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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Editorial: Clean water vs. 21 dirty states (Virginian-Pilot, 02/26/14)
"It's not enough that 21 states have polluted their creeks and rivers - their political leaders now want to keep other states from cleaning up their own waters.... The Dirty 21 have joined the American Farm Bureau Federation - and builders; chicken, turkey, pork and corn producers; as well as fertilizer makers - in opposing a pollution-reduction plan finalized only after a lawsuit by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.... it took another decade - and a lawsuit by CBF - for the EPA and the states (which now include New York, Delaware and West Virginia) to arrive at a real plan to tackle everything else polluting the Chesapeake.... the attorneys general are battling in the U.S. Court of Appeals to protect the pollution in countless other dirty rivers and creeks, and the threat it all poses to their people."

Editorial: McCrory needs to make a full response to coal ash questions (, 02/26/14)
"The coal ash spill is a major event with statewide implications for the safety of drinking water."

Federal courts under siege (Minnesota Lawyer, 02/25/14)
Barbara L. Jones: "Since the filibuster rules were changed in November 2013, the number of district court vacancies has actually increased from 75 to 80, creating a 12 percent vacancy rate and the highest vacancy level since March 2011. Prior to President Obama taking office, the last time trial courts experienced 80 or more vacancies was in 1994, which saw high numbers of vacancies due in part to the creation of 74 new trial court judgeships in 1990. The current level of trial court vacancies is substantially higher than what existed at the equivalent point in President Clinton’s second term (60) or President Bush’s second term (35)."

Will McCain and Flake let GOP obstruct nominees? (Nogales International [AZ], 02/25/14)
Paul Gordon: "On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on six district court nominees in Arizona, including James A. Soto of Nogales. Odds are it won’t happen. That’s because delaying the committee vote is a small but reliably constant way that Senate Republicans delay and obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees."

Jennifer Bendery: "Grassley's statistics gloss over the broader context of what's going on with Obama's judicial nominees. Obama's confirmations lag behind Bush (by five) and Bill Clinton (by 21) at this point in their presidencies, and roughly 30 of his judicial nominees are gathering dust on the Senate floor as Republicans refuse to consent to hold up-or-down votes. Beyond that, Republicans have been using the "blue-slip process" in the Senate Judiciary Committee to block nominees, including one who would fill the longest-standing district court vacancy in the country. GOP obstruction is a major reason there are now more than 90 judicial vacancies around the country -- dwarfing the 52 at this point in Bush's presidency... The irony may have been lost on the Iowa Republican, but Grassley's defense of GOP cooperation on judges came as he was burning up time on the Senate floor to delay votes on nominees. ..."We have scores of judges, district court judges, and we have a number of circuit court judges, and we're going to in the near future file cloture on all of them," Reid said. "If that's what the Republicans want us to do, then that's what we'll do. The American people will see this colossal waste of time that we've been going through.""

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote (People For blog, 02/25/14)
"The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts. The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. ... Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees. That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in."

Confirm Lauck for Eastern District of Virginia (The Hill, 02/25/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Judge Spencer will assume senior status in late March and it would be preferable to have his seat filled before then. ...Warner and Kaine urged Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee Chair, to speedily conduct a hearing. After the hearing, they should ask Leahy to quickly set a committee vote and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Majority Leader, to rapidly schedule a floor debate and vote. If Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Minority Leader, does not swiftly agree to vote, Reid should seek cloture. Lauck's excellent record means that she warrants prompt approval, while her abilities will help the court maintain its well deserved reputation as the Rocket Docket."

GOP court blockage ‘unprecedented’ (MSNBC, 02/25/14)
Adam Serwer: "Since Obama took office, the number of vacancies has remained uncommonly high. In 2008, the average number of district court vacancies was 31 according to the Brennan Center, in 2009, it was 61, and that’s the lowest it’s been – in 2014 the average stands at 78. If this level of vacancies continues until 2016, it won’t just slow down the legal system, it’ll give whichever party takes the White House a new opportunity to remake the federal courts in their own image."

