Editorials and Opinion
Sessions’s aloha-baiting could bring attention to the real problem (Washington Post, 04/24/17)
E.J. Dionne Jr.: here is Sessions’s islophobic sentence: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”
The obvious problem in Sessions’s comments ... is that Hawaii is a state like every other .... There is also the Trump administration habit of trying to discredit any judge who rules against it, the stuff of autocratic regimes. Members of the executive branch have every right to criticize and appeal lower-court decisions, but what Sessions suggested is that Derrick Watson, the federal judge in question, somehow lost his right to rule because of where his court is located.
After years of obstructing judges, Republicans anxious to pack the courts with extremists (Daily Kos, 04/24/17)
Joan McCarter: Senate Republicans used every trick in the parliamentary playbook—and invented a few new ones—to keep President Barack Obama from appointing federal judges. ... the lion's share of the blame for the judicial crisis across the country rests on Mitch McConnell and crew. That's all changed, though, with popular vote loser Donald Trump in office. Here's their chance to pack the courts with ideologues, in the mold of new Supreme Court associate justice Neil Gorsuch.
How about nixing double-standard on Trump, Obama? (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 04/24/17)
Letter to the Editor, Kyle Johnson: So, Mr. Keane thinks it's "way past time for the Democrats and the people to put aside their differences and unite for the betterment of our country." That would have been so nice if Mitch McConnell would have done that very thing when President Obama nominated Justice Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans had simply done their jobs and confirmed him. Justice Garland was no less qualified than Justice Gorsuch. But the Republicans simply wanted to continue to obstruct. Finally, Republicans went "nuclear" to just to get their way.
Jeff Sessions is rolling back basic rights (Chicago Sun Times, 04/24/17)
Jesse Jackson, Op-Ed: Sessions has set out with a vengeance to transform the Department of Justice into a Department of Injustice. ... He expressed amazement that a “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” could overturn the president’s order. That judge was a federal district court justice in the state of Hawaii, part of the union for 58 years.
Why Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Is Unfit to Serve as Attorney General (Huffington Post, 04/23/17)
Bill Blum, Contributor: Further evidence that Sessions has no business serving as our top law enforcement official emerged last week, when he took an intemperate swipe at Hawaii-based U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Kahala Watson during an interview with ultraconservative radio talk show host Mark Levin. Sessions was livid with Watson—who is one of only two active federal judges of indigenous heritage—for issuing a nationwide injunction blocking enforcement of President Trump’s second Muslim travel ban.
Editorial: Expect new fear mongering as gun lobby works to prop up sales (St. Louis Post-Dispatch [MO], 04/23/17)
"Get ready for a new onslaught as the gun industry zeroes in on its next whipping boy: the federal courts system. During the Obama administration, Senate Republicans moved at a deliberate snail’s pace to fill the growing list of federal court vacancies. Obama inherited 54 vacancies when he assumed office in 2009. Today, more than 100 vacancies exist, lending Trump enormous potential power to reshape the federal bench.... The Second Amendment Foundation recently launched a “Black Robes Matter” campaign to alert members about the high stakes in Trump’s court appointments.
“It is estimated that President Trump will appoint 38 percent of all judges on the federal bench. … We must make sure that he nominates only people that will respect, preserve and expand our Second Amendment rights,” foundation founder Alan M. Gottlieb wrote to members this month.
Speaking after Trump’s election, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre warned, “More than 300 Obama-appointed anti-gun judges present an infection for which there is no cure, other than time and vigilance.”... Lobbyists’ thinly veiled attempt to stoke public fear is little more than a cynical marketing ploy to boost sagging sales by creating controversy where none exists."
Trump hasn’t turned a corner (Washington Post, 04/23/17)
Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn column: His hapless Attorney General Jeff Sessions insulted the federal judge (“sitting on an island in the Pacific“) who enjoined Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban.
Sessions' Hawaii remark was just idiotic (Editorial) (Republican [Springfield, MA], 04/21/17)
"It has become fair to wonder if Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a complete idiot.
