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Judicial vacancies (Durango Herald [CO], 09/26/15)
Matt Kenna: "This caseload backlog problem will only get worse if one of those seven seats on the trial court is left vacant in April. The entire Colorado congressional delegation has introduced legislation to add two new seats to our federal court for a total of nine for the state. Both Gardner and Bennet are co-sponsoring the Senate companion bill. This is commendable, but they should also work together to prioritize filling the vacancy to be created by Blackburn before he leaves the bench. Colorado businesses need this for economic growth, and individuals need this to protect their rights."

Judges as job creators: Expanding economic growth by filling judicial vacancies (Justice Watch, 09/25/15)
"We also know that vacancies mean long delays for the people and businesses who need the courts to protect their rights and resolve disputes—delays that often mean justice is denied entirely. Now a new study sheds light on another real-world impact of judicial vacancies—the economic harms they cause not just for individual litigants, but for entire communities. The new study from The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm, focuses on the Eastern District of Texas,... According to the report, compared to the current baseline, filling the two current vacancies would create 78,188 jobs and an $11.7 billion increase in “real gross product”—the output of goods and services in the region—by 2030. If the vacancies are filled and two judgeships are added, 148,398 jobs would be created and real gross product would shoot up by $22.1 billion."

Protecting Endangered Species Under the Commerce Clause: People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/25/15)
Jason Rylander, Defenders of Wildlife: "Every single court to consider the question – including the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits – has upheld the federal government’s constitutional authority to protect wildlife through the ESA. But last year, District Court Judge Dee Benson of Utah disagreed, and so the Tenth Circuit will weigh in on what had, until now, been settled law. As I argued in an amicus brief for Defenders of Wildlife and five other national conservation groups, the Tenth Circuit should reverse."

COMMENTARY: The federal judiciary, hampered by that other branch of government; Consider the example of Minnesota's own Judge Wilhelmina Wright (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 09/25/15)
Editorial writer and Columnist Lori Sturdevant: "It isn’t the fault of the Minnesota Supreme Court associate justice that the U.S. Senate’s requisite vote confirming her appointment to the U.S. District Court for Minnesota has not yet happened, though President Obama sent her name to the Hill more than five months ago.... Wright won the judiciary panel’s approval on Sept. 17 on a voice vote with no dissent. She faces no discernible Republican opposition.... only six federal judges have been confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate so far in 2015. That’s the slowest pace in six decades. It’s allowing a buildup of caseloads in federal courts all over the nation. The number of vacancies on the federal bench has increased from 43 to 67 this year .... When the nation’s pols mess with the courts, people in my profession ought to report it and voters ought to listen up."

Editorial: The greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken: let science decide (Los Angeles Times, 09/25/15)
"The chicken is one of several species that lawmakers want to pluck out from under the Endangered Species Act through language inserted into the Interior bill, in effect seeking to dismantle the law one species at a time. It also would take gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states off the list of threatened species and prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Sonoran desert tortoise. Even more troubling is a provision that would halt the service's efforts to tighten restrictions on the importation and sale of ivory in the U.S. as part of a global effort to stop the slaughter of African elephants. Meanwhile, another House bill — to reauthorize defense programs — would de-list the American burying beetle .... decisions about their conservation shouldn't be made by members of Congress and corporate interests. Whether a species is so robust that it does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act must ultimately be a scientific call, not a political one."

Montez: Colorado can’t afford a vacancy on our overworked federal court (Colorado Statesman, 09/24/15)
Guest Commentary By Dave Montez: "In a refreshing moment of bipartisan unity, the entire Colorado congressional delegation — all seven members of the House and both U.S. senators — support legislation introduced this summer to add two new judgeships to the District Court for Colorado. ... The District Court’s caseload backlog problem will only get worse if one of the current seats is left vacant in April."

