican Sen. Tom Cotton in adequately responding to the party's abuse of the rule of law in politicking of judicial nominations"
Senate obstructionism is snarling the federal trial courts (Washington Post, 06/10/16)
Kyle Barry, Letter to the Editor: "along with vacancies and “judicial emergencies,” the number of pending judicial nominees has spiked as a result of a stagnant confirmation process. There are 54 judicial nominees waiting for confirmation, including 46 to the trial courts, and hardly any are the least bit controversial. By contrast, in June 2008, President George W. Bush had only 22 trial court nominees awaiting action in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Second, the Republican leadership is blocking even nominees who have bipartisan support, including those selected and recommended by their home-state Republican senators. All 17 of the pending judicial nominees who have passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee did so by voice vote with support from the committee’s Republican members. Moreover, there are at least 25 trial court nominees who are both from states with at least one GOP senator and have home-state GOP support."
Grassley is no longer who he says he is (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/09/16)
Jordan Murphy, Letter to the Editor: "it's so uncharacteristic of him to steadfastly refuse to do his job and obstruct Chief Judge Merrick Garland from getting a hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court."
Supreme Court vacancy watch Day 117: No judges for Elizabeth Warren (Daily Kos, 06/09/16)
Joan McCarter: "What's the Senate doing today instead of considering the Supreme Court nominee? Nothing to do with judges. ... But back to the judges they're not confirming. It's not for a lack of effort on Sen. Elizabeth Warren's part. On Wednesday, she attempted to bring up the votes of 15 uncontroversial and long-stalled nominees, all of whom were approved by committee months ago.... Not deterred, Warren went on to try to get votes for nine of the 15 judges in her original request. McConnell objected again. Then she reduced it to just four of them.
By that time, McConnell had left the floor and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was left to object, proving Warren's point. "There is no asterisk that says only when the majority leader has an embarrassing political problem or except when the president is named Barack Obama," in the constitution, said Warren. "It is not what the founders had in mind because it is small, it is petty and it is absurd.""
Editorial: Marco Rubio playing partisan game on judicial appointment (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 06/09/16)
"By single-handedly blocking the confirmation of a qualified nominee for a federal judgeship, Rubio is complicit in creating a larger problem that does real damage to the functioning of the judicial branch. His new excuses for being an obstructionist do not justify blocking a confirmation hearing.
More than a year ago, President Barack Obama nominated former state judge Mary Barzee Flores to fill a vacancy on the federal bench in South Florida. Rubio has stalled her Senate confirmation by refusing to issue a so-called blue slip, which would clear the way for confirmation hearings. ... These are not reasons to block a confirmation hearing, and they only inject more partisanship into a vetting process that is designed to be bipartisan.... She has supporters across the political spectrum who praise her qualifications, and she deserves a confirmation hearing.
Rubio's tactics reflect a broader obstructionist strategy by Senate Republicans who have been stalling Obama's judicial nominations, leading to vacancies nationwide. The seat for which Barzee Flores is nominated has been vacant since May 2014 and is considered a judicial emergency, meaning cases are backlogged. The Washington Post reported that of 673 U.S. district court judgeships, 67 are vacant under Obama. That 10 percent vacancy rate is higher than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush saw at this point in their presidencies — and each of them also faced a Senate controlled by the other party. ... The Senate's role is to offer "advice and consent" on the president's judicial nominations. Today's Senate Republicans are openly flouting that constitutional duty, and it is leaving the federal courts crippled."
Court vacancy hurts U.S. (Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier [IA], 06/09/16)
REKHA BASU column: "A couple of former White House counsels — one to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one to George W. Bush — came to Des Moines last week to warn about not having a fully functioning U.S. Supreme Court. By then, it had been 77 days since Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet Iowa’s Charles Grassley, who heads up the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold the customary committee hearings on the nominee.... Grassley, a Republican who has served 41 years in the U.S. House and Senate, has launched an unprecedented obstruction of Senate procedures"
So He Went There. (South Florida Lawyers, 06/09/16)
"That scoundrel, Marco Rubio discredited himself even further yesterday: "For about a year, Rubio has said little publicly about why he won’t allow a vote on Mary Barzee Flores." But Rubio and his office say there has been so much misinformation spread that he now feels compelled to go public with unflattering specifics about Barzee Flores that, out of respect to her, he tried to keep quiet. 2OH SURE!!!! Nothing like using the power of political office to smear a decent, talented public servant who would make a wise and fair federal jurist."
Grassley's obstruction doesn't reflect Iowa's morals (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/09/16)
Alex Mitchell, Letter to the Editor: "President Barack Obama fulfilled his constitutional obligation by nominating Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Now, 70 days after the nomination, we are still waiting on Sen. Chuck Grassley to do his job.
It is Sen. Grassley’s responsibility to hold hearings for judicial nominees. By not fulfilling this obligation, Grassley has chosen to play partisan politics. Supreme Court nominees are supposed to be rigorously vetted by the Judiciary Committee through a hearing process, followed by a vote."
