Editorials and Opinion
Senate obstructionism is snarling the federal trial courts (Washington Post, 06/10/16)
Kyle Barry, Letter to the Editor: "along with vacancies and “judicial emergencies,” the number of pending judicial nominees has spiked as a result of a stagnant confirmation process. There are 54 judicial nominees waiting for confirmation, including 46 to the trial courts, and hardly any are the least bit controversial. By contrast, in June 2008, President George W. Bush had only 22 trial court nominees awaiting action in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Second, the Republican leadership is blocking even nominees who have bipartisan support, including those selected and recommended by their home-state Republican senators. All 17 of the pending judicial nominees who have passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee did so by voice vote with support from the committee’s Republican members. Moreover, there are at least 25 trial court nominees who are both from states with at least one GOP senator and have home-state GOP support."
Conner Eldridge is trucking (Arkansas Times, 06/10/16)
Max Brantley: "Sen. John ... Boozman has some explaining to do. He is derelict along with colleague Republican Sen. Tom Cotton in adequately responding to the party's abuse of the rule of law in politicking of judicial nominations"
Rubio's flip-flop (Miami Herald, 06/10/16)
Ronald Newman, Letter to the Editor: "It is an understatement to attach the phrase “small-minded” to Rubio’s recent opposition to a federal judicial candidate whom he had supported, Mary Barzee Flores (Rubio blocks confirmation of judge he recommended, June 5).
Extreme political partisanship is almost always small-minded, and Rubio’s degeneration into opposing Flores just because she is not decidedly right-wingish will stand as a shameful keynote of his legacy"
All of America loses by leaving court vacancy open (Hawk Eye [Burlington. IA], 06/10/16)
Rekha Basu column: "A couple of former White House counsels — one to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one to George W. Bush — came to Des Moines last week to warn about not having a fully functioning U.S. Supreme Court. By then, it had been 77 days since Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet Iowa’s Charles Grassley, who heads up the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold the customary committee hearings on the nominee."
Sen. Grassley is creating judicial backlog (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/09/16)
Mary Thornton, Letter to the Editor: "I am beyond outraged and disgusted with Sen. Chuck Grassley's continued obstinate obstruction of our government officials and business. He not only refuses to move forward with our Supreme Court nominee, but also 83 federal judge vacancies, with 37 of them in the Judicial Committee, all causing a backlog, burden on judges and unacceptable delay of justice."
Court vacancy hurts U.S. (Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier [IA], 06/09/16)
REKHA BASU column: "A couple of former White House counsels — one to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one to George W. Bush — came to Des Moines last week to warn about not having a fully functioning U.S. Supreme Court. By then, it had been 77 days since Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet Iowa’s Charles Grassley, who heads up the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has refused to hold the customary committee hearings on the nominee.... Grassley, a Republican who has served 41 years in the U.S. House and Senate, has launched an unprecedented obstruction of Senate procedures"
COMMENTARY: WUNC story highlights Burr’s “pathetic” blockade of African-American judicial nominees (Progressive Pulse [NC], 06/09/16)
Rob Schofield: "While the blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland continues to draw well-deserved national headlines, the ongoing blockade of nominees to serve on the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District (the longest such blockade in the country by four years) remains in the spotlight as well.... As has been the case for years, Senator Richard Burr — the man personally responsible for the blockade — gave an incomprehensible explanation for his action. After stating that the matter is not an emergency (despite the fact that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts officially labeled it a “judicial emergency” years ago) Burr dismissed President Obama’s latest effort to nominate a judge (former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson) out of hand ... Obama has been trying to fill the position for almost his entire presidency and Burr has blocked those efforts (as arcane Senate rules give him the right to do) the entire time. What’s perhaps most striking and troubling about all of this are the racial overtones. Both of Obama’s nominees have been African-American and the Eastern District (which has a higher percentage of African-American residents than any other section of the state) has never had a black judge in its entire history."
Grassley is no longer who he says he is (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/09/16)
Jordan Murphy, Letter to the Editor: "it's so uncharacteristic of him to steadfastly refuse to do his job and obstruct Chief Judge Merrick Garland from getting a hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court."
