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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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EDITORIAL: Act now on Zika outbreak (Randolph Leader [AL], 08/10/16)
"Knee-jerk opposition by Congressional Republicans to anything President Obama proposes already has given us a U.S. Supreme Court stalemate, with the lawmakers refusing to even hold a hearing on the suitability of Merrick Garland, the president’s nominee to fill a vacant seat."

The purpose of odd numbers and the obligation to appoint judges (Jewish Journal [CA], 08/10/16)
Laura W. Brill: "Since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, of course, we have had an even number of Supreme Court justices, leaving the potential for ties .... President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy. No one disputes that he is exceptionally well qualified.... Deuteronomy 16:18, ... commandment ... “You shall appoint for you judges and officers in all your gates...” The obligation to appoint judges doesn’t appear to be optional. We “shall appoint judges.” There is no exception when a president is in his last year of office .... The Talmud’s teaching on courts (Sanhedrins) provides for different courts with different roles, but they all had an odd number of judges .... the precedent set by the Senate’s refusal to move forward with the confirmation of Merrick Garland has set a precedent for dysfunction....we can point to Deuteronomy, as well as the Constitution, in pronouncing the Republican Senate out of order."

Editorial End the outrageous delay on Garland’s nomination (Los Angeles Times, 08/09/16)
"Because of obstructionism by Senate Republicans, however, the Senate is no closer to holding a hearing on Garland’s nomination, much less voting on it. Meanwhile, the court has divided 4 to 4 in some cases, preventing a definitive resolution of important issues ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he wouldn’t act on a new nomination by invoking — or, rather, inventing — the principle that a Supreme Court vacancy that occurs in a presidential election year can’t be filled “until we have a new president.” ... This is shameless partisanship, and it could also be self-defeating. As Obama has warned, continued obstructionism on the Garland nomination could lead to “an endless cycle of more tit for tat [that would] make it increasingly impossible for any president, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function.” That’s a message the president and Senate Democrats need to revive .... Sen. Tim Kaine replied “absolutely” when he was asked whether the Garland nomination should be taken up in the lame-duck session. If the Senate takes its responsibility to the Constitution seriously, it will act even sooner than that."

EDITORIAL: Act now on Supreme Court vacancy: Our view (USA Today, 08/08/16)
"But flat-out ignoring a vacancy on the nation's highest court, which Senate Republicans have vowed to do while President Obama remains in office, is an abrogation of its constitutional duty. Until last month, Garland's wait was merely the longest in a century, since Louis Brandeis waited 125 days to be confirmed in 1916. Now it is unprecedented.... So what's the problem? Not Garland. He has been lauded by every group that has reviewed his qualifications. Even prominent Republicans, such as former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor and former U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales, have said the time to act was yesterday. Yet from day one, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear that Republicans simply could not let Obama replace Scalia. ... The Senate should return in September, put politics aside and give Judge Garland a hearing and a vote. It's the best thing for the court, the country and the Constitution."

August 8, 2016: Letter To Editor: Roadblock to justice (Boston Herald, 08/08/16)
Rachel Tan: "The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has even refused to conduct hearings for Obama’s moderate-liberal nominee. … I urge the Senate to fulfill its duties and do its job. This political gridlock delegitimizes Congress, demoralizes the public, and undermines democracy. That in the modern era nominees — even the controversial ones — have received hearings only furthers the absurdity of the Senate’s inaction. … Frankly, the Senate should stop acting in a childish manner, stop denying a qualified and presidentially-nominated judge his rightful place on the Supreme Court and start upholding the obligations for which senators were elected."

Did Obama win the judicial wars? (Politico, 08/08/16)
Michael Grunwald: "Sheldon Goldman, an academic who crunched historical data to create an Index of Obstruction and Delay, found that the index reached record highs under Obama even before the GOP took control of the Senate in 2015 and slowed the flow of confirmations to a trickle. While Obama has gotten two more judges confirmed than Bush did in his eight years—Clinton and Ronald Reagan both got about 50 more—judicial vacancies have more than doubled in the Obama era after getting cut in half during the Bush era. There are now 29 understaffed courts designated “judicial emergencies,” up from 12 when Obama took office. And those numbers don’t reflect how Senate Republicans turned even uncontroversial lower-court nominations into legislative ordeals, converting the filibuster, previously extremely rare, into a routine tool of delay, often for judges who were eventually confirmed unanimously."

