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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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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"

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."

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."

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: 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."

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."

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."

Guest opinion: Hickenlooper's grousing on behalf of oil and gas threatens the West (Daily Camera [CO] , 02/05/14)
Sarah Egolf: "Gov. Hickenlooper called on public land managers in northwest Colorado to turn their backs on a plan to protect the sage grouse and avert the need for Endangered Species listing. Instead, he called on the feds to adopt a "Colorado Package," which essentially sacrifices the grouse and its habitat to oil and gas. Ironically, while the industry may get the run of the roost under the plan, the "package" promises only to push the grouse closer to the brink of extinction and closer to listing as an endangered species — which certainly wouldn't help industry's long-term interests in the region."

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."

Inquirer Editorial: Coke and Nike know the truth (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 02/04/14)
"With major international corporations like Coca-Cola and Nike finally acknowledging that global warming is bad for business, efforts to curb the causes of climate change are getting some needed allies. Companies that rely on clean water and predictable weather are welcome participants in this important conversation. It is in their best ianterests, and everyone else's on Earth, to address global warming."

Editorial: McCarthy should whip a new water deal into shape (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 02/04/14)
"Among other things, H.R. 3964 would: • Repeal the bipartisan settlement aimed at restoring flows in the San Joaquin River, which once supported spring-run salmon before it started drying up after the Friant Dam was built in the 1940s. This is unnecessary. • Override the bipartisan state law, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009, that requires that any actions in the Delta be aimed at achieving co-equal goals of restoring the Delta and improving water supply reliability."

Editorial: Playing chicken; Negotiating measures to protect the Lesser Prairie Chicken in Kansas makes more sense than setting up a legal battle with the federal government. (Lawrence Journal-World [KS], 02/04/14)
"The bill approved in committee declares that any law that protects either the Greater or Lesser Prairie Chicken would be null and void in Kansas. Never mind the problems with the state seeking to prosecute federal officers who are doing their job.... State officials should put more effort into saving this native species and less into setting up a legal fight with the federal government."

Editorial: Wolves are in the crosshairs, thanks to Sen. Gail Griffin; Our View: There's a better plan to coexist with ranchers (Arizona Republic, 02/04/14)
"Pause for a moment and savor this: The population of endangered Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico grew from 75 to 83 last year. That’s nearly double the 2009 count. It’s a victory for our shared national values, which are expressed in the Endangered Species Act. OK. Enough savoring. Now, back to a reality. Lobos remain perilously close to extinction’s cliff, and Arizona’s Legislature is poised to give them a shove over the edge. The Senate Government and Environment Committee approved three measures this week aimed at wolf reintroduction like a bullet to the brain."

Letter: The ESA Didn't Cause the Drought; Environmental protections didn't cause California's water problems, and rolling them back won't fix our water woes. There is simply no water. (Wall Street Journal, 02/03/14)
Mike Sweeney, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy, California Chapter: "Environmental protections didn't cause California's water problems, and rolling them back won't fix our water woes. Your Jan. 27 editorial "On the California Water Front" gets it wrong. This winter the Endangered Species Act hasn't restricted water deliveries from the delta. There is simply no water."

Editorial: Playing politics with California's drought; Competing interests are working together on water. A House GOP bill would undermine their efforts. (Los Angeles Times, 02/03/14)
"Funny, isn't it, that folks who question man's ability to affect the global climate are so quick to assign human causes to the drought? ... In their imagined "people versus fish" scenario, towns are going dry and growers are going out of business because crazy environmentalists are hogging water to protect an obscure fish, the delta smelt. Water that could irrigate fields and keep people working is instead being kept in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and flushed into the ocean. What they don't like to point out is that without that supposed flush pushing out into the Pacific, seawater would continue to intrude farther into the delta, leaving only useless salty brine to pump into canals and onto fields — and then where would the growers and the rest of us be? ... And as for the smelt, the Endangered Species Act protects not only that fish but all of us, by holding together the fragile environmental web we rely on."

