Editorials and Opinion
Another View: Grassley's reach hampers court (Des Moines Register [IA] , 05/22/13)
Doug Kendall: "First, Republicans manufactured a controversy over Caitlin Halligan, President Barack Obama’s well-qualified nominee to the D.C. Circuit, and then torpedoed her confirmation through a partisan filibuster.
Then the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by its ranking member, Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., took a startling step: They introduced legislation that would eliminate three of the 11 judicial seats on the D.C. Circuit"
The Climate-Change Wars Begin This Summer (New York Magazine, 05/22/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Bush’s judges on the D.C. Circuit have inserted themselves even more heavily into the policy debate by striking down a slew of regulations in health care, pollution, labor, and other areas, turning the court into one of the right’s most potent weapons during the Obama era.
Since President Obama took office, four vacancies have opened on the D.C. Circuit Court, and Obama has not managed to seat a single justice to fill any of the slots. Republicans have displayed a willingness to filibuster even mainstream nominees, like Caitlin Halligan, who recently withdrew ... The Republican line has been set out most enthusiastically by the comically mendacious Wall Street Journal editorial page, which has long recognized the primacy of the D.C. Circuit and fervently taken up whatever procedural stance is required to increase the court’s Republican tilt. ... The most recent Journal editorial is the most unbelievable of them all. Its primary contention is that the D.C. Circuit is filled with underworked slackers, thus rendering any additional nominees unnecessary. The Journal never mentioned this during the Bush years, when it was urgently demanding that Republican judges fill every last vacancy (“it's time for the remaining nominees to have the up-or-down floor votes they deserve”). But having suddenly discovered the plague of slothfulness on the D.C. Circuit, it has embraced the cause of shrinking the court as a first-order principle.
In actual fact, the D.C. Circuit is actually so overloaded with cases — its heavy policy load makes its docket especially technically demanding — that it has leaned on a panel of retired judges to hear its overflow cases. ... The Republicans don’t have the votes to actually pass their plan to eliminate all vacancies. Its function is to serve as justification for filibustering any nominees at all, however moderate or well qualified, for the remaining three vacancies."
David Sarasohn: On U.S. Senate rules, a prospect of a nuclear July (Oregonian, 05/22/13)
"Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed him to a seat on the federal district court for Oregon, a mere eight months after he was nominated. Considering that he sailed through both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate on voice votes, you might wonder why it took that long.... Rosemary Marquez of Arizona was nominated in June 2011 and hasn't been voted on yet."
Party opinion usurps public opinion (Reuters, 05/21/13)
Bill Schneider: "Right now, Senate Democrats are preparing to launch “the nuclear option” to break the partisan gridlock in Congress. This would change Senate rules to allow presidential nominations be confirmed by majority vote. A radical concept ‑ majority rule! Democrats are enraged because Republicans are using the filibuster to block Obama’s nominations for Cabinet positions and federal judgeships."
Quick and decisive action needed to resolve judicial emergencies (Progressive Pulse [NC], 05/21/13)
Sharon McCloskey: "Close to 100 attorneys, progressive advocates and Triangle-area residents gathered today to discuss the continuing judicial vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, growing numbers of federal judicial vacancies elsewhere, delayed U.S. Senate confirmations of presidential nominees, and the ongoing need for increased diversity on the bench.
Speakers at the event, “Why Courts Matter,” included 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. and Andrew Blotky, director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress ... Wynn and Blotky called for the quick confirmation of fair, impartial, clear-thinking and diverse judges to fill those vacancies ... the U.S.District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ... has the dubious distinction of having the oldest federal judicial vacancy in the country. The seat, opened up on Dec. 31, 2005 when Judge Malcolm J. Howard took senior status, has been unfilled for more than 2500 days."
Editorial: Hometown pride (Lawrence Journal-World [KS], 05/21/13)
"Congratulations to Lawrence High School graduate Sri Srinivasan, whose nomination for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday unanimously sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee and is headed to the full Senate....The court to which Srinivasan is nominated hears most challenges to presidential actions and is considered one of the nation’s most important."