Senate plays waiting game with high court nominee Merrick Garland (Editorial) (Republican [Springfield, MA], 08/08/16)
"It's now been nearly five months since President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of longtime Justice Antonin Scalia. ... And, given what Senate Republicans have said, there's no reason to believe that they'll act on Garland's nomination once Congress is back in session after Labor Day. The reason? That's not an easy question to answer, at least not rationally.... Garland, while doubtless more liberal than they'd like, is a highly respected judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He's widely seen as a mostly moderate consensus builder. ... Pushing Garland through after the election would be better than nothing, but the whole thing stinks. And sets a truly lousy precedent."

What the SCOTUS Nomination Delay Means for America (ATTN:, 08/07/16)
Kyle Jaeger: "Geoffery Stone, an American law professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Chicago Law School .... talked to ATTN: about the obstruction of the nomination process and what Americans can expect from the Supreme Court moving forward."

Antonio Planchart: GOP wasting money (News & Observer [NC], 08/06/16)
Letter to the Editor: "to make matters worse, they vow to waste state resources to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court where at best they can expect a 4-4 tie, in large part due to national Republicans’ (including Sen. Thom Tillis, an author of the discriminatory voter ID law) refusal to confirm the imminently qualified judge Merrick Garland. This would all be funny if it weren’t so despicable and repugnant."

GOP’s Refusal To Confirm Judges Has Crippled Our Federal Courts (Blue Nation Review, 08/05/16)
Susan Madrak: "As part of their unprecedented obstructionism, Senate Republicans are not only blocking Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, but they’re refusing to confirm what used to be routine nominations for federal district judges."

Senate Republicans' inaction puts judiciary in crisis (Tennessean, 08/05/16)
Daniel Horwitz Op-Ed: "due to unprecedented inaction from the United States Senate, large swaths of the federal judiciary are simply missing — resulting in excessive delays, exploding dockets and inconsistent application of the law in different parts of the country. At present, more than 10 percent of the federal judiciary is vacant,... nearly one-third of federal District Court vacancies are currently designated “judicial emergencies” ... With respect to Court of Appeals nominees, the confirmation process has become so dysfunctional that Senate Republicans are now routinely refusing to confirm qualified nominees whom they themselves proposed to fill vacant positions. ... Having been left without a critical ninth member since February, the Supreme Court has already been unable to resolve myriad split decisions by lower courts — resulting in the same laws carrying different meanings in different parts of the country."

These Republican Senators Want Their Judicial Nominees Confirmed. Majority Leader McConnell Isn’t Listening. (Medium, 08/04/16)
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: "When the U.S. Senate left for a seven-week summer recess last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., continued to ignore repeated pleas from Republican and Democratic Senators to hold votes on 20 district and circuit court nominees pending on the Senate floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved all but one of these nominees on unopposed voice votes (and the other was approved on a bipartisan 13–7 vote). Republican Senators with pending nominees aren’t happy. In fact, all 16 Republican senators who have a nominee (or nominees) pending on the Senate floor have spoken favorably about them and want to see a confirmation vote, as have other Republican senators with nominees who are still in committee. These senators need to keep talking about and urging — and demanding — that McConnell schedules votes after recess. Unless McConnell hears from them and obliges, Americans seeking justice will continue to face an overworked and understaffed federal judiciary made worse by this Senate majority’s inaction. Here’s a sampling of what Republican senators with nominees on the floor have said, listed in order of nomination — beginning with a Tennessee nominee who’s been waiting since May 2015: ... When senators return from their recess next month, they could swiftly take up all 20 nominees pending on the floor — if McConnell will allow it. And he should, because the matter is urgent: Five of these nominees would fill judicial emergencies — a designation by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts — and in total, since Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 to 30. Of course, one nomination still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee is Merrick Garland’s to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Supreme Court hindered by partisanship  (York Daily Record [PA], 08/03/16)
Robert N. Parker: "Since the death of Justice Anthony Scalia, the bench has been empty and the court cannot do its job (rendering decisions rather than being deadlocked) correctly. The GOP leadership has pledged to stop any nomination by President Obama, saying that the next president should have that opportunity."

The GOP vs. The Constitution (Greene County Record [VA], 08/03/16)
Patrick Moctezuma, Letter to the Editor: "The real damage has been done by a coordinated attack on our judiciary. By blocking qualified nominees for purely political reasons, who enjoyed bipartisan support, Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP have prevented this president from filling empty bench seats in federal courts all across the country. Obama has been held to the lowest confirmation rate in modern history, precipitating a judicial crisis in our country, as judges work too long and burn out from excessive caseloads, and cases go many months without being heard, itself a violation of our Constitutional Rights. ... Republican Mitch McConnell has decided on his own that the Senate's "advise and consent" concerning individual judicial nominees, should - in this case and no other, apparently - equate to "obstruct and prevent" the sitting president from exercising one of the most basic and important executive authorities and duties: representing the American people in selecting Supreme Court justices."

