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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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World-Herald editorial: Swift action on judge is warranted (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 06/17/15)
"The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but that’s nothing compared to the grind of filling a vacancy on the federal bench. Currently, there are 59 vacancies on federal courts around the country, with at least one opening dating to 2010. The National Women’s Law Center calculated that about one-third of the vacancies were in courts “so overburdened that they have been designated ‘judicial emergencies’ by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.” Nebraska has one of the 59 vacancies. But President Barack Obama finally has made a nomination: Omahan Robert Rossiter Jr.... Nebraskans can hope consideration of a highly qualified nominee such as Rossiter doesn’t become a political tug of war and that he can receive speedy consideration. Vacancies on the federal bench mean individuals and businesses must wait longer for cases to be resolved. And as the legal maxim says, justice delayed is justice denied."

“World-Herald editorial: Swift action on judge is warranted” (Hercules and the umpire blog, 06/17/15)
Senior U.S. District of Nebraska Judge Richard George Kopf: "Please read the editorial, Swift action on judge is warranted, Omaha World-Herald (June 17, 2015) (“Nebraskans can hope consideration of a highly qualified nominee such as Rossiter doesn’t become a political tug of war and that he can receive speedy consideration.”) From their lips to Chairman Grassley’s ears.*... We need Bob Rossiter tomorrow! The powerful Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a Nebraska neighbor, can make a quick confirmation hearing a reality. I hope Mr. Grassley is listening."

Stalling over judgeships makes no sense (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 06/17/15)
Jerry Freeman letter: "The recent World-Herald story on the nomination of Robert Rossiter Jr. to the federal bench demonstrates the long wait and needless delays in filling much-needed federal judgeships. ... Now another long wait seems assured for U.S. Senate confirmation. All of this despite Rossiter being a Republican, the state’s two U.S. senators being Republican and the Republicans now in the majority of Congress. Seems to me an attorney of his caliber could breeze through this kind of process in about five minutes of study. Just another example of gridlock in our nation’s capital."

Sen. Pat Toomey must push for vote to confirm Judge Luis Restrepo (Morning Call [PA], 06/16/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Judging the Environment, Letter to the Editor: "The story, "Senate Judiciary panel vets Pa. nominee," reports that "there's more waiting for" Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo after the "uneventful" hearing on his nomination to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Sen. Pat Toomey, the story said, "noted the unanimous Senate approval when Restrepo was nominated to his district judgeship: 'I hope to see exactly such a confirmation occur this year.'" But "this year" suggests further needless delays of Restrepo's November nomination to fill a 2013 vacancy the U.S. Courts declared a judicial emergency. Those pressing for swift action include newspaper editorial boards and the Hispanic National Bar Association. A Pittsburgh City Council resolution urged a floor vote before another Pennsylvania Third Circuit seat is vacated on July 1, when Judge Marjorie Rendell takes senior status. Until Sen. Toomey persuades his majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, to allow a prompt vote, justice delayed from lack of judges will continue to be justice denied."

Editorial: Lack of a wolf plan should have U.S. howling mad (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 06/16/15)
"The public ... deserves to know what that final goal is. According to a 2014 lawsuit against Fish and Wildlife by Defenders of Wildlife [and others] “the absence of a legitimate agency blueprint for Mexican gray wolf recovery underlies the ongoing challenges facing the subspecies’ recovery program. Accordingly, those challenges could be resolved through the production and implementation of a scientifically based and legally valid recovery plan to guide and drive Mexican gray wolf management decisions, such as scheduled releases to promote genetic diversity, necessary limitations on wolf removals by FWS and the public, and delineation of appropriate geographic areas to facilitate wolf recovery.”"

Editorial: Where have all the honeybees gone? (Record Journal [CT], 06/15/15)
"Bees pollinate some 80 percent of plant species, and about a third of our food supply depends on them. Some crops, such as almonds, are completely dependent on bees for pollination. But the honeybees have been disappearing ... current theory is that there may be multiple factors involved, including disease, bacteria, parasites — and pesticides, including synthetic nicotine pesticides called neo-nicotinoids.... it should be a major concern for all of us, because all of us depend on honeybees for our sustenance."

