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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

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EDITORIAL: Wildlife Slaughter Goes Unabated (New York Times, 02/15/15)
"The White House alert is noteworthy, but unfortunately the administration is allotting only a modest increase for funding and staffing ... This means there is scant likelihood of a letup in the smuggling frenzy ... These killings are not mere crimes of a lower order. The disappearance of priceless wildlife, sacrificed to the black market, is a blot on humanity and its management of life on earth."

EDITORIAL: Wild things; A special coral reef system in Gulf of Mexico needs to be expanded and protected. (Houston Chronicle, 02/13/15)
"In addition to the usual coral reef fish such as angel fish, eels, urchin, parrotfish and grouper, larger marine animals, such as sea turtles and white sharks, frequent this area. Scientists have identified almost 100 manta rays living in protected waters."

EDITORIAL: Eagle pride: Attack brings reminder of need to stay vigilant. (Garden City Telegram [KS], 02/13/15)
"In 1972, the bald eagle finally was placed under protection of the Endangered Species Act. A ban on DDT and other changes helped the bird recover. Nesting pairs rose to nearly 9,800 by 2007. The bald eagle became an endangered species success story, and was taken off the list. The danger hasn’t vanished, however, and monitoring continues. Contaminants and habitat loss still pose a threat.... It’s an important part of our heritage. Much work remains to ensure the bald eagle’s continued ascent, to include preservation of natural habitat, and stepped-up support for conservation and research."

Benched! The more things change… (Justice Watch, 02/12/15)
"In an interview with Iowa Public Radio, shortly after being named chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “I have no reason to believe that the future is any different” for the committee.... He was right. Even with Senator Grassley as chair, Republican obstructionism continues in the Senate Judiciary Committee.... Without explanation, Senator Grassley held over the nominations of four federal judges and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. All four of the judicial nominees are uncontroversial. They would fill district court seats in Utah and Texas, and have the support of their home-state Republican senators on the committee."

Thursday is Test Day for Senate Judiciary Republicans (People For blog, 02/11/15)
"Tomorrow morning, we will learn more about how Chairman Chuck Grassley will run the Senate Judiciary Committee ... and whether Republicans will continue one of the indefensible forms of obstruction that they engaged in for six years while in the minority.... Committee rules let senators "hold over" (i.e., delay) committee votes without explanation. This was done during previous presidencies when a nominee was controversial or when senators needed more time to evaluate the nominee. But during the first six years of the Obama presidency, Republicans exercised this right for all but 12 of his judicial nominees, which was an unprecedented abuse of the rules. ... It's one thing to always demand a delay when you're never the one to have scheduled the votes. It would be another thing altogether for Republicans to routinely ask for delay when they're the ones putting people on the schedule in the first place.... Two of the Texas nominees would fill vacancies that have been officially designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. ... As for the nominees themselves, all four have the strong support of their home state senators, which is not unusual. But in this case, each of those home state senators is a Republican who is on the Judiciary Committee."

Editorial: Saving the monarchs, and more (Pocono Record [PA] , 02/10/15)
"$3.2 million is a drop in the bucket of the federal budget, and the effort may not accomplish much unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also classifies the monarch as a threatened species, as it deserves. ... Yet this iconic insect is really no more important than many more obscure species of plants and animals that are disappearing with alarming rapidity. ... Mother Nature is a complex web, humans only a part of it. Each species plays a unique role, and the fewer species that survive the more humans will rely on them for their own survival. Habitat protection will help the monarch, but the species would also benefit from the legal protection of being classified as threatened."

Waiting for 2015's First Confirmation (Bloomberg News, 02/05/15)
Jonathan Bernstein: "It’s about time someone gets confirmed. So far we have a goose egg ... Compare now with 2007, after Democrats won a new Senate majority during the seventh year of George W. Bush’s presidency. By Feb. 5, 2007, the Senate had already confirmed five of Bush’s federal district court nominees. By the end of the month, it had approved two more district court selections and one appeals-court nominee. ... it’s important for the government to function smoothly, and that means filling vacancies."

