Editorials and Opinion
Judicial vacancies in Alabama pile up (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 04/22/15)
Mary Troyan: "Negotiations on filling three judicial vacancies in Alabama have dragged on more than 18 months, even with a fourth vacancy coming in May.
Alabama Democrats and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, have recommended several names to the White House. But President Barack Obama’s staff is still consulting with Alabama’s two Republican senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, who can block action on judicial nominees from the state.
Sessions and Shelby met with White House officials last week, but Sessions said Tuesday that no deal was reached.... U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery and U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr. of Huntsville took senior status, a form of semi-retirement, in August 2013.
In October 2013, U.S. Circuit Judge Joel Dubina, who held an Alabama seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, also took senior status. U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of Birmingham will do the same next month.
In addition, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery has been suspended and may face impeachment proceedings after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. And if Obama nominates a district court judge from Alabama to take Dubina’s appellate court seat, that would create another vacancy.
So the four certain openings could expand to six."
Bipartisan buds won't survive a frost: Column (USA Today, 04/21/15)
Ross K. Baker: "While Lynch will ultimately be confirmed, scores of other nominees are cooling their heels awaiting either committee action or a vote on the Senate floor."
Sentinel Editorial: Climate change deniers take a new approach (Keene Sentinel [NH], 04/21/15)
"Now, it seems, we’re entering a new phase of the debate, the “see no evil, speak no evil” phase. As demonstrated by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the top-down approach works like this: As your state’s chief executive, you simply order all state employees not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming.” It’s a different approach than denying climate change is real. It’s more of an “I don’t want to talk about it anymore” attitude."
Editorial: Earth Day serves as reminder of the goals we must pursue together (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 04/21/15)
"Given the science that tells us the realities and implications of climate change, however, it is clearly up to us to do what we can to combat it, delay it and adapt to it. With the 2016 presidential campaign already unfolding, it’s fair game to judge the viability of any candidate in part by whether he or she accepts the consensus of climate change research and will govern true to that belief."
Editorial: Spring marks the return of the osprey (Eagle-Tribune [MA], 04/21/15)
"One considered endangered, the osprey has made a solid, steady comeback locally. ...It wasn't until the United States outlawed DDT and similar pesticides that the bird began its comeback.
Today, the osprey is both a conservation success story and a barometer of the health of the local ecosystem -- an actual canary in the coal mine. They sit at the top of the coastal food chain, so any poisons ingested by fish and other smaller animals eventually end up being part of the osprey diet. A healthy osprey population, therefore, is an indication of a generally healthy coastal ecosystem, which is a boon to humans as well."
EDITORIAL: Restoring delta must be part of tunnels plan (Fresno Bee [CA] , 04/20/15)
"U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the plan would harm water quality and aquatic life, and increase pollution.... a focused, coordinated approach to restore habitat to help endangered and threatened species recover should be part of the governor’s new plan."
Thanks, Mitch: Confirmed Judges to Skyrocket From One to Two (People For blog, 04/20/15)
"The GOP-controlled Senate's record for slow-walking President Obama's judicial nominees stands in stark contrast to how the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed George W. Bush's judicial nominees in his final two years. Democrats shepherded 68 of Bush's circuit and district court judges through confirmation in his last two years, including 15 by this point in 2007.
Back in February, the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved four district court nominees from Texas and Utah. But it wasn't until last week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally allowed a vote on one of them, the first and only judicial confirmation vote of the 114th Congress.
Today, McConnell is taking aggressive action by scheduling a Senate vote on ... one of the three remaining district court nominees that have been pending on the floor for nearly two months."
EDITORIAL: Brown shouldn’t leave eco goals out of new Delta plan; Set metrics on restoration and start it now (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/19/15)
"The Bay Delta Conservation Plan was proposed with two equal goals: to reliably supply Southern Californians and Central Valley farmers with water, and to restore the Delta ecosystem to save endangered species, such as salmon and Delta smelt. ... a focused, coordinated approach to restore habitat to help endangered and threatened species recover should be part of the governor’s new plan.... the governor should specifically define the ecological goals, set measurable objectives for recovery of species, produce a coordinated action plan and strictly monitor its progress."
