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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Editorials and Opinion

 

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[Editorial] McConnell reaps harvest of division (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 04/05/17)
"During his years as minority leader, McConnell wielded Senate rules, such as the 60-vote requirement, like no one ever before. McConnell’s goal: block President Barack Obama’s appointments and legislative agenda. Last year, as majority leader, McConnell refused to give Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland so much as a hearing on the invented grounds that the appointment rightfully belonged to the next president. Interestingly, McConnell refused during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” to support formalizing his invented rule .... he has only his past actions to blame for Democrats’ stubbornness. ... Democrats, logically enough, think that easing Gorsuch’s confirmation would reward McConnell’s intransigence on the Obama nominee.... McConnell was so effective at blocking Obama’s nominees that President Donald Trump inherited almost twice as many judicial vacancies (an estimated 103) as Obama did (53). Eroding the 60-vote requirement, also known as the filibuster, does alter the nature of the Senate in ways that McConnell once decried. The Senate would become less consenus-oriented and deliberative .... The objections to Gorsuch are rooted in substance not politics alone. The Coloradan came off less qualified in person than on paper. His record reflects an intemperate zeal to dismantle protections for workers, consumers, clean water and air.... McConnell, who perfected the obstructionist model, is reaping what he sowed."

Letter: Mitch McConnell’s blame game (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/05/17)
Kendall Robins: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to exercise the nuclear option if the Democrats filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and then says it will be on the Democrats if he does so. That's just like a kidnapper threatening to kill the kid if the parents don't pay up, and then saying that the resulting murder would be the fault of the parents. And, it's ironic that McConnell is still seething over the Democrats going nuclear on federal judge nominations, which was in response to McConnell clearly declaring 100 percent obstruction to anything and everything Barack Obama wanted to do, even if it was a good idea. And, it was McConnell who denied Obama, our duly elected president, any consideration at all for his nomination of Merrick Garland.

Letter to the editor: Collins hypocritical in attacking Democrats’ filibuster (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/05/17)
Hani Jarawan: During the Obama presidency, the Republican Party ground the Senate to a halt by blocking everything. They left hundreds of lower court seats vacant. ... Not only did Susan Collins not criticize her party’s leadership for setting filibuster records, she also joined in that callow, historic obstruction. Her lame indignation about Democrats’ opposition to Neil Gorsuch is yet more evidence that decades of Washington partisanship have spoiled the senator’s moderation.

Chuck Grassley Gives a History Un-Lesson on Judges (People For blog, 04/05/17)
Paul Gordon: During the eight years President Clinton served in office, more than 60 of his circuit and district court nominees became victims of the Republicans’ “pocket filibuster.” ... George W. Bush took office, at which point Republicans spent eight years demanding that all judicial nominees receive floor votes. But the minute it was a Democratic president again, the GOP went back into obstruction mode. ... Republicans exercised every procedural trick in the book to slow down the confirmation process for all judicial nominees, regardless of level (circuit or district), regardless of support from home state Republicans, and even regardless of a complete lack of opposition at all.... Republicans escalated their war even further when Grassley himself announced that he and his party would refuse to allow President Obama to fill any of the three vacancies on the 11-member D.C. Circuit. ... As Rep. Adam Schiff of California said: “When McConnell deprived President Obama of a vote on Garland, it was a nuclear option. The rest is fallout.”... Less than three months into the Trump administration, with only one nominee, Republicans are threatening to change the rules for Supreme Court nominees.

Neil Gorsuch, just another faux originalist judge (The Hill, 04/05/17)
Ivan Eland: if Gorsuch’s previous actions are indicative, he — like Scalia — might unfortunately practice selective originalism.

Polarizing politics begets ‘nuclear option’: Editorial (Poughkeepsie Journal [NY] , 04/05/17)
"President Obama picked an eminently qualified judge to serve on the high court, but Senate Republicans refused to extend Merrick B. Garland a confirmation hearing. They indefensibly let that linger for 293 days, leaving a Supreme Court seat vacant following the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats haven’t forgotten. Some contend Republicans are essentially stealing Garland’s seat, and they add that Gorsuch has refused to address questions on a host of important issues ... Considering these are lifetime appointments involving some of the most powerful people in the world, retaining the 60-vote, supermajority threshold for Supreme Court nominees would make considerable sense. It provides, among other things, a measure of bipartisan validation in a country deeply divided."