Senate Democrats should be careful about their filibuster strategy (Washington Post, 02/04/15)
James Downie: "when President Obama took office, Republicans took obstruction to a new level, blocking even widely popular bills and judicial appointments. Then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was right to get rid of the filibusters for most federal nominees, allowing Democrats to finally fill long-vacant judgeships"

EDITORIAL: Out of the woods: Gov. Wolf revives sensible protection on drilling  (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 02/02/15)
"Former Gov. Ed Rendell in 2010 banned drilling on 800,000 acres of the most environmentally sensitive areas, those that provide habitats for rare and endangered species, host fragile ecosystems or contain old-growth forests. ... Four years later, former Gov. Tom Corbett revoked the ban, saying the land could be drilled as long as there was no long-term disturbance on the surface. Naturally, that set off a debate over what constituted a long term, and a court fight meant the $75 million worth of new leases that Mr. Corbett had hoped to tap never came to be. With Mr. Wolf’s order, a reasonable boundary has been re-established between what is and what is not suitable land for drilling."

EDITORIAL: Offshore drilling would threaten the NC coast (News & Observer [NC], 02/01/15)
"The Obama administration’s plan to open the waters off the shores of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to offshore drilling puts North Carolina’s tourism and other industries at risk. There should be a strong legal and political push to keep oil rigs out of the Atlantic waters. Environmentalists and some communities on North Carolina’s coast will no doubt provide the legal objections.... Given the political clamor for drilling, North Carolina’s best protection from it happening may rely on the courts, findings that oil resources off the coast are scarce and a continuation of current low prices for oil. With those three factors involved, the drilling may never come to pass.... Given the reality of global warming and the memory of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill into the Gulf of Mexico, the time for such balance is past. The United States should be building to an energy future based on renewable sources without environmental hazards."

EDITORIAL: Captain Sam’s deserves protection (Post and Courier [SC], 02/01/15)
"Equally devastating would be the damage to wildlife habitat. Numerous shorebirds, including at least one endangered and one threatened species can be found on Captain Sam’s Spit. ... The legislature needs to stand strong and pass a law to preserve public beaches for the public and for the Lowcountry's extraordinary wildlife."

EDITORIAL: Tallahassee's views on conservation at odds: Battle over Amendment 1 money brewing (Herald [Bradenton, FL] , 01/30/15)
Gov. "Scott pledged to fully comply with the amendment, even including additional funding for such environmental initiatives as conserving land for the Florida panther and springs.... Legal action might be necessary should the Legislature attempt to divert this dedicated environmental money elsewhere -- particularly to programs that the state already funds, thus freeing up dollars for other projects."

Jonathan Bernstein: Lift the blockade on confirming US judges (McClatchy newspapers, 01/29/15)
"Democrats weren't objecting to ideology-based filibusters against specific nominees, but to the across-the-board blockades preventing the president from filling any judicial vacancy at all. The filibuster that pushed Democrats over the edge was over three seats on the District of Columbia Circuit Appeals Court."

Editorial: Time for Senate to end the theatrics and do its job on nominations (Los Angeles Times, 01/28/15)
"These nominations — and others that will follow — will be a test of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to restore what he calls “regular order” to the proceedings of that body.... Even after Democrats abolished the filibuster for most presidential appointments in late 2013, Republicans used other parliamentary stratagems to delay votes even on uncontroversial nominees to federal courts and ambassadorships....when the hearings are finished, the Senate should move expeditiously to an up-or-down vote focused solely on the nominees’ qualifications. That should be the rule not only for Cabinet nominations but for those to the federal bench, to ambassadorships and to regulatory agencies. The dysfunction of the confirmation process in recent years has been a national scandal."

Empire Editorial: Climate change - it's 'a thing' (Juneau Empire [AK] , 01/28/15)
"Believing in it is irrelevant, we think. Everyone should be taking steps today, tomorrow and into the foreseeable future to facilitate a cleaner, greener and sound environment so, for instance, we Alaskans can continue to enjoy fat king salmon, hefty moose and resources that sustain us in healthy ways for millennia to come.... When the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center was built 53 years ago, the face of the then-hulking glacier was at it’s doorstep. Now, it’s about a mile away.... Temperatures this month have averaged 36.1 degrees, more than 8 degrees above normal, following the trends of the rest of the world. 2014 was the warmest year in recorded history....It’s time to move on from the dirty practices of the industrial revolution and start a climate change revolution of our own."

