Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Our Opinion: A Burr blockade (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 05/03/16)
"When Patricia Timmons-Goodson ran for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court in 2006, she polled 58 percent of the vote. ... she’d already proven her mettle on the state Court of Appeals and as a District Court judge in her native Cumberland County.
So it wasn’t surprising last week when President Barack Obama nominated Timmons-Goodson to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Raleigh. She is eminently well-qualified and owns a long record of service.... But Sen. Richard Burr’s immediate response to the nomination did come as a shock.... he blocked the woman previously nominated for this long-empty position, Jennifer May-Parker, an assistant U.S. attorney. She was nominated in June 2013 but never given a hearing.... There is no excuse for denying Timmons-Goodson a hearing, even if Obama failed to call him about the nomination. That might be a breach of protocol, but Burr is equally responsible because of his unreasonable positions on the Lynch and Garland nominations.... as an experienced, fair-minded judge, Timmons-Goodson doesn’t let political considerations dictate her conduct on the bench. That’s what makes her a good choice for the federal court seat.... Burr should reconsider and support her confirmation"
EDITORIAL: The Report Card for May 3 (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 05/03/16)
"F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., for immediately shooting down the nomination of Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a federal court vacancy for the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina. Timmons-Goodson has served on the N.C. Court of Appeals, was the first black woman on the state Supreme Court and most recently served as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. There’s little debate regarding her qualifications. Still, Sen. Burr said he won’t submit the nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so the politics of gridlock will ensure that the Eastern District vacancy, a post that has gone unfilled since the first day of 2006, will continue."
EDITORIAL: Obama’s high court choice deserves hearing (Poughkeepsie Journal [NY] , 05/03/16)
"President Barack Obama has done his job by picking an imminently qualified judge to serve on the Supreme Court.
Senate Republicans, who like to tout themselves as strict constructionists of the Constitution, should stop their charade and set a confirmation hearing.... Now the U.S. Senate ought to fulfill its obligation by setting into motion the process to “advise and consent” on the president’s choice, as the Constitution requires. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say the Senate should “ignore a nomination until the president’s term expires.”"
Time for McCrory and Burr to shut things down for the year? Under conservative standards applied to President Obama, they would have no other choice (NC Policy Watch, 05/03/16)
Rob Schofield: "One of the more important developments for North Carolina took place on Thursday when President Obama nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a decade-old vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the state’s Eastern District. If confirmed, Timmons-Goodson would be the first judge of color to ever serve in the Eastern District (a region of North Carolina in which the African-American population is higher than any other) in the history of the federal courts.
For those of you who are counting, that’s 237 years.
Unfortunately, ... Senator Richard Burr has announced that he will torpedo the nomination as the bizarre rules of the U.S. Senate all but guarantee him the right to do. As with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Burr apparently takes the view that federal judicial nominations during presidential election years are now a big no-no.... As with his Timmons-Goodson blockade, this is, of course, an utterly absurd position.... It’s hard to know what’s more maddening about Burr’s stance – the transparency of the senator’s hypocrisy and opportunism or his utter lack of transparency in espousing his position. ... In the case of the Eastern District seat (where Burr blocked a previous nominee for years) he has literally and repeatedly brushed off inquiries, stating that the public has no right to know his motives"
STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD: THUMBS DOWN (Standard-Examiner [Ogden, UT], 05/02/16)
"THUMBS DOWN: To Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, who are demanding a quick approval process for Utahn Ronald G. Russell to the federal bench.
What hypocrisy. Hatch and Lee are two of the main voices denying Judge Merrick Garland a hearing on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
We suspect that Russell is well qualified for the post. But Garland is eminently qualified for the Supreme Court, too. It’s ridiculous for Utah’s senators to use an argument for Russell that clearly also applies to Garland, whom they’re blocking for political advantage.
Coherence is in short supply in D.C. If Russell’s nomination is held, Hatch and Lee have only themselves to blame."
EDITORIAL: Judicial Roulette (America, 05/02/16)
"Senate Republicans’ steadfast refusal to hold hearings ... has no constitutional merit—the president has a clear duty to nominate and the Senate to “advise and consent” or refuse a nominee .... President Obama has shown admirable restraint in his nomination. Though he leans left, Judge Garland is much closer to the center of the ideological spectrum than the man he would replace and, at 63, is 13 years older and closer to eventual retirement than Justice Scalia was at his nomination.... Responding to the fight over Robert Bork’s nomination in 1987, the editors of America ... argue[d] that “it would be silly to maintain that politics or ideology should have nothing to do” with such a decision. ... That recognition should also move Senate Republicans to hold hearings on the nomination."
