Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Wolves need more time; Feds should abandon planned delisting in Lower 48 (Register Guard [OR] , 04/27/13)
"The recovery of the gray wolf is a success story that illustrates the effectiveness of the federal Endangered Species Act. But the Obama administration fails to see that it’s a story whose final chapters have yet to be penned. ... The Fish and Wildlife Service is under intense pressure from ranchers, hunters and some federal and state officials to remove the remaining protections. As Jamie Rappaport Clark, the former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and now the president of Defenders of Wildlife, notes, the agency’s latest delisting decision “reeks of politics.”"
Editorial: Earth Day (Darien Times [CT], 04/27/13)
"The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. ... So for the benefit of all living things, including humanity, let’s focus on giving back to our planet which has given to us in such abundance."
EDITORIAL: Earth Day unnoticed at our perilmad (Madison Eagle [NJ], 04/26/13)
"The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge gyre of plastic, chemical sludge and debris washed out to sea and concentrated by the North Pacific’s currents, is deadly to sea turtles and sea birds. ...A majority of biologists conclude that worldwide, a mass extinction of species is under way – due to human activity – that will dwarf the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.... That first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts ... Citizens who care about the Earth and future generations must redouble their efforts to make a difference."
Ongoing Obstruction in Senate Rekindles Calls for Filibuster Reform (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/25/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Republicans have crafted a new norm of requiring a supermajority to end debate and allow up-or-down votes on legislation and nominations. ... Since the deal Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, threatened to scuttle his nominations to the National Labor Relations Board and undermine the operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The lame filibuster deal and the ongoing obstruction by Republican senators have spurred a coalition of public interest groups to pressure the Senate to change its ways."
Why The Confirmation Of An Outstanding Judge Still Proves The Senate Is Terrible (Think Progress, 04/25/13)
Ian Millhiser: "It is fantastic news that Kelly is now a judge. Beyond the fact that she is talented and that she adds another name to the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees in a Democratic administration, former public defenders are very rare on the federal bench ... But a person shouldn’t have to be friends with a guy who is friends with Chuck Grassley in order to avoid a grueling confirmation process."
Don't weaken the successful Endangered Species Act (Mercury News [CA] , 04/24/13)
Jeff Miller, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance in Niles: "regionally significant stream restoration has been driven by Endangered Species Act protections for steelhead trout, ... The Endangered Species Act is the main reason we now have abundant and healthy populations of brown pelicans and peregrine falcons in the Bay Area. ... A full 99 percent of the more than 1,400 plants and animals protected under the act have been saved from extinction, and hundreds of them are on the road to recovery."
Confirm the judges (The Hill, 04/24/13)
Brent Budowsky: "It is time to end the obstruction against justice committed by Senate Republicans who first abuse the senatorial courtesy known as blue slips, which gives senators a voice in presidential nominations of federal judges, and then abuse the Senate filibuster rules, to obstruct confirmation of judicial nominees ... a growing number of Senate Republicans are abusing this extra-constitutional and non-statutory blue-slip practice with a contempt for courtesy that obstructs the pursuit of justice. They prevent the confirmation of federal judges with one-senator or two-senator vetoes. They willfully and deliberately keep large numbers of judicial posts vacant ... If this abusive contempt of senatorial courtesy does not end promptly, the blue-slip practice should be ended."
Confirming Eighth Circuit Judge, Sen. Leahy Blasts Effort to Hobble D.C. Circuit (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/24/13)
Jeremy Leaming: "Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) have stuck to agenda of obstruction.... Grassley unveiled his plan to keep the D.C. Circuit from shifting much in ideology – currently the court tilts rightward and has proved hostile to federal regulations, such as efforts to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water laws. Grassley claims the D.C. Circuit has too many judges and a light caseload. He has introduced a bill to slash the number of judges to eight. If Grassley and the other obstructionists have their way, Obama will be fortunate to get one nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.... The Judicial Conference of the United States, chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. in an April 5 letter, Leahy noted, recommended keeping the D.C. Circuit’s 11 judgeships. Moreover, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has noted the Circuit’s caseload has “increased by 50 percent since 2005.”