Editorial: Coal ash issue needs addressing (Daily Courier [Forest City, NC], 02/25/14)
"It is time our state leaders become proactive in this situation and take a serious look across the state at these dumps and find real solutions in order to prevent another Dan River situation from happening again."

Editorial: Winter may rescue the wolves of Isle Royale; Ice bridge could be lifeline for shrinking pack (Chicago Tribune, 02/24/14)
"Wolves, which are far more numerous on the mainland, now have an avenue to make the move offshore. That would be a godsend for the pack — and for the ecology of this unique area, which is largely wilderness. Without moose, the wolves would have meager food sources. Without wolves, though, the moose can grow so numerous that they devastate the trees they depend on for their own. ... human intervention in the climate is one evident reason the wolves are in such peril. Lake Superior now tends to have less ice than it used to, and ice bridges, never frequent, have grown increasingly rare sustenance. So the disappearance of the wolves would bode ill for the future of the moose.... human intervention in the climate is one evident reason the wolves are in such peril. Lake Superior now tends to have less ice than it used to, and ice bridges, never frequent, have grown increasingly rare."

Arkansas federal judgeships before Senate today (Arkansas Times, 02/24/14)
Max Brantley: "The theoretically non-controversial nominations of Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville to federal judicial vacancies are on the U.S. Senate agenda today. They've been delayed for months by Republican obstructionism and even the final votes could take two days because of cloture votes and time-consuming "debate," all part of the GOP plan to squelch as many Obama appointees as possible. Moody and Brooks are both supported by the Republican U.S. senator from Arkansas, John Boozman. But he apparently has no influence when it comes to judicial nomination foot-dragging."

Editorial: Our View: Right answer on coal ash spill not hard, gov (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 02/24/14)
"We hope the governor will stop equivocating on this matter. He and his Department of Environment and Natural Resources must forcefully declare that Duke Energy do what South Carolina’s biggest utilities have already agreed to do there – excavate the ponds and bury the ash in dry, lined landfills. The state has badly abdicated its responsibility on this matter. The spill on the Dan – the third largest such spill in the nation’s history – could have been avoided by moving the ash years ago."

Senate to Vote Today on Four Federal District Court Nominees (People For blog, 02/24/14)
"Republicans refused to hold votes on these nominees for months, and now that they are being called on their obstructionism through filibuster-ending cloture votes, they’re making the votes take as long as possible by demanding that each take hours of “post-cloture debate.” This is especially ridiculous for nominees whom the Republicans actually support. Not only is this delaying confirmation of judges in these particular states; it’s also delaying nominees in other states waiting in line for their turn, including many for posts that have been deemed “judicial emergencies.” This delaying tactic from Republicans not only slows what should be a simple process, it deprives these states’ constituents the fully functioning justice system they deserve."

Editorial: Let the E.P.A. Do Its Job (New York Times, 02/24/14)
"On Monday, for the third time in seven years, the Supreme Court will consider the scope of the federal government’s power to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases, which are a major contributor to global climate change.... the E.P.A. is well within its authority to interpret the law as broadly as it has. It was written that way four decades ago, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly and properly construed the agency’s powers broadly. This time is no different."

Editorial: The EPA’s strong case for regulating greenhouse gas emissions (Washington Post, 02/23/14)
"The court should not render major portions of the law inapplicable simply because Congress decades ago didn’t anticipate the particular circumstances of the greenhouse gas threat. The court itself, the government notes, even recently held in a different case that the EPA’s greenhouse gas program represents a comprehensive federal climate change policy. That would hardly make sense if big, stationary emitters were exempt from the law’s front-line clean-air permitting rules."

