Editorials and Opinion
Letter: If GOP hires all judges, balance will suffer (Reno Gazette-Journal [NV], 12/15/16)
Christina Karr: there are over 105 judicial vacancies, and that worries me. In the America that I know, we are supposed to have a fair and balanced justice system....courts have made some very important rulings. They have legalized same-sex marriage and they have helped educate my friends who are undocumented.
We all know that Republicans tend to choose judges that are anti-immigration, anti-women's rights and anti-healthcare. If the Republicans put forth 105 conservative judges, where is the balance in our court system going to be?
Medical marijuana back in limbo under Trump administration [Editorial] (Herald [Bradenton, FL] , 12/15/16)
"When Floridians overwhelming placed the medical marijuana Amendment 2 into the state’s Constitution in November, nobody predicted the fate of that law could become questionable. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. attorney general is a staunch opponent of the legalization of marijuana, in any form. Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has called cannabis reform a “tragic mistake” and is surely inclined to rescind the Obama administration’s policy on not enforcing a federal prosecution of marijuana .... Sessions has not explicitly stated he intends to crack down on states with permissive marijuana laws, including medical use of the substance. But his past opposition certainly indicates that"
The Senate Judiciary Questionnaire and Confirmation Hearings: Nominee Sessions Differs from Senator Sessions (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/15/16)
Kyle Barry: A memo released yesterday by a number of organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), revealed gaping holes in Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’s response to his Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) that preclude the Judiciary Committee from holding a thorough and complete hearing on his nomination. This finding also revealed that, as a nominee, Sessions apparently takes the SJQ far less seriously than he does as a Senator tasked with assessing nominees and that he is unwilling to hold himself to the same standard to which he holds other nominees who appear before the Committee.... The Senate should not take shortcuts when evaluating the nominee for the top law enforcement position in the country and should instead collect and review all required material before setting a timeline for hearings.
In Senator Sessions’s view, “maintaining the integrity of the Committee’s constitutional advise and consent responsibilities more than justifies such a request.”
Advise and Dissent: The Senate Majority Refuses to Do Its Job (Huffington Post, 12/14/16)
Sammie Moshenberg: there has been no action on filling the Supreme Court vacancy .... When the Senate adjourned, there were 98 other unfilled vacancies on courts .... the blue slip. Honored by judiciary committee chairs from both parties, this practice requires each home-state senator to return a blue paper slip, indicating that they are ok with the confirmation process going forward—whether or not they will ultimately vote for or against the nominee.
This is the case with the 25 judicial nominees who have had a hearing and been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee—some more than half a year ago....the Senate could act on filling these vacancies before the new president is sworn in—unlikely but intriguing. But It’s not too early to let our senators know that we want them to insist that these 25 nominees be re-nominated by the next president. These vacancies have languished far too long already. Why not fill them expeditiously with qualified, consensus nominees who have already gone through the vetting process?
Sessions' SJQ "Woefully Inadequate": Groups Call for Delay in Hearing Schedule (People For blog, 12/14/16)
The Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) submitted by Sen. Jeff Sessions as a prerequisite for his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Attorney General lacks hundreds of entries that should have been included and is woefully inadequate in its current form, according to a number of organizations that have examined the publicly available document and its appendices. We agree with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who just yesterday expressed concern about the incompleteness of the SJQ, and are deeply disturbed by Senator Grassley's insistence that the hearings go forward on such a rushed schedule.
Our View: Some Trump picks not fans of their agencies [Editorial] (Fayetteville Observer [NC] , 12/14/16)
"Perry favors investment in fossil fuels and natural gas, and, like Trump, has expressed deep skepticism about the reality of climate change.
Other proposed cabinet members whose careers seem at odds with the agencies Trump chose for them include Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked to head the Justice Department and whose regard for civil rights, or lack thereof, was sufficient to kill his 1986 nomination for federal judge; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, another climate skeptic, who has been tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite having sued the agency over its regulations;"
Donald Trump has a lot to learn from Loretta Lynch [Editorial] (Washington Post, 12/13/16)
By Editorial Board: Just as important is the enforcement of federal hate-crime laws, and here again there is cause for concern with the incoming administration. Mr. Trump’s choice to replace Ms. Lynch as attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), vigorously opposed expansion of federal hate-crime protections in 2009; if confirmed, he will have great sway in deciding the direction of the Justice Department. It is important that Senate confirmation hearings press Mr. Sessions on where ensuring just and fair treatment for all Americans ranks in his priorities.