Why Blue Slip Abuse Should Stop (American Constitution Society Blog, 02/03/14)
Richard W. Painter, former Associate Counsel to the President and Chief Ethics Lawyer, White House Counsel's Office (2005-2007): "senators who have indicated their support for a nominee should not go back on their word—or at least not refuse to return the blue slip—after the White House has made the nomination, unless substantially important new information comes to light about the nominee. The most high-profile blue slip battles have been in North Carolina and Florida. In Florida, William Thomas was not renominated because of Sen. Marco Rubio’s objections. In North Carolina, Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination has been held up because Sen. Richard Burr refuses to return his blue slip. In both cases, the nominees were originally supported by the Senators."

GUEST COMMENTARY: Hickenlooper's plan protects oil industry, not sage grouse (Denver Post [CO] , 02/01/14)
Erik Molvar: "only scientifically sound habitat protections, applied with certainty, can prevent Endangered Species Act listing."

WATCH: Craven Politican Throws Public Servant Under Bus For Personal Ambition! (South Florida Lawyers, 01/31/14)
"It's really a shame to see someone's reputation get tanked just to curry support from a desired constituency in order to seek higher office. (h/t Glenn Sugameli [LINK TO JUDGING THE ENVIRONMENT webpage on Sen. Rubio & Judge William Thomas)] BTW, on the "merits," this is what judges do -- it's shameful, really"

Hearing on Arizona Nominees Shows Why Courts Matter (People For blog, 01/29/14)
"Fortunately, Flake and McCain can help ensure quick confirmations. Since Flake is on the Judiciary Committee, perhaps he will persuade his GOP colleagues not to do what they have done with nearly every other Obama judicial nominee: demand a delay in the committee vote once it is scheduled, with no explanation or apology. ... there are 29 judicial nominees waiting for a floor vote, many of them who could and should have been confirmed last year. Their confirmation would reduce the current vacancy rate by nearly a third. Another three nominees will probably join them next week. So the Arizona nominees will be at the back of a very, very, long line. If McCain and Flake want to help Arizona's overworked courts, they need to push Mitch McConnell to allow quick votes on all the nominees who are already being stalled on the floor."

Editorial: Law favors fish over people? No, people need fish (Redding Record Searchlight [CA], 01/29/14)
"“How you can favor a fish over people is something the people in my part of the world would not understand.” So said no less an eminence than House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, last week while visiting California to promote a measure that would waive various federal protections of rare fish and halt an effort to restore salmon to the San Joaquin River.... But let’s be clear about one thing: We don’t favor fish over people, even if the law might look that way sometimes. We favor fish for people. Salmon make a tasty dinner and keep thousands of Northern Californians employed ... Nobody much loves the poor Delta smelt, a “3-inch baitfish” that has become a symbol of misguided priorities to San Joaquin Valley conservatives. But little fish feed big fish. Killing off the bottom of the food chain works about as well as pulling the foundation out from under a house."

EDITORIAL Our View: Playing chicken (Joplin Globe [MO], 01/29/14)
"This notion of ignoring some federal laws, all the while benefiting from others, is nonsense. ... The historical range of the lesser prairie chicken has shrunk by 84 percent because of development and agricultural activities. Those in the state who oppose placing the bird under the protection cite loss of jobs and development. We understand that opposition but don’t agree with the method being used to fight the battle. Fear of regulation would appear to be winning over the loss of yet another species of the prairie chicken. There’s got to be a better way to approach the problem."

PICKING NEXT FEDERAL JUDGE; World-Herald editorial: Court vacancy needs attention (Omaha World-Herald [NE] , 01/29/14)
"The current list of federal court vacancies is long — 79 U.S. district court judges and 16 more on appeals court benches. Only 55 replacements have been nominated to fill those 95 openings. Another 19 vacancies will occur this year, including one in Nebraska ... Filling these vacancies is important. Crowded federal court dockets increase the caseload for sitting judges and slow citizens’ access to justice. ... Nebraskans can hope this process moves efficiently, so this vacancy doesn’t linger on that list."