Supreme Court vacancy watch Day 117: No judges for Elizabeth Warren (Daily Kos, 06/09/16)
Joan McCarter: "What's the Senate doing today instead of considering the Supreme Court nominee? Nothing to do with judges. ... But back to the judges they're not confirming. It's not for a lack of effort on Sen. Elizabeth Warren's part. On Wednesday, she attempted to bring up the votes of 15 uncontroversial and long-stalled nominees, all of whom were approved by committee months ago.... Not deterred, Warren went on to try to get votes for nine of the 15 judges in her original request. McConnell objected again. Then she reduced it to just four of them.
By that time, McConnell had left the floor and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was left to object, proving Warren's point. "There is no asterisk that says only when the majority leader has an embarrassing political problem or except when the president is named Barack Obama," in the constitution, said Warren. "It is not what the founders had in mind because it is small, it is petty and it is absurd.""
Editorial: Marco Rubio playing partisan game on judicial appointment (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 06/09/16)
"By single-handedly blocking the confirmation of a qualified nominee for a federal judgeship, Rubio is complicit in creating a larger problem that does real damage to the functioning of the judicial branch. His new excuses for being an obstructionist do not justify blocking a confirmation hearing.
More than a year ago, President Barack Obama nominated former state judge Mary Barzee Flores to fill a vacancy on the federal bench in South Florida. Rubio has stalled her Senate confirmation by refusing to issue a so-called blue slip, which would clear the way for confirmation hearings. ... These are not reasons to block a confirmation hearing, and they only inject more partisanship into a vetting process that is designed to be bipartisan.... She has supporters across the political spectrum who praise her qualifications, and she deserves a confirmation hearing.
Rubio's tactics reflect a broader obstructionist strategy by Senate Republicans who have been stalling Obama's judicial nominations, leading to vacancies nationwide. The seat for which Barzee Flores is nominated has been vacant since May 2014 and is considered a judicial emergency, meaning cases are backlogged. The Washington Post reported that of 673 U.S. district court judgeships, 67 are vacant under Obama. That 10 percent vacancy rate is higher than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush saw at this point in their presidencies — and each of them also faced a Senate controlled by the other party. ... The Senate's role is to offer "advice and consent" on the president's judicial nominations. Today's Senate Republicans are openly flouting that constitutional duty, and it is leaving the federal courts crippled."
Criticism Mounts for Senate GOP Obstruction of Judges (People For blog, 06/09/16)
"Republicans have done everything in their power to obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. ... The result is a substantial increase in the number of vacancies since the GOP took over the Senate, with the number of judicial emergencies (vacancies with overwhelming backlogs that impede access to justice) skyrocketing to 2½ times what it was at the beginning of this Congress.... They could start by holding a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. They could also stop delaying committee votes on nominees like Don Schott for the Seventh Circuit (whose vote today was delayed simply because committee Republicans could delay it). They could hold hearings for qualified circuit court nominees like California’s Lucy Koh for the Ninth Circuit and North Dakota’s Jennifer Kelmetsrud Puhl for the Eighth Circuit, both of whom have the support of their home state senators. Republicans could also stop blocking hearings for Indiana’s Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Alabama’s Abdul Kallon for the Eleventh Circuit, Kentucky’s Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit, and Pennsylvania’s Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit, all of whom are currently facing obstruction by Republican home state senators who simply want to prevent President Obama from filling these vacancies."
Grassley's obstruction doesn't reflect Iowa's morals (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/09/16)
Alex Mitchell, Letter to the Editor: "President Barack Obama fulfilled his constitutional obligation by nominating Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Now, 70 days after the nomination, we are still waiting on Sen. Chuck Grassley to do his job.
It is Sen. Grassley’s responsibility to hold hearings for judicial nominees. By not fulfilling this obligation, Grassley has chosen to play partisan politics. Supreme Court nominees are supposed to be rigorously vetted by the Judiciary Committee through a hearing process, followed by a vote."
EDITORIAL: The Senate’s Confirmation Shutdown (New York Times, 06/09/16)
"The Republicans’ blockade of Judge Garland is shameful, but it is only the most glaring example of what has been a historic slowdown in filling federal court vacancies across the country. This has been enormously damaging to the district courts, which deal with hundreds of thousands of cases annually, and where backlogs drag out lawsuits and delay justice. It also harms the appeals courts, ... By June 2008, the Senate had approved 46 of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees; they confirmed a total of 68 by September. In contrast, Mr. McConnell’s Senate has confirmed only 20 of Mr. Obama’s judges since Republicans took control in January 2015, the slowest pace since the early 1950s. Appellate judges accounted for just two of those confirmations, fewer than at any time since the 19th century.