The Register's Editorial: Chairman Grassley: Treat all states alike on judges (Des Moines Register [IA], 04/18/15)
"U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's announcement last week that he is recommending two Iowans for U.S. District Court vacancies in Des Moines and Sioux City is good news for Iowa. The implication is Grassley is prepared to move quickly on Senate confirmations of White House nominees for the federal courts — at least for judgeships in Iowa.... The question on a lot of minds in Washington is whether Grassley will act with the same urgency to move all other judicial nominees through his committee. The evidence on the record so far is not encouraging. Since the Republicans took control of the Senate in January, only one judge has been confirmed. One. Meanwhile, there are 54 vacancies in the federal courts — including 23 that are considered "judicial emergencies" because of the workload in those courts — and 27 more judgeships will be coming vacant based on announced retirements. Grassley may represent Iowa in the Senate, but as judiciary chair he has a duty to assure that all nominees for the bench in all 50 states get fair and prompt hearings and up-or-down confirmation votes on the Senate floor."
EDITORIAL: More double dealing in ExxonMobil settlement (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 04/17/15)
"Gov. Chris Christie's sellout to ExxonMobil just keeps getting worse. ... This settlement is a boon to ExxonMobil — and a huge loser for the state, both from an environmental and financial standpoint. The practical effect of that $225 million will be minimal given all the provisions and caveats — and the state is almost certainly leaving a whole lot of money on the table."
People in the News - April 17, 2015 (Legal Intelligencer, 04/17/15)
"Every two years, The Legal recognizes a group of outstanding minority attorneys from across Pennsylvania. Profiles and details about each attorney will be included in our Diversity supplement, set to be published in The Legal on June 2. They will also be honored at a celebratory event in Philadelphia. Following are the Pennsylvania attorneys selected as 2015's Diverse Attorneys of the Year: ... Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, Eastern District of Pennsylvania."
NWA Editorial: Cavefish help region develop the right way (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 04/17/15)
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the fish a threatened species.... cavefish are living barometers of the condition of the Northwest Arkansas water supply and how well we're taking care of it.
In short, if the cave fish disappear, it means the region's water quality is on the decline. With all the development and population growth in Northwest Arkansas, the region's leaders must be continually concerned with protecting water supplies.... A recently released study suggests the Ozark cavefish and residential develop can co-exist .... the presence of the cavefish demonstrates the groundwater in the area is fairly high quality.... those pushing development cannot themselves be as blind as the cavefish when it comes to valuing protecting of the environment.
This critical discussion must happen before irreparable harm is done.... Approaching it any other way would suggest the Ozark cavefish isn't the only creature that's blind."
Benched! Senator Grassley can’t have it both ways on nominations (Justice Watch, 04/17/15)
"Grassley claimed that November and December should not be counted toward Lynch’s overall wait time, because Democrats controlled the Senate back then, and Republicans did not take control until January.... although the Senate has in fact confirmed only one judge this year, Grassley claims that 11 more judges, reported out of committee and confirmed during the lame duck session last congress, should be counted toward Republican totals for this congress.... Grassley is perfectly happy to take credit for confirmations that happened last year, just not the delay. He can’t have it both ways."
More of the Same, As Grassley Delays More Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 04/16/15)
"Unfortunately, Republicans on the committee delayed the votes for Kara Farnandez Stoll (for the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals) and Roseann Ketchmark (for the Western District of Missouri) .... Since Obama became president, only 12 of his circuit and district court nominees have had their committee votes held on schedule. Republicans have had committee votes held over without cause for all but 12 of his judicial nominees, which is an unprecedented abuse of the rule. That's less than 5% of all the Obama judicial nominees who the Judiciary Committee has voted on.
It was bad enough when Republicans were in the minority and demanding needless delays of President Obama's nominees over the course of six years. But now they are in the majority. They're demanding delays in the schedule that they themselves set up."
The Fourth Quarter (Huffington Post, 04/16/15)
Nancy K. Kaufman: "President Obama has done remarkably better than his predecessors in appointing a diverse judiciary. 42 percent have been female, compared to 23 percent female for President Bush. 65 percent are white, compared to 82 percent for President Bush. And nearly 19 percent have been African American, compared to 7 percent for President Bush. This progress will be diminished if vacancies are not filled in a timely fashion.
In 2015, it seems we are back to square one. Three months have passed with just one vote on a judicial nominee."
EDITORIAL: The Senate’s shabby treatment of Loretta Lynch (Washington Post, 04/16/15)
"BACK FROM its Easter break, the Senate confirmed its first judicial nomination of the year on Tuesday, and it did so unanimously. That’s the sort of action we expected when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised a return to regular order after November’s election.