Playing Whack-a-Mole with the Endangered Species Act (American Constitution Society Blog, 09/24/15)
Bruce Myers & Jay Austin, Environmental Law Institute: "To date, a wolf, a toad, two fish, a fly, and a collection of “cave bugs” have successfully carried the banner of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) against a series of constitutional challenges. On Monday, the Tenth Circuit will hear oral arguments ... on whether the Act is unconstitutional as applied to the endangered Utah prairie dog. PETPO has implications for nearly every federal environmental law, and for other laws enacted on the basis of Congress’ authority to pass legislation that is necessary and proper for regulating interstate commerce.... From 1997 to 2011, six appellate cases spanning five circuits rejected similar challenges. ... What remains crystal clear, however, is that Congress is owed a great deal of deference when it enacts environmental or other legislation under its commerce power. ... it is difficult to see how any fair measure of deference afforded to Congress would result in anything other than a reversal of the district court’s anomalous decision."

“Coming apart at the seams”– the terrible impact of the GOP war on the federal courts (Progressive Pulse [NC], 09/23/15)
Rob Schofield: "Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a fine op-ed by Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell yesterday about the inexcusable obstructionism in which the GOP is engaging with respect to President Obama’s federal court nominees.... Rampell goes on to cite North Carolina as one of the states in which this obstructionism has reached a ridiculous level."

Letter: Time to step up for judge (Sentinel [Carlisle, PA], 09/22/15)
John Neurohr: "Back in November of 2014, President Obama nominated Pennsylvanian and U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. ... Either Sen. Toomey is unwilling to go to bat for a nominee that he has repeatedly supported publicly, or he doesn’t have enough clout with GOP colleagues to move the vote forward. Either way, it’s bad news for his constituents."

Republicans are clogging the judicial pipeline (Washington Post, 09/22/15)
Catherine Rampell column: "Motivated by a desire both to make President Obama look bad and to delay any judicial appointments until there’s (possibly) a Republican in the White House, GOP senators have thrown obstruction after obstruction in front of the judicial appointment process. As a result, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed only six federal judges in 2015.... It’s the slowest pace in over six decades .... The number of judgeships has not kept pace as the U.S. population has increased.... Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, publicly endorsed the nominee for the Southern District of Florida, but seven months later still hasn’t returned his blue slip. Without it, the nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, won’t get a hearing. In other cases, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), has received the relevant blue slips but delayed holding confirmation hearings and votes on the nominees. In still others, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delayed or outright refused to schedule floor votes for nominees. This happens, I should note, even when the judicial nominees are not the least bit controversial."

Editorial: U.S. Senate needs to quit stalling judicial appointments  (Pocono Record [PA] , 09/22/15)
"[J]ustice is not served when you can’t get a date to hear your case — when the backlog of cases is so huge that it could be months or even years before a judge hears your argument. That is the situation in the nation’s federal courts, where the vacancy rate is high, case loads are high, yet the pace of judicial appointments has fallen to a 60-year low.... This is not for lack of qualified candidates, mind you; it’s sheer politics in the U.S. Senate. Take Pennsylvania, which has six vacancies in the federal court and five nominees pending. One of them, Luis Felipe Restrepo of the U.S. District Court, has the support of both Democratic Sen. Robert Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for his nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet he waited nearly seven months before the Senate Judiciary Committee — unanimously — to advance his nomination to the Senate floor. More than two months have passed and nothing more has happened....As a Republican himself, Sen. Toomey should chastize his colleagues for playing politics and remind them of their obligation to appoint judges."

Editorial: True conservatives support environmental protection (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 09/20/15)
"A Democratic president’s trip reminds Republicans of their historic ties to environmentalism. Theodore Roosevelt’s embrace of conservation planted the seeds for the environmental movement. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. New York Sen. James Buckley showed that certain “green” policies were compatible with conservative principles. Officials in Virginia and its neighbors have developed a heightened appreciation of the need for government intervention to save the Chesapeake. ... A faction among conservatives refuses, with sectarian zealotry, to concede the reality of climate change and the strong possibility than humanity has contributed to warming. A carbon tax deserves conservative support; cap-and-trade deserves serious debate. The Endangered Species Act has fallen under siege, too. Ideologues want to undermine its effectiveness and to limit its scope. This dismays.... the pope’s encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home,” takes a broad view of humanity’s gifts and obligations that conservatives ought to find congenial. ... It is time for conservatives to listen to what their better angels have to say about the environment. Obama went north to Alaska; conservatives can apply much of his message to regions south of the Last Frontier."