EDITORIAL: Earth's warming is clear to Virginians (Virginian-Pilot, 06/15/15)
"On climate change, Virginians - and the people of Hampton Roads - are more likely than most other Southerners to recognize the perils of inaction. For good reason. Rising seas and sinking land pose a greater risk to people and businesses in this region than anywhere else on the East Coast. The trick, now, is to get more of the state's elected officials to come to terms with that reality and advance policies that both manage necessary adaptations and take advantage of potential opportunities.... Temperature data show close to unequivocally that the planet is getting warmer; the world's largest review of the science concludes that man is almost certainly causing it by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests; and a third large review of the literature shows that just about every climate scientist agrees."

Sen. Johnson, enough obstruction on judges: The GOP senator's obstruction has left a crucial federal judgeship open for some 2,000 days and counting. (Wausau Daily Herald [WI] , 06/13/15)
Opinion Column by Nan Aron: "Central to the latest wrangling over a federal appeals court vacancy is one crucial fact: Wisconsin's vacancy on the Seventh Circuit is the oldest circuit court vacancy in the entire country. It's been empty since Judge Terence Evans stepped down in January 2010. That was 2,000 days ago. In that time, the president has successfully filled about 300 other judicial vacancies around the country"

Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp on the nomination of Bob Rossiter (Hercules and the umpire blog, 06/12/15)
Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp, U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska: "Nebraska is among eight states having a single federal district and only three authorized judgeships. In this group, Nebraska has by far the heaviest docket. For the 12-month period ending September 30, 2014, Nebraska ranked first among these districts in its per-judgeship weighted filings, felony caseload, and supervised release hearings. The prompt confirmation of Nebraska’s newest federal district judge will be essential to ensure that federal litigation in Nebraska is adjudicated promptly and efficiently."

3rd Circ. Judge Restrepo Is Finally Near Confirmation (Findlaw, 06/12/15)
Peter Clarke, JD: "The confirmation hearing went well for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo in early June. After long delays for Judge Restrepo, it shouldn't be long before the 3rd Circuit officially welcomes their new judge to the bench.... Restrepo isn't the only judge currently held in limbo. ... In Philadelphia, there is speculation that Republican Senator Toomey, while publically promoting Restrepo, has secretly delayed the proceedings. Whether or not these calculated delays have taken place, there is an urgent need for judges to take their new posts. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Restrepo's position was labeled a 'judicial emergency vacancy.'"

Editorial: Do not take Florida panther off endangered list (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 06/12/15)
"Count this among the most shortsighted ideas to emerge from state wildlife protection bureaucrats in recent memory: They want the Florida panther to be removed from the federal endangered species list. Apparently, 150 to 250 Florida panthers are just too many. This is the wrong move for Florida and for the panthers, and it could reverse decades of work aimed at protecting the animals.... reducing federal regulation is not the answer."

The Register's Editorial: Grassley can press "go" on judicial nominees (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/11/15)
"There are 26 "judicial emergencies" in federal trial and appeals courts ... Grassley assures that he is moving ahead on all judicial nominees that have sent over from the White House, including courts of appeals judges, which can be contentious, and trial-court judges, which typically are less controversial. "The Judiciary Committee is moving nominees through the process in the same timeframe, or even better, as established under the former majority," Grassley said in a statement sent to the Register. Grassley's staff said he is moving judicial nominees out of the committee at the same pace as the committee did during the last two years of President George W. Bush's term, when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats...."I've said from my first day as chairman that I'll seek to move consensus nominees," Grassley is encouraging that McConnell has walked back his threat to block the president's nominees. Both senators should now demonstrate by their actions they mean what they say."

