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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Gorsuch Standing Up To Trump Tweets? Puh-leeze! (People For blog, 02/08/17)
Drew Courtney: Trump’s pattern of attacks on federal judges is more than demoralizing—it’s a threat to the separation of powers and our constitutional system, and it’s hard to imagine a more tepid response than to call them “disheartening.”... Nor should Gorsuch’s vague disagreement paper over the very real concerns about how independent he’d be on the Courts. Just yesterday, Gorsuch “avoided answers like the plague” when Senator Chuck Schumer pressed him on important issues like the Emoluments Clause.

[Editorial] Our Opinion: Senator Warren won't be muzzled (Berkshire Eagle [MA] , 02/08/17)
"The Republicans' shameful action was inexcusable on a number of levels. The statement of Mrs. King was relevant because Mr. Sessions' nomination for that federal judgeship was rejected in a bipartisan vote on the basis of his statements and actions as a U.S. attorney that showed bias against African-Americans.... The letter read, in part, that "Mr. Sessions' conduct as U.S. attorney, from his politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge." That argument carried the day at the time."

McConnell must act, not just talk | Graseck (Courier-Journal [KY] , 02/08/17)
Paul Graseck, Guest Contributor: A vote for Sessions will broadcast to President Trump that Congress is unwilling to stand up to a President who condescendingly denigrates our Constitution, dismisses the importance of a separation of powers, and endorses a candidate for Attorney General poised to minimize the significance of decades of hard-won civil rights law emerging from the legislative branch of government.

Opinion Mitch, please: Elizabeth Warren was criticizing a nominee, not a colleague when you told her to sit down and shut up (Los Angeles Times, 02/08/17)
Michael McGough: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will rue the day when he moved to shush Sen. Elizabeth Warren for trying to read a 30-year-old letter from Coretta Scott King critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general. ... As a U.S. attorney, King wrote, Sessions had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten black voters.”... Warren was commenting on Sessions not as a colleague but as the nominee to a position in the executive branch; his character (as perceived by Mrs. King) was central to her argument.

Gazette editorial: The letter Senate Republicans didn't want to hear (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 02/08/17)
"Outrage about the Alabaman's prejudice caused him to be rejected as a U.S. judge three decades ago. This week, with Sessions poised to become America's top lawyer, responsible for enforcing civil rights laws, .... The disturbing racial record of Sessions was a legitimate topic for Senate debate. His record raises doubt whether he would enforce federal equality laws."

[Editorial] ‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ (Miami Herald, 02/08/17)
MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD: Sen. Elizabeth Warren must have figured she could breathe life into the words of Coretta Scott King.... Republicans, employing a rarely used tactic, rebuked Warren and shut her down, pouting that she said things that made Sessions look bad — even though he’s done a good job of that himself. For the record, King was decrying Sessions’ politically motivated attempts at the time to deny African Americans the right to vote. That should be cause enough to reject him again.

Mitch McConnell can silence Elizabeth Warren, but he can't quiet doubts about Jeff Sessions as AG (Dallas Morning News, 02/08/17)
Michael A. Lindenberger, Editorial Writer: Sessions' record on civil rights is precisely the proper focus of whether senators ought to confirm him as the next attorney general. Many believe — I believe — that he has, on that score, failed miserably and ought not be confirmed. ... Sessions is a bad choice for attorney general, in my mind the most dangerous pick of all the picks President Donald Trump has made for his Cabinet.

Letter: Opposition to SCOTUS nominee not obstruction (Holland Sentinel [MI], 02/07/17)
Richard Wolfe: The Republicans' outright and indefensible obstruction of Merrick Garland's nomination was indeed "shameful," not least because they, with malice aforethought, simply refused to satisfy their constitutional obligation to provide "advice and consent." Active campaigns, or a pending election, in no way mitigate that obligation. On the other hand, the Democrats' or any like-minded Republican's opposition to Gorsuch falls squarely within that obligation. Opposition is not the same as obstruction. Nor must it be subject to any test of substance. That opposition can be borne of anger with respect to the disrespect heaped upon Garland (and President Obama), or concerns regarding Gorsuch's record of jurisprudence .... Adherence to constitutional process and obligations should never be misconstrued as "the low road."

LETTER: Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, would be a disaster for the environment (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 02/07/17)
Rosa Mendoza: In 1984, the U.S. Supreme court voted on the correct side of the law in the Chevron decision, which blocked judges from second-guessing rulings from respected entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Judge Gorsuch argued against this environment-friendly ruling, saying that the ruling overstepped boundaries. His opinion reflects a salient truth: He values big business over the environment.