No on Gorsuch (Green Valley [AZ] News & Sun, 04/05/17)
Gail Vanderhoof, Letter to the Editor: I am deeply concerned about Neil Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court judge. His record shows that he would expand unpopular Citizens United (billionaires and corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections). His record reveals he is a far right-wing judge .... The Democrats will filibuster. If the Republicans cannot find 60 votes, they should, with honor, choose another candidate. If Republicans confirm Gorsuch using the so-called nuclear option, it will look to the world like they have become an anti-democratic rubber stamp for Trump.

The debate over confirming Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (Washington Post, 04/05/17)
Steven Rathjen, Letter to the Editor: the battle to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the debate over changing Senate rules to do so. The larger issue is the desire to fill each vacancy with a partisan jurist who will ensure that court decisions support the current majority party’s ideology. ... eliminating the requirement for a nominal 60-vote consensus in the Senate for confirmation of Supreme Court justices likely would mean confirming future justices from the ideological extremes. That would lead to a perceived lack of objectivity by the court, calling into question its role as the legitimate interpreter of the Constitution and final independent arbiter of our laws. It is essential that our democracy have a strong, independent and unbiased Supreme Court to serve as the venue of last resort for those seeking justice and to prevent overreach by the legislative and executive branches of government. A consensus membership on the court is necessary to ensure this happens.

Steve Bannon Wants to Destroy the "Administrative State." Neil Gorsuch Could Be the Key. The Supreme Court nominee wants to throw out the precedent underpinning federal administrative law. (Mother Jones, 04/05/17)
Stephanie Mencimer: if Gorsuch is confirmed, and the right case comes before the court, Chevron could be seriously endangered. The effect of this would be that already overburdened federal judges, instead of deferring to agencies on regulations covering everything from consumer protection to immigration, would essentially take on the job themselves if these rules become the subject of litigation—a situation Scalia himself once suggested would lead to "chaos."

Will All Senate Republicans Kowtow to Trump and the Far Right on the Nuclear Option? (Huffington Post, 04/05/17)
Elliot Mincberg, People For the American Way: in the past, Republican senators like Collins, Graham, and McCain were willing to stand up to a Republican president and the far Right.... It is clear that these Republican senators, as well as others who have sought to work across the aisle like Corker, Alexander, Heller, and Flake, have a choice. If only three refuse to vote for the nuclear option, it will fail and the Gorsuch nomination will not go forward. In the first few months of the Trump administration, when the initial nomination of a secretary of labor and the appointment of the national security advisor failed, Trump put forth a different nominee who, while conservative, was clearly less objectionable. The same could happen with respect to the Supreme Court. That happened years ago when the Senate rejected the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, and President Reagan instead nominated Anthony Kennedy. More recently, President Clinton decided not to nominate his first choice for the Supreme Court, Bruce Babbitt, based on the advice of Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Republican Orrin Hatch, and instead selected a nominee who Hatch had suggested.

[Editorial] No to Gorsuch (Rutland Herald [VT] , 04/05/17)
"Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders are willing to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, offended by the candidate’s evasiveness and alarmed by his ideological rigidity.... If they give in to McConnell they will have retained the right to filibuster but would have lost the power to exercise it. Instead, they would have surrendered to one of the most egregious power grabs in the nation’s history, allowing the Republicans to place their stamp on the judiciary in order to impose an agenda on the nation that the nation has shown no indication it supports.... The refusal of the Republicans to allow even a hearing on President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court showed that they were willing to scoff at their own constitutional obligations in service of their ideological and economic loyalties. Gorsuch’s refusal to answer even the most basic questions about his thinking was an expression of the same contempt for Congress that McConnell displayed in refusing to allow a hearing for Garland. Gorsuch’s affable muteness sent a message: I am above the people and their concerns. I have no responsibility to anyone but the narrow band of millionaires and ideologues who have advanced my nomination and to the president who has declared war on the American government. Much is at stake with the Gorsuch nomination. His own rulings suggest he adheres to a view that the high court went astray in the 1930s in decisions allowing the federal government to give rule-making power to agencies established to protect workers, consumers, investors, air, water, the purity of food and drugs.... Leahy and Sanders are taking a necessary and principled stand against the Republican effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court.