WSJ Supports Dismantling Federal Court In Order To Block Obama Nominees (Media Matters for America, 05/20/13)
Sergio Munoz: "The Wall Street Journal is endorsing Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's absurd claim that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit doesn't need to fill its judicial vacancies, a position the senator didn't take when he was helping confirm former President George W. Bush's right-wing judges. Despite the newspaper's own reporting on the rampant GOP obstructionism that has prevented President Obama from easing the judicial emergencies caused by vacancies in the federal courts, the editorial page of the WSJ continues to applaud Republican filibusters of the president's nominations....The editorial - like Grassley's plan - is extremely inaccurate"
Still hoping for a filibuster compromise (Washington Post, 05/20/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "In particular, Democrats should not be willing to accept a full blockage of certain seats (such as what may be a blockade of multiple seats on the DC Circuit court)."
Moran endorses former Kansan for key court (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 05/20/13)
Rhonda Holman ,WE Blog The Wichita Eagle’s Editorial Department Blog: "Good for Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., for helping break the long political stalemate over the four vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by announcing his support Wednesday for President Obama’s nomination of Sri Srinivasan (in photo), who grew up in Lawrence and currently is principal deputy solicitor general."
White House statement on confirmation of district judge Michael McShane (The White House, 05/20/13)
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, also commended the Senate for confirming McShane, whom Obama first named in September before renominating him at the start of the 113th Congress.
“The president welcomes the confirmation of Michael McShane,” Inouye said. “He will serve the American people well from the District of Oregon bench."
Barnett: The real scandal: Political gridlock (News and Observer [NC] , 05/18/13)
Editorial page editor Ned Barnett: "The obstructionism has been relentless. Senate Republicans have used the threat of filibuster to hold up nominees for federal judgeships and key administration posts. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that 85 federal judgeships are vacant. That’s 10 percent of the judiciary not functioning at a time when caseloads show the need for adding even more judicial posts. Some nominees have been waiting nearly 700 days. Another gave up after waiting two and a half years."
Editorial: Revive filibuster reform; U.S. Senate is a broken institution; it’s time to fix it (Register Guard [OR] , 05/18/13)
"Faced with a confirmation process that Republicans routinely hijack and the blockage of major legislation, the Nevada Democrat is once again considering a rule change that would limit the filibuster of nominees and legislation.... ilibusters have become dismayingly routine business in the Senate, and Republicans show no sign of retreating from their default strategy of obstructionism."
EDITORIAL: Climate Warnings, Growing Louder (New York Times, 05/18/13)
"Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have spent the last two weeks trying to derail Mr. Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency — a moderate named Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has served two Republican governors (Mitt Romney was one) but is considered suspect by the right wing because she wants to control carbon pollution, which is driving global temperatures upward."
Federal confirmation backlog; World-Herald editorial: Federal jobs should be filled (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 05/18/13)
"Our political system in Washington is once again falling down on the job. This time, it’s the failure to fill top federal positions in a timely fashion.... Senate game-playing. Senators can place anonymous holds on appointments and insist that nominees be bombarded with an unmanageable volume of questions ... Inefficiency, partisan warfare and delay are not virtues, and the White House and Senate need to move beyond the political warring to make progress on the confirmation process. ... Restrict the use of senatorial holds on nominations ... And, above all, end the partisan squabbling that’s paralyzing the confirmation process."
President Obama Nominates Four Distinguished Women to Serve as Federal Judges (The White House, 05/17/13)
White House blog by Chris Kang, Senior Counsel to the President: " If confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Carolyn McHugh would be the first woman from Utah to serve on that court. Currently, the Tenth Circuit only has one woman judge serving among its nine active members.
· Pamela Reeves and Elizabeth Wolford would be the first women to serve as district court judges in the Eastern District of Tennessee and Western District of New York, respectively, if confirmed.
· Debra Brown would be the first African-American district court judge to serve in the Northern District of Mississippi and the first African-American woman to serve as an Article III judge in the entire state of Mississippi, if confirmed.
