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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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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."

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."

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.)"

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."

Editorial: Banning Ivory Sales in America (New York Times, 02/18/14)
"If rigorously enforced, the new rules should help slow the killings in Africa; the United States is the second-largest market for ivory in the world. ... Still, much will depend on whether Washington and the relevant departments — Interior, Justice and Treasury — are willing to put serious money and muscle into the program.... Assemblyman Robert Sweeney of Long Island supports a ban on all ivory sales in New York State, without exception. That would be tougher than the federal ban. But the federal ban will cover a wider market. It is a timely and welcome move."

EDITORIAL: Confirmation Limbo: It’s still too hard to staff the government (Washington Post, 02/18/14)
"IT’S BEEN three months since Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats used the “nuclear option” in the Senate to unilaterally change the rules to limit filibusters on most presidential nominations. So far, though, there’s been no flood of confirmations. Part of the explanation is continuing GOP obstruction, as unfounded as ever. But it also turns out that the nuclear option wasn’t the panacea some made it out to be. It remains unacceptably hard to staff the government.... Uncontroversial nominees — and even those who rub some legislators the wrong way but are well qualified — should fly through the Senate. Instead, many are stuck waiting for floor time. When Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) tried to get two uncontroversial judges confirmed by unanimous consent last week, Republicans demanded hours of pointless debate. GOP lawmakers look set to mercilessly attack Debo Adegbile , the president’s talented choice to run the Justice Department’s civil rights team. In fact, the betting is that Republican senators, still smarting from Mr. Reid’s nuclear attack, will force the chamber to waste valuable time on all sorts of nominees."

Another candidate awaits news on federal judicial nomination (Arkansas Times, 02/17/14)
Max Brantley: "Though Moody's nomination isn't considered controversial — and is supported by both Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman — it has been held up by a general blockade of presidential appointments by Republicans in the Senate. Votes to end filibusters on a number of routine appointments, including Moody's, are set to begin Feb. 24. That's the same day that filing opens for Moody's seat. If his confirmation isn't completed by the end of the filing period March 3, Moody will file again."

Your Turn: The Endangered Species Act isn’t broken; Congress is (Independent Record [MT], 02/17/14)
David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director: "The ESA isn’t broken. Over the last 40 years, the law has functioned as intended to protect species that face imminent extinction. From the bald eagle to the American alligator to the gray wolf, the ESA has focused attention on animals that urgently need conservation. The law has rescued hundreds of species that would be gone from this Earth without it....It’s not enough for members of Congress to complain about endangered species, wait for disasters and then complain some more. The ESA doesn’t need to be rewritten. If our elected officials really want to improve how the law works, they would finish their promise to fund preventive conservation programs like the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program and State Wildlife Grants. Smart conservation investments will reduce conflicts, save money, and make the ESA work as intended for wildlife and people."

Editorial: Protecting red wolves: Rebounding breed should not be collateral damage (Winston-Salem Journal [NC] , 02/16/14)
"North Carolina boasts the world’s only wild population of endangered red wolves. That population shouldn’t become collateral damage to those thinning packs of pesky coyotes in the five northeastern counties where the red wolves live. The Southern Environmental Center, representing wolf advocacy groups, is trying to stop that from happening with a suit that seeks to block the state Wildlife Resources Commission’s decision to allow coyote hunting in those coastal counties.... red wolves, which were re-introduced to the North Carolina wild in 1987, have to be protected.... one thing seems certain: In the five counties in question, the state should ban coyote hunting until it establishes firm figures on the numbers of those animals, and establishes whether its plan to prevent cross-breeding and protect the endangered red wolves is working."

Editorial: Legislative focus; Some of the issues drawing attention in the Kansas Legislature would be better left alone. (Lawrence Journal-World [KS], 02/16/14)
"Legislators also are considering questionable preemptive legislation that would make it illegal for federal wildlife officials to enforce endangered species protections for the lesser prairie chicken in the state. The chicken hasn’t even been classified as endangered, but just in case....A Kansas House committee — based on objections that seem more political than scientific — also is taking time to work on a resolution that urges Congress to resist any plan President Obama poses for addressing man-made climate change. Did Congress ask for the state’s opinion?"