Bill Straub: It seems McConnell just can’t withstand the urge to poke Obama with a stick (KyForward [Lexington, KY], 06/11/15)
"A Pennsylvania seat is open on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Toomey has endorsed President Obama’s nomination of U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo. Toomey already is under pressure to address the situation and has offered assurances that the seat will be filled. So Any failure to get his choice through would not only establish that Toomey carries little influence but further alienate the growing Latino vote — Restrepo was born in Colombia. And McConnell wouldn’t be doing himself any favors. Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, who hails from McConnell’s adopted hometown of Louisville, is thought to be in line to succeed Boyce Martin, of Louisville, who resigned in August 2013 as a judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals .... That vacant position has been declared a “judicial emergency’’ by the Judicial Conference – one of 26 currently unfilled slots so designated. If McConnell followed through with his threat, Kentucky would be a vote short on the Sixth Circuit for at least four years, perhaps longer....McConnell would be creating an unholy mess if he ignored Obama’s judicial nominations. Civil trials would literally be backed up for years ... the GOP majority has approved only four federal judgeships. During the last two years of their presidencies, when the Senate was controlled by opposing parties, Republicans President George W. Bush managed to get 10 appeals court judges confirmed while Democratic President Bill Clinton got 15 and Republican Ronald Reagan got 17."

Grassley’s dirty little secret on nominees (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/11/15)
Opinion column By Des Moines attorney John Hearn: "Senator Grassley recently recruited five Iowa lawyers to select two nominees for him to give to the president. As near as I can tell, the lawyers are all die-hard Republicans. Predictably, their nominees are Republicans, and in Grassley’s eyes, more likely to rule for big business and conservative causes in line with Grassley’s own ideology. Now when Grassley receives the president’s nominees, he will have political cover to say that a committee of Iowa lawyers has already selected the most qualified nominees. Then true to form, he can hold up a constitutionally mandated Senate vote on the president’s nominations, presumably until the next election (a year and one-half away), hoping for a Republican president, who will nominate Grassley’s like-minded nominees."

Melgen still being held (Southern District of Florida Blog, 06/11/15)
David Markus: "In other news, a few judges had a smooth hearing with the judiciary committee yesterday. It's very slow going... Hopefully Mary Barzee Flores will be up soon."

With Senate control, will the GOP stop confirming circuit court judges? (Brookings, 06/10/15)
Russell Wheeler: "There will be at best few appellate confirmations this year, and fewer next year. That, however, may be due less to the majority’s not bringing nominees up for votes and more to the majority’s refusing to allow the administration to submit nominees for vacancies in their states. ... All eight nominee-less circuit vacancies now in place are in states with at least one Republican senator and most are several years old. ... Obama has appointed 53 circuit judges, as had George Bush at this point in 2007 (including three in the first half of the year). Bush appointed 60 in all.... Glenn Sugameli, who monitors nominations closely, told The Hill that senators in three of the seven states “say they are working” to get nominees in place. ... Bush’s immediate predecessors also faced an opposing Senate in their seventh and eighth years but saw more confirmations: Clinton, 15 and Reagan 17."

Columnist blames Ron Johnson for 2,000-day federal judicial vacancy (Capital Times (WI), 06/10/15)
Steven Elbow: "In January of 2010, federal appellate Judge Terence Evans retired from his Seventh Circuit seat. That was 2,000 days ago — nearly five years — and the vacancy has yet to be filled, making it the oldest federal court vacancy in the nation. In the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, lays the blame squarely on one person: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson."

EDITORIAL: Stop ExxonMobil settlement (Daily Record [NJ], 06/10/15)
"New Jersey’s pollution settlement with ExxonMobil for a mere $225 million — out of nearly $9 billion in damages the state had sought from the company in a lawsuit — has been the source of great angst among environmentalists. They’ve labeled the deal a sellout and for good reason .... This deal is so egregiously bad for New Jersey that critics aren’t content to just verbally blast away at Christie and move on. They want to stop this settlement before it’s finalized by the courts .... Seven environmental groups announced plans on Wednesday to jump in on a lawsuit seeking to block final acceptance of the settlement.... The ExxonMobil deal should be blocked. And future settlements with polluters should be devoted primarily to the environment. We urge lawmakers and activists to continue working toward both goals."