Letter to the Editor: Reject Gorsuch: Aid in dying (Seattle Times [WA] , 02/06/17)
Robert Free: Washington state residents should be particularly concerned about the prospect of Judge Neil Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court justice.... Judge Gorsuch has stated his opposition to laws which permit terminal patients to hasten their death with physician assistance .... The Senate must press the nominee to affirm that he will not interfere with states’ laws which give freedom of choice to their citizens.

EDITORIAL: Give Gorsuch fair, tough hearing (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 02/05/17)
"Gorsuch by all accounts fits the desired mold for conservatives .... Democrats’ anger over the Republican refusal to even consider President Obama’s nomination as Scalia’s replacement — Merrick Garland — remains palpable, and rightly so.... The burden here lies with Senate Republicans. Gorsuch ... deserves a fair hearing — just as Garland did, but didn’t receive. Fair, however, doesn’t mean soft, or a rubber stamp. Scrutiny of Gorsuch’s past, his credentials and his philosophies must be thorough and exhaustive. ... Republican lawmakers cannot take on the role of partisan protectors. They need to be open-minded to Gorsuch’s potential deficiencies and the possibility that better choices are out there. Just because Trump believes Gorsuch is the best person for the job doesn’t make it so, and Republicans on Capitol Hill should feel no obligation to meekly give Trump what he wants on this.... Most important now, therefore, is finding the ideal candidate within that framework, one with reassuring dedication to legal precedents and principles without hints of prevailing ideological agendas. ... Rigid, across-the-board conservatism shouldn’t be the primary consideration in a new justice — and there are some Republican senators out there who would agree."

Mitch McConnell Marvels At The Judicial Crisis He Created: After years of blocking Barack Obama’s court picks, Republicans now have “an excellent chance of clearing the deck of all the vacancies,” says the GOP leader. (Huffington Post, 02/05/17)
Jennifer Bendery: If there is a hallmark issue that defines Mitch McConnell’s time as Senate majority leader under President Barack Obama, it was his obstruction of judicial nominees....But he did so at the cost of driving up judicial vacancies around the country, so much so that the federal bench is now emptier than it’s been in decades and the number of judicial emergencies ― when a court is so overburdened it can barely function ― spiked from 12 to 43 in the two years since Republicans retook control of the Senate.... There’s a federal appeals court in Wisconsin that’s been waiting 2,586 days for a vacancy to be filled ― looking at you, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). A district court in North Carolina has had a vacancy for 4,054 days ― hi, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). That’s more than 11 years.... The thing to watch now is whether Republicans use their control of the White House and the Senate to push through nominees who aren’t just conservative but have extreme right-wing ideologies. Democrats are limited in what they can do to stop them from doing that. But they aren’t helpless. If they’re prepared to play hardball, like Republicans did with Obama’s judicial nominees, they could lean on a judiciary committee rule to unilaterally block any nominee from their state from moving forward.

Feb. 5 Readers Letters: A virtuous judge would have refused nomination (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 02/05/17)
David Martinez: If Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch were truly the paragon of judicial virtue as he has been portrayed by conservatives and the media, he would have refused this illegitimate nomination for this stolen seat. ... Republicans broke the Senate last year, and 25-pus more years of right-wing judicial activism will be the result.

You’ll Get Nothing and Like It: The Case Against Gorsuch (Washington Monthly, 02/05/17)
D.R. Tucker: There is simply no rational basis for any Democratic Senator to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court–and every reason in the world for Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination.... Ideology alone is more than enough reason for Democrats .... Declaring Gorsuch ideologically unfit for the Supreme Court is wholly rational and wholly reasonable.

Senators, don't allow Judge Gorsuch to rubber-stamp Trump's agenda (The Hill, 02/05/17)
Marge Baker, Opinion Contributor: More than ever, our country needs an independent Supreme Court to protect our rights and defend our laws — not one that will go along with a president’s actions if he violates the Constitution. That makes it all the more concerning that, on Tuesday, Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, someone whose far-right track record makes clear that he wouldn’t be able to carry out this critical responsibility. In fact, a look at Gorsuch’s past rulings shows quite the opposite: He cannot be trusted to follow the Constitution rather than a political ideology tilted toward protecting the powerful.

