Editorials and Opinion
Eye on Boise: Bipartisan panel picked Idaho’s last federal district judge (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 05/03/15)
Betsy Z. Russell column: "“It was the unanimous decision of the commission that Judge B. Lynn Winmill is extremely well qualified for the position,” Craig told the Senate. Winmill’s selection was hailed by all sides, though his background as a Democrat was unquestioned – he was a former county Democratic Party chairman before he became a judge. Craig called him a “long-needed federal judge who is exceptionally well-qualified, honest, hard-working and a community leader,” and told senators, “Although he has an unquestionable Democratic credential, the Republican governor of Idaho also sends his full and unqualified support for this judge.” That was then-Gov. Phil Batt."
EDITORIAL: Delays in filling two federal court seats shortchange the legal process in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 05/03/15)
"Buffalo is now without a single active federal district judge. That will worsen what is already one of the nation’s worst backlogs of civil cases. It is up to the president and Senate to act swiftly to fill the two federal judicial vacancies.... This is not just an inconvenience. Not when it comes to a federal legal system in which it takes, on average, more than five years for civil cases to come to trial in Buffalo. The delays are unconscionable, and more so because the solution is obvious.
One legal observer said this region could use another three district judges, but at the very least the two open seats should be filled.... Both O’Donnell and Vilardo are outstanding candidates and deserving of the positions. They need to win the necessary approvals and take their seats to begin dealing with the overwhelming amount of work waiting for them.
The courts here received more new filings last year than all but nine of the 94 court systems across the country. It’s no wonder that the backlog of civil and criminal cases ranks among the worst in the nation."
Julie DelCour: Here we go again with Senate confirmation delays; Pecked to death by ducks (Tulsa World [OK], 05/03/15)
By JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor: "For the past 20 years, I’ve periodically lamented the sorry pace of judicial confirmations.... In 2012, Oklahoma’s two senators failed to support a qualified Oklahoma appellate court nominee during a filibuster fight. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn later voted to confirm the nominee, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach, to the U.S. [Tenth] Circuit Court .... What was so strange about the filibuster delay was that Coburn had waved Bacharach through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and had described him as “the most qualified nominee I’ve seen in my eight years in the Senate.” ... On April 13, four months into a new Congress, the Senate finally held its first vote on a judicial nominee. Alfred Bennett had waited 297 days, and was confirmed 95-0. That Texas judicial seat had been vacant 769 days, creating a judicial emergency. Other U.S. district judges in the district took up the slack by carrying 430 to 600 cases.
Delays in confirmations do create backlogs in courts all over the country, and hinder the timely administration of justice. It’s one thing if the nominees’ qualifications or judicial philosophy is at issue but in nearly every case that has little to do with delays."
Senate must act on judicial vacancies (Record [NJ] , 05/01/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "Two District Court judges were first nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch, with strong support from their Texas and Utah Republican senators. ... Senate GOP leadership keeps them in limbo, even though one would fill a courts-declared judicial emergency. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has still not held a hearing on a nominee to fill an emergency on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes New Jersey. U.S. District Judge Felipe Restrepo was nominated Nov. 12 on the bipartisan recommendation of his Pennsylvania senators. New Jersey's senators need to press to move Restrepo and to fill four District of New Jersey vacancies, two of which have pending nominees."
EDITORIAL Our View: Women Deserve Interviews for Judge (Times-News [ID] , 05/01/15)
"In this case, where Idaho’s senators are Republican and the president is a Democrat, the senators are likely seeking a judge they believe to be a conservative but centrist enough to squeak past Obama.
Which makes it all the more puzzling the senators haven’t entertained a woman – someone Obama would presumably be more willing to appoint.... Risch and Crapo should have done two things differently: One, interview women. And, perhaps more important, they should have been transparent from the beginning about their interview process and explained to the public their method for choosing a candidate."