Election time like a political circus  (York Daily Record [PA], 08/03/16)
Kenneth Mummert, Letter to the Editor: "I feel the same for Mitch McConnell who should have been fired for refusing to do his job in evaluating Supreme Court nominations from President Obama. Most of us would be looking for a job if we refused to do our job."

Burr holds back judicial nominees (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 08/03/16)
Mark Sternlicht, Letter to the Editor: "On July 20, Judge Merrick Garland became the longest stalled Supreme Court nominee ever. Judge Garland is widely respected, but Richard Burr and his fellow Senate Republicans have obstructed his nomination for more than 125 days. Back when George W. Bush was president, Sen. Burr insisted that judicial nominees "regardless of party, receive an up-or-down vote." Adding to the hypocrisy, Sen. Burr has led obstruction in filling the vacancy for federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which includes Fayetteville. This seat has been vacant for more than 10 years, longer than any other in the nation, and has been classified as a judicial emergency. All Sen. Burr has to do is turn in his "blue slip," a sheet of paper, to let the nomination proceed. Instead, he is blocking widely respected Fayetteville native and former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson from the position. Judicial emergencies have a big real-world impact for everyday Americans, who must wait and wait, often years, for their day in court. This includes small business owners hoping to settle contract disputes, workers who've faced discrimination and people injured by the negligence of a federal government employee. Justice delayed is justice denied."

Funt: Voters 'undecided' about what? (Mason City Globe Gazette [IA], 08/03/16)
Peter Funt, Op-Ed: "If one party controls Congress and the other the White House, as we have today, government becomes almost entirely dysfunctional. A Supreme Court nominee can’t even get a hearing because of intra-party warfare."

Letter to the Editor (Los Angeles Times, 08/03/16)
Wendy Blais: "While Zika spreads within the U.S., Congressional Republicans understandably need a seven -week vacation. After all, they are surely exhausted from months of blocking Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearings, so difficult as they have no logical or legal justification."

Obama Can Make His Successor's Life Easier (Bloomberg News, 08/03/16)
Jonathan Bernstein column: "the Senate engaged in unprecedented obstruction -- for example, refusing to even hold hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland."

Letter: Do your job, Senator (Concord Monitor [NH], 08/02/16)
Erling Jorgensen: "Sen. Ayotte, it is now over four months since President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. I continue to be amazed and astounded that you refuse to do your job as a senator, by evaluating the credentials of this nominee. Judge Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1997, with strong bipartisan support. His rulings have been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court. Many say he would bring a temperate voice to the court. But that is for you and your Senate colleagues to decide through the “advice and consent” duty laid on you by the Constitution. You swore to uphold and protect that Constitution, Senator. Informal meetings do not fulfill that responsibility. The Constitution says “the Senate” shall advise and consent – that means a vote, not one party deciding the candidate won’t even be considered."

Letters: Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland deserves hearing (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 08/02/16)
Ronnie Pratt: "Senate Republicans have refused to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia until the next president takes office ("Phila. lawyer urges hearings," Sunday). The Constitution is clear about how appointments must be made, and the rules have been followed for more than 200 years. Former federal judge Tim Lewis said he put his ideological differences aside and testified on behalf of conservative Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. because he was a "good person and a fine judge" and "it was the right thing to do." That's what is missing in the U.S. government today: the selfless act of doing the right thing for the good of the people. The Republican majority in Congress is refusing to do what is required of it, .. By refusing to hear the merits of Obama's choice, Republican senators are taking away my vote."

Senate Slow to Confirm Judges, Creating "Judicial Emergencies" (Bloomberg News, 08/02/16)
Bloomberg podcast: The Senate has been very slow in confirming any of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the federal bench. At this rate, by the end of the 114th Congress, only 30 will be confirmed. Bloomberg BNA Senior Congressional Reporter Nancy Ognanovich talked about the impact with Bloomberg’s Amy Morris