The notorious Senator Burr (Progressive Pulse [NC], 02/21/14)
Sharon McCloskey: "Burr’s abuse of the judicial selection process is now bringing more negative national attention to the state. Yesterday, in a piece about continued intransigence getting judicial nominees confirmed — even in the absence of the filibuster — Newsweek magazine called out Burr as a singular example of what continues to plague Washington"

New Rules, Same Results on Capitol Hill (Newsweek, 02/21/14)
Pema Levy: "gridlock over the president's judicial nominees persists. And it's not just North Carolina. Across the country, the federal judiciary has 96 vacancies: 80 in the federal district courts and 16 in the appellate courts. Thirty-nine are considered judicial emergencies. According to an upcoming analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, there were just 35 vacancies at the same point in President George W. Bush's presidency and about 60 at the same point in President Bill Clinton's. There are 32 judicial nominations waiting for a final vote on the Senate floor."

Trial Courts Update: Vacancies Higher After Filibuster Reform (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 02/21/14)
Alicia Bannon: "Three months after Senate Democrats reformed the filibuster rules for executive and judicial nominees, Senate obstruction continues in new forms, and courts and litigants are paying the price. When the Senate returns from its holiday recess on Monday, February 24, it should move forward on confirming pending judicial nominees. ... Since the filibuster rules were changed in November 2013, the number of district court vacancies has actually increased from 75 to 80, creating a 12 percent vacancy rate and the highest vacancy level since March 2011. Prior to President Obama taking office, the last time trial courts experienced 80 or more vacancies was in 1994, which saw high numbers of vacancies due in part to the creation of 74 new trial court judgeships in 1990. The current level of trial court vacancies is substantially higher than what existed at the equivalent point in President Clinton’s second term (60) or President Bush’s second term (35)."

Obama is light on recess appointing (Charleston Daily Mail [WV], 02/21/14)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "The Jan. 28 editorial, "Will the president show better listening skills?" states, "The president also is fighting at the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the Constitution and bypass the U.S. Senate — claiming they are in recess when they are not — to make judicial nominations." In fact, the court case only involves Executive Branch recess appointments for a simple reason. As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported, President Obama has never made a recess judicial appointment (unlike President G.W. Bush who made two, and Clinton who made one).... President Obama has routinely consulted very conservative home-state Republican senators and obtained their strong support to confirm consensus judicial nominees. Vacancies without nominees are concentrated in Kentucky, Texas and a few other states."

Editorial: Move ash ponds (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 02/21/14)
"Of course Duke should move its 31 containment ponds, most decades old, away from rivers and lakes. They leak and, as we’ve seen, catastrophic accidents are possible — with potentially dangerous consequences."

Will McCain and Flake Let GOP Obstruct AZ Nominees? (People For blog, 02/21/14)
"In fact, only five Obama judicial nominees have actually been allowed by the GOP to have their committee vote held as scheduled. The last time they let one through on time was in 2011, and that was for an Arizona nominee to replace the murdered Judge John Roll. Perhaps they will make another Arizona exception this time. Arizona has 13 federal district judgeships, but six of them are vacant. And because of the high caseload in Arizona courts, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has formally designated all six of the vacancies as “judicial emergencies.” ... The six nominees were originally scheduled for a committee vote on February 13, but the hearing was cancelled due to a snowstorm. Then came a week’s recess. ... Since Flake is on the committee, eyes will be particularly focused on him. Can he convince his GOP colleagues not to prolong the crisis in his state by delaying the vote? Will he even try?"

Editorial: A change in the climate; OUR OPINION: President takes comprehensive steps to combat warming (Miami Herald, 02/20/14)
"But President Obama’s bigger goal, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, remains elusive. And executive orders can always be challenged in court. There’s a case before the Supreme Court on another one of Mr. Obama’s executive orders to curb emissions, for instance."