Cheers and Jeers (Lewiston Tribune [ID], 05/01/15)
Marty Trillhaase, Opinion Editor: "JEERS ... to U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both R-Idaho. Thursday, they sought to tamp
down the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell's report that the GOP senators were ignoring female applicants for the U.S. District bench ... where did anyone get such an idea? Could it be that five prominent women - including a sitting judge and two prosecutors - told Russell they applied for the post but were not interviewed? ... Could it be that Risch and Crapo are doing this all behind closed doors? ... Or could it be Idaho's abysmal record of not appointing women to the bench. ... it is the only state in the region served by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to have no woman seated on the U.S. District Court."
Editorial Gov. Brown's tough climate goals: Nation should follow California's lead (Los Angeles Times, 04/30/15)
"The world faces a terrible threat and is already seeing the effects, in more intense droughts and heat waves, diminished crop yields in some areas and floods from rising sea levels. Too few political leaders are willing to confront these realities or pay the price required to reverse or at least minimize them. It's time for other states, the U.S. government and more countries around the world to step up rather than foisting the problem onto the next generation."
EDITORIAL: Preserving Virginia's 'Treasures' (News & Advance [Lynchburg, VA], 04/30/15)
"There’s much to love about the Old Dominion: its history, its heritage, its natural beauty. But with growth and progress, those natural treasures of the commonwealth come under increased pressure from development.
That’s why an initiative Gov. Terry McAuliffe launched last week is so important. “Virginia Treasures” is designed to protect, in perpetuity, ecologically sensitive sites, lands that harbor endangered or threatened species .... The more of these “treasures” we can preserve and protect today, the more of the true Virginia we bequeath future generations."
Long Past Time to Let 3rd Circuit Nominee Restrepo Have His Hearing (People For blog, 04/30/15)
"Eastern Pennsylvania federal judge L. Felipe Restrepo is among those nominees being obstructed. Confirmed to his current position by the Senate by unanimous voice vote in June of 2013, he earned strong statements of support from home state senators Bob Casey (a Democrat) and Pat Toomey (a Republican) when he was nominated for elevation to the Third Circuit last November.
But since then ... nothing. Chairman Grassley has conspicuously refused to schedule a hearing for him. Although Third Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell announced in late January that she plans to take senior status this summer, thus opening a second vacancy on the court if Restrepo is not confirmed by then, Grassley did not schedule a hearing. And when the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts formally classified the vacancy Restrepo would fill as a judicial emergency in February, Grassley's response was ... nothing."
EDITORIAL: No time to breathe easy on air quality (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/29/15)
"Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to propose more ambitious goals for the state’s reduction of greenhouse gases also will help, since most efforts to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change also will reduce the kind of emissions that pollute the air we breathe every day.
So the bad news is that California’s air is still unhealthy by national standards, and compared to everywhere else in the country. The good news is that it is much cleaner than it used to be, thanks to regulation of polluters."
Delays on both sides of the aisle (Washington Post, 04/29/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Judging the Environment, Letter to the Editor: "Republican Senate leaders are holding up two federal district court nominees, including one from Texas who was recommended by Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, for a judicial emergency vacancy. They were nominated Sept. 18, nearly two months before Loretta Lynch was nominated to be attorney general, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved them (and Ms. Lynch) on Feb. 26. There was no disagreement, and both cleared the committee on a unanimous voice vote with support from their home-state Republican senators."
EDITORIAL: The Pope Joins the Climate Wars (New York Times, 04/29/15)
"As Francis put in a Twitter post this month, “We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family.”
The encyclical is plainly aimed at influencing the outcome of December’s summit meeting on climate change in Paris. The pope is right to speak up for our planet, and the greater the impact the better."
Editorial: Open Idaho’s closed U.S. judge nomination process (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 04/29/15)
"A year ago, Stanley Bastian of Wenatchee was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a federal judgeship after an open, bipartisan nominating process. Contrast that with Idaho, where a secretive process to replace U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge is drawing fire for apparently ignoring female candidates. Idaho is the only state in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to never have a woman on the bench. Whether this is blatant discrimination is hard to tell because the process is closed to public scrutiny."
Editorial: Protect rhinos and elephants (Bend Bulletin [OR], 04/29/15)
"Legislators in Oregon would like to ban sales of rhino horn and ivory in Oregon — similar to what has been done in New York and New Jersey. ... it could help, and the illegal ivory trade has no place in Oregon. Pass the bill."
