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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

Editorials and Opinion


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Editorial: U.S. failure on global warming (Chicago Sun Times, 03/31/14)
"How is it, then, that conservatives and others in Congress, so quick to accuse the president of “leading from behind” in seemingly endless military expeditions, won’t allow the United States to take a bold lead in the war on global warming?"

Editorial: The Senate’s Discourtesy to Judges (New York Times, 03/31/14)
"The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her. The strange part is that Mr. Burr himself recommended her for the seat in 2009. But now he’s changed his mind and won’t say why .... Blue slips, or the lack thereof, have held up 11 judicial nominees; there are also 30 vacancies with no nominees because it is clear that a Republican senator would object. The administration has been reduced to nominating a few unpalatable judges in the hopes of cutting deals. Texas has nine court vacancies, but its two senators won’t work with the White House on any nominees."

NY Times: The Senate’s discourtesy to judges (Carolina Mercury [NC], 03/31/14)
LUCY BUTCHER: "The nominee, Jennifer May-Parker, is an attorney Burr himself recommended for the post in 2009. In his recommendation, Burr said that May-Parker had “the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction if nominated.” Burr refuses to explain why he’s withholding the blue slip needed to advance May-Parker’s Senate hearing, claiming he doesn’t discuss judicial nominations....The vacancy is the longest-standing federal district judicial vacancy in the nation. May-Parker is the first person of color and the second woman to be nominated to serve in the Eastern District."

Editorial: April 1 Report Card (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 03/31/14)
"F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, for his puzzling move to block filling the seat of a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The seat has been vacant for more than eight years. In 2009 Burr recommended federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill the seat. Last June President Obama nominated May-Parker. But she has yet to receive a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of the Senate’s “blue slip’’ tradition.... Burr has changed his mind on May-Parker and hasn’t explained why. Thanks to this sort of stonewalling, there are more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench. Burr should explain his reasoning or the Senate should re-examine this practice, which isn’t even a formal rule."

Editorial: Threatened chicken (Hays Daily News [KS], 03/30/14)
"The move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act should not have come as a surprise. The grouse's natural habitat in native grasslands and prairies has been reduced an estimated 84 percent. Last year, the bird's population dropped by almost half from the year before to a record low 17,616.... The lesser prairie chicken should be listed as threatened. Without mitigation, this particular bird likely would become endangered and then extinct. State and local stakeholders have the opportunity to ensure that doesn't happen. They should be grateful, not threatening legal or congressional action."

The Big Deal if the Senate Turns Right (Bloomberg News, 03/30/14)
ALBERT R. HUNT, BLOOMBERG VIEW: "If Republicans take control of the Senate in this year’s elections, it would be, as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. might put it more graphically, a big deal.... Appointments: Senate confirmation for all but the most routine nominations would be a slog. Republicans might repeal the so-called nuclear option rule, which requires only 51 votes (not 60 to break a filibuster) to confirm an executive or judicial appointment short of the Supreme Court."

Forum editorial: Confluence oil spill is troubling (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead [ND], 03/25/14)
"Here is a generous serving of high praise for North Dakota Game and Fish supervisor Kent Luttschwager. He seems to be one of the few (the only?) state habitat/wildlife managers who has spoken out forcefully regarding oil pollution....The mess will require extensive cleanup, and could be a threat to the endangered pallid sturgeon, one of the iconic fish species in the rivers.... But there is no effective regulation that orders the wells be shut down and secured before damage and spills occur. There are no short-term or long-term response plans for protecting habitat after a spill. In other words, it’s pretty much up to the oil well companies to respond in the way they see fit, which they can do because what regulation exists is perceived as toothless."

End the blue-slip filibuster now! (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 03/24/14)
STEVE SEBELIUS: "Nevadans know all about this because of the tragic miscarriage of justice that was the 2012 nomination of Elissa Cadish, an excellent, well-qualified state District Court judge nominated to the federal bench. But because Republican Sen. Dean Heller didn’t like the way Cadish had answered a questionnaire about gun rights, he refused to sign her blue slip. ... The system has been abused, and Nevadans already have suffered because of it. "

White House losing patience on judicial nominations (Daily Kos, 03/24/14)
Joan McCarter: "Texas, with nine vacancies, seven of which have reached the status of "judicial emergency," a designation made by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts because of the length of the vacancies. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have refused to cooperate in identifying possible nominees. Cruz all but admits to the hostage-taking, saying they would be happy to play along if only "they got more amenable nominees." ...There are a number of reforms Leahy could embrace short of just throwing out blue slips"

White House feeling blue over blue slips (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 03/24/14)
Steve Benen: "In states with one or two Republican senators, judicial nominees get stuck – the GOP doesn’t need to filibuster them, the party can simply block these nominations in their infancy. (In a couple of cases, Republicans are using blue slips to block nominees they’d personally endorsed.) ... Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), perhaps best known for filibustering Obama judicial nominees after giving his word that he would never filibuster a judicial nominee, told Politico, “There’s no basis for this kind of contempt for the traditions of the United States Senate, and it’s disgusting to me that it’s even being talked about.”"