Sen. Grassley is creating judicial backlog (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/09/16)
Mary Thornton, Letter to the Editor: "I am beyond outraged and disgusted with Sen. Chuck Grassley's continued obstinate obstruction of our government officials and business. He not only refuses to move forward with our Supreme Court nominee, but also 83 federal judge vacancies, with 37 of them in the Judicial Committee, all causing a backlog, burden on judges and unacceptable delay of justice."
Criticism Mounts for Senate GOP Obstruction of Judges (People For blog, 06/09/16)
"Republicans have done everything in their power to obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. ... The result is a substantial increase in the number of vacancies since the GOP took over the Senate, with the number of judicial emergencies (vacancies with overwhelming backlogs that impede access to justice) skyrocketing to 2½ times what it was at the beginning of this Congress.... They could start by holding a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. They could also stop delaying committee votes on nominees like Don Schott for the Seventh Circuit (whose vote today was delayed simply because committee Republicans could delay it). They could hold hearings for qualified circuit court nominees like California’s Lucy Koh for the Ninth Circuit and North Dakota’s Jennifer Kelmetsrud Puhl for the Eighth Circuit, both of whom have the support of their home state senators. Republicans could also stop blocking hearings for Indiana’s Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Alabama’s Abdul Kallon for the Eleventh Circuit, Kentucky’s Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit, and Pennsylvania’s Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit, all of whom are currently facing obstruction by Republican home state senators who simply want to prevent President Obama from filling these vacancies."
EDITORIAL: The Senate’s Confirmation Shutdown (New York Times, 06/09/16)
"The Republicans’ blockade of Judge Garland is shameful, but it is only the most glaring example of what has been a historic slowdown in filling federal court vacancies across the country. This has been enormously damaging to the district courts, which deal with hundreds of thousands of cases annually, and where backlogs drag out lawsuits and delay justice. It also harms the appeals courts, ... By June 2008, the Senate had approved 46 of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees; they confirmed a total of 68 by September. In contrast, Mr. McConnell’s Senate has confirmed only 20 of Mr. Obama’s judges since Republicans took control in January 2015, the slowest pace since the early 1950s. Appellate judges accounted for just two of those confirmations, fewer than at any time since the 19th century.
As a result of the impasse, there are now 83 vacant federal judgeships nationwide — 30 of which have such overwhelming case backlogs that the court system has classified them as judicial emergencies. By comparison, there were only about half as many when the Democrats controlled the Senate in 2008.
It would be easy to fill most of these vacancies if the Senate did its job. Currently, 37 of Mr. Obama’s nominees remain bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, 30 of whom are still waiting for their hearing; 17 more have been approved by the committee but have not been scheduled for a full Senate vote."
COMMENTARY: WUNC story highlights Burr’s “pathetic” blockade of African-American judicial nominees (Progressive Pulse [NC], 06/09/16)
Rob Schofield: "While the blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland continues to draw well-deserved national headlines, the ongoing blockade of nominees to serve on the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District (the longest such blockade in the country by four years) remains in the spotlight as well.... As has been the case for years, Senator Richard Burr — the man personally responsible for the blockade — gave an incomprehensible explanation for his action. After stating that the matter is not an emergency (despite the fact that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts officially labeled it a “judicial emergency” years ago) Burr dismissed President Obama’s latest effort to nominate a judge (former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson) out of hand ... Obama has been trying to fill the position for almost his entire presidency and Burr has blocked those efforts (as arcane Senate rules give him the right to do) the entire time. What’s perhaps most striking and troubling about all of this are the racial overtones. Both of Obama’s nominees have been African-American and the Eastern District (which has a higher percentage of African-American residents than any other section of the state) has never had a black judge in its entire history."
Elizabeth Warren Has Had It With Mitch McConnell’s ‘Petty’ Behavior: The majority leader rejected the Massachusetts senator’s bid to advance judicial nominees with bipartisan support. (Huffington Post, 06/08/16)
Michael McAuliff: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of pure political obstruction of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees Wednesday, prompting a shrug from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who objected to her attempt to expedite 15 long-stalled appointees.
Warren took to the Senate floor in the afternoon seeking unanimous consent to bring up all the noncontroversial judges who have passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have not received votes on the Senate floor.
Pointing to a report she released Monday, the Massachusetts senator noted that Republicans have been approving nominees at a glacial pace since taking over the Senate in 2014, approving just 18 judges in this Congress. Judicial vacancies have skyrocketed from 43 to 89."
The Readers' Forum: Thursday letters (Winston-Salem Journal [NC] , 06/08/16)
JANE FREEMONT GIBSON: "Burr blocked his own federal District Court nominee, Jennifer May-Parker, for purely political reasons. He’s done the same with Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, even though the judicial branch is dangerously short on judges.
This kind of political shenanigans needs to end. I’ve had enough of this childishness."