Op-Ed: U.S. Senate should act on court nominees (News & Observer [NC], 12/13/16)
Rob Schofield: As outrageous and destructive as the Garland blockade has been, the growing possibility that Senate leaders may also choose to block a raft of lower court nominees in the closing weeks of the 114th Congress is utterly beyond the pale.... 25 lower court nominees have been fully vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee and have the support of their home state senators. This includes three Court of Appeals nominees, 20 District Court nominees and two nominees to the International Trade Court. All that is necessary is for the Senate’s leader, Mitch McConnell, to allow confirmation votes that could take just a few minutes to complete.... Another 28 nominees (four Court of Appeals and 24 District Court nominees) have been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee for months. This includes Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who was nominated to fill the nation’s longest standing judicial vacancy in North Carolina’s Eastern District almost eight months ago.... there were 105 federal court vacancies across the country. Two years ago, when Republicans were preparing to take over the Senate there were only 40.
“Judicial emergencies” – which by rule only occur when there are several hundred pending cases per judge on specified courts – have skyrocketed. At the start of the present Congress, there were 12. Now there are 38. The highest number of such emergencies that ever occurred during the George W. Bush presidency – even when Democrats controlled the Senate – was 15.
During the last two years, Republicans have only allowed 22 judicial nominees to be confirmed. These figures are the lowest for any Congress since the 1950’s – a time when the nation’s population was barely half its present size.
In contrast, Democrats confirmed more than three times the number of Bush nominees in 2008 and left no nominations pending on the Senate floor when Congress adjourned. The current situation is unprecedented and outrageous.
Sessions cannot do justice as head of justice dept. (Selma Times-Journal [AL], 12/13/16)
Hank Sanders: When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the city of Baltimore for police brutality.
She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Sen. Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights?... Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Sen. Jeff Sessions to allow some black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts.
During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American.
That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon.
The Last Thing We Need Is a Fact-Free Attorney General (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 12/12/16)
Andrew Cohen: In October 2015, for example, he delivered a speech against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act ... much of the rhetoric Sessions used to justify his opposition to the bill was untethered to objective fact.
NWLC Decries Senate Obstruction of Garland Nomination (National Women's Law Center blog, 12/12/16)
Center Co-President Marcia Greenberger issued the following statement: ... “It continues to be the Senate’s responsibility to give Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and full consideration. We expect our elected officials to do the people’s business, not engage in partisan gamesmanship with so much at stake. By departing so dramatically from the best traditions of the Senate and its constitutional responsibilities, Senate leaders have demonstrated their intention to pack the courts to advance their own agenda. It is incumbent upon all Senators to exercise their constitutional duty to carefully consider and scrutinize the records of all upcoming nominees to protect and defend the legal rights and principles upon which all of us, and most especially women, rely.”
Confirm Mark Young for the Central District of California (The Hill, 12/12/16)
Carl Tobias: Young and many other well qualified, mainstream nominees have waited months for debates and votes. Feinstein and Boxer requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), the Majority Leader, did not set it. A few Democratic senators sought unanimous consent to vote on Young and nineteen remaining district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans objected. If the GOP had followed regular order, Young would have secured a floor ballot long ago. However, on Saturday, the chamber [adjourned] until the new Senate convenes on Jan. 3. Once it assembles, Obama should promptly renominate Young, the panel ought to quickly reapprove the nominee and the Senate must confirm him.
Block Jeff Sessions for Attorney General (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/12/16)
Guest Post by Erwin Chemerinsky: The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting race discrimination in voting, employment, housing and policing. Nothing in Sessions’ career offers hope that he would be other than a disaster in doing so.... The Justice Department, through its Environment and Natural Resources Division, plays a key role in enforcing federal environmental laws. Here, too, Sessions has a terrible record.
Should Democrats become the 'Party of No?': Dick Polman (PennLive [PA], 12/12/16)
"Senate Democrats can set the tone by putting Trump's Cabinet picks through the wringer, because a number of them deserve to be seriously slow-walked ---- most notably, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions (rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago, due to his racist remarks),... Fortunately, Democrats are indeed vowing to combat those nominees."
Editorial: Economic elite dominate Trump cabinet nominations (Herald Bulletin [IN] , 12/11/16)
"And why would any sane president-elect nominate for U.S. attorney general a person who was denied a federal judgeship because of racism allegations? Again, no good reason, yet Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Perhaps the most disheartening Trump Cabinet nomination is that of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is a staunch supporter of the fossil fuel industry and denier of climate change.
It's no exaggeration to say that placing someone like Pruitt in that position literally threatens the long-term health of the planet."
While gridlock grinds in Washington, justice suffers in Idaho [Editorial] (Idaho Statesman, 12/11/16)
Editorial Board: the fate of Pocatello’s David C. Nye, whom President Barack Obama nominated back in April to a federal judgeship in the District of Idaho.