President Obama’s judicial nominees already have broken the gender barrier in circuit courts in six states, as well as nine district courts, and have shattered dozens of glass ceilings for minorities. ... for the first time, President Obama has nominated more district court judges than President George W. Bush had at the same point in his presidency. While a faster pace of judicial retirements has led to a greater number of vacancies—many still without nominees—this record demonstrates the strength of the President’s commitment to addressing the judicial vacancy crisis in our country. He will continue to work with home state Senators from both parties to identify and consider candidates for the federal judiciary. We urge the Senate to consider yesterday’s nominees—and all judicial nominees—without unnecessary delay."
Time for Some Nominations. A Lot of Nominations (A plain blog about politics, 05/17/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "If Harry Reid is willing to spend serious floor time on nominations, he needs more nominees. Lots more nominees. In particular, he really needs those three DC Circuit Court selections ... in the last couple of weeks the White House really has been starting to roll out more judicial picks -- one circuit court selection and three district court selections yesterday, on top of a few last week. That's good! But there's a lot more to go."
Heller’s Obstructionism On Full Display (Desert Beacon blog [NV], 05/17/13)
"Perhaps the most under-reported scandalous behavior in Washington, D.C. is the continual obstruction of Presidential nominations to fill vacancies in administrative and judicial posts, and Nevada junior Senator Dean Heller has been right in the middle of it.
First, he opposed the nomination of Elissa Cadish, refusing to sign the paperwork necessary for her candidacy as a judicial nominee to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he was miffed by her position on guns. Now, he’s opposing the nomination of Jennifer Dorsey because her previous law firm made a major donation to the PAC associated with Senator Harry Reid."
Obama Says ‘Check’ to GOP in Confirmation Chess Match (Roll Call, 05/17/13)
David Hawkings column: "Srinivasan is about to become the first federal appeals judge of South Asian heritage and, at 46, the youngest judge on the D.C. Circuit. Of more consequence, he’ll be the first newcomer to that court in seven years. Since 2006, the number of vacant seats has grown to four. Of the seven full-timers on the bench, four were nominated by Republicans and three by Democrats, so Srinivasan will make it an even split.
That simple math helps explain why all those seats have stayed vacant since long before the election — and why that situation is about to change, although only a little bit. ...a roster of three D.C. Circuit choices to be nominated in coming weeks as a slate — challenging the Senate, in effect, to embrace at least one of them because surely they can’t all be activist leftists.
The Republicans know this is coming and have their counter-programming planned out: There’s no need to seat anyone else, they’ll insist, because the court’s caseload is not big enough to justify the eight judges on the job.
The Srinivasan confirmation will shift the judicial wars into something more like a chess match."
Here comes the filibuster battle (Washington Post, 05/17/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Harry Reid is planning to devote July to nominations and will “go nuclear” if necessary — using majority-imposed reform to end the ability of minorities to block executive branch and judicial nominations. This is exactly the right path for Reid, the Senate majority leader, to take. ... For most Democratic senators, the preferred solution is almost certainly Republican retreat to more traditional opposition, in which filibusters were used very selectively against a handful of nominees, and other forms of obstruction (the kind that delay, not kill, nominations) were also used selectively. Republicans ... forcing every nominee to get 60 votes for permission to take a final vote, and most (but not all) Republicans are voting against allowing a final confirmation vote on every nominee they oppose. They’re also blocking some positions — the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, possibly one or more seats on the DC Circuit Court — by refusing to allow final votes on any nominee ... The other part of this is that the threat of including judicial nominations in reform should get Republicans’ attention. ... losing the ability to block judicial nominations, especially at the appeals level, would be a significant loss for the minority party."
White House Press Secretary on need to fill four D.C. Circuit Vacancies (The White House, 05/16/13)
"The D.C. Circuit is often considered the nation’s second-highest court, but it has twice as many vacancies as any other court of appeals, and its workload has increased by over 20 percent since 2005," Carney said. "Srinivasan’s confirmation will be an important first step to filling this court’s four vacancies, and the full Senate should act without unnecessary delay."
Cornyn should shoulder blame for judicial vacancies (Fort Worth Star-Telegram [TX], 05/15/13)
Judith E. Schaeffer: Sen. "Cornyn’s efforts to shift the blame to the administration for the lack of judicial nominees and portray the judicial nominations process as operating by some sort of unilateral White House fiat is belied by the Republican senators’ 2009 letter.