But that small glimmer of responsibility is overshadowed by the unconscionably shabby treatment the Senate has shown to Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s well-qualified nominee for attorney general.... The confirmation battles of the past several years have harmed the country. Some who should have been confirmed have instead become political victims and turned away from government service. We have no doubt that highly qualified potential nominees decided against pursuing or accepting government jobs because they did not want to subject themselves to the broken process. A return to good order in the Senate should mean that presidential nominees, particularly those who aren’t slated to serve lifetime judicial terms, obtain speedy confirmations except in rare and exceptional circumstances. That hasn’t happened, and the Republican majority has no one to blame but itself."
Blame Mitch McConnell for the Loretta Lynch gridlock (Washington Post, 04/15/15)
Stephen Stromberg, a Post editorial writer: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is putting off Lynch’s vote .... It’s also not the case that the Senate is frozen until it clears the trafficking bill off its schedule. The chamber approved a judicial nomination"
The Judicial Policy Implications of Reckless Driving on Federal Land (Maryland Appellate Blog, 04/15/15)
Steve Klepper: "As of today, the U.S. Judicial Conference has identified 23 Article III vacancies as “judicial emergencies.” That includes five district judgeships within the Fifth Circuit. The Judicial Conference is requesting an additional eight permanent district judgeships for Texas; that proposal is going nowhere. I spent eight years of my career heavily litigating a case in the El Paso Division of the Western District of Texas, which shares a border with Mexico and includes the massive Fort Bliss. Every civil hearing required us to wait through multiple sentencing hearings for cross-border felonies. Imagine if misdemeanants were also entitled to trial or sentencing before an Article III judge.
Despite one longstanding vacancy (that finally has a nominee), the District of Maryland fortunately is devoid of emergency vacancies. ... But the situation would change in a heartbeat if traffic and petty misdemeanors were transferred from our magistrate judges to our district judges."
Loretta Lynch and the Dysfunctional Senate (New Yorker, 04/15/15)
Jeffrey Toobin: "Thanks in significant part to McConnell’s maneuvers, the use of the filibuster has become so pervasive that it’s now assumed that sixty votes are required for any Senate action.
In his most brazen act so far, McConnell has prevented a confirmation vote for Loretta Lynch, the President’s choice for Attorney General, even though a majority of Senators have indicated publicly that they will vote for her. ... Majority Leader of the Democrats, Harry Reid grew so frustrated with Republican obstruction that he changed the Senate rules, doing away with filibusters on lower-court judicial and Administration appointees .... In more than three months, the Senate has approved just a single judicial nominee, a district judge from Texas."
Mitch McConnell: Doing the Least He Can Possibly Do (People For blog, 04/14/15)
"Senator Mitch McConnell’s ongoing campaign to obstruct President Obama’s judicial nominees had resulted in not a single new judge since Republicans took over the US Senate. If there’s been no movement it certainly hasn’t been for lack of need. The number of judicial vacancies has risen from 40 to 51, and the number of judicial emergencies has doubled from 12 to 24....today Senator McConnell allowed a vote on … one judicial nominee!"
Where is Pat Toomey on Phil Restrepo's Nomination? (People For blog, 04/14/15)
"Sunday was the five-month anniversary of when President Obama nominated Pennsylvanian Phil Restrepo to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has still refused to schedule a hearing for him.... Grassley has had only two hearings for such nominees so far this year. At the second one, he only scheduled it for two nominees, although several other long-waiting nominees could easily have been accommodated....the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts officially re-designated the vacancy that Restrepo would fill as a judicial emergency. ... Other than release a statement five months ago, has Toomey spoken with Grassley? If not, why not? And if so, why has he been so ineffectual over these past five months?"
After a 207-day wait, Senate finally confirms Obama judicial nominee (Daily Kos, 04/14/15)
Joan McCarter: "After months and months of committee and floor delays, the Senate confirmed Alfred Bennett to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. That vote was 95-0. There was no opposition, and yet it took 207 days to happen. He's filling a seat that had been vacant for 769 days, and qualified as a "judicial emergency" because of the heavy caseload judges on that court carry—430 to 600 cases for more than 18 months. ... All of these nominees could have been confirmed last year, during the lame duck session. But Republicans blocked them, claiming that passing them during lame duck would catch them up in "unnecessary, partisan politics." The same unnecessary partisan politics that prevented Bennett from reaching the floor for four months once Republicans took over.”