Justice suffers (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 09/18/15)
Mardin Aminpour letter to the editor: "While Phillip Martin has rightly criticized Sen. Cruz for not fixing the emergency caused by the delay in filling the Texas judicial vacancies, Sen. John Cornyn’s role in creating this mess should not be overlooked. After all, Texas’ oldest vacancy dates back to 2011.... Sen. Cornyn should once again work across party lines. Both senators should right the wrong now by filling the vacancies."

Friday’s Mini-Report, 9.18.15 (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 09/18/15)
Steve Benen: "It’s not a bipartisan problem: Senate Republicans are confirming judicial nominees at a rate so slow, the current pace is unlike anything we’ve seen in more than six decades. When the Beltway assumes, “Both sides play the same partisan game,” that’s wrong."

John Cornyn Blocks Judges From Getting Confirmed Because He's Mad About Other Judges He Confirmed: GOP senators want credit this year for judges they confirmed last year. OK! (Huffington Post, 09/18/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) blocked three of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees from getting votes Thursday because he said Democrats confirmed too many judges last year that Republicans wanted to take credit for this year.... But Cornyn glossed over the fact that everyone in the Senate, including him, voted to confirm those 11 nominees in the lame duck session. Three were from his home state of Texas and he had been pressing Democratic leaders to hold votes to confirm them -- in that lame duck session. "I certainly will be urging those Texas judges, including Judge Mazzant, to move through during the lame duck session so we can get these judges on the bench," Cornyn told a Texas newspaper in November. It's not unusual for the Senate to confirm judges in a lame duck session. Democrats held votes on 20 of Bush's judicial picks in the lame-duck after the 2002 elections. The Senate confirmed nominees in lame-duck sessions after the 2004 and 2006 elections. In the 2010 lame-duck, the Senate confirmed 19 judicial nominees. The bottom line is that Republicans just don't want Obama to fill court vacancies with his judicial picks."

2015-16 judicial confirmation slowdowns has little precedent in Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations (Brookings, 09/18/15)
Russell Wheeler: "Senate Republicans’ aggressive slowdown in judicial confirmations so far in 2015—and what is likely to be a continued slowdown through 2016—are contrary to the confirmation records in the final two years of the other two-term presidencies since 1961—Ronald Reagan, William Clinton, and George W. Bush.... Like President Obama, those presidents submitted nominations to a Senate controlled by the other party. In each of those president’s final two years in office, the Senate confirmed a fifth or more of their full eight-year complement of district and circuit judges.... Anticipated invocations of the mythical “Thurmond Rule”—dictating a shutdown of nominations at some point from early to the middle of a presidential election year—will not stand up well to these data."

Congratulations, GOP. You're Confirming Judges At The Slowest Rate In 60 Years. "It's just appalling." (Huffington Post, 09/17/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Senate Republicans are confirming federal judges at the slowest rate in more than 60 years, fueling a "politically motivated vacancy crisis" in the nation's courts, according to an analysis released Thursday by Alliance for Justice.... The kicker is that when each of Obama's nominees finally did get a vote, they were confirmed unanimously -- meaning they had strong bipartisan support all along. [Chart] ... the numbers speak for themselves. When comparing Obama with his White House predecessors, in terms of the number of judges confirmed in their last two years in office, the current Senate isn't even close to keeping pace. [Chart]"

Washington cuts on track to impact courts (Newsday [NY], 09/17/15)
David P. Miranda Op-Ed: "All four New York federal district courts are categorized as "congested" by court administrators. That means that their caseloads exceed the average caseloads for the entire federal system. On average, it takes about two years to bring a civil case to trial around the country; because of congestion and judicial vacancies, some federal courts in New York require more than twice that time."