Within days of that nomination our two Republican Senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, chimed in and agreed with their Democratic president that Nye — now serving in the Sixth District Court of Idaho — was an excellent choice and ought to be approved by the Senate.
Crapo and Risch introduced Nye to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in June, and that body approved him on July 14 without dissent. Everybody, including us, is supportive of Nye, but nobody has been able to push him over the finish line and put him to work for Idaho –– who desperately needs him.
Idaho only has two such judgeships (and has a great argument for a third).... Nye, and many other judges awaiting confirmation by the Senate, languish in the kind of limbo that only gridlock can create.... Why not take 10 minutes to confirm Nye and others for the federal bench and allow them to get to work? Among the theories is that Senate Republican leadership and the rest of the world would be reminded of the GOP’s obstinance to not even consider Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.
We are unconcerned about face-saving –– and only hoping for justice, which will have to wait.
If 2016 ends without Nye’s confirmation, we’ll all have to pray that President-elect Donald Trump will re-nominate him in 2017 and he can come on board with Senate confirmation.
Letter: Senate should move on Garland (Columbus Dispatch [OH], 12/11/16)
Carolyn Casper: More troubling than the unprecedented obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, who should be afforded an immediate hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the blockade of every judicial nominee currently pending. Our federal courts continue to be in a state of crisis because more than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. Because of these vacancies, cases go unheard, issues unresolved, and American people and businesses are without the justice they deserve.... Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, just won an overwhelming victory from the voters following a campaign during which he marketed himself as an “independent voice’’ in the U.S Senate. ... I urge Portman to show his independence and urge Senate leaders to schedule up-or-down votes on Garland and the other pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
Trump's hard-right lurch could lead to his demise | Moran (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 12/11/16)
By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Scott Pruitt, his pick for the EPA, loves the smell of burning coal and would free power plants to spew all the carbon they want, free of charge. Americans disagree by margin of 2-1....Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is big on mass incarceration as the best way to fight the drug war. Most Americans now regard that as folly as well.
Sessions reminds me of the generals in World War I who kept sending soldiers into machine-gun fire, long after the tactic was a proven failure. He has the same kind of fossilized brain, one that is immune to new evidence.
Carl Tobias: Senate must vote on Idaho judge (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 12/11/16)
"On April 6, President Barack Obama nominated David Nye, a state court judge in Idaho, for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court. Nye is a well-qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Nye on July 14 without dissent. However, the nomination has languished on the floor ever since, principally due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Nye is an experienced, consensus nominee and the district desperately needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.
The Idaho district has one vacancy in two active judgeships.... The federal court system declared Lodge’s vacancy a “judicial emergency” .... Nye and many other highly qualified, moderate nominees have waited months for debates and votes. The Republican Senate majority has refused to even consider Judge Merrick Garland, the experienced, mainstream Supreme Court nominee .... Sens. Crapo and Risch have requested a swift floor ballot for Nye, yet Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, has failed to arrange it. Several Democratic senators have sought unanimous consent to vote on many district nominees who need final votes, but Republicans have objected. ... The Idaho senators have constantly reiterated their support for Nye, even after the election, expressing hope the Senate would confirm him in the lame duck session that opened Nov. 15 and pledging to push for renomination if that did not happen. The Idaho director of the Trump for President campaign believed that “Trump would support” the senators’ process and Nye. Thus, it would be wasteful to restart the process and deprive Idaho of a new judge for months."
Our View: Trump's motley crew leaves much to be desired (Norwich Bulletin [CT] , 12/10/16)
By Bulletin Editorial Board: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general
Pros: A former government lawyer and 19-year member of the Senate, Sessions has long experience in government and the law, and the points at which the two intersect.
Cons: Sessions' record of racially suggestive comments scuttled his shot at a federal judgeship in the '80s, suggesting a challenging confirmation fight to come.
Gazette editorial: Pollution’s champion to head EPA (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 12/10/16)
"Incoming President Donald Trump chose some abominable appointees: racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general .... now Trump has veered back to the abominable in choosing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — a fierce enemy of pollution controls and the Environmental Protection Agency — to head the EPA."
Editorial: Immigration courts collapse under caseloads (Des Moines Register [IA], 12/10/16)
"[T]o truly “get tough” on immigration and enforce the law, we don’t need more walls, more fences or more border patrol agents — at least not at the moment. What we need are more Department of Justice personnel to process the half-million immigration cases already clogging the courts. The bottleneck is on the back end of the system, not on the front end.