Letter to the Editor, April 5 (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 04/05/17)
John Denham: I am sick and tired of the Democrats and others allowing the bullies in Washington to set the rules. Republicans stole the pick for Supreme Court justice, and Democrats stood around being civil. Now it appears that The Chronicle is suggesting that the Senate allow Neil Gorsuch to go through without a fight. Democrats must filibuster ... If Republicans change the rules, they will have cheated

Opinion: Does Business Have a Pal in Neil Gorsuch? (National Law Journal, 04/05/17)
Judith Schaeffer: the “business community … sees much to like in Gorsuch’s record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit,” and that in “addition to areas including arbitration and regulation, they see a judge who favors cramped interpretations of laws that are supposed to protect workers and others."

Tester, Not Daines, Sides With 75 Percent Of Montanans On Gorsuch Vote (Montana Public Radio, 04/05/17)
Evan Barrett: Montana’s two U.S. Senators are split on the vote to confirm or not confirm Neil Gorsuch as the next lifetime member of the US Supreme Court. Senior Senator Jon Tester has decided to vote against confirmation, citing Gorsuch’s propensity to judge cases in a way that empowers corporations over individuals. ... Senator Tester’s opposition to Gorsuch based on this is consistent with the position held by 75% of Montanans when they voted on these very questions on a ballot issue in 2012.... All the while Daines maintained his record-setting obstructionism on Merrick Garland for the last 8 months, he was silent on the “most important” issue of the American people deserving “nine members on the Supreme Court.”

Editorial: America needs supermajority Supreme Court opinions (Grand Forks Herald [ND], 04/05/17)
"It's called the "nuclear option" for a reason. When Senate Republicans blast open a Democratic filibuster this week and confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the move will lay waste to a long tradition. And when the smoke clears, we'll see a much more fractured Senate."

Gazette editorial: The problem with Neil Gorsuch (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 04/05/17)
"A crucial question regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is: Would he jail women and doctors for ending pregnancies?"

[Editorial] Filibuster Gorsuch to make a crucial point (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 04/05/17)
"South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, led the charge in denying Merrick Garland a hearing after then-President Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court seat that needed to be filled in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr underscored just how extreme the GOP has become when he declared that even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, he would “do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.” He also bragged that he was already responsible for the longest judicial vacancy ever by denying the confirmation of an Obama nominee in the eastern district of North Carolina, illustrating just why Democrats felt the need to use the nuclear option for lower court appointments when they were in control. They did so in response to a Republican Party that routinely filibustered Obama nominees. While they haven’t gotten as much attention, that tactic left dozens of empty judicial seats throughout the country that can now be filled by President Donald Trump.... If Democrats simply went along and acted as though the GOP’s purposeful decision to leave the Supreme Court short-handed for a year was a legitimate exercise of political power, they would unwittingly be codifying that extremism. And that would not be good for either party – or the country."

Gorsuch nomination (Capital Gazette [MD], 04/05/17)
Debra Connors, Letter to the Editor: Dear U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen:... Gorsuch's extreme record has left him short of the 60 votes traditionally required to close debate and vote on a Supreme Court nominee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to get this extreme nominee confirmed this Friday, before senators have to answer to their constituents over the upcoming recess. McConnell knows he's short of the votes he needs and wants to invoke the "nuclear option" and change 230 years of Senate precedent to eliminate the filibuster and ram Gorsuch through.... Encourage your Republican Senate friends to back away from the nuclear option. If their Supreme Court nominee is so extreme that he can't get to 60 votes, you don't change the rules, you change the nominee!