Regarding caseloads of the federal appeals court circuits, Leahy noted that with Kelly’s confirmation, the “Eighth Circuit will have the lowest number of pending appeals per active judge of any circuit in the country. Yes, lower than the D.C. Circuit.”
Leahy then rattled off the scores of judicial nominations the Senate obstructionists have delayed or scuttled during Obama’s presidency, leading to a vacancy rate that has hovered at 80 or above for several years now."
Editorial; What We Think: A day to save the planet (Valdosta Daily Times [GA], 04/22/13)
"The first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
There are those who will claim these acts have hindered human ambition and endeavor rather than help the planet. But these acts may well save the life-support system for our children and their children and all of our descendants to come."
How the Senate cheats New York: We cede our power to Wyoming (New York Daily News, 04/22/13)
Norm Ornstein: "it now means that even when a clear majority of senators favor a bill or a nominee for executive or judicial posts, that is not enough. And in an era of partisan polarization, where minority Republicans act regularly as if they were a parliamentary minority, reflexively voting together in opposition, it means that a majority party is routinely stymied."
Prioritize appointing U.S. judges (Cincinnati Enquirer [OH] , 04/21/13)
By Laurel Bellows, president of the American Bar Association: "With 86 (one in 10) vacancies on our federal bench and with 37 vacant judgeships qualifying as judicial emergencies, the time for collaboration and compromise is now."
The Register editorial: Grassley wants to whittle down court (Des Moines Register [IA] , 04/20/13)
"U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has gotten a lot of attention for his proposal to reduce the size of the second most powerful federal court from 11 judges to eight. ... Grassley insists he just wants to redistribute court resources without increasing the judiciary budget. Maybe, but we don’t remember Grassley having these budget concerns when Republican presidents were packing the court."
Senate epitomizes do-nothingness (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 04/20/13)
Jay Bookman: "The U.S. Senate is a broken institution, and for that its members have no one to blame but themselves and their inflated sense of self-importance and privilege. The problem is, the consequences of that breakdown are becoming increasingly unsustainable.... the Founders never contemplated that individual senators, or a minority of senators, would be given the power to permanently block presidential nominations. It throws the entire mechanism out of whack, especially now that such power is being used so routinely."
Seib & Wessel: What We’re Reading Tuesday (Wall Street Journal, 04/20/13)
Recommended reading from around the Web, by Gerald F. Seib and David Wessel: "Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) looks at the rash of vacant federal judgeships around the country–82 vacant federal judge slots—and notes that for a startling 61 of them there hasn’t even been a nominee put forward to the Senate. But she says that isn’t simply because President Obama isn’t moving; a large part of the problem is that Republican senators aren’t nominating judges for district court nominees, which by tradition, they recommend. [Huffington Post]"
A 21st-century blueprint for saving Oregon species from climate change: Guest opinion (Oregonian, 04/20/13)
Bill Bradbury, former Oregon secretary of state: "the Endangered Species Act.... which turns 40 this year, is not without its critics, and I can be frustrated by how long it can take to get protection for critically imperiled species and, once they're listed, how long it can take to get a recovery plan in place.
Yet, when we use it as intended, the law can have a tremendous impact. More than 90 percent of the species it protects have been saved from extinction, and hundreds are on the road to recovery. Here in Oregon, some of our most cherished species -- from coho salmon to gray whales and bald eagles -- owe their existence to the Endangered Species Act."
We Have Ceased to Be a Representative Government (Huffington Post, 04/18/13)
H. Lee Sarokin, Retired federal judge: " I suggest that although the filibuster is constitutional and has a valid role in the legislative process, its abuse should not be tolerated and that such abuse is a violation of a senator's oath to "well and faithfully discharge" his or her duties."
Editorial: Help wanted: Judges; Federal benches: Empty (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 04/18/13)
"Now, 87 of 874 federal judgeships are vacant, causing trials postponements and the shuttling in of judges from neighboring courts.... Justice is served when the judiciary is adequately staffed. The president should step up the pace of nominations; the Senate should swiftly approve all but the ethical stinkers or the grossly unqualified. ... Four vacancies exist on the D.C. bench--one since 2005. Mr. Srinivasan, a moderate nominated 10 months ago, is about to come under full Senate scrutiny. Will the merry-go-round stop spinning and allow his confirmation? Let us hope."