In an example of foot-in-mouth bungling that's astonishing even by Trump Administration standards, Sessions remarked he was "amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power."
The voice of legal authority in the Cabinet described the state of Hawaii, where a federal judge blocked President Trump's executive order on immigration, as if it were some uninhabited atoll.... Because "I'm sorry" is treated as obscene language in this administration, Sessions says he would not rephrase the comment - a refusal that compounds the absurdity of the original remark."
Jeff Sessions dissed Hawaii as 'an island in the pacific.' Hawaii is not amused (PennLive [PA], 04/21/17)
John L. Micek column: being America's Attorney General is a demanding gig, requiring a mastery of the law, an understanding of the intricacies of politics and the ability to skillfully navigate the halls of power.
But one of the things it does not require, apparently, is an understanding of basic American geography.
Thus has current AG Jeff Sessions found himself in hot water over some intemperate remarks about America's 50th state .... Sessions was talking about the second of the Trump administration's thwarted travel bans, which U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii blocked,... it's not surprising to learn that its residents and elected leaders were pretty aggrieved by Sessions' dismissal.
Should we tell Jeff Sessions where Pearl Harbor is?: Opinion (Times-Picayune [LA] , 04/21/17)
Jarvis DeBerry, deputy opinions editor for NOLA.COM | The Times-Picayune: I do know that the merits of the temporary restraining order case won't be decided based on the judge's residence in Hawaii.
We all should be smart enough to know that.
Then how come Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general of the United States, seems to cast aspersions on the temporary restraining order simply because it was issued "on an island in the Pacific?"
[Editorial] Neil Gorsuch and the State’s Power to Kill (New York Times, 04/21/17)
"In short, the first significant decision by Justice Gorsuch, who was sworn in to office less than two weeks ago, was the most consequential any justice can make — to approve a man’s killing by the state.
That man, like so many others condemned to die around the country, was a walking catalog of reasons the American death penalty is a travesty. Evidence that Mr. Lee was intellectually disabled and suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome was never introduced into court, mainly because he had egregiously bad representation.... That 4-to-4 split effectively gave the deciding vote over Mr. Lee’s life to Justice Gorsuch, sitting in a seat that by all rights should be occupied not by him but by President Barack Obama’s doomed nominee, Merrick Garland.
During his confirmation hearings, Justice Gorsuch talked a lot about his respect for the rule of law, and the importance of sticking to the plain text of the Constitution and of statutes. But he didn’t have to rewrite the Eighth Amendment to see, as Justice Breyer did, that Mr. Lee’s case exemplified “how the arbitrary nature of the death penalty system, as presently administered, runs contrary to the very purpose of a ‘rule of law.’ ”
Neil Gorsuch held the power of life and death in his hands Thursday night. His choice led to Ledell Lee’s execution, and gave the nation an early, and troubling, look into the mind-set of the high court’s newest member.
Senators Want President Trump to Re-Nominate their Judicial Nominees: Both Democrats and Republicans think the president should select nominees who never got a vote in the last session of Congress. (Medium, 04/21/17)
"These judicial nominees were all unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but none received a vote on the Senate floor before their nominations expired. Now, their home-state senators want Trump to re-nominate them.
“Sen. Toomey believes it is crucial to place a sitting judge at the federal courthouse in Erie, which has remained vacant for years,” his spokesman said in February. “He believes that Judge Baxter has the intellect, experience and integrity to serve as a federal judge.” A spokesman for Minority Leader Schumer said of Sweet that “Sen. Schumer continues to support her candidacy.” And a spokesman for Sen. Mike Crapo, who now sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said earlier this year that “We’re really going to work hard on Nye.”... Senators who had nominees pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee would also like to see their nominees re-nominated. In Florida, Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, want their three nominees to the Northern and Middle Districts re-nominated by Trump. In Washington, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell want the president to choose from nominees put forward last April by a bipartisan judicial selection committee comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans. Obama nominated three of the committee’s five picks to the Western District of Washington, and Murray and Cantwell, both Democrats, want the same list used this time around.... And there’s certainly precedent for re-nominating.