Editorial: Educated on climate science (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 01/26/15)
"Hundreds of billions in losses are caused by climate change. Coal interests and conservative West Virginia politicians strive to deny or ignore the problem.... The vast majority of world scientists, who do not make their living in the fossil fuel industry, are unanimous in warning that the peril is real. ...hank heaven, the state Board of Education finally sided with science."

Rand Paul's Brand of Judicial Activism (Bloomberg News, 01/26/15)
Cass R. Sunstein: "For many decades, the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York has ranked among the most universally despised rulings in the history of American law....Within the federal courts, Paul’s position is closely aligned with that of Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Brown has contended that the New Deal “inoculated the federal Constitution with a kind of underground collectivist mentality,” which transformed the Constitution into “a significantly different document.” In a recent opinion, she complained that without an active judiciary, “property is at the mercy of pillagers.” Judge Brown has no enthusiasm for judicial restraint. Along with like-minded colleagues, she has played a leading role in a series of aggressive lower-court decisions, striking down restrictions on commercial advertising, invalidating financial regulations and otherwise protecting economic liberty. There’s good reason to resist this trend, which would empower federal judges to exercise far too much authority over the American people."

The Register's Editorial: Good things could flow from water lawsuit (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/26/15)
"The lawsuit the Des Moines Water Works contemplates filing against three Iowa counties is not a war against rural Iowa, as some would have it. Rather, it is a civilized approach to resolving a threat to public health. The public utility that provides drinking water to a half-million customers in central Iowa has turned to the courts for a remedy for water pollution that the legislative and executive branches of Iowa government have failed to deliver.... the Water Works would be asking a federal court to declare that emissions from the drainage districts managed by the three named counties fall under the definition of "point sources" under the federal Clean Water Act. ... If Iowa farmers and state officials are serious when they say they are determined to clean up the state's water, then they have nothing to fear from a lawsuit that aims to make sure the steps they are taking are having a measurable effect."

Editorial: Legislature should fund Buffalo River water study (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 01/26/15)
"In the debate over operation of a large hog farm near the Buffalo National River, supporters of the agricultural operation and those who fear its impact on the environment ought to be able to agree on one thing: Monitoring is the way to know.... The river, of course, is one of the Natural State's most beautiful and popular destinations for visitors. ... Of particular concern is the potential environment impact of the abundance of waste hogs produce.... Arkansas cannot afford to get this wrong. The Buffalo River is too valuable. If it ends up polluted, it will take untold millions and a long, long time to overcome the damage to the river's reputation."

The world must tackle climate change: editorial (Cleveland Plain Dealer [OH], 01/25/15)
"Years of all talk and no action on climate change may finally be over.... naysayers still lurk -- some of them in Congress -- denying that climate change exists or that humans can do anything about it, but they should not hold sway. The consensus of reputable climate scientists is that the pace of climate change could accelerate with disastrous economic consequences if more isn't done soon."a

PD Editorial: No more red herrings in water talks (Press Democrat [CA] , 01/25/15)
"Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t bite on the smelt vs. farmers argument. Last week, the justices rejected an appeal from the Westlands and Metropolitan water districts, among others, seeking to overturn limits on pumping water from the Delta into canals serving Central Valley growers and Southern California cities. Those limits were put in place to protect the smelt as well as several species of salmon .... The pumping limits withstood scrutiny from the National Academy of Sciences and the federal courts, but .... House members from the Central Valley are again sponsoring legislation to waive the Endangered Species Act as it relates to the delta smelt. But the problem isn’t a tiny endangered fish. It’s a lack of water"

Editorial: Record temps + cheap gas = Time for carbon tax (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 01/23/15)
"The trend lines could not be clearer. Earth's temperature in 2014 was the highest ever recorded, and gasoline prices are below $2 a gallon and their lowest in years. Even the U.S. Senate now is on record as acknowledging global warming exists. Now is the time to pursue a reasonable tax on carbon that would require polluters to pay a fair cost and raise money to start addressing the long-term damage."