Benched! Cornyn passes the buck on rising vacancy numbers (Justice Watch, 04/14/15)
"The delay to confirm Bennett is just one example of Senate Republicans’ do-nothing approach to judicial nominations. There are still three district court nominees pending on the Senate floor, including two more nominated to critical vacancies in Texas’s overburdened Southern District, and one to the District of Utah. All three have the support of their Republican home-state senators. Yet instead of pushing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to schedule votes for Texas judges, Cornyn—who is the Senate’s Majority Whip, not merely a rank-and-file member—dismisses the vacancy problem with a partisan attack on the president.
In the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has held only two confirmation hearings in 2015, passing over five nominees who have been waiting for a hearing since November 2014.
While the Senate sits on its hands, judicial vacancies have jumped from 44 to 54, and “judicial emergencies,” the official designation for courts with the most dire need for judges, have nearly doubled, increasing from 12 to 23. These numbers could be reduced by confirmations, but the Senate hasn’t acted.
Republicans have also failed to recommend nominees for vacancies in their home states."
GOP Senate unanimously confirmed first federal judge (Washington Post, 04/14/15)
Colby Itkowitz: "Senate Republicans have been in charge for three months, but only Monday confirmed its first judicial nominee, Alfred H. Bennett — unanimously.... The slow crawl of Senate confirmations continues .... There are four judicial nominees who still await Senate floor action – not including the five nominees to the Court of Federal Claims – and another 13 need a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), in a floor speech, said by April 2007 the Democrat-controlled Senate had already confirmed 15 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. The pending nominees are holdovers from last year. Three of the four judges waiting for a floor vote were endorsed by their home state Republican senators."
Why Courts Matter (Center for American Progress, 04/13/15)
"As of March 9, 2015, there were 50 current vacancies on U.S. federal courts. These seats have been vacant for a total of 22,222 days, resulting in a backlog of 29,892 cases.
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has designated 23 of these pending vacancies as judicial emergencies, meaning that filling them is a critical task. ... In an attempt to slow President Barack Obama’s effect on the federal courts, Senate Republicans have obstructed the president’s judicial nominees at unprecedented levels by attempting to prevent or delay a vote through filibustering a record number of nominees and making them await confirmation for long periods of time."
Republicans Finally Let One Of Obama's Judicial Nominees Get A Vote (Huffington Post, 04/13/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Republicans have been slow-walking action on Obama's judicial nominees ever since they took control of the Senate in January -- even if that has meant jamming their own nominees. Bennett, for example, has had the support of his home-state senators, John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), yet has endured committee delays and floor vote delays for weeks. Two other Texas nominees are ready for votes and could easily have been scheduled for Monday, but were not. All three were first nominated in September.
Another Utah judicial nominee is ready for a vote, and has the support of Utah's GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, but did not get scheduled for a vote."
JUST ONE JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION SO FAR IN 2015, SENATOR MCCONNELL? (Constitutional Accountability Center, 04/13/15)
"The first floor vote on a judicial nominee is expected to occur later today – just one floor vote on a judicial nominee in almost three and a half months since McConnell became Majority Leader.... Currently, there are five judicial nominees who are awaiting a vote on the Senate floor, each nominated more than 200 days ago. Another 13 are still stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee – several of whom have been waiting more than 150 days for a hearing – including nominees to fill seats that have been officially declared “judicial emergencies.” None of these nominations is controversial, yet the inability of the Senate to do its job exacerbates the strain on our federal courts to administer justice. As the Wall Street Journal reported just last week: 'More than 330,000 [civil] cases were pending as of last October—a record—up nearly 20% since 2004'"
The GOP Finally Allows a Judicial Confirmation Vote (People For blog, 04/13/15)
"More than three months into the 114th Congress, and we are finally seeing the first judicial confirmation vote.... And today, even though there are four judicial nominees who were approved by the Judiciary Committee without opposition way back in February, McConnell is today allowing a vote on only one of them.
Why no vote for Jill Parrish, who would fill a vacancy in Utah that has been open for more than a year? Why no vote for George Hanks of the Southern District of Texas, who would fill a vacancy that has been open for nearly as long? Why no vote for Jose Rolando Olvera, who would fill a judicial emergency in the same district that has been open since the end of 2012?"
North Carolina takes the prize for longest unfilled federal judicial vacancy (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/13/15)
Sharon McCloskey: "The nearly ten-year vacant federal district court slot in eastern North Carolina tops the list of “most ridiculously long judicial vacancies that the Senate hasn’t filled,” as highlighted by the Huffington Post .... With no new nominee in the hopper, the Eastern District — which is also close to the top of judicial districts having the most residents per judgeship — will continue to trudge along with a caseload being handled by three active sitting judges with the part-time help of three judges on senior status — the youngest of whom is 75."