A Commendably Speedy Process for a Vermont Judicial Recommendation (People For blog, 03/24/14)
"The senators of Vermont, and especially Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, have shown the country what an exemplary process for identifying potential district court judges looks like. ... Just a little over two months after senators became aware of the vacancy and nearly three months before the vacancy actually becomes open, the White House has received a recommendation and can start the vetting process. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy knows how important this is. Senators in Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado have also moved quickly to make timely recommendations for recent vacancies in their states. Would that every senator did."

Rubio's Delay Increases Urgency of Florida Judicial Nominations (People For blog, 03/24/14)
"The situation in Florida is so dire that even if every vacancy were to be filled tomorrow, it would not be enough to take care of the courts’ growing workloads. In fact, the Judicial Conference has requested a number of new judgeships for the state ... the nominees were recommended by Sen. Rubio, along with Sen. Bill Nelson, based upon the recommendations of a bipartisan committee the two senators put together. Yet to date Sen. Rubio –unlike Sen. Nelson—has not signed the “blue slips” the Senate Judiciary Committee customarily requires before nominees are given a committee hearing. This is cause for some concern in light of Sen. Rubio’s refusal last year to sign off on other Florida nominees to seats that he himself had recommended."

Endangered species not Arizona’s to delist (Arizona Daily Sun, 03/23/14)
Letter to the Editor by Bob James

Where's the science? Fish and Wildlife Service must rewrite proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves (San Jose Mercury News [CA] , 03/21/14)
Paul Paquet and Bob Ferris: "Our unflattering assessment derives from the peer review of the service's 2013 proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from most wolves in the West. The service's recommendation to "delist" wolves was judged to have ignored and misrepresented the "best available science," which is the unambiguous standard for species listing decisions. We wholeheartedly agree with the peer reviewers' troubling conclusions, and we are disappointed that the service pursued political expediency rather than abiding by the lawful provisions of the ESA."

Editorial: Now you see it … (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 03/21/14)
Editorial staff: "Once described as a “fierce urgency” and a major priority, the subject of climate change is slowly disappearing from state environmental agency websites.... it appears neither rational nor scientific to think you can wish something away by simply pretending it’s not there.... Add to this trend the move by state lawmakers in 2012 to ignore predicted sea-level increases, which was just plain dumb, and you have to wonder. And worry."

Column: Thoughts on how to fix Congress (Detroit News [MI], 03/21/14)
Lee Hamilton: "Congress needs to work, not be hamstrung by loyalty to a filibuster rule that has outlived its purpose. Other key processes also need mending. The confirmation of presidential appointees is absurdly slow, seriously jeopardizing a president’s ability to govern.”

Editorial board: Suppressing science education standards is irresponsible (Casper Star Tribune [WY] , 03/20/14)
"Lawmakers' shortsighted strategy will do nothing but ensure Wyoming children have to pursue higher education to learn about the effects of climate change....It's also unfair to our environment, which won't get the attention it needs if legislators continue to pretend our world isn't changing and humans aren't contributing to it."

Tonyaa Weathersbee: There are lots of black robes on Florida's bench - but few black people (Florida Times-Union, 03/19/14)
"There were plenty of spectators on hand during the recent investiture of the newest federal judge, Brian J. Davis. They came to witness Davis ascend to a judgeship in the Middle District of Florida — two years after President Barack Obama chose him and three months after the Senate finally approved his nomination. But while Davis’ appointment was a step forward for diversity on the federal bench, his vacancy on the circuit bench marks a step backward."

THE SUPREME COURT FARM TEAM (New Yorker, 03/18/14)
JEFFREY TOOBIN: "Sri Srinivasan, age forty-seven, D.C. Circuit. ...Paul Watford, age forty-six, Ninth Circuit. ... David Barron, age forty-six, nominated to the First Circuit. ... The next two prospective nominees are more likely if Republicans take control of the Senate ... Jane Kelly, age forty-nine, Eighth Circuit. ... Patricia Ann Millett, age fifty, D.C. Circuit."

West Texas Judges Talk About the Need for More Judges (People For blog, 03/18/14)
"Judge Ferguson discussed the importance of creating new judgeships and filling vacancies in existing ones ... He also described how the enormous caseload harms the deliberative process we expect from judges ... Chief Judge Fred Biery of the Western District discussed what it was like not having enough judges to handle the caseload:"

Protect the Endangered Species Act: Editorial; The most successful environmental legislation ever enacted faces new threats from Congress (Scientific American, 03/18/14)
By The Editors: "The Yellowstone wolves are among the 6,000 or so gray wolves that now inhabit the lower 48 states thanks to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).... The ESA has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the 2,000 listed species. ...The latest assault comes in the form of the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, ... lawsuits filed by environmental groups have led to many of the ESA's accomplishments. ... conservation efforts must be updated to reflect what scientists now know about climate change and the threats it poses to wildlife. As temperatures rise, many more species will fall on hard times. Policy makers should thus increase ESA funding to allow more rigorous monitoring of wildlife and to protect more species."