In March 2009, all 41 Senate Republicans wrote a letter to President Obama about the judicial nominations process. “First, in the beginning of his Administration, your predecessor demonstrated his desire to improve the judicial confirmation process by nominating to the circuit courts two of President Clinton’s previous judicial nominees, Judge Barrington Parker to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Roger Gregory to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the Senate Republicans noted to Obama. “It would help change the tone in Washington if your Administration would take the same bipartisan step.” ... Obama did work closely with Republican senators to fill judicial vacancies, and Chairman Leahy, without exception, required that both home-state senators return their blue slips before moving forward on any lower court nominee. He even did this against the wishes of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D. Nev., when Sen. Dean Heller, R. Nev., refused to return his blue slip for a district court nominee named Elissa Cadish.
“Despite press reports that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee now may be considering changing the Committee’s practice of observing senatorial courtesy, we, as a Conference, expect it to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation,” the Republicans wrote in 2009."
Commentary, Chris Carlson: Idaho will regret 'nuclear option' (Lewiston Tribune [ID], 04/21/17)
"For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter, we have Idaho's senior U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product, no less, to thank.
In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama's nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, one of Crapo's expressed reasons was a perception on his part that Garland was weak on Second Amendment rights.
In voting to secure Court of Appeals 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don't see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning.
Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second Amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo's case, it is so ironic that he invoked Garland's perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the "nuclear option," which literally shatters Second Amendment protections.
All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and, in particular, Western states."
Printed Letter: Neil Gorsuch clearly lacks sense of justice (Daily Sentinel [CO], 04/21/17)
Rudolph J. Textor: The most striking disqualifying element of Neil M. Gorsuch’s character is that he has no sense of, and no interest in, justice.
If he did, he would have publicly stated that Merrick B. Garland was the legitimate candidate for the recent Supreme Court justice vacancy. Additionally, he would have publicly repudiated the past 13 months of vicious Republican Party machinations by which his illegitimate nomination and installation were engineered.
Letter: Gorsuch was confirmed by a shabby political maneuver Republicans will regret (TCPalm.com, 04/21/17)
Milton Weiss: Judge Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed ... the seat he is filling is not "the Scalia seat" but the one stolen by Republicans from its rightful occupant, Judge Merrick Garland. Through a shameful political maneuver, President Obama's nominee was not even given the courtesy of a Senate hearing, much less a vote. Instead we have Neil Gorsuch, the darling of the right-wing Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers, and other big money corporate interests. ... The shabby Republican political trick of refusing to consider President Obama's nominee for the last year of the Obama presidency, coupled with the nuclear option employed to break the Democratic filibuster will have significant future consequences. ... The day will come when Republicans will regret their clever but reprehensible action in having stonewalled the nomination of Judge Garland and in so doing damaged the reputation and future functioning of the United States Senate.
[Editorial] Federal judges in Hawaii count, too (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 04/21/17)
"Does Hawaii count as less of a state than, say, Alabama? Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to think so. ... Sessions was criticizing a ruling from U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson last month that blocked President Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim countries. Watson was confirmed to the federal bench in a 94-0 vote that included support from Sessions.... It seems to us Sessions is sitting on an island of his own."
Clive McFarlane: Will of the people a relative concept? (Telegram & Gazette [MA], 04/21/17)
"That obstructionism culminated in these lawmakers denying Mr. Obama his constitutional obligation to appoint Judge Merrick Garland of the Washington D.C. Circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court following the untimely death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Republicans claimed that their 14-month strategy to block Judge Garland’s nomination was to let the will of the people speak during the 2016 elections. Of course, a combined 135.4 million people voted to elect Mr. Obama in 2008 (69.5 million) and to re-elect him in 2012 (65.9 million).
Donald Trump captured the White House with fewer than 63 million of the popular vote in 2016 (some two million fewer than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton), but according to the logic of the Republicans, Mr. Trump’s total is a better measure of the people’s will."