Now do you understand why the courts are so important? (NC Policy Watch, 08/02/16)
Rob Schofield: "Fourth Circuit decision on voting rights should convince progressives, once and for all, of the need to fight for good judges ... Indeed, in this era of divided government, it’s the federal courts that are, increasingly, casting the deciding vote on all manner of critically important matters.... it’s in large measure in response to the far right’s determined and persistent activism that the U.S. Senate has blocked so many of President Obama’s appointments – including most notoriously and for the longest period in U.S. history – Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. And still, several good judges have been able to run the gauntlet and win confirmation in the Senate – often by unanimous or near unanimous votes after the months or years of inexcusable and unexplained delays. Judge James Wynn, one of the three judges on the panel that decided the voter I.D. case last week, is a classic example. He was first nominated to serve on the Fourth Circuit in 1999 by President Clinton. It took 11 years, however, before he was finally confirmed (unanimously) after being re-nominated by President Obama. The bottom line: After seven years in office, President Obama clearly has made a difference in restoring some balance to the federal judiciary. The lawyers he has nominated have been the most diverse – in terms of gender, ethnicity, occupation and background – in history. As the Fourth Circuit decision demonstrates, this is having an important real world impact. That said; there is still a long, long way to go before the federal courts (much less the state courts) come close to truly reflecting the American melting pot that they are supposed to serve."

August 2016: Judicial Vacancies Move Toward Historic Levels (Federal Bar Association's Washington Watch, 08/01/16)
Bruce Moyer: "As of late June, there were 89 federal judicial vacancies. Sixty-seven of them existed at the district court level, or 10 percent of the nation’s 673 district court judgeships. That number stands at nearly twice the number of vacancies that existed at the same point in the presidency of George W. Bush and 50 percent more than existed under Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush. Vacancies constituting “judicial emergencies”—where caseloads are particularly heavy or have existed for an extended period—are roughly double what they were at comparable times in 2000 and 2008.... . A substantial rise in the district court judge retirements and elevations to senior status have fed the vacancy count. Almost 50 percent more judges (239) have risen to senior status under Obama than did under George W. Bush, according to judicial records.... When FBA members visited with their lawmakers during Capitol Hill Day in May, they explained how high numbers of vacancies on the federal bench harm the delivery of justice and the economic interests of litigants. That impact is worsened further by increased filings of lawsuits, without comparable increases in judgeships. Civil and criminal filings in the federal district courts are substantially higher than they were 20 years ago—rising 28 percent since FY 1993. But the number of federal judgeships created by Congress to handle these filings has barely changed, growing by only 4 percent in the same two-decade period. During that same time, the time required for handling both civil and criminal cases in the federal courts increased, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. In fact he Syracuse University court data shows that the average time to trial in federal court civil lawsuits increased by a whopping 63 percent over a ten-year period ending in 2013."

Bob Menamin: We need to restore respect for political opponents (Cap Times [WI], 07/28/16)
Letter to the Editor: "The GOP-controlled House and Senate refuse to govern. In March Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland as a replacement for Anton Scalia on the Supreme Court. The Senate refuses to give Garland a hearing despite that he was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court by the Senate in 1997 with a vote of 76-23, including a majority of Republicans."

Guest Column: Counting down the GOP Senate’s days of shame (Missoulian [MT], 07/27/16)
Evan Barrett: "the most egregious thing the Senate is not doing – a direct, constitutionally-required function. They are not holding hearings on and acting upon the nomination by President Obama of Merrick Garland for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.... The Senate, by refusing to even consider the nomination, is violating its duty to provide advice and consent. But even beyond that, many of them, including Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines, decline to even meet with the nominee. The Senate can say “no” if it wants, but the refusal to act – the refusal to meet – is a refusal of the GOP members of the Senate to fulfill their constitutional duty.... Tick, tick, tick. Shame, shame, shame."

Letter: What is Sen. Chuck Grassley thinking? (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 07/27/16)
Roger Schnittjer: "Sen. Chuck Grassley made the most overt deep dive into politicizing the Supreme Court of the United States, when as chairman of the Judicial Committee, he took away the right of the president’s nominee (Judge Merrick Garland) to have hearings on his appointment to fill the vacancy created by a death.... he needs to apologize to the American public for diminishing the quantity and the quality of the work the Justices are doing with fewer justices."

Is Grassley trying to avoid tough questions? (Storm Lake Times [IA], 07/27/16)
Randy Evans column: "In his early years as a senator, I liked that Grassley was something of a maverick. Of course, that was long before he dug in his heels over Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court and became a symbol of Congress’ obstructionism."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Failure to give Merrick Garland a hearing is an embarrassment (Columbia Missourian [MO], 07/26/16)
Gretchen Maune: "Sen. Roy Blunt set a world record — and not in a good way. Tuesday marked 125 days since President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland for confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has had an open seat since the death of Justice Scalia in February.... Sen. Blunt winning the prize for longest obstruction of a Supreme Court Justice isn't an accomplishment. It's an embarrassment, and he needs to meet with Judge Garland and let his nomination move forward."