Editorial | Climate change and the church (Courier-Journal [KY] , 04/28/15)
"Climate change deniers are about to encounter a powerful new obstacle: Pope Francis.... Pope Francis, like many politicians — some from Kentucky — is not a scientist. That’s the common dodge politicians use to avoid acknowledging the harmful environmental impact of hugely profitable fuels such as coal and oil.
But unlike those politicians, the pope apparently knows how to listen to some of the world’s top scientists who agree that climate change is real and caused largely by human activity such as burning fossil fuels.
And Pope Francis is sure to lend a powerful voice to the debate"
Benched! A premature cutoff for judicial confirmations (Justice Watch, 04/27/15)
"Senator Grassley said of judicial nominations: “Come July of 2016, probably they’ll be cut off and not approving any . . . It’s just kind of tradition.”
But this “tradition” is one of Grassley’s own making. Presidents regularly have district and circuit court nominees confirmed after July 1 of their final year in office. President Clinton had nine in 2000. President George W. Bush had 14 in 2008. And in each case the president faced a Senate controlled by the opposition party."
Grassley Threatening to Shut Down His Minimal Actions on Judges in Mid-2016 (People For blog, 04/27/15)
"Eastern Pennsylvania district judge Phil Restrepo was nominated to the Third Circuit back on November 12 with the support of both of his home state senators (Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey), but Grassley has refused to schedule a hearing for him. Other nominees from last November being affirmatively neglected are Dale Drozd (Eastern District of California), LaShann DeArcy Hall and Ann Donnelly (Eastern District of New York), and Travis McDonough (Eastern District of Tennessee)....Also, someone ought to remind the Senator what happened during George W. Bush's last year in office. In 2008, the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee held hearings for ten of Bush's judicial nominees in September, and all ten were confirmed by the full Senate that same month. In fact, half of those were confirmed just three days after their committee hearing."
Moving Forward: Judge Stoll (Patently-O, 04/23/15)
Dennis Crouch, Associate Professor, University of Missouri School of Law: "On a voice-vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved President Obama’s nominee Kara Stoll to be the next addition to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Now that the log-jam over Loretta Lynch’s nomination as attorney-general is coming to a close, I would expect full Senate approval within the next few weeks."
Senator Grassley’s ‘Glacial’ Pace on Judicial Nominations (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/23/15)
K.O. Myers: "This glacial pace persists despite the fact that the number of judicial vacancies is on the rise. Of 874 seats on the federal bench, 54 are empty. At least 26 more (including the two for which Grassley made his recommendations) are scheduled to open up in the next year. Twenty-three of those vacancies are designated as “judicial emergencies,” .... In an editorial released a few days after the recommendations were announced, The Des Moines Register gets to the heart of the issue. “Grassley may represent Iowa in the Senate,” the paper’s editorial board writes, “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.” Here’s hoping that Senator Grassley will work as diligently for a fully staffed, functional judiciary in the other 49 states as he has here in Iowa."
EDITORIAL: Our View: Dayton can shape judiciary for years to come (Rochester Post-Bulletin [MN], 04/22/15)
"Wilhelmina Wright, appointed by Dayton to the state Supreme Court in 2012, was nominated last week by President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.... Wright, 51, has 15 years experience as a judge, serving on the Ramsey County District Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals before her appointment to the state Supreme Court. Her nomination to the U.S. District Court is expected to be noncontroversial, although the Republican-led U.S. Senate has been slow to confirm Obama's judicial nominations. If confirmed, Wright would succeed Michael J. Davis, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Minnesota, who will step down from active service on Aug. 1. Davis is the only black federal judge in Minnesota history. Wright, the first African-American woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, would be the second black federal judge."
EDITORIAL: Pick up the confirmation pace (Post and Courier [SC], 04/22/15)
"Senators don’t have to approve presidential nominations for Cabinet, court and other positions. But they should at least make those decisions in a timely manner.... You need not be a fan of President Barack Obama — or of his picking Ms. Lynch as the next attorney general — to find the modern Capitol Hill pattern of needlessly protracted confirmation processes troubling.... politicians in both parties should move away from the troubling trend of lengthy postponements of up-or-down votes on presidential appointments."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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: 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."