EDITORIAL: Sen. Burr blocks federal judge nominee and slows justice in eastern NC (News & Observer [NC], 05/02/16)
"Patricia Timmons-Goodson has served with distinction as a judge at all levels of North Carolina’s judicial system. ... She was the first black woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, ... and is now vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
By any measure, Timmons-Goodson’s career has been distinguished, and her rulings and writings are available for all to see and judge. She is well-qualified to be a federal judge.
But Timmons-Goodson’s nomination to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina is being stalled by the simple stubbornness of Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. The judicial post, which has gone unfilled since Jan. 1, 2006, is the nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy....Burr’s opposition is unfair to Timmons-Goodson personally and unfair to the system running short of federal judges.... This obstruction is hardly a first ... he has joined in the GOP charade of denying a hearing for the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland.
The Senate’s job in reviewing the president’s nominees is to advise and consent, not to pout and obstruct.... Burr fails to recognize that right and in so doing is impeding the administration of justice for the people of Eastern North Carolina."
EDITORIAL: Our View: Burr plays politics with long-vacant judicial seat (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 05/02/16)
"We've heard a lot of descriptions of Judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson over the years. All of them were glowing.
So it's hard to swallow Sen. Richard Burr's tarring of her nomination to a federal judgeship as "brazenly political" and an "election season stunt." The brazen politics are all his.
The judge, a Fayetteville native, was the first black woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is currently vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The best word for her career is "distinguished."
But there's certainly been plenty of politics played with the Eastern District of North Carolina federal judgeship that President Obama has nominated her to. It's been vacant since the second term of George W. Bush's administration, .... Thanks to the arcane rules and traditions of the Senate, Burr can block Timmons-Goodson's nomination for as long as he chooses. We expect he will.
And that's a shameful disservice to the administration of justice in the state Burr serves."
Editorial: Thumbs down to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's "gamble." (Quad City Times [IL,IA] , 05/02/16)
"Yes, there's a risk to holding a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court for GOP front-runner Donald Trump, Grassley admitted this week. ... And yes, Grassley's refusal to hold hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland could blow up in the GOP's collective faces, if Democrat Hillary Clinton takes the White House and brings a Democratic Senate majority with her. It's a "gamble" Grassley said he's willing to take. But Grassley [is] playing with house money and each and every one of us might pick up the tab."
EDITORIAL: Rescue the Supreme Court From Limbo (New York Times, 05/01/16)
"Republicans haven’t been satisfied simply to hobble the court’s ability to function. In recent weeks, they have gone to remarkable lengths to impugn the integrity of the justices and thus the legitimacy of the court. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has attacked Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who delighted conservatives at his own confirmation hearings by comparing judges to umpires calling balls and strikes. But last month, Mr. Grassley, who should be spending his time scheduling confirmation hearings, instead lashed out at the chief justice, claiming that “a number of his votes have reflected political considerations, not legal ones” .... None of this has anything to do with the qualifications of Mr. Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, whom conservatives have long praised as someone they would happily confirm. ... if the president and the Senate are of different parties, there is every reason to believe that the current blockade will continue indefinitely."
PoliticsNC Editor's blog: Do your job (PoliticsNC, 04/29/16)
Thomas Mills: "I really don’t understand Republicans’ Congressional strategy. The whole country is mad at Congress for being ineffective and incompetent and they still won’t do their jobs. Instead, of announcing he’s doing something,Richard Burr yesterday told us he’s not going to do his job and he’s going to continue to leave the federal courts in North Carolina short-handed.
Yesterday, Obama announced he is nominating Patricia Goodson-Timmons, a former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, to the federal court in Eastern North Carolina. The news was barely out before Richard Burr announced he would block the nomination. The court has had the vacancy for more than ten years. That’s right. The seat has been vacant for a decade and Richard Burr has stood in the way of filling it.... If Burr were smart, he would schedule hearings. If Timmons-Goodson really has problems, they’ll come out then. Instead, Burr is now on record blocking nominees. He’s not only making Congress appear to be skirting its responsibilities, he’s hamstringing the court system, too. For people concerned that government is broken, Burr and the Senate are just confirming their fears."
Commentary: President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/29/16)
Rob Schofield: "Ho hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it. ... Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina. Judge Timmon-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent."
Richard Burr extends judicial blockade to longest-standing vacancy in the courts (Daily Kos, 04/29/16)
Joan McCarter: "The federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina features the longest-standing vacancy in the nation—a decade-long vacancy. Federal District Court Judge Malcolm Jones Howard semi-retired on December 31, 2005, and the seat hasn't been permanently filled since. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, Republican, wants to keep it that way.... the only agreement that was ever made public, one that Hagan agreed to, was to nominate Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District. Hagan submitted a "blue slip" for May-Parker, the courtesy that the Senate Judiciary Committee extends to home-state senators to put forward candidates they support. Burr refused to give her a blue slip and because then-chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) honored those blue slips, the nomination stalled. this is who the current nominee is: Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former state Supreme Court justice and vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. So Burr has decided now, when his state is on the verge of completely blowing up over civil rights issues, to block this nominee."