Editorial: Supreme Court rules have changed (Daily Camera [CO] , 02/04/17)
"Trump's nominee, our Boulder County neighbor, Neil Gorsuch, is required by a well-worn fiction to declare that he would bring no ideology to the court, no desire to legislate from the bench, only an earnest, freedom-loving loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.... Obama nominated Garland, a centrist previously praised by high-profile Republicans. ... By a variety of accounts, Gorsuch is a nice guy and a smart guy, but anyone who believes he won't join the court's hard-right bloc probably uses "Kumbaya" as a ringtone. Unless the Democrats want to volunteer to play victims in an abusive relationship, they should use every tool at their disposal to oppose the theft of a court seat that would have been Garland's before the rules changed. That means filibustering the Gorsuch nomination and forcing McConnell to abolish the filibuster on high-court nominations in order to get him through."

Letter: Gorsuch doesn't deserve court seat (Record [NJ] , 02/04/17)
Don Myers: In the last year of Obama’s presidency, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, failed to fulfill his duties as the Senate leader. By doing so, he, de facto, stole this seat on the Supreme Court for the Republicans. ... If Gorsuch were a man of integrity, he would step aside and ask for a vote on Garland.

Column: Gorsuch, Scalia and sodomy (Chicago Tribune, 02/03/17)
Steve Chapman: Neil Gorsuch ... his view of two major rulings on state laws banning certain types of sexual conduct is worth investigating. A candid discussion might make Americans wonder whether the judicial philosophy he upholds is quite as appealing as it sounds.... the question for a nominee who fervently champions Scalia's approach to judging is: What about sodomy?

[Editorial] Moran’s decision disappoints (Manhattan Mercury [KS], 02/03/17)
"Sen. Jerry Moran is a likable guy. It’s too bad that being one of the crowd is so important to him. Last year, for a while at least, he demonstrated genuine political courage. He said Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court and an individual about whom Republicans could find little to criticize, deserved a hearing. He was right. He also was all but alone among Republican senators in holding such a view. It drew him the unwelcome attention of the Judicial Crisis Network and the Traditional Values Network, the latter of which likened him to Judas Iscariot for daring to break Republican ranks. He got the message. Suddenly, through spokespersons, he let it be known that hearings wouldn’t be necessary for him to conclude that Judge Garland wasn’t qualified after all. And just like that, Sen. Moran was back in the fold."

Letter to the Editor: The Gorsuch nomination (Washington Post, 02/03/17)
Adam Lioz, Demos: The Feb. 2 editorial “Questions for Mr. Gorsuch” was correct that Judge Neil Gorsuch must be pressed on many issues — none more important than how he would use a Supreme Court seat to shape our democracy. For four decades, the court’s flawed approach to money in politics has gutted common-sense protections against the power of special interests and wealthy individuals.... With the court split 4-4 on this and other issues, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Mr. Gorsuch’s record suggests he’s not the person to shift the tide toward building a democracy in which the size of our wallets doesn’t determine the strength of our voices. Senators must press for clear answers.

Editorial: Fight Trump’s nomination for Supreme Court (News Times [CT], 02/03/17)
"We see several reasons why Democrats and Republicans with a backbone should not support President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. But this reason alone suffices: He would favor the National Rifle Association and its profit-making agenda of weaponizing as many Americans as possible. This path is insane. ...Harm, not harmony, would ensue if the minority party would acquiesce on this nomination.... On a divided bench, there is no room for an extremist."

National Review’s “Feeble” Attempt to Defend Gorsuch (People For blog, 02/03/17)
Elliot Mincberg: Our one paragraph about Gorsuch that NRO criticized was no “bill of particulars;” PFAW and many others have spelled out in greater detail the troubling parts of Judge Gorsuch’s record. But even that one paragraph helps demonstrate that Judge Neil Gorsuch is clearly out of the mainstream, further to the right in some ways than Justice Scalia, and should not be confirmed for the Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch nomination to Supreme Court offers peril for both Republicans and Democrats (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 02/03/17)
Steve Sebelius column: A bit of unsolicited advice for Republicans, especially Nevada’s senior senator, Dean Heller: Be cautious about following Trump’s advice to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. It may seem awfully convenient now, but at some future time, when your party is in the minority, you will regret it, just as Democrats no doubt regret their loosening of the rule on Cabinet and lower-court appointees. A consensus nominee should get at least 60 votes.

After holding SCOTUS seat open for a year, Republicans plan to rush Gorsuch confirmation: What’s so urgent, guys? (Think Progress, 02/03/17)
Ian Millhiser: Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) anticipates “a roughly six week timeline” for confirming Gorsuch, with only 3 days of confirmation hearings — only one of which will be used to ask questions of the nominee.