Lamar Alexander Deplores the Dysfunction He Wrought  (Bloomberg News, 02/20/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "the idea of Alexander blaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats for dragging out nominations really is extraordinary chutzpah. “We could work Mondays?” The “work” the Senate has been doing on nominations is mostly just a matter of sitting around waiting for the clock to run out. A clock that is being set not by Reid, but by Republicans who insist on delaying nominations, including those that they themselves support. Alexander, in particular, deserves no slack. Not just because he famously pledged never to support a judicial filibuster even when a Democrat was in the White House; I expect, and don’t care about, procedural hypocrisy. No, Alexander deserves no slack because he poses as a friend of Senate traditions and norms, but failed to step up when he (and two other Republicans) could have prevented majority-imposed reform by surrendering in the blockade of D.C. Circuit Court judges."

Editorial: Protecting our birds of a feather  (Lompoc Record [CA], 02/20/14)
"The western snowy plover has been on the federal Endangered Species Act list as “threatened” for many years, and every state along the Pacific rim of the West Coast has restrictions regarding treatment of the birds from March to September. Protecting this bird species — any species, really — is vitally important to both the animal and the human kingdom. Once a species goes extinct, as the name implies, it’s gone forever, and the planet has lost something of irreplaceable value. And we can never be entirely certain what the loss of a species will mean in the overall scheme of things. Maybe it’s a little like pulling one stone out of a dam holding back a mighty river, and that one stone was the linchpin."

A new low in Senator Burr’s filibuster of judicial nominee? (Progressive Pulse [NC], 02/20/14)
Rob Schofield: "It’s now been almost five years since Burr specifically endorsed Jennifer May-Parker ... Yet, since Obama actually made the nomination last June, Burr has steadfastly refused to submit his “blue slip” ... While inexcusable enough on its own, Burr’s tight-lipped blockade is rendered downright outrageous by his duplicitous explanations on the subject. Recently, a friend of NC Policy Watch who wrote Burr on the subject, received a letter in response in which Burr ... clearly implies that it’s the President’s fault for not nominating someone on his (Burr’s) list. But, of course, as has been known for some time, May-Parker WAS on Burr’s list!"

Eagle editorial: Prairie chicken bill goes off deep end (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 02/20/14)
The Kansas "Senate went way off the deep end last week in voting 30-10 to criminalize federal wildlife enforcement in the state relating to lesser prairie chickens and greater prairie chickens.... The bill’s greatest offense may be how it would make it a felony in Kansas for federal wildlife agents or federal contractors’ employees to do their jobs. As Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, argued in vain during the debate (in which the U.S. was characterized as on a fast track to becoming North Korea): “It will lead to expensive litigation and cost our state money while trying to supersede the federal Endangered Species Act.”"

Burr's Blue Slip Abuse Continues (People For blog, 02/20/14)
"North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr has been justly criticized for his obstruction of Jennifer May-Parker, a judicial nominee who he originally recommended to the White House back in 2009. If confirmed, May-Parker would become the first African American federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Without Burr's support, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy won't even schedule a hearing for the nominee."

Read Stuff, You Should (Bloomberg News, 02/19/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Remember, the filibuster hasn’t been eliminated; it has been changed so that a simple majority can defeat it. But the minority still can stall, and Republicans have continued filibustering every nomination (and in many cases, using every stalling technique available to them."

Fight over judicial nominees on two fronts (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 02/19/14)
Steve Benen: "since December, the Senate has confirmed just one judge: Robert Wilkins was approved to serve on the D.C. Circuit. There are 32 other judicial nominees who’ve cleared committee and are awaiting floor votes....GOP senators may not be able to filibuster these nominees anymore, but they’re still relying on every possible procedural trick they know to prevent qualified judges from receiving confirmation votes. In some cases, Republicans are announcing their opposition to nominees they personally recommended. In others, they’re taking advantage of the blue-slip process. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has occasionally taken the lead in refusing Democratic efforts to consider non-controversial nominees as a bloc. (Alexander is an odd choice to lead on this issue, given that how much credibility he lost when he broke his word on this very issue.)"