Bill Kirby Jr. column (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 04/29/16)
"U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of our state calls President Obama's nomination of Patricia Timmons-Goodson for a federal judgeship in the Eastern District of North Carolina a political ploy and says he'll not support the Fayetteville native's nomination, which tells some of us Burr has no idea about the integrity and character of Patricia Timmons-Goodson."
EDITORIAL: Strategy to divide and fail (Lompoc Record [CA], 04/29/16)
"What seems to be lost in the fog of Washington politics is that, from a constitutional standpoint, this nation’s voters have already spoken. In 2008 and 2012 they elected, then re-elected Barack Obama, who has every right to name Scalia’s replacement.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court trundles on, doomed to deadlocks on some of the nation’s most pressing legal and social issues — all because Republican political power brokers want to have it their way, using the excuse that Americans need to decide.
If the presidential campaigns have shown us nothing else, it is that politics is a dirty business, but what the GOP Senate leadership is doing by stonewalling a viable candidate to fill Justice Scalia’s seat is showing absolute contempt for the Supreme Court, and the role it plays in balancing the three branches of government. Party leaders should be ashamed, and so should those resorting to such demagoguery.... That’s not what framers of the U.S. Constitution had in mind."
EDITORIAL: Our view: Senate blows chance to bolster Erie court (Erie Times-News [PA], 04/28/16)
"U.S. District Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter is not an ideological abstraction.
Neither is the criminal and civil caseload in Erie's U.S. District Court. ... None of that apparently matters in the U.S. Senate, where those elected to do the job have delayed a critical constitutional task, seating a candidate to fill the vacancy created nearly three years ago .... President Barack Obama nominated her in July to fill McLaughlin's seat, with support from both Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Baxter breezed through a Dec. 9 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.... On Tuesday, ... Senate Democrats in Washington sought to gain confirmation on 11 noncontroversial judicial nominations, including Baxter's.
Senate Republicans blocked the move. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., invoked math: Obama already had more judicial confirmations than President George W. Bush did at this stage in his presidency.
Granted, both sides have played the obstruction game. But that still seems to us a meaningless number, because the vacancies confronting Obama, including Erie's, have been more numerous.
Justice is supposed to roll like water, not be counted out like beans. The Senate needs to do its job."
North Carolina judicial nomination shot down immediately (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 04/28/16)
Editorial writer Doug Clark's blog: "President Barack Obama today nominated former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill a long-vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Eastern North Carolina.
And Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina immediately shot her down. ... This is very disappointing because Timmons-Goodson is a well-qualified judge who has served on many levels in the North Carolina court system. ... I think he is also being very disingenuous. ... Burr himself has blown up credibility he previously earned in these matters by joining other Republican senators in stonewalling the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court. It was absolutely inexcusable for Republicans, including Burr, to declare they would not consider any nominee.
To call it a "stunt" for Obama to nominate a qualified jurist for an open court seat is nonsense. The president has every right to do so."
Editorial: Democracy was the big winner on Tuesday (Delaware County Daily Times [PA], 04/27/16)
Sen. "Toomey will be dogged by several factors. First there is his alliance with Republican Senate leaders in denying a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Polls have shown Pennsylvanians increasingly are tired of that kind of obstructionist governing."
Judicial architects (Idaho State Journal, 04/27/16)
Randy Stapilus Op-Ed: "Idaho may soon fill a critical job vacancy that opened when Edward Lodge announced in September 2014 his intent to “assume senior status” — more or less, semi-retire — the following July. That would allow a deep breath of relief on the underpopulated Idaho federal bench, which long has sought more judicial help. The Obama White House and Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both lawyers by profession), have agreed on David Nye of Pocatello, a 6th district judge, to fill the job. Kudos all around.... Crapo and Risch are asking the Senate to push his confirmation through.... Would Nye and Merrick [Garland] be fair judges? That would seem to be the relevant question at hand."
EDITORIAL: OUR VIEW: Political courage shouldn't be situational (Times [Ottawa, IL], 04/27/16)
"Well, congressman, the hurry is that the Supreme Court is supposed to have nine members. Antonin Scalia died in February, and whomever is elected president won’t take the oath of office until Friday, Jan. 20. No one can say with a straight face the American public is better served missing 11 percent of the most important court in the land for a year or more.... Garland deserves a hearing and a Senate vote. The timing of the election is irrelevant. Kinzinger and his sort know this, they just won’t admit it to their constituents. That’s neither grown up nor courageous. It’s just plain sad."