The Wrong Way to Address the Backlog of Pending Nominations (People For blog, 01/29/14)
"With three nominees on the agenda for a committee vote tomorrow, the number of nominees on the floor could increase to 32. But far more likely is that committee Republicans will prevent that from happening by doing what they have done throughout Obama's presidency, with only five exceptions: They will exercise their right to delay a committee vote by at least a week without having to offer a reason."

Editorial: A brazen GOP water grab (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 01/27/14)
"For simple-minded thinking on California's worsening drought, it would be hard to top the ideas trotted out by Republican leaders. Their plan: Divert water to farms and forget the environment.... House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, flew in to talk up the issue, playing the role of the puzzled outsider perplexed by California's water policies. Why not steer the flows to farms, not fish, he suggested, playing on long-running controversies over diverting water to save and restore historic fish runs. At his side were valley Republicans looking for an issue to improve their chances of re-election and widen the appeal of a party as endangered here as the salmon they denigrate."

PD Editorial: No drought in California's water wars (Press Democrat [CA] , 01/27/14)
"[T]he Senate already rejected the House bill once — and for good reason. A drought isn't justification to ignore the Endangered Species Act or undercut one important California industry — salmon fishing — in favor of another — agriculture. Both need assistance to thrive, and both are accomplished water warriors. Boehner surely scored some points with the most militant growers, but his bill isn't going anywhere."

Editorial: California's drought, times three; The state is facing three distinct water crises, each requiring its own emergency and long-term responses. (Los Angeles Times, 01/26/14)
"We may have to build new dams to store water for future use without drying up rivers and destroying the ecosystem, as dams in California historically have done. ...That means diverting some of the delta's water with pumps that do less damage to endangered fish and rely less on earthquake-vulnerable levees. The kind of system envisioned by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would help all parts of California deal with global climate change and its inevitable result: precipitation that falls on the Sierra less like the snow that generations have come to rely on and more like the rain that comes, when it does, to Southern California in unmanageable torrents."

Editorial: Don't use 'drought emergency' to divide us (Bakersfield Californian [CA], 01/25/14)
"Boehner should know a thing or two about the "nonsense" of a bureaucracy that protects fish and water quality; he should know that when it comes to water, simple answers are exceedingly hard to come by. The legislation Boehner and the three Valley Republicans are proposing -- this time as a short-term emergency response -- was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and strongly opposed by state and federal agencies in 2012. Likely the proposed "emergency" legislation will meet the same end this year.... Coastal salmon fishermen say it will destroy their industry. And Delta farmers and environmentalists contend it is a blatant, short-sighted water grab fueled by political contributions from big growers....And increasing Delta exports in a dry year could end up hurting both the Delta and water users to the south. It could suck salty sea water into the Delta and into aqueducts that transport water to Valley and Southland farms and cities."

Pressure continues to mount on Richard Burr (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/24/14)
Rob Schofield: "It’s becoming increasingly clear that at some point, Senator Richard Burr is going to have to explain his one-man, silent filibuster of the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve on the federal District Court for North Carolina’s Eastern District. As this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports, the Congressional Black Caucus is now weighing in full force on the issue: ... Surely, Burr will not be able to stall such an important nomination (one that he himself previously endorsed!) without explanation much longer. Stay tuned."

Editorial: A Speaker Boehner runs through it (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/23/14)
"Along with GOP Reps. Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, Boehner said he wants to delay implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Project until 2015, which would leave salmon high and dry. Anything Boehner can do to assist with Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought response would be welcome. Gutting the intent of the Endangered Species Act isn’t."

Why is Sen. Burr blocking judicial nomination? (Black Mountain News [NC], 01/23/14)
Letter to the Editor by Robert Dare