[Editorial] Keep the filibuster. Give Gorsuch an up-or-down vote. (Denver Post [CO] , 04/04/17)
"[W]e would be willing to lose this incredible opportunity if it meant stopping the significant and dangerous rule change in the Senate that Republicans are threatening. Forever ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees would launch the chamber on a journey destined to stoke partisanship and gridlock in Congress that reasonable people are and should be sick to death of.... the filibuster has kept the Senate a more deliberative body. Ending it now risks further erosion of our system of checks and balances.... Republicans, meanwhile, ought to do right by Senate tradition and the nation and step away from their rule change.... Better to have an eight-member high court until cooler heads prevail."

Blue Slips and the Trump Administration: What to Expect in the Coming Months (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/04/17)
Harsh Voruganti: one Senate practice may work to constrain Trump’s more conservative nominees and encourage him to work with Democrats: the blue slip.... the Trump Administration should expect Democratic Senators to use the blue slip process to pre-clear judicial nominees for their state. Under the Obama Administration, Republican Senators took a similar stand, blocking nominees they viewed as insufficiently conservative.... Even if the Trump Administration chooses to pre-clear its nominees with home-state senators, Democrats may, consistent with the actions of Republican Senators, withdraw their support after nomination. In 2011, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) initially expressed support for the nomination of Steve Six to the Tenth Circuit. However, under pressure from conservative groups, he and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) came out in opposition to Six shortly after his hearing, essentially killing his nomination. Similarly, President Obama’s nomination to the Northern District of Georgia after Boggs, Judge Dax Erik Lopez, a Republican and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, was blocked by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) after conservative groups objected to Lopez’s membership in Latino civic organizations. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blocked two nominees to the Southern District of Florida, Judge William Thomas and Mary Barzee Flores, after initially indicating his support to the White House.

Condemnations of the Nuclear Option, Even in Red States (People For blog, 04/04/17)
Paul Gordon: As Mitch McConnell decides whether to try to exercise the nuclear option, influential newspapers across the country—even in the reddest of red states—are urging Senate Republicans not to take that path. This includes newspapers that have endorsed Gorsuch but would rather see him replaced as the nominee than be confirmed through a partisan change in Senate rules.... As all these editorial boards say, exercising the nuclear option would do immense damage to the nation.

How Gorsuch Could Pull the Eight Other Justices Rightward (New York Times, 04/04/17)
Justin Wolfers: If Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he will become not only the ninth vote in a divided court but also a new colleague with the potential to move his eight peers in a conservative direction. A compelling new analysis suggests that this kind of peer effect may even be more consequential than a justice’s own vote. This means that the stakes over who fills the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia are higher than is widely understood.

Letter to the editor: For many reasons, Judge Gorsuch deserves to be filibustered (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/04/17)
Toby Hollander, Esq. I write to support a filibuster of the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, both because a filibuster is appropriate and because, in my view, Judge Gorsuch is not qualified .... First, this nomination was “stolen” from the previous president by Sen. Mitch McConnell, who refused to even give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing or a vote.... Neil Gorsuch is also a judge who obviously lacks even an ounce of compassion. In the “frozen trucker” case, he justified the firing of a trucker who drove himself to safety in subzero (i.e., life-threatening) temperatures .... He did the same thing with disabled children, ignoring the intent of a statute that is designed to provide a reasonable education for children with disabilities.

The Underrated Reason Republicans Will Regret The Nuclear Option (Huffington Post, 04/04/17)
Christopher Kang: Retaining the 60-vote threshold would preserve the unique nature of the Senate that encourages broader consensus and less extremism. There also is a concern—on both sides—that reducing the confirmation threshold to a simple majority could lead to more ideological Supreme Court Justices and a more polarized Court. Those are compelling reasons in themselves, but there also is a far more practical question that Republicans must consider: How will Senate Democrats respond to this historic power grab? If Democrats follow the Republican response in 2013, it will freeze the Senate for thousands of hours, preventing Republicans from advancing their agenda. In November 2013, Senate Democrats invoked the nuclear option to lower the confirmation threshold for lower court and executive branch nominees. In response, over the next 13 months, Republicans forced Democrats to file cloture on 154 nominees, and they forced 131 cloture votes.... if Senate Democrats simply responded to the nuclear option in the same way that Republicans did in 2013—forcing cloture votes on 131 nominations—that would use nearly 4,000 hours of floor time. And given the higher stakes of applying the nuclear option to the Supreme Court, you could imagine their response may be even greater.... Democratic Leader Schumer instead is focused on avoiding the nuclear option through a reasonable path forward: encouraging President Trump to seek the advice of Senate Democrats and Republicans in finding a mainstream nominee. As he has said repeatedly, don’t change the rules, change the nominee.