Why won't Rubio speed process for judicial nominee Flores? (Sun Sentinel [FL], 09/16/15)
Kyle Barry & Randall Berg Op-Ed: "Yet again, a qualified judicial nominee whom Rubio claims to support is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rubio refuses to do anything about it. In 2013, Rubio allowed Sen. Chuck Grassley, then ranking Republican on the committee, to put the brakes on Middle District of Florida Judge Brian Davis for nearly two years before he was confirmed. This time it's Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores whom Grassley (now the committee chairman) is holding up, but Rubio's response has been the same: stand idly by while the people of Florida wait for a judge."

Editorial: Empty seats on federal bench a ‘judicial emergency’ (Palm Beach Post [FL], 09/15/15)
"“Justice delayed is justice denied.” In other words, failure to give redress in a timely manner is the same as giving no justice at all. Today, it is an unfortunately apt description of U.S. federal courts, which are overwhelmed because the U.S. Senate refuses to fill dozens of judicial vacancies. ... More than two dozen federal courts, including the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, have declared “judicial emergencies.” They cite a lack of the necessary jurists to handle growing caseloads as complex as drugs, racketeering and financial scams. The Southern District in Miami is so backed up that the Judicial Conference of the United States has asked Congress to create three new judgeships. But even that has not been enough to move senators, including Florida’s Marco Rubio, to fill vacancies."

THE VINDICATION OF LOUIS BUTLER -- and How It Shames Wisconsin Voters (Dom's Domain [WI], 09/14/15)
Dominique Paul Noth: "It took nine years after he wrote Thomas Vs. Mallet to see its full force conclusively confirmed in 2014 by the US 7th [Circuit] Court of Appeals.... That 2005 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision sent Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce (WMC) into full-throated $2.25 million ad rage in 2008 to defeat the author, Justice Louis Butler Jr. ... Butler was clearly an ascending jurist – a state public defender, then a teacher of judges, a law professor, a municipal judge and elected Milwaukee circuit judge. It was actually his reputation for scholarly congeniality even more than progressive leanings and political ability that won appointment in 2004 by Gov. Doyle to the state supreme court.... The attack on Butler didn’t end with Gableman’s close victory. It destroyed his earned path to high office. Continuing right-wing enmity in the US Senate blocked three attempts by President Obama to name him a federal judge."

Benched! To understand the vacancy crisis, you have to look at vacancies (Justice Watch, 09/14/15)
"[J]udicial selection isn’t a political game of comparing total confirmations. The real measure is not the number of judges confirmed but whether the number of vacancies is falling and the judiciary is fully staffed. So long as vacancies are growing, justice in America is being needlessly denied, and confirmations that can’t keep pace are just a drop in the bucket. As it happens, Obama has had over 40 more vacancies than did Bush at this same point in his presidency, providing a far better explanation for higher confirmations than the notion of preferential treatment for Obama nominees. With vacancies factored in, Obama is actually behind the rate at which Bush appointed judges.... This Senate has confirmed only six judges so far in 2015, the worst single-year pace since 1953. As a result, the number of current vacancies has gone up over 50 percent and the number of judicial emergencies has gone up over 150 percent."

Toomey delays judge confirmations: Timothy D. McNair (Erie Times-News [PA], 09/10/15)
"Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., needs to do his job. One of the most important parts of a senator's job is to give advice and consent on federal judicial appointments. A concerted effort by Senate Republicans to stall nominations of qualified judges has led to a federal court vacancies crisis. ... Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in the number of federal judgeship vacancies, and our Western District is suffering the most. Across the state, critical court cases are being delayed in district courts as the caseloads pile up on overworked judges. In the meantime, justice delayed is justice denied for thousands of Pennsylvania citizens and businesses waiting for their cases to be heard....If he is in full support of Restrepo, which he says he is, and wants to see him confirmed, Toomey is in a position to demand GOP leadership schedule a full Senate vote."

Senate confirms one judge — don’t expect the pace to pick up soon (Washington Post, 09/09/15)
Al Kamen: "Despite the Senate’s unanimous confirmation Tuesday of a district court nominee from Missouri — making Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) the first Democrat to get a judge confirmed this year in his or her state — things don’t look good for President Obama’s judicial and ambassadorial nominees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put word out to the various committee chairmen that there won’t be hearings or votes on nominees this week. ... 20 nominees for federal district courts now awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee will be stalled for a while longer. (Seven other nominees, including one for an appellate court who are already on the Senate floor may be in the same boat. Some have been waiting more than 10 months.)"