'Filibus[t]er wars' must come to an end (Des Moines Register [IA] , 04/17/13)
Carl Tobias: "reflect the judicial vacancy crisis that has left the courts with almost 90 vacancies for more than three years and the D.C Circuit with four of 11 judgeships empty. ... The filibuster wars must cease for the good of the nation, the bench and federal court litigants."
Did Senator Grassley Not Check His Inbox? -- His Proposal to Gut the D.C. Circuit Ignores the Judicial Conference (Text & History, 04/17/13)
Judith E. Schaeffer: "That Senator Grassley’s proposal to eliminate the 9th, 10th, and 11th seats on the D.C. Circuit is a partisan ploy is evidenced not only by the numbers but also because it is not based on any study and in fact ignores recent recommendations of the Judicial Conference to Congress regarding the number of judgeships on the federal courts. By letter of April 5, 2013 to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a copy of which was also sent to Senator Grassley, the Judicial Conference transmitted to the 113th Congress “the Conference’s Article III and bankruptcy judgeship recommendations and corresponding draft legislation for the 113th Congress.” With respect to the circuit courts, these recommendations include the addition of four judges to the Ninth Circuit and one to the Sixth Circuit; there is no recommendation to eliminate any of the judgeships on the D.C. Circuit or to leave any of that court’s vacancies unfilled. In addition, the Judicial Conference has not made any recommendation to add any judges to the Second or 11th Circuits. Senator Grassley’s proposal would not only gut the D.C. Circuit, it would move two of that court’s judgeships to courts where the Judicial Conference has not said they are needed. Senator Grassley’s proposal is based solely on a numeric comparison of cases pending per judge in the D.C. Circuit and in the Second and 11th Circuits. But this comparison wrongly assumes that the typical D.C. Circuit case is similar to the typical case in any other Circuit. It isn’t; Senator Grassley is comparing apples to oranges."
President and Congress must act to fill judicial vacancies (The Hill, 04/17/13)
By Laurel Bellows, president, American Bar Association: "With 86 (one in 10) vacancies on our federal bench and with 37 vacant judgeships qualifying as judicial emergencies, the time for collaboration and compromise is now. ... Real costs are often borne by businesses whose viability relies on the timely resolution of commercial disputes, by defendants who lose jobs and sometimes family ties while languishing behind bars awaiting trial, and, ultimately, the public that expects courts to deliver on the promise of justice for all.
Our economy depends on courts to enforce contracts, protect property and determine liability. Judicial vacancies increase caseloads per judge, creating delays that jeopardize the ability of courts to expeditiously deliver judgments. Delay translates into costs for litigants. Delay results in uncertainty that discourages growth and investment. With 60 percent more judicial vacancies at present than in January 2009 and pending civil cases in U.S. District Courts 7 percent higher than in 2005, vacancies are potential job-killers.
... As a first step, Democrats and Republicans should schedule up-or-down floor votes for those 13 nominees favorably reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with little or no opposition.
Second, the 11 nominees who were pending on the floor when the 112th Congress adjourned should be fast-tracked.... Next, the Senate majority and minority leaders should agree to prioritize filling judicial emergencies and shorten the period of time between nomination and votes. ... Finally, the White House should offer a nominee for every open seat on the bench. The many vacancies and anticipated vacancies warrant making judicial vacancies a priority this year."
No Social Security cut (The Hill, 04/17/13)
Brent Budowsky column: “Far too often, the nation moves left, the Republicans move right, the Democrats cop out. … Filling vacant judgeships to un-pack the court the right seeks to pack? Filibuster. Retreat. Again.”
Of Judges and Judging (New York Times, 04/17/13)
Linda Greenhouse Opinionator blog: "The Senate Republican minority conducted an outrageous filibuster that killed the nomination of Caitlin Halligan ... To say that the D.C. Circuit has been a political football in recent years is an understatement. In 1999, when President Bill Clinton named Elena Kagan to the appeals court, where she would have been the 11th judge, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to give her a hearing, on the ground that the court’s workload didn’t justify filling that vacancy. But four years later, the Senate had no such compunctions about confirming Janice Rogers Brown, President George W. Bush’s nominee to that seat, even though the court’s workload had actually declined in the interval. Senator Grassley may or may not know his history, but no one can say he doesn’t know his politics."