The Most Important Questions for Trump's Justice Are About Democracy: Senators should press Neil Gorsuch on questions fundamental to democratic government. (Atlantic, 02/02/17)
Garrett Epps: On issues like reproductive rights and choice, the proper role of religion in law, the environment, his presence on the bench would help propel this country in a retreat from freedom and liberty we cannot afford to make. Any progressive (no matter how mild his or her inclination) has ample evidence to, and should, oppose this nomination on the merits. ... the vacancy that Gorsuch is being appointed to fill was procured by constitutional malfeasance of the worst kind. ... But one issue stands above them all: the fate of democracy.... If Senate Republicans can refuse to consider a nominee for political reasons, Democrats can refuse to confirm a nominee if he doesn’t answer these fair questions.

Before the Gorsuch Hearings: Originalism and Textualism Hide Ideological Judgments Behind Claims of Objectivity (American Constitution Society Blog, 02/02/17)
Prof. Carolyn Shapiro: In his book, The Living Constitution, Professor David Strauss (an ACS Board Member) offers a number of important examples of originalism’s failures. The most powerful example, of course is that based on the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education was wrongly decided. There is little question that most people at the time of the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment thought that segregated schools were just fine and did not think that the amendment rendered them unconstitutional. ... Originalism and textualism, declining to “legislate from the bench,” “exercising judicial restraint” – these are all nice words, but they mean something quite specific. They refer to a conservative brand of jurisprudence, one that is just as judgment-laden and contingent as any other.

The case for all-out war against Gorsuch (The Week, 02/02/17)
Ryan Cooper: While Senate Democrats have the numbers to sustain a few defections, they absolutely must filibuster Gorsuch, or any other nominee Trump dredges up out of the Republican swamp, both as a matter of principle and if they want to have a chance in the 2018 midterms. The most important fact to keep in mind is that this is a stolen seat, as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) rightly says.

It’s time to make Republicans pay for their supreme hypocrisy (Washington Post, 02/02/17)
E.J. Dionne Jr., Opinion writer: We are in for a festival of GOP hypocrisy in the debate over President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Republicans will say that because he is decent and well-qualified, Democrats have no business blocking him. But it’s hard to find someone more decent or qualified than Garland, as many Republicans acknowledged. ... conservative judicial mavens have already made clear that outcomes-oriented jurisprudence is their thing now, even if they disguise it behind grandiloquent words such as “originalism” and “textualism.” Trump, after all, picked Gorsuch from a roster prepared for him by right-wing interest groups. Let this nomination also be the end of any talk of Trump as a pro-worker “populist.” Gorsuch is neither.... There comes a time when the only way to stand up against future abuses is to insist that there will be no reward for the abuses that have led us to this point.

Democrats Should Not Fear the Nuclear Option: Why liberals have every reason to fight the Gorsuch nomination to the hilt, filibuster be damned. (Politico, 02/02/17)
Bill Scher: If the operating assumption is that waging a filibuster means losing the filibuster, then the filibuster is already lost.... Two more optimistic outcomes exist if the Democrats choose to filibuster. One is that Republicans go nuclear, Gorsuch is confirmed, but Trump doesn’t get a second pick, and Democrats—having taken back the Senate—are the ones who reap the rewards of the filibuster’s demise. The other is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unable to detonate the nuke—and Democrats successfully oppose Gorsuch and other future nominees they choose. After all, it only takes three Republicans to defect to deny McConnell the needed majority for a rule change. Sen. Susan Collins from Maine has already said, “I am not a proponent of changing the rules of the Senate.”

[Editorial] Give Merrick Garland a vote: Senate has old business to handle before taking up Trump’s court nominee (Anniston Star [AL] , 02/02/17)
By the editorial board of The Anniston Star: originalism, a theory that demands the U.S. Constitution must mean only what its 18th century authors meant. Thus, a sort of strict mind-reading of men who have been dead for centuries is required. Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court justice who died a year ago, was just such an originalist. So, too, is Neil Gorsuch .... We mention all this because the yearlong debate over Scalia’s replacement is so grossly out of step with the Senate’s reputation for following the rules and debating with honor and good manners....Republican senators refused to formally consider Garland’s nomination. No hearings. No committee vote. No vote of the entire Senate. These senators — including Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa — went on strike, refusing to do a job the U.S. Constitution mandates they do. So here’s the challenge to senators who wish to protect the Senate’s reputation: Before weighing Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch, grant Judge Garland a hearing and a vote on his nomination.... a well-functioning Senate should weigh the merits of all nominees. Any originalist would know that’s how our founders wanted it.