If Obama were to nominate people to fill the vacancies on the federal courts in Texas without input from or the approval of the Texas senators, those nominees would go nowhere, and Cornyn knows it."
Obama needs a fresh approach to naming judges (Politico, 05/15/13)
David Fontana: "Obama’s judicial nominees have waited three times longer on the floor of the Senate than did those of President George W. Bush.
These issues are crucially important, to be sure. But all of this attention on delays in nominations and obstructions after nominations largely ignores what happens in the Senate before a nomination, when much of the groundwork is laid for determining whom the president can nominate and how the Senate will treat his nominees. Senators from the state where judicial openings arise play a large role in indicating to the president which potential nominees they would support. Sometimes these senators do not even get around to suggesting names to the president."
Why Just Fixing The Filibuster Is Not Enough To Unbreak The Senate (Think Progress, 05/14/13)
Ian Millhiser: "The Senate’s filibuster rules gave the minority party power to shut down all judicial confirmations for much of 2012, ... Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) unilaterally blocked Judge Elissa Cadish’s nomination to a federal judgeship last March by invoking a Judiciary Committee procedure that allows just one senator to block a judicial nominee so long as that nominee is from their home state. Heller objected to the fact that Cadish accurately described the state of Second Amendment law prior to a Supreme Court decision that made the law more favorable to the NRA’s views. So, while filibuster reform is essential in the wake of unprecedented obstruction of cabinet-level nominees and similar tactics, it is not sufficient in and of itself. The Senate’s rules and the rules governing its various committees are pervasively broken, and require a complete overhaul to prevent future obstruction."
Judicial Vacancies Typify Capital Dysfunction (Wall Street Journal, 05/13/13)
Gerald F. Seib, Capital Journal: "Jill Pryor of Georgia and Rosemary Marquez of Arizona aren't exactly household names, but they share a distinction with national importance: Both have been waiting exactly 689 days for the Senate to act on their nominations to become federal judges.
Yet they aren't even the most extreme examples of Washington's inability to perform one of its most basic functions, filling the federal judiciary across the land. All told, 85 federal judgeships sit vacant, meaning some 10% of the federal judiciary is empty—and this at a time when those who run the court system think there actually should be new judicial posts created because of an escalating workload.
Openings on two of the nation's most important federal appeals courts—the Ninth Circuit in the West and the D.C. Circuit in Washington—have been unfilled since 2005.... the lion's share of the blame lies with the Senate, a body that's becoming an embarrassment to itself and that increasingly infects the rest of government with its paralysis.... judges still aren't being confirmed fast enough to keep up with the rate of attrition as older judges retire."
How Vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court Are Swaying Policy in America: The court's judges are obstructing appointments to a key regulatory body. But since the Senate won't confirm Obama's own judicial picks, the appointments will stay stuck. (Atlantic, 05/10/13)
Garrett Epps: "the D.C. Circuit ought to be called the Filibuster of Appeals... If the four empty judgeships were filled, the lineup of active judges would be seven Democratic nominees to four Republican ones. The odds would have been a lot better of a different decision, or at least of a dissent. Since a majority vote of the active judges can vacate a panel decision, there would have been a chance of reconsideration by the full court sitting "en banc."... The Republican attitude toward the D.C. Circuit, however, is suggested by a bill proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on Judiciary. At Srinavasan's confirmation hearing, Grassley announced he was introducing a Court Efficiency Act that would abolish the three remaining vacancies on the Circuit. Franklin Roosevelt's court-packing plan was named the Judicial Procedures Reform Act of 1937; like that proposal, Grassley's is a sign that the fight over the courts is really a bare-knuckle political brawl."
John Cornyn Complains About Judicial Nomination Process He's Blocking (Huffington Post, 05/10/13)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) ranted Thursday that President Barack Obama hasn't put forward judicial nominees for vacancies in Texas, some open and without a nominee for more than 1,000 days. But he got schooled by his Democratic colleagues, who reminded him he's responsible for recommending nominees to the White House in the first place -- something he hasn't done for years."