Editorial: Trump needs to break deadlock on WNY judgeship (Buffalo News [NY], 04/20/17)
"The federal court vacancy is especially vexing. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo is the only full-time district judge in Buffalo.
There is an enormous backlog of civil cases here, a bad situation .... President Barack Obama’s nomination of Buffalo attorney Kathleen Sweet for the vacancy sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee last year before being derailed by election year politics in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is sticking with Sweet for the opening, and he has the leverage to block any nominee of President Trump.
Senate traditions give senators the power to reject a court nominee from their home state. Schumer could use that “blue slip” veto to block a nominee until Sweet’s name is resubmitted.
If Trump refuses to do that, he would either have to negotiate some sort of deal with Schumer or hope the Senate removes the blue slip veto.... The federal judicial caseload here remains overwhelming. The backlog of civil and criminal cases makes this area among the worst in the nation. Because criminal cases receive priority, civil cases continue to get pushed back. On average, it takes five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo.... The unfilled judgeship is different – no one is doing that work, adding to the delays in administering justice. Trump needs to nominate an acceptable candidate as quickly as possible."
McConnell further divided Senate (Missoulian [MT], 04/20/17)
Chuck Aker, Letter to the Editor: I am disappointed in U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell! ... McConnell started this battle when he would not allow the Senate to reject or confirm President Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court. McConnell was more interested in further dividing the Senate, rather than allowing senators to work as statesmen/women. McConnell is not a statesman and his action invoking the nuclear option on April 6 has further created a Senate divided. McConnell has misused his Senate majority power and needs to be replaced.
Letter: Never forget the name Merrick Garland (Santa Cruz Sentinel [CA], 04/19/17)
Ronald T. Beebe: Now we have a Thief Justice, sitting in the stolen Supreme Court seat that should rightly have gone to Merrick Garland. Let us never forget his name, Merrick Garland. As for the new guy, don’t mention his name at all. For the rest of his life always refer to him as the Thief Justice and everyone will know exactly who you are talking about.
Justice Gorsuch and the Failure of the Senate (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/18/17)
Jim Brosnahan, Guest Post: Nothing in what now-Justice Gorsuch testified to or what the ten million dollars in TV ads supporting him said gave the slightest assurance he will uphold the Constitution against this president.... what should be the standards for Supreme Court nominees?... First, being in the habit of applying reasonable doubt about the proper outcome of any matter as the case is first addressed....Second, a talent and love for both induction and deduction. ... Thirdly, an empathetic sense of the effect of a ruling on persons negatively impacted by it. ... Justice Gorsuch struck out on all three of my criteria.
Letter on nuclear option: How it happened (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 04/18/17)
Wayne Powers: After five years of obstruction, including 79 of Obama’s appointments having been blocked, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed the rules of the Senate to require 51 votes instead of 60 for judges to be confirmed, not including Supreme Court justices.
Then Justice Antonin Scalia died, ...Immediately McConnell said there was not going to be an Obama Supreme Court nominee brought to the floor for a vote. Reason: He was in the last year of his presidency. Nowhere in the Constitution is this mentioned.
Obama nominates Merrick Garland, a judge who had been confirmed by a large, bipartisan margin ... And then President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. Democrats, possibly stinging from the treatment given by the Republicans to Obama’s nominee, did not get on board. So on April 6, McConnell launched the bomb that brought down the “greatest deliberative body in the world.”
Editorial: Don't Shut Out ABA Review (New Jersey Law Journal, 04/17/17)
"Unfortunately the Trump administration has now advised the ABA that it will be breaking from this long-standing practice, and won't be inviting the standing committee to review the qualifications of potential nominees to provide the White House with a rating that flows from the investigation. Although the ABA president has stated that the standing committee will continue to provide its evaluation and rating to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the administration has shut the standing committee out of its process of evaluating prospective nominees.