Editorial: To Save Fish and Birds (New York Times, 02/16/14)
"The researchers identified five essential characteristics of the most successful marine-protected areas: These areas were designated “no take” (allowing no fishing whatsoever), their rules were well enforced, they were more than 10 years old, they were bigger than 100 square kilometers, and they were isolated by deep water or sand.... Governments and scientists need to work together to better design, maintain, improve and protect “protected areas.”"

Editorial: The happy return of our eagles (Bennington Banner [VT], 02/13/14)
"The bald eagle is an Endangered Species Act success story. This law currently protects about 2,000 species of plants and animals. Less than one percent of listed species have gone on to extinction, according to the group Defenders of Wildlife.... According to the AP, "Republicans have seized on the fact that only 2 percent of protected species have been declared recovered -- despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending." Environmentalists take issue with this number and rightly claim that hundreds of protected species are now on a path to recovery because of protection from the law.... Particularly in the House, the current orthodoxy of the Republican majority is marked by denial of climate change, hatred of government, and contempt for regulation to protect the public interest against strong economic interests. Environmental protection is one particularly reviled bogeyman of this orthodoxy. As evidenced by the resurgence of the bald eagle, the Endangered Species Act has worked well. Fortunately, experts predict that given the current gridlock in Washington, major changes in the law are highly unlikely."

GOP Blockade of Unopposed Ark. Judicial Nominees Disrupts Local Election (People For blog, 02/13/14)
"Sen. Mark Pryor stood up yesterday to urge his colleagues to allow a vote on the two Arkansans, but Republicans would have none of it.... But the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, Chuck Grassley, objected. Why? Because Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year (although Pryor actually voted against the change). It is important to note Grassley's situational ethics. In 2005, when it was George W. Bush's nominees who were at issue, he publicly supported the effort of Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster altogether for judicial nominees, and to make that change in Senate rules by majority vote."

GOP Senators Fail to Support Their States' Judicial Nominees; GOP Senators Fail to Support Their States' Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 02/13/14)
"Because of Republican refusal to let Majority Leader Reid hold confirmation votes, there are 32 judicial nominations languishing on the Senate floor. ... All these nominees have had the support of their home-state senators, many of whom are Republicans. But with the GOP blocking votes on those same nominees, that support seems to be in name only."

Editorial: Coal ash, other ills flowing from N.C. (Virginian-Pilot, 02/13/14)
"The massive coal ash spill upriver from Danville has provided ample evidence why it's such an awful idea to put doctrinaire anti-environmentalists in charge of a state's government. From the moment coal ash started spilling from a Duke Energy holding pond into the Dan River, North Carolina officials have put the health of the river and people who use it at immense and unnecessary risk. ... Consequences flowed across state lines. The coal ash that spilled from the Duke facility carried lead, arsenic, mercury and countless other contaminants into the Dan River, which is upstream from the water supply for Hampton Roads.... environmental groups tried three times in just the past year to use the Clean Water Act to force Duke to clean leaky coal ash dumps. The groups sought help from federal courts only after North Carolina regulators refused to act despite evidence of massive groundwater contamination. "Each time, the state agency blocked the citizen lawsuits by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority under the act to take enforcement action in state court," the AP reported."

Why The Senate STILL Isn’t Able To Get Anything Done Even After The ‘Nuclear Option’ (Think Progress, 02/13/14)
Ian Millhiser: "Just one judge has been confirmed so far in 2014 ... Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) began the process necessary to confirm four judges on Wednesday night, but this process will still take days to complete and will only confirm a small fraction of the 32 judicial nominees awaiting votes."

Pryor's reward for helping Republicans: obstructionism (Arkansas Times, 02/12/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of a handful of Democrats who declined to support the so-called nuclear option, a rule change to eliminate the filibuster of judicial nominees. The thanks he got today? A Republican refused to grant him unanimous consent to win approval of the nominations of two non-controvesial judicial appointees — Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville. Glenn Sugameli, who heads the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project, sent me the exchange from the Senate floor. ...Why is Grassley punishing Arkansas, whose senators didn't support the rule change (he noted Pryor's vote) and whose senators, Democrat and Republican, support the nominees? ... Grassley is, of course, also a hypocrite. Sugameli notes that Grassley supported a nuclear option in 2005 when the shoe was on the other foot."