Because the immigration courts — unlike the federal courts where civil and criminal cases are heard — are run by the DOJ, the new attorney general will play a critical role in how this problem is addressed.
Unfortunately, Trump has selected Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, for the job. Sessions is a “sealed border” advocate focused on fences and walls. He also is a longtime proponent of enlisting local police in rounding up illegal immigrants — and as attorney general he’ll have the power to steer federal funds away from communities that refuse to cooperate.
As a senator, Sessions has argued that "sanctuary cities" that offer protection to illegal immigrants should be denied federal funding, and reportedly said they should even be prosecuted. If he is confirmed as attorney general, he’ll soon have the chance to do both.
There are 23 counties in Iowa designated as sanctuaries"
Trump is creating a Bizarro World with Cabinet picks (Chicago Tribune, 12/09/16)
Clarence Page, column: I can't leave out Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and tough critic of the Voting Rights Act tapped by Trump to be attorney general — a move that, aided by a Republican Congress, puts him in an excellent position to launch a Reconstruction-style collapse of civil rights enforcement with the enthusiasm of a fox guarding a henhouse.
Judicial vacancies frustrate swift, fair case resolution (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/09/16)
Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: In July 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Susan Paradise Baxter, who has been a Western District of Pennsylvania magistrate judge since 1995, and Marilyn Horan, who has been a Butler County Common Pleas judge since 1996, for Western District vacancies.
The court has four vacancies among 10 active judgeships. ... Judges Baxter and Horan are well-qualified, moderate nominees, who enjoy the powerful support of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican. The Judiciary Committee granted them Jan. 28 voice votes with no dissent. However, both nominations have since languished, mainly because Republican leaders denied them final debates and ballots. Since Judges Baxter and Horan are experienced, mainstream jurists and the Western District needs each vacancy filled, the Senate must confirm them before it adjourns.
Trump nominee will politicize Dept. of Justice (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 12/09/16)
Walter Brasch, Opinion column: With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, there is every probability that there will be an overhaul of career staff who are apolitical, of the prosecution of certain crimes at the expense of other crimes, and the refusal to pursue many civil rights violations.
Qualified, vetted judicial nominees deserve votes (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 12/09/16)
CHRISTINE STONE, Letter to the Editor: Before the year is over, U.S. Senate leadership should schedule immediate confirmation votes on the 25 qualified judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor. Among these qualified nominees are Pennsylvania’s own Judges Susan Paradise Baxter and Judge Marilyn Horan, who were nominated to fill district court seats that have been vacant for more than three years. Like Judge Baxter and Judge Horan, each of these nominees has been vetted, approved by their home-state senators and earned the bipartisan support of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Our federal courts are in a state of crisis; this is especially true in Pennsylvania. Two district court nominees (Judge Robert Colville and Judge John Younge) and a circuit court nominee (Judge Rebecca Haywood, who would become the first African-American woman to sit on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) have had hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee but have been waiting for a committee vote for months. Beyond that, Pennsylvania has one other district court vacancy and another upcoming in January.
Millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent vetting these qualified nominees. Sen. Pat Toomey should now work with Senate leadership to schedule up-or-down votes on the pending judicial nominees before the end of the 114th Congress.
Time to approve district judge for Florida (Fort Myers News Press [FL] , 12/09/16)
Carl Tobias: On April 28, President Barack Obama nominated William Jung, a longtime Tampa Bay private practitioner and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, for a vacancy on the Middle District of Florida. Jung is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee, who has the strong support of Florida Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).
Nevertheless, he has languished since April, primarily because GOP leaders did not accord him a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a panel vote or a final debate and ballot. Because Jung is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Middle District of Florida requires each of its vacancies filled, the Senate must expeditiously afford the nominee’s hearing and committee vote and his confirmation debate and ballot.
Local View: America needs to fill judicial vacancies (Lincoln Journal Star [NE], 12/08/16)
CAROL BLOCH and REBECCA GONZALES: it would be unjustifiable to let the lame duck session go by without holding a vote on the 25 qualified nominees pending on the Senate floor. These nominations will terminate at the end of this Congress but the work has already been done – they’ve been vetted, voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support, and have the support of their home state senators. Holding an up or down vote on these 25 pending nominees would take mere minutes and potentially fill so many of these long-vacant judgeships.
President Obama’s judicial nominees have been unfairly obstructed for an unacceptably long period of time, including the shameful acts by Senate leaders to allow a Supreme Court vacancy to exist for wholly partisan reasons. ... President Obama’s pick for the federal district court in Nebraska, Judge Rossiter, was widely supported across the political spectrum and championed by our own Senator Deb Fischer.