As a result of the impasse, there are now 83 vacant federal judgeships nationwide — 30 of which have such overwhelming case backlogs that the court system has classified them as judicial emergencies. By comparison, there were only about half as many when the Democrats controlled the Senate in 2008.
It would be easy to fill most of these vacancies if the Senate did its job. Currently, 37 of Mr. Obama’s nominees remain bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, 30 of whom are still waiting for their hearing; 17 more have been approved by the committee but have not been scheduled for a full Senate vote."
So He Went There. (South Florida Lawyers, 06/09/16)
"That scoundrel, Marco Rubio discredited himself even further yesterday: "For about a year, Rubio has said little publicly about why he won’t allow a vote on Mary Barzee Flores." But Rubio and his office say there has been so much misinformation spread that he now feels compelled to go public with unflattering specifics about Barzee Flores that, out of respect to her, he tried to keep quiet. 2OH SURE!!!! Nothing like using the power of political office to smear a decent, talented public servant who would make a wise and fair federal jurist."
MARK FERRULO: CRIPPLING THE SUPREME COURT (Florida Politics, 06/08/16)
"While the Senate is dragging its feet, the president is moving forward with filling empty seats throughout out federal courts. On April 28, he announced three qualified nominees for District Court seats in Florida.
Thanks to obstruction from Sen. Rubio and other Republican Senators, only 15 federal judges were confirmed last year — a record low. The lack of judges has led to record backlogs in courts in Florida and around the country.
And now, the Senate’s inaction could also leave the Supreme Court short-staffed for more than a year.
Without a fully functioning Supreme Court, our constitutional rights could also vary across different parts of the country — a patchwork legal system brought about by a short-handed Supreme Court."
Editorial: Ron Johnson should brush up on high court history (Cap Times [WI], 06/08/16)
"One hundred years ago this month, in the midst of an intense presidential election that would yield one of the closest results in American history, the United States Senate held hearings, debated, and then confirmed a president’s outspoken yet qualified nominee for the United States Supreme Court.
They did it all in four months — on a timeline that, were it to be recreated in this election year, would see President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia confirmed by mid-July. And it was not an isolated example. Democratic and Republican presidents have frequently made Supreme Court nominations in presidential election years, and senators have frequently upheld their constitutional duty to provide advice and consent in those election years. Precedent is on the side of action on Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, a longtime member of the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. When Republican senators such as Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson argue otherwise — with their claim that it is somehow impossible or incorrect for the Senate to act on Supreme Court nominations in a presidential election year — they are spinning a partisan fantasy."
Reg Henry: Stalling on Garland, GOP defiles Constitution (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 06/08/16)
"It fails to mention the option of senators sitting around on their well-tailored butts doing nothing and refusing to consider the president’s choice. Of course, this is what they have done, thanks to Constitution-loving Republican senators who have not looked up the definition of “hypocrite.”... The trouble for would-be naysayers is that president’s nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is objectionably unobjectionable. ... Every case that comes to the now eight-member Supreme Court risks being hamstrung for the lack of a majority. A bizarre theory now applies — the people’s business cannot be properly done out of deference to the people."
Editorial: Grassley ignores judicial crisis (Des Moines Register [IA], 06/08/16)
"Democrats and Republicans are never going to agree on where the blame lies for the alarming number of judicial vacancies in the federal court system. ... But it is surprising to see the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dismiss these vacancies as a “manufactured crisis” undeserving of public attention. Regardless of who is to blame for the vacancies, the senator should at least recognize the value in having those critical positions filled. ... Since the Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, confirmations have slowed to a crawl, with only 18 judges confirmed. At the same time, the president’s ability to fill vacancies on the federal courts of appeal have hit a brick wall .... What the senator neglects to say, however, is that Obama has also had four or five dozen more vacancies to fill, and he still has eight months to serve.... there are currently 67 judicial vacancies in the U.S. district courts, which translates to a vacancy rate of 10 percent. That’s a significantly higher vacancy rate than Obama’s three most recent predecessors faced at similar points in their presidency, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
To make matters worse, the number of judicial emergencies is roughly double what it was in May 2008 and May 2000 .... Regardless of who created this problem, Grassley is in a position to fix it and ensure that criminal and civil cases are being heard on a timely basis. Unfortunately, he appears to have no interest in doing so ... it’s the public, who suffer long delays in having their cases heard, who pay the price."