Editorial: Our View: Endangered wolves need a judge's intervention (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 02/12/14)
"Perhaps a federal judge will provide the stewardship North Carolina wildlife regulators have ignored. That would be the responsible course for one of the world's most endangered species. At least nine red wolves were shot and killed last year in the rural northeastern North Carolina counties that are their only home in the wild. It is possible hunters mistakenly thought they were coyotes - the two species have a remarkably similar appearance. That's why it's ludicrous that the state Wildlife Resources Commission last year approved coyote hunting in wolf-habitat counties. And that's why conservationists went to court this week to ask U.S. District Judge Terrance Boyle to stop the coyote hunt. ... We hope Judge Boyle will intervene and give the wolves the protection they need to survive and thrive in natural surroundings."

Editorial: Rep. Doc Hastings endangers the Endangered Species Act; The Endangered Species Act celebrated its 40th anniversary in December, but it is under threat from ill-conceived reforms proposed by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings. (Seattle Times [WA] , 02/12/14)
"Hastings wants to shift the ethic and leverage of the federal government to state and local authorities to protect endangered species. The transparently bad idea would mean no protections whatsoever in many areas. Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio makes the point the best impediment to Hastings’ pinched vision is the U.S. Senate, which has no interest in tampering with something that works. ... In the queue for protection is the greater sage-grouse, which is found in 11 western states."

EDITORIAL: U.S. Senate is tackling drought relief (Fresno Bee [CA] , 02/11/14)
"There is much to like in the senators' ideas. As Feinstein pointed out Tuesday morning in a conference call with The Bee editorial board, the proposed drought relief wouldn't violate the Endangered Species and Clean Water acts." (Arkansas Times, 02/11/14)
Max Brantley: "U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is pressing for a Senate vote this week to confirm two non-controversial judicial appointees in Arkansas — Circuit Judge Jay Moody for a district judgeship in Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a seat in the western district of Arkansas.... It won't be easy, unless John Boozman puts his weight behind it. Republicans haven't been allowing floor votes on judicial nominations. 32 are in waiting. Only one vote so far this year."

Senate Could Cut Judicial Nominations Backlog in Five Minutes…or Five Weeks (People For blog, 02/10/14)
"All but three nominees cleared the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, most unanimously. The Senate could confirm all 32 in an afternoon if Republicans would agree to hold simple yes-or-no confirmation votes on their nominations.... If Republicans forced the Senate to take the maximum amount of time on all 32 nominees currently waiting for votes, it would take the Senate 204 hours to clear the backlog."

Distant states' governors should nose out of Pa.'s anti-pollution effort: Editorial (Patriot News [Harrisburg, PA] , 02/10/14)
"Many Pennsylvanians probably don’t know (or care) who Florida’s governor is. Or Alaska’s. Or Louisiana’s. But governors in those states, and 18 others, are sticking their nose into Pennsylvania’s business. They’re trying to torpedo a multi-state pollution-fighting plan that involves cleaning up the Susquehanna River....Here in Harrisburg, federal judge Sylvia Rambo ruled last fall that the EPA was well within its authority in setting the Chesapeake Bay plan.... The agriculture groups are appealing, and they recently got governors of 21 states to sign a legal brief supporting their cause....don’t tell us here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed how we should go about cleaning up our own backyard."

EDITORIAL: Denying federal authority costly, inconsistent (Arizona Daily Sun, 02/09/14)
DAILY SUN EDITORIAL BOARD: "the situation has clearly gotten out of hand.... when some of the bills get signed by Brewer, taxpayers get stuck paying for legal defenses against claims of unconstitutionality — almost all of which the state has lost.... it’s difficult not to conclude that Republicans are simply playing obstructionist politics with federal laws and programs they don’t like, including voter registration, health insurance, immigration and wolf reintroduction.... Now, there’s a bill to let ranchers kill an endangered Mexican gray wolf suspected of harming cattle — no questions asked. That’s also outside the Legislature’s purview — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service runs the wolf reintroduction program. (And don’t most Arizona ranchers have at least some of their grazing rights on federal lands?)"

Editorial board cheers and jeers (, 02/08/14)
"Jeers to Matt Mead for being a climate change skeptic, as expressed recently at a meeting Jackson. We understand it’s a sensitive topic in carbon-fueled Wyoming, and it’s always good to be skeptical and ask questions. But the scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming."