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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

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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."

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."

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."

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: 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: 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?"

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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?)"

Republicans Still Find Ways To Stall Judicial Nominees Despite Filibuster Reform (Huffington Post, 02/08/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "Republicans are refusing to give consent to let nominees get their votes. ... And none of this factors in other delays going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Republicans like Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) are even refusing to let nominees whom they previously endorsed advance. In the meantime, the federal judiciary is at a breaking point. There are now 96 judicial vacancies around the country, many of which are designated "judicial emergencies" as caseloads surge at the short-handed courts. ... One nominee currently waiting for a vote, John Owens, would fill a 9th Circuit appeals court seat that's been vacant for more than 3,325 days"

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."

Senate Judiciary Republicans blame a lawyer (Adegbile) for a client (Abu-Jamal (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 02/07/14)
Bob Egelko: "The same question arose last year when Vince Chhabria, a deputy San Francisco city attorney, was nominated for a federal judgeship. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who led the opposition, said Chhabria had a “long record of liberal advocacy.” But he cited only Chhabria’s work as a lawyer — for example, his representation of the city in a suit by Catholic organizations over same-sex couples and adoption. The Judiciary Committee has twice approved Chhabria’s nomination, on divided votes, and he’s likely to win Senate confirmation in the near future."

While the GOP Fiddles, Judicial Emergencies Mount (People For blog, 02/07/14)
"That refusal to agree to confirmation votes even for nominees that no one opposes is why we have so many nominees (32) pending on the Senate floor. Four of those stalled nominees would fill vacancies in Michigan's Eastern District, two of which have now been designated as judicial emergencies. ... Finally, the committee was allowed to vote on January 16, and all four Michigan nominees were approved with overwhelming bipartisan support (three of them unanimously). In the three months since the GOP stopped consenting to judicial nominations, five vacancies have been newly designated as judicial emergencies, two of them in Michigan. Across the country, the number of judicial emergencies has reached 39."

Editorial: The Homogeneous Federal Bench (New York Times, 02/07/14)
"[A] judge’s experience and personal history are, at times, critical to how she or he approaches the job. Given this reality, the makeup of the judiciary should reflect as much as possible the public whose cases come before it. For a long time, most of the attention to increasing diversity has focused on race, ethnicity and gender, where progress has been slow but incremental. Equally important is diversity of professional experience ... Recently, Mr. Obama has worked to strike a better balance."

A woman for judge (Chicago Tribune, 02/06/14)
Letter to the Editor: Michelle Kohut, President, Women's Bar Association of Illinois: "The Women's Bar Association of Illinois encourages Sen. Kirk and the committee to recommend a qualified woman to fill the vacancy left by Judge Holderman. ... Of the current 20 active judges presiding over this court, six are women, equaling only 27 percent. ... The quality of justice is improved when women are fairly represented on the bench, as it better reflects the diverse nature of the population over which it resides."

Editorial: No more delays Senate should not let federal judicial nominations languish (Miami Herald, 02/06/14)
"No one has ever accused Judge Thomas of bias on the bench. But once Sen. Rubio dropped his support, Judge Thomas’ nomination was doomed. It was an embarrassment for Florida in every way.... Sen. Rubio issued a statement after the announcements, saying he welcomed the nominations and doesn’t “anticipate having an objection to moving forward” on them. That’s good to know, and we’ll hold him to his word.... Sen. Rubio, again along with Sen. Grassley, did hold up the confirmation of another Obama appointee from Florida who is African American. Nassau County Circuit Judge Brian Davis waited almost two years before his nomination was finally confirmed last December. Again, Sen. Grassley accused the judge of bias. There’s nothing in Judge Davis’ public record to back up these accusations.... The delays are driven, almost entirely, by crass partisanship. The result is U.S. District Court vacancies that go unfilled, literally, for years. That’s justice delayed, justice denied. And it’s entirely the fault of the U.S. Senate."

The pro-pollution AGs [Editorial]; Our view: EPA's Chesapeake Bay 'pollution diet' is under attack from some attorneys general who ought to be cheering its success (Baltimore Sun, 02/06/14)
"[A]ttorneys general from 21 states have joined a lawsuit brought by the American Farm Bureau Federation that seeks to toss out the so-called "pollution diet" or "Total Maximum Daily Load," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-led effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. ... The farm bureau has already lost this argument once, having been rejected at the U.S. District Court level last fall. It is likely to lose again on appeal because the arguments against the program — that the science is flawed or that EPA has insufficient regulatory authority — don't hold water."

Editorial: McConnell's fuming over fish a little off the hook (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY] , 02/05/14)
"But, seriously, can't Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rail against what he calls "the radical environmentalists in the Obama administration" without insulting everyone's intelligence? On the Senate floor Tuesday, Kentucky's senior senator rose to berate federal agencies for following federal law after the discovery of the endangered duskytail darter in Lake Cumberland's headwaters....huffed McConnell. "First, the administration is protecting a fish from water. Let me repeat that: the radical environmentalists in the Obama administration don't want this fish to be exposed to too much water. What's next? Protecting birds from too much sky?" Surely, McConnell understands that different fish require different sorts of habitats — just as birds cannot survive on sky alone."