The Readers' Forum: Thursday letters (Winston-Salem Journal [NC] , 06/08/16)
JANE FREEMONT GIBSON: "Burr blocked his own federal District Court nominee, Jennifer May-Parker, for purely political reasons. He’s done the same with Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, even though the judicial branch is dangerously short on judges.
This kind of political shenanigans needs to end. I’ve had enough of this childishness."
Elizabeth Warren Has Had It With Mitch McConnell’s ‘Petty’ Behavior: The majority leader rejected the Massachusetts senator’s bid to advance judicial nominees with bipartisan support. (Huffington Post, 06/08/16)
Michael McAuliff: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of pure political obstruction of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees Wednesday, prompting a shrug from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who objected to her attempt to expedite 15 long-stalled appointees.
Warren took to the Senate floor in the afternoon seeking unanimous consent to bring up all the noncontroversial judges who have passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have not received votes on the Senate floor.
Pointing to a report she released Monday, the Massachusetts senator noted that Republicans have been approving nominees at a glacial pace since taking over the Senate in 2014, approving just 18 judges in this Congress. Judicial vacancies have skyrocketed from 43 to 89."
Chuck Grassley’s Two-Year Campaign of Senseless Obstruction of Judicial Nominees (Justice Watch, 06/08/16)
"Since Republicans took over the Senate in January 2015, judicial nominees have been subject to systematic, politically motivated obstruction led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.
This senseless obstruction goes beyond the unprecedented refusal even to give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. Under Grassley’s leadership, this Congress is on pace to be the worst for judicial confirmations in more than a half-century. While Grassley refuses to consider dozens of qualified, noncontroversial nominees, the number of judicial vacancies has nearly doubled, and the number of officially-designated judicial emergencies has increased 150%. While leading the Judiciary Committee, Grassley’s prioritized partisan politics over staffing our courts, needlessly creating a judicial vacancy crisis that threatens our nation’s justice system."
EDITORIAL: Republican Senate leadership must show backbone (Waco Tribune-Herald [TX] , 06/08/16)
"They must hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and hold an up-or-down vote on him — now. ... Obama has shrewdly given Republicans a way out with a judicial moderate of impeccable credentials, now left sitting on the political sidelines."
EDITORIAL: Diplomatic death among demagogues (Pine Bluff Commercial [AR], 06/08/16)
"Butts, a nominee with impeccable qualifications, never saw her dream realized because people like our own Sen. Tom Cotton thought she made a better political pawn than ambassador.
Cotton inasmuch admits that blocking Butts was little more than a spite move, designed to punish President Barack Obama.... Obama’s current nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, is another fine case in point. Invoking fictitious constructions like “the Biden Rule” Senate Republicans posture and thwart, making reference to imaginary ethical standards and propriety. All the while, important constitutional cases are imperiled by deadlock.
That reality finds no purchase in today’s cynical flag waving myopia. There is no precedent. History does not order this. Only the hubris of demagogues makes it so.
Consider these facts, with respect to Garland’s situation. At the time of initial nomination, the Senate had almost a full year to consider and confirm the president’s choice. In the past, they never needed more than a couple of months.
Since 1975, the average time from presidential nomination to senatorial confirmation is just 67 days. The longest time before confirmation in the last 30 years was 99 days, for Justice Clarence Thomas. Moreover, the last four Justices — across two very different presidential administrations — were confirmed in an average of only 75 days."
Republicans Have Crippled the Supreme Court (Daily Beast, 06/07/16)
Jay Michaelson: "Missing deadlines, making mistakes, and leaving key questions unanswered – America's highest court is under severe strain because the GOP refuses to even grant a hearing to nominee Merrick Garland."
How Not to Interview Mitch McConnell (Moyers & Company, 06/06/16)
Todd Gitlin: "“There is no dysfunction in the Senate anymore,” declared the Senate majority leader. Here’s Charlie Rose’s response: “Because Harry Reid is now the minority leader and you are the majority leader.”
Here’s how he didn’t respond: The US Judicial Conference considers that since 2015, when you became majority leader of the Senate, what they call “judicial emergencies” (based on caseloads and vacancies) have risen from 12 to 29. Why don’t you consider the Senate’s refusal to confirm or reject judicial nominations a dysfunction? Do you know that the Senate under your leadership has confirmed a total of 18 federal judges, compared to 72 in 1999-2000 when Trent Lott was the majority leader and 68 in 2007-08, when Harry Reid was in charge?"