EDITORIAL: Backtracking on the Bay (Baltimore Sun, 01/22/15)
"Baltimore County has no shortage of polluted water. ... it came as a bit of surprise to hear Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz offer ... that he'd like to see the timetable for court-ordered water quality improvements delayed beyond the current 2025.... Here's the real craziness of it all: No matter who serves as this state's governor, the EPA is going to hold Maryland accountable for these violations of the Clean Water Act.... it’s not even clear whether existing state standards are sufficient to meet cleanup goals. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental advocates are already in the process of taking the Maryland Department of the Environment to court on the grounds that subdivisions aren’t meeting the requirements of existing stormwater permits and won’t do enough to reduce polluted runoff.... it's been a tough week for the Chesapeake Bay and anyone who cares about its health — or the billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs that are associated with it."

EDITORIAL: Fish & Wildlife hire merits watching (The Olympian [WA], 01/22/15)
"Idaho has not taken a progressive view toward the challenges of wolf management, for example – certainly not one that reflects the values of most Washingtonians, nor one that has sought innovative ways of dealing with conflict between ranchers and wolves.... research recently conducted at Washington State University has found that killing wolves to manage the conflict with livestock actually fosters the reverse outcome.,,, We hope Unsworth will embrace a commitment to sustaining healthy populations of all Washington’s creatures. Keeping as many species as possible on the landscape – biodiversity – is critical, and wolves are an important keystone species."

Huckabee revives Faubus' idea of nullification UPDATE (Arkansas Times, 01/22/15)
Max Brantley: “I wrote yesterday about Mike Huckabee's proposition — channeling ghosts of Faubus, Wallace, Maddox and more — that states could simply refuse to obey a U.S. Supreme Court order overturning bans on same-sex marriage. The Atlantic writes further about the rise in nullification theory among far-right Republicans … Secession, anyone? UPDATE: Even the Washington Post's right-wing columnist Jennifer Rubin is pounding Huckabee on this.”

Editorial: What role should the USA play? Obama makes mature argument for international cooperation (Daily Astorian [OR], 01/22/15)
" Obama echoed a warning that has been sounded on this page since our newspaper group examined climate change in an award-winning series in 2006. Pointing to rising temperatures, he quoted the Pentagon warning that climate change is an immediate risk to our national security. “We should act like it.... We share his view that Congress must not endanger the health of our children by failing to act. With the United States pledging to double the pace at which its carbon pollution is cut, even China is committing to limit its emissions. “I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action,” Obama pledged. Finally. The science cannot be ignored and we commend the president for taking the lead."

Fill judicial vacancies, including the one in Tennessee (Tennessean, 01/21/15)
Opinion by Tommy Tobin: "With more than 40 vacant seats on the federal bench, our judicial branch is under substantial strain.... One of those vacant seats is in Chattanooga, ... Travis Randall McDonough, Mayor Andy Burke’s chief of staff and counselor, has been nominated for the post.... Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, a former mayor of Chattanooga and an attorney, respectively, should recognize the contribution that McDonough could make to the bench in East Tennessee. Even with our divided government, let’s push our politicians to govern responsibly and consider judicial nominees on their merits."

EDITORIAL: Saving the wolves (Toledo Blade [OH], 01/21/15)
"The issue has been at least temporarily resolved by a federal court ruling that wolves remain an endangered species in Michigan, and may not be hunted. But wolves — and the ecology — are endangered on Isle Royale, a 206-square mile national park in Lake Superior. There, a native wolf pack has dwindled, thanks to generations of inbreeding, to no more than nine animals. As a result, the moose population is out of control. Moose are stripping vegetation at an alarming rate and may face mass starvation. Detroit Zoo director Ron Kagan has offered his help in capturing wolf packs from the Upper Peninsula and transporting them to Isle Royale, That would be a win for all concerned. The Legislature should speedily authorize this proposal, for the benefit of both man and beasts."