Martin: Justice suffers while Cruz delays judicial nominations (Austin American-Statesman [TX] , 09/09/15)
Phillip Martin: "with nine vacancies in Texas’ federal courts — and no nominees recommended from Sens. Cruz or Cornyn to fill any of those empty judge chairs — the delays are only going to get worse."

Graphic shows amazing, unprecedented obstructionism of President Obama’s judicial nominees (Progressive Pulse [NC], 09/09/15)
Rob Schofield: "Anisha Singh at the Center for American Progress has produced a remarkable new infographic on the absurd obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees."

Putting GOP Obstruction of Judges In Perspective (People For blog, 09/08/15)
Paul Gordon: "A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when Democrats took over the Senate after the 2006 midterms. A week after those elections, Senator Patrick Leahy – who was about to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee – criticized Republicans for blocking votes on more than a dozen of Bush’s qualified nominees.... in 2007, Leahy and new Majority Leader Harry Reid worked together to make sure the Judiciary Committee and full Senate fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities. During those two years, the Senate vetted and confirmed 68 of Bush’s circuit and district court nominees. In fact, the Democratic Senate had already confirmed 26 of Bush’s judges by this same point in the year (September 8 of 2007). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate has so far confirmed only five Obama judges.... Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 31 today. As the chart below shows, Democrats in the Senate during Bush’s last two years did not allow the number of judicial emergencies to increase in a similar fashion, and in fact the number generally remained steady or decreased during most of those two years.... L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, President Obama’s nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals... was nominated in November with the support of his two home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey. He could and should have been confirmed long ago. ... now that his nomination is ready for a floor vote, Senator Toomey is apparently collaborating with his party leadership’s plans to delay that vote for as long as possible."

Benched! Summer is over, Republican obstruction is not (Justice Watch, 09/08/15)
"Since January, the number of current judicial vacancies has gone up over 50 percent. Quickly confirming the 20 nominees in committee and 9 pending on the Senate floor would be a first step to stemming the vacancy crisis. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have immediately returned to their politically-motivated strategy of delaying all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Today, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley postponed the scheduled committee vote of three nominees for the second time. John Vazquez, Wilhelmina Wright, and Paula Xinis were initially scheduled to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee before the Senate’s summer break. Grassley postponed that vote too. ... Vazquez would fill one of New Jersey’s four judicial emergencies, which is more than in any one state other than Texas. Wright would also fill a judicial emergency in the District of Minnesota."

Fully staff our district court (Colorado Springs Gazette, 09/06/15)
Deb Walker: "Historically, when a district court seat becomes vacant in Colorado, our two senators work together to screen possible candidates and provide some potential nominees to the president. Each of the last two vacancies were filled using a joint-senators bipartisan screening committee, and the president nominated someone within six months of the vacancy announcement. This year, it appears that Sens. Gardner and Bennet are each creating separate committees that will not work together and will not generate a joint list to the president....A fully staffed Colorado district court is vital because it keeps our judicial system open and accessible for Colorado citizens and businesses that need timely resolution of disputes ... our district court is overworked and understaffed because we have not increased the number of judges since 1984, despite immense population growth since then."

In Georgia, Barack Obama’s GOP judicial nominee is more than an ad for Ancestry.com (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 08/29/15)
Jim Galloway: "This is Dax Lopez, who was appointed five years ago to a DeKalb County state judgeship by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. ... He would be the first Latino in Georgia appointed to a lifelong position on the federal bench — if he survives U.S. Senate confirmation.... In a season of Donald Trump and talk of mass deportations, opposition to Lopez is also worrisome to Republicans attempting to expand their party’s demographic reach.... didn’t I mention that Dax Lopez is both Latino and Jewish?... the Jewish community is a highly valued GOP constituency with clout that extends well beyond the financial. Those critical of Lopez’s GALEO membership will have to tread carefully. Should they stray into xenophobia, they’ll have two angry constituencies to deal with rather than one."