Toomey Can Protect the 3rd Circuit from Having Two Simultaneous Vacancies (People For blog, 06/09/15)
"Just as Democrats and Republicans alike worked to confirm a number of President Bush’s circuit court nominees within three weeks of their committee hearings, Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey can work together to make this happen again. They both expressed strong support for Restrepo when he was nominated last year, and they can both see the harm to their constituents if the court has a second vacancy added to the already-existing judicial emergency."

Why Has a Key Federal Judgeship in Wisconsin Been Vacant for 2,000 Days? (Huffington Post, 06/09/15)
Nan Aron: "Wisconsin's vacancy on the Seventh Circuit is the oldest circuit court vacancy in the entire country. ... Senator Tammy Baldwin should be commended for taking action and clearing a path forward for the president to name a qualified nominee. She recently sent a list of eight qualified candidates to the White House for the president to choose from. With a list of names in hand, the president can--and should--act swiftly on his constitutional authority to name a new Seventh Circuit judge. Indeed, one might wonder why Baldwin didn't green light a nomination before now. The reason lies with Wisconsin's Republican Senator Ron Johnson. While Baldwin has bent over backwards to select judicial candidates in a bipartisan manner, Johnson has obstructed at every turn, and recently told the White House to keep waiting, indefinitely."

EDITORIAL: Prairie dog vaccine program just might help (Great Falls Tribune [MT], 06/09/15)
"We believe this is a useful project that we hope will help rescue a rare species from the brink of extinction. But this also reveals a larger picture — that driving other species to extinction, whether it be bison, prairie dogs, wolves or other animals, is not in the best interests of most Americans or other world occupants. Even sometimes despised creatures can play a useful role in the ecological landscape. Bats are voracious eaters of insects, even if literature has painted them as scary creatures; bison contributed to the prairie ecosystem, and reintroduction in some locations could help restore part of the Great Plains prairie that is rich in both animal and plant life. We applaud efforts to safeguard the existence of other species on the earth, … We support these steps, and we are confident these efforts, if they succeed, will benefit human beings as well as the animals and plants we help to survive."

No more showdowns over Obama's judicial nominations? (Examiner, 06/09/15)
Susan Crabtree: "The few battles that remain will take place at the circuit court level, but the Senate has recently taken action on two nominations that had previously stalled, quelling some concerns on the left. Earlier this year, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who faces a tough re-election fight next year, was dragging his heels on declaring public support for Luis Felipe Restrepo, the president's choice to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, ... But in May Toomey issued a blue-slip — a formal sign of support for Restrepo — and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Restrepo this Wednesday. The Judiciary Committee also unanimously approved the appointment of Kara Stoll to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and her nomination should soon move to the Senate floor."

Marco Rubio's Obstruction of Justice: The Wrong Verdict for all Floridians (Columbia County Observer [FL], 06/09/15)
Op-Ed by Mark Ferrulo: "More than three months ago President Barack Obama nominated Mary Barzee Flores, a former Miami judge with an illustrious career, to serve as a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida. The vacancy has been open for more than a year, and is formally classified as a judicial emergency, meaning there simply aren’t enough judges to handle the large caseload for this critically important South Florida court. Despite the urgent need to fill this vacancy, Sen. Marco Rubio is blocking her nomination for no reason other than politics. Meanwhile, as long as the position remains vacant, the understaffed judiciary builds a backlog of cases, delaying justice for Floridians. The Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Barzee Flores until it gets “blue slips” of approval from her two home-state senators. Sen. Bill Nelson has turned his in, but Rubio still hasn’t turned in his. The irony is that, after an exhaustive vetting from the bipartisan Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, Rubio joined with Nelson in recommending her to the president in the first place."