The Filibuster Strikes Again! Takes gun control with it (American Prospect, 04/17/13)
Jamell Bouie column: "as soon as it became inconvenient, McConnell ditched the agreement. First with the filibuster of Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to the DC circuit court, and now, with the Manchin-Toomey compromise on gun control”
Senators Filibuster; Get a Panel (Burnt Orange Report [TX], 04/17/13)
Edward Garris: "Reasonable people can agree on the conciliatory tone of Rep. Jackson Lee's press release and the spirit of bipartisanship. However, where two Republican senators from Texas have worked tirelessly to block the president's judicial nominees, it is not necessarily clear that a 35-person committee assembled by and beholden to those two senators is necessarily the answer to clearing that path to the federal bench."
Political Diary: The Magner Rewards (Wall Street Journal, 04/16/13)
Mary Kissel: "Srikanth "Sri" Srinivasan was the Principal Deputy Solicitor General at the time of the quid pro quo, and Mr. Perez asked him how to get a case withdrawn from the Supreme Court. Mr. Srinivasan's involvement with the quid pro quo appears tangential, and the Senate is likely to approve him for a seat on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals in the coming weeks."
Obstruction or hope (WisOpinion, 04/16/13)
Bill Kaplan: "Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson is one of the leading obstructionists.... And, he was successful. Case in point, law professor Victoria Nourse. Nourse had taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School since 1994, when she was nominated to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Obama in 2010. She had served in the federal executive and legislative branches under Republicans and Democrats. And, Nourse had received the highest grade for a judicial nominee from the American Bar Association. Moreover, she had strong support from the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission (a merit-based selection system). But Nourse never got a Senate hearing. Senator Johnson later put a "hold" on Nourse, a one-man-filibuster. Johnson never bothered to meet with Nourse. If he had bestirred himself he would have learned that Nourse was respected by other Senate Republicans. And, Johnson would have been surprised that Nourse is related to the late GOP Representative Edith Nourse Rogers (MA), an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. Instead he killed her nomination."
9th Circuit: Final L.A. Dist. Court Vacancy Filled by O'Connell (Findlaw, 04/16/13)
U.S. Ninth Circuit blog by William Peacock, Esq.: "Lucky us. Across this fine nation, there are 84 vacancies in federal courts, 68 in U.S. District Courts, and 16 on U.S. Courts of Appeal, according to the fine folks at Courthouse News Service. If you've been following judicial appointments at all in the past couple years, you'll recognize that even when an appointment is made, the Senate refuses to confirm. Good old gridlock. Superior Court Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell finally cleared that gridlock on her second trip through the Senate confirmation process, by a vote of 92-0. That unanimous margin itself illustrates how uncontroversial her appointment was and how ridiculous things are in Washington D.C."
An end to partisan gamesmanship on judges? Not yet (Los Angeles Times, 04/15/13)
Opinion L.A. by Michael McGough: "Srinivasan’s apparently easy path to confirmation doesn’t guarantee an end to the bipartisan practice of blocking eminently well-qualified judicial nominees -- especially to the D.C. Circuit ...Srinivasan’s apparently easy path to confirmation doesn’t guarantee an end to the bipartisan practice of blocking eminently well-qualified judicial nominees -- especially to the D.C. Circuit"
VIDEO INTERVIEW: [FEDERAL CIRCUIT] JUDGE PAUL MICHEL ON USPTO AND CONGRESS (Managing Intellectual Property, 04/15/13)
Transcript: "In terms of what could Congress have done more constructively? it could have filled 100 judicial vacancies in the District Court; it could have increased the number of judgeships which the judiciary has been asking for for over 20 years and which Congress has refused to do so the mismatch between the workload of judges and the number of judges is severe and has grown worse over time. Cases, filings go up; complexity goes up. The available resources get further and further out of line - that's what Congress should be concentrating on."