Ongoing Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 04/26/16)
"In 2007, the first year as the majority, the Democratic Senate confirmed 40 of President Bush’s circuit and district court nominees (with a total of 68 by the end of 2008). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has confirmed only 17 judges during this congress.... At the beginning of 2007, there were 56 circuit and district court vacancies. Throughout the next two years, the number of vacancies generally remained at 50 or fewer, getting as low as 34 in the early fall of 2008.... Today, in stark contrast, the number of circuit and district court vacancies is climbing, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 74 today, an 85% increase.... Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the new congress"
Salamon | McConnell harms democratic process (Courier-Journal [KY] , 04/25/16)
Beth Salamon: "There are close to 100 current and future vacancies and 28 judicial emergencies, up 43 and 12 respectively since the beginning of this Congress. In Kentucky alone, there are two district court vacancies with no nominees, and one seat has been vacant for more than 1,000 days.... Our judicial vacancy problem extends beyond the Supreme Court and Judge Merrick Garland; it is the result of a systemic, politically motivated effort to deny President Obama his constitutionally mandated power to nominate federal court judges.... The Senate has held a mere 15 confirmation votes since January 2015, compared to the 111, 97 and 44 votes held by the previous three Congresses respectively.
McConnell has the power to fix this problem, but he regularly fails to do so, despite having publicly spoken about the constitutional need to vote on nominees at least two dozen times over the course of his career.
Only five judges have been confirmed in 2016. Fifteen district judicial nominations are currently languishing on the Senate floor for a vote, and 34 others await hearings in the Judiciary Committee. ... The 114th Congress is on pace to have the lowest number of judges confirmed in six decades.... This bottlenecking keeps our American court system from functioning as it was intended. Justice delayed is justice denied for everyone in the United States."
Editorial: Hatch should reciprocate and consider Garland nomination for Supreme Court (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/25/16)
"Now might be the time to ask Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee what they really think of the dysfunctional Congress that they helped create and continue to abet.... Last week, Utah's senators made the case for the confirmation of Ronald G. Russell to the U.S. District Court for Utah. President Barack Obama, after consulting with Hatch and Lee, nominated the former Centerville mayor in December.
Now, Russell is stuck is a queue behind 20 other judicial nominees, not to mention Obama's choice to the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Judge Merrick Garland.
It could be called hypocritical arrogance ... for Hatch and Lee to refuse to consider the president's Supreme Court choice while pressing their own nominee to a federal judgeship.
The double standard is particularly troubling in Hatch's case, as he has been an enthusiastic advocate for Garland .... Utah's elder statesman has two good reasons to break from the pack, stop the partisan melodrama and show leadership, to spend some of the political capital that he has accumulated over four decades. Merrick Garland and Ronald G. Russell are nominees he admires. Instead of contributing to poisonous politics, he could actually do something to fix it, something to loosen the appointment logjam and help courts function the way they are intended.
After all, Sen. Hatch, you have a pair of dogs in this fight.
Obama acted on your choice to fill a federal judgeship in Utah. You should reciprocate. It is what Utahns elected you to do."
Portman, GOP should act on high-court nominee (Vindicator [Youngstown, OH], 04/24/16)
Op-Ed by Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (1979-2002): "To my sadness, Ohio Sen.Rob Portman joined with Majority Leader McConnell when he announced that filling the seat of the late Justice Scalia should await the election of the next president. ... I am compelled to remind Majority Leader McConnell and my good friend Sen. Portman that they are straying, not only from the Constitution but from the “strict construction” pledge of President Reagan as well."
EDITORIAL: Toomey needs to be accountable (Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald [PA], 04/23/16)
"Sen. Pat Toomey doubled down on his obstruction last week after meeting with Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
The Republican seeking his second term declared after the meeting that he continues to support his caucus’s decision not to do its constitutional duty. He opposes conducting the confirmation process .... there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes Toomey and his cohorts to invalidate the last year of a presidential term.... it is crucial that he endorse a fair confirmation process for Garland."
Editorial, 4/23: Rust in the system (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 04/22/16)
"In ways both big and small, the machinery of the federal government is slowly rusting shut.
Take, for starters, the judicial system.
The most glaring example is the refusal of the Republican majority in the Senate, including Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, to have a hearing or vote on President Barrack Obama’s appointment of federal Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But the rust goes a lot deeper into the system.
Obama’s appointment of Omaha attorney Robert Rossiter to Nebraska’s federal District Court has been pending since June.... The Nebraska vacancy, created when U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon of Omaha announced his retirement, qualifies as a “judicial emergency.” ... There are almost a hundred judicial vacancies on lower federal courts. The Senate has confirmed only six federal judges this year.
There’s nothing controversial about Rossiter’s appointment. It’s just that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not allow the Senate to act.... 25 members of the Law College at the University of Nebraska urged confirmation hearings and a vote on Judge Garland, noting that Republican senators in past years have cited Judge Garland as an example of a nominee they could support.... The same scenario applies to Rossiter. If the Senate fails to act on his nomination during the current system of Congress, the whole process would restart next year when there is a new president in the White House."