We can only regret this action. It constricts the administration's ability to weigh an evaluation that is offered through the voice of outstanding members of the bar who have engaged in a lengthy, intensive investigation, including interviews of judges, attorneys and others with knowledge of the nominee. The ABA evaluation serves the public, as well as the executive and legislative branches of our government, by giving an assurance that the judicial nominee meets the high qualifications expected of a judge at any level of the federal court system."
Warren had good reason to filibuster (Lowell Sun [MA], 04/17/17)
Letter to the editor, William Metcalf: The Democrats first exercised the "nuclear option" because the GOP refused to even consider President Obama's judicial nominees for the U.S. appellate courts. The GOP exercised the "nuclear option" because, while Democrats considered President Trump's Supreme Court nominee they refused to vote in the affirmative for him. The Democrats were willing to vote (if only to reject), while the Republicans were unwilling to hold a vote they couldn't win. The adult thing to do would've been to present an acceptable nominee or practice bipartisan politics as it's been practiced for centuries.
Gorsuch is the face of the new not-normal (Philadelphia Tribune [PA], 04/17/17)
Rachel Sklar: when things are not normal, you cannot behave as though they are.
That is why Senate Democrats were right to filibuster the nomination and reject it
The Third Circuit has 3 open seats. Who should fill them? (CA3blog, 04/17/17)
Matthew Stiegler: First, all three seats need to be filled. ... Second, at least two of the three seats should be filled by women. The Third Circuit has only two active judges who are women, the worst gender imbalance of any circuit in the country. Perpetuating that imbalance is unthinkable.
Third, both the Rendell seat and the Fuentes seat should be filled by consensus picks. The precedents here are Judges Greenaway and Vanaskie, both nominated by President Obama with a Democratic-controlled Senate to fill seats that opened during President Bush’s presidency. Both were moderate centrists — Greenaway was a federal criminal prosecutor and corporate counsel who clerked for a Republican-nominated judge, Vanaskie was MDPA chief judge with a decade and a half on the federal bench and was a Scranton commercial litigator before that. And both were over 50 when commissioned — Greenaway 52, Vanaskie 56.
Yes, Republicans may have stolen the Rendell and Fuentes seats from Democrats by obstruction .... Democrats may fight to fill the Rendell seat with a moderate Democrat, arguing that Republicans stole the seat by Toomey’s indefensible obstruction of Haywood and citing President Clinton’s compromise nomination of Republican Judge Barry as a precedent. That was my view before .... But if Trump tries to fill all three seats with young conservative partisans? Expect a war.
Gorsuch already trying to blow up the Supreme Court (Daily Kos, 04/17/17)
Joan McCarter: If you watched any of the hearings then you won't be surprised to learn that Gorsuch is as smug, arrogant, and entitled as an associate justice as he was as a nominee. His first case, fittingly, is about worker rights and how much you can screw them and he is just so into it.... "His questions drew pushback from Justice Elena Kagan, who said that position would mark a "revolution," though in a technical area of law."
Susan Collins: The Senate moderate who wasn’t (Seacoastonline [Southern ME & NH], 04/16/17)
Column By Douglas Rooks: She saw it differently for Gorsuch; a single nomination was worth abandoning Senate rules. She cited as precedent the 2013 decision by Democrats to end the filibuster for presidential nominees except the Supreme Court, though the situations weren’t comparable. In 2013, Senate Republicans, stunned by Obama’s re-election, filibustered all of his nominees for important posts. ... It’s hard to see what else Democratic Leader Harry Reid could have done, given this wholesale rejectionism. ... She said Judge Gorsuch was mainstream, yet his decisions reflexively favor corporations over employees, even in the case of the trucker fired for driving his big rig out of a snowstorm because he feared freezing, or the Hobby Lobby case, where one corporate CEO’s sensibilities overrode the health care needs of 32,000 employees.
The Public Pulse: GOP has politicized the Supreme Court (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 04/16/17)
Marylyn Felion: I do not recall any time when Democrats stonewalled a Republican nominee until the Republican president was out of office, thereby stealing a Supreme Court seat. What was done to Merrick Garland was unprecedented and unfair. It may signal the end of securing politically nonpartisan Supreme Court justices. Very sad.