Letter: No trust for Trump, and by extension, Gorsuch (Coloradoan, 04/04/17)
Jack Shepard: After Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Feb. 13, 2016, Republicans refused to consider President Obama’s choice to succeed him, even though Obama had nearly a year left in his presidency. There was no question of President Obama’s legitimacy, yet Republicans denied him his constitutional duty to pick a successor. They even threatened to boycott any of Hillary Clinton’s nominees, should she have won in November. Now we have a president whose legitimacy is being questioned by people of all stripes, whose tenure is tenuous at best.... Would a Justice Gorsuch always be known as the man the Russians placed on the court?... The country would be better served by postponing this nomination until confidence is restored in the president

GOP Gorsuch strategy unacceptable (Morning Call [PA], 04/04/17)
Bruse J. Ogilvie, Letter to the Editor: Previously, not only was Merrick Garland qualified for the job and nominated by President Obama, but he also never received a hearing by the Senate. Now, Sen. Toomey and his reckless GOP members are tube feeding Americans an idle threat of "changing the rules" to confirm Gorsuch.

Filibuster Gorsuch, for children’s sake (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/04/17)
Linda Ellis, Letter to the Editor: Past articles and interviews showed him to be quite opinionated about corporate proceedings and the Constitution; however, in the congressional interviews he was evasive to the point that he did not relay a sense of nonpartisan honesty.

Benson: Take the Gorsuch bull by the horns (Arizona Republic, 04/04/17)
Steve Benson, Arizona Republic cartoon: He may act coy, but Democrats see the real Neil Gorsuch: ... Republicans have threatened to go nuclear to put their raging bull into the Supreme Court's china shop.

[Editorial] The Senate is on the brink of an historic mistake (Washington Post, 04/04/17)
"As Mr. McConnell has often noted, eliminating minority rights in the Senate means that when the political tables are turned, Republicans will be the ones with minimal influence on the future of the court. Just as Democrats should recoil at filibustering Mr. Gorsuch, undercutting decades of tradition, Republicans should recoil from the thought of permanently curbing minority prerogatives."

Editorial: Toomey’s rule change proposal threatens bipartisanship (Pitt News [PA] , 04/04/17)
The Pitt News Editorial Board: If Congressional Republicans thought they had gained the power to disregard the rules with their victories in last November’s elections, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., just signed onto a rules change to the Supreme Court nomination process that ... will likely harm both parties. The Pennsylvania senator announced last week at a press conference that he would support a move to modify the upper Congressional chamber’s rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court .... The GOP notably refused to consider Merrick Garland last year for Scalia’s seat. However, Senate Republicans were using this tactic of ignoring nominees long before they won control of the chamber. The GOP’s efforts to block Obama nominees to lower federal judgeships led to Senate Democrats in 2013 removing the procedural rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to confirm presidential nominees to these positions. Despite this change, more than 10 percent of these judgeships are now vacant, in large part because Democrats in the Senate have not held a 51-vote majority since the 2014 midterm elections.... a change to a 51-vote majority rule would erode several elements of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process that are vital to the institution’s integrity. Given Supreme Court justices’ power and long-term lengths, it’s important that individuals selected to be added both have majority support and appeal at least somewhat to citizens on both the left and right.... Toomey’s signing on to this proposed rules change is a short-sighted, lazy attempt to avoid doing the work of gaining bipartisan support for his party’s nominee, and will only contribute to the hyper-partisan atmosphere growing more and more omnipresent in Washington, D.C. If he is concerned about the integrity of the institution in which he serves, he will withdraw his support for this proposal.