Benched! History shows “regular order” means appellate court confirmations (Justice Watch, 06/09/15)
"In the last Congress of President George W. Bush’s second term, Senate Democrats confirmed 10 circuit nominees. They included vacancies in states represented by Republicans, Democrats, and mixed delegations. Most notably, Judge Leslie Southwick was confirmed to the Fifth Circuit despite opposition from progressive advocacy groups and three-fourths of the Democratic caucus....President Clinton’s final two years were no different. The Republican-led Senate confirmed 15 circuit nominees, and every one of them were from Democrat-controlled or mixed delegation states.... In President Reagan’s final two years, Senate Democrats confirmed 17 circuit judges. A plurality of those judges was from Republican-controlled states."

EDITORIAL: G.O.P. Assault on Environmental Laws (New York Times, 06/08/15)
"President Obama has announced or will soon propose important protections for clean water, clean air, threatened species and threatened landscapes. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and other Republicans in Congress are trying hard not to let that happen ... the sage grouse initiative is a legitimate executive action aimed at carrying out Congress’s purpose in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which was to save a species before it disappears."

On Circuit Courts, An Opportunity for McConnell to Show He Can Govern (People For blog, 06/08/15)
"A dysfunctional Senate that will not confirm qualified judges in a timely manner threatens the American ideal of equal justice under law. So after the headlines of the past few days, the eyes of the country are on McConnell, waiting to see if he will cater to the rabidly anti-Obama base and prevent votes on any circuit court nominees, or whether he will – as his spokesperson suggested – govern more responsibly. Fortunately for him, he can make that clear quite easily, by scheduling a vote on Kara Farnandez Stoll, nominee to the Federal Circuit. Stoll was cleared by the Judiciary Committee without opposition more than six weeks ago, on April 23. No circuit or district court nominee has been waiting for a floor vote longer. Another circuit court nominee – Pennsylvanian L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit – will have his hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week. With the bipartisan support of his home state senators and having been confirmed to a district judgeship two years ago, Judge Restrepo is another clear consensus nominee. He should be approved quickly by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where McConnell should schedule a timely vote for him, as well."

Editorial Assembly bill on ivory sales is worth approving (Los Angeles Times, 06/07/15)
"[L]egal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade. AB 96, introduced by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would tighten the rules by barring the sale of almost all ivory in California. (The bill would also ban the importation and sale of endangered rhinoceros horn.) It passed the Assembly last week with bipartisan support. The Senate should pass it too, and the governor should sign it into law.... It's not likely that the courts will see this law as a violation of the Takings Clause under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution. When California outlawed shark fins, a group sued, arguing that the government had taken away the value of traders' shark fins. The courts ruled otherwise, stating that the government was not in violation of the Constitution when it imposed a complete ban on a product determined to be harmful to the species."

Editorial: Cheers and Jeers (Gainesville Sun [FL], 06/06/15)
"Jeer: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials, for suggesting that the endangered status of the Florida panther may need to be reviewed. Wildlife advocates told a GateHouse Media reporter that the agency is rejecting scientific evidence in claiming that having a panther population near 200 shows the animal is no longer endangered."

Your opinions: Letters to the editor for June 5 Judge nominee should be allowed hearing (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 06/05/15)
John Neurohr Jr.: "In November, President Barack Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Seven months later, the nomination is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee; ... It's time for Toomey to back his public support for Restrepo by pushing Grassley to hold a hearing."

Senate Judiciary Committee votes out four desperately needed district court nominees (Justice Watch, 06/04/15)
"Three of the four would fill officially designated “judicial emergencies,” and the fourth, a nominee to the Western District of New York, would sit in a Buffalo courthouse that is now without an active judge for the first time in at least 55 years. These nominees were voted out of committee with bipartisan support, and should be immediately confirmed so they can start working for the American people. ... On Mitch McConnell’s watch, the number of judicial vacancies, including those designated as judicial emergencies, has steadily grown over the last five months. But with the four nominees voted out of committee today (and the three pending nominees they join on the Senate floor), McConnell and the Republican majority have an opportunity to do the right thing: confirm them now."