Viewpoints: OR-7’s return and expanding Oregon wolf population are wake-up calls for California (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 03/17/14)
Amaroq Weiss: "The question now is whether the California Fish & Game commissioners who have the final word on state wolf protections will follow the science or the politics ... Their decision on wolves should be informed by recent missteps on the federal level after a peer-review panel of national wolf experts revealed last month that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignored the best available science in proposing to drop Endangered Species Act protections for most wolves in the lower 48 states even though wolves exist in only 5 percent of their historic range. The unanimous conclusion of the legally required review – that the federal June 2013 wolf-delisting proposal misrepresents the most current science regarding wolf conservation and wolf taxonomy – poses a big scientific problem for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national wolf-delisting proposal."

Severe Conditions in Texas Courts (People For blog, 03/17/14)
"The Judicial Conference asked Congress to create two new judgeships and make permanent a temporary judgeship in the Eastern District, create two new judgeships in the Southern District, and create four new judgeships in the Western District. They also asked that a fifth, temporary judgeship be created for the Western District. Districts listed in the Conference's request are among those most in need. But even within that group, Texas districts stand out for the severity of the crisis. In its cover letter to Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Conference urged immediate action on the five worst districts, two of which were in Texas"

Advocate's view: Wolf plan ignored in rush for the hunt (Duluth News Tribune [MN] , 03/16/14)
Maureen Hackett: "Minnesota’s wolf hunting and trapping season, created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is unnecessary, unpopular and unnatural."

Opinion: The Endangered Species Act turns 40 (Rutland Daily Herald [VT] , 03/16/14)
Deb Markowitz and Dorothy Allard: "Global climate change is causing extreme fluctuations in weather, as well as drought, floods, ice and fire, and weakens species already at risk. In Vermont, the warming climate impacts our high alpine habitat, and is causing a rapid increase in the spread of forest pests and invasive species. Increased rainfall rates mean we have more pollution running into our lakes and streams, threatening important spawning grounds of many fish species.... But if nothing else, working together for the forty years since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law has proven that we can find a way to protect the biodiversity that makes our planet and its ecosystems work for all of us. In one of the great comeback stories of the last century, the bald eagle, gray whale, American alligator and many other species were saved from becoming consigned to memory because of the federal Endangered Species Act."

Gray wolves deserve continued protection: Guest opinion (Oregonian, 03/15/14)
Guest Column by Rep. Peter DeFazio: "Three years ago, swayed by special interests and conservative western states, Congress foolishly voted to end ESA protections in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah and allowing extermination once again. In 2012, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) removed protections for wolves in Wyoming. One of these states—Idaho—has turned back the clock, resurrecting the same extermination programs that landed the gray wolf on the endangered species list in the first place. ... Now, compounding the error of removing ESA protections for the wolf in the Western United States, FWS has proposed removing protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states.... The conclusion of the peer review leaves no option but for FWS to rescind the proposed rule and continue federal protections that are essential to the long-term survival and recovery of gray wolves."

Op-ed: BLM plan isn’t enough to sustain sage grouse  (Salt Lake Tribune [UT] , 03/15/14)
George Fenwick, president, American Bird Conservancy: "ABC and other groups, including Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, are recommending that public comments call on federal agencies to designate protected reserves for greater sage grouse populations and sharply limit or ban oil and gas leases in key habitats. Livestock grazing should be managed to leave adequate ground cover in grouse nesting areas and to protect springs and other riparian habitats where these birds raise their young."

Burr’s shameful stonewalling on court seat (Herald Sun [NC] , 03/15/14)
Guest columnist, Chris Fitzsimon: "And it’s not like the court is running smoothly while Burr stonewalls. The seat in the Eastern District has been vacant since December 2005, making it the longest federal district court vacancy in the country. Sharon McCloskey with NC Policy Watch reported last fall that in the past seven years the district’s caseload grew so much that it took longer for a civil case to move from filing through trial than in any other district in the country except one in California."

Fitzsimon: Judge nomination (Greenville Daily Reflector [NC], 03/15/14)
Chris Fitzsimon: "There has never been an African-American judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and for some reason Senator Richard Burr seems intent on keeping it that way.... And it’s not because there are questions about May-Parker’s qualifications or that she is an especially controversial pick for the court. Burr knows that because he himself endorsed May-Parker for the job in a letter to President Obama on July 21, 2009."

Senators Cornyn and Cruz Don't Help Texas Nominee (People For blog, 03/13/14)
"Several days ago we asked what Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz would do at this week's business meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which they both serve. Would they stand up for their home-state's Fifth Circuit judicial nominee Gregg Costa? Or would they side with their fellow Judiciary Committee Republicans and let them delay Costa's scheduled vote for at least two weeks for no reason except to obstruct an Obama nominee? ... The vote was delayed."