Editorials and Opinion
Here's A Look At The Most Ridiculously Long Judicial Vacancies The Senate Still Hasn't Filled (Huffington Post, 04/12/15)
Jennifer Bendery: "Despite talk when they took charge of the Senate this year that they would move nominees at the same pace Democrats did when they controlled the Senate, Republicans haven't done much of anything to fill vacancies on federal courts. ... But Republicans slow-walking nominees through the Senate confirmation process is just one piece of a broader problem for the federal judiciary. Many district and circuit courts have judicial vacancies that don't even have nominees in the queue, and some spots have been open for an incredibly long time.... Court workloads have expanded so much that the Judicial Conference of the United States, led by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, recently recommended adding 68 judgeships to district courts around the country to keep pace."
EDITORIAL: Gov. Christie’s Bad Deal With Exxon (New York Times, 04/09/15)
"New Jersey has been fighting for years to get the Exxon Mobil Corporation to clean up and pay up after turning more than 1,500 acres of marshes and waterways into toxic wastelands. But, just as a State Superior Court judge was about to rule on the case earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration suddenly and unexpectedly agreed to settle with Exxon for 3 cents on the dollar. The agreement, which became public on Monday, allows Exxon to escape with a payment of $225 million, far less than the estimated $8.9 billion the state had originally asked for a decade ago.
There will be no public hearing for this deal, which was negotiated in secret by the state. ...Anyone who wants cleaner air and water in New Jersey should urge Mr. Christie to reject this obvious sellout. If enough people raise questions, the State Department of Environmental Protection might well have second thoughts. If it does not, it will be up to Judge Michael Hogan to reject this insufficient settlement and demand more from Exxon."
Editorial: The Vanishing Pangolin (New York Times, 04/09/15)
"[H]uge numbers of wild creatures that most of the world has never even heard of are threatened with extinction by illegal trade .... Today it is a battle against a rapidly expanding demand for wild animals — dead and alive — that is spawning a global criminal network and threatening innumerable species with annihilation."
In North Carolina’s Eastern District, population grows while number of judges stalls (Progressive Pulse [NC], 04/09/15)
Sharon McCloskey: "Wall Street Journal weighed in on Tuesday on the growing backlog of civil cases in federal courts across the country .... But there’s another reason why the state’s U.S. Senators should act with a sense of urgency to get the Eastern District vacancy filled and perhaps also seek another judgeship for that court: The number of judges there hasn’t kept up with population growth in the region.
According to population data analyzed by the Journal and charted in its print edition (subscription required for online), North Carolina’s Eastern District is second only to California’s Eastern District in terms of number of residents per judgeship."
Editorial: Toxic details emerge from N.J. $250M settlement with Exxon Mobil (The Times of Trenton [NJ] , 04/09/15)
"There was little hope that closer examination would make the deal New Jersey tentatively reached with Exxon Mobil over the befouling of the state's environment smell better.... the report confirmed our suspicions that Exxon is getting a sweetheart deal beyond all comprehension.... Environmentalists are mounting a campaign to derail the deal, encouraging state residents to raise their voices during the public comment period.
We second their motion."
EDITORIAL: The Record: Exxon deal revisited (Record [NJ] , 04/07/15)
"THE STATE'S proposed settlement of a nearly $9 billion pollution suit with ExxonMobil for a mere $225 million may not be as irresponsible as it looked when it surfaced in late February. That is not praise, but a call for more intense scrutiny of the deal."
Exxon slimes Jersey, and passes the cost on to Uncle Sam | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 04/07/15)
"More than one-third of ExxonMobil's $225 million wrist-slap for turning 1,800 acres of our marshes and wetlands into tar pits will be passed along to the federal taxpayer.... if enough lawmakers want to change the federal tax code - perhaps by prohibiting settlements to be classified as compensatory or deductible - that would put bad actors on notice."
Editorial: The alarming decline of plant life (MetroWest Daily News [MA], 04/07/15)
"This past week, the New England Wildflower Society released a report stating that 22 percent of the plants it examined are either rare, in decline, endangered, or perhaps already extinct.... the consequences of a continued drop off in plant life could have profound implications for us."
Editorial: Details are in — and ExxonMobil deal still stinks (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 04/07/15)
"What matters is how the figure compares to the actual amount of environmental damage involved — and the state was seeking $8.9 billion in claims in a case in which a judge had already found ExxonMobil liable.
So, yes, this was a sellout to a major corporation. It's a great deal — for ExxonMobil. It's a lousy one for New Jersey.... The more we know about this settlement the worse it looks. The arrangement includes a provision to release ExxonMobil from any pollution liability at 16 other industrial sites and hundreds of gas stations.... scuttle this deal."
Clever climate move in Washington State | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 04/07/15)
"The science behind climate change is compelling, but the politics remains a struggle. So we tip our hat to Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington for trying something new.... True, Inslee would not offer big new subsidies for solar, wind and conservation. But increasing the cost of carbon emissions would give all those efforts a boost in the marketplace."
Texas faces crisis of judicial vacancies (El Paso Times [TX], 04/06/15)
Glenn Sugameli, Letter to the Editor: "Texas is ground zero for the federal judicial vacancy crisis.
Texas is home to more than one-third of the 23 U.S. courts designated judicial emergency vacancies nationwide (six Texas district courts and two Texas Fifth Circuit seats), one-fifth of 55 current vacancies, over 20 percent of vacancies without nominees (eight of 39), and an announced future judicial vacancy. The U.S. courts have testified that Congress needs to create new judgeships. These include nine in Texas. Sens. Cornyn and Cruz are inexcusably guaranteeing lengthy vacancies by allowing floor vote delays, not recommending nominees for lengthy vacancies, and not even beginning the long process to fill the Pecos and other seats."
Juan Williams: What Reid got right (The Hill, 04/06/15)
"Without Reid, there would be no new Senate rule allowing a simple majority to confirm most nominees for the courts and executive branch. … With Reid guiding the Senate, Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan gained confirmation ... In an era of blatant GOP obstruction of any Obama-related legislation, nomination or regulation, it was Reid who redefined Senate rules to make sure Congress got something done.”
EDITORIAL: Heed Merkley on filibuster; Democrat seeks to expand 2014 rule changes (Register Guard [OR], 04/04/15)
"Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Mike Lee of Utah recently introduced a resolution to “establish by rule the Senate tradition of approving presidential nominations by a simple majority vote,” including Supreme Court nominations.
The two senators, who along with fellow Republicans vociferously protested the 2013 reforms, now argue with a straight face that a bare majority requirement for all nominees adheres to hundreds of years of Senate tradition. Never mind that they’re now seeking to further restrict the same filibuster tool that they and their fellow Republicans used to unprecedented levels to grind legislative machinery to a halt when Democrats controlled the Senate.... Senators should turn a deaf ear to Alexander and Lee and listen to Merkley, whose proposals to reform the filibuster would do much to end the Senate’s dysfunction."
Opinion: The Supreme Court election of 2016 (Pocono Record [PA] , 04/04/15)
Douglas Cohn & Eleanor Clift: "some presidential elections are more significant than others when Supreme Court nominations are an issue. The election of 2016 will be one of those.... From a strictly actuarial point of view, either President Obama and/or the next president will be making as many as four nominations, and the number could be higher depending upon the health of the justices.... Such a 7-2 Court would be positioned to change the face of the nation.
This scenario is not only possible, it is probable given the current political climate."
EDITORIAL: Fill vacant federal bench without delay (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 04/02/15)
"If U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are serious about border security, they will act quickly to help find a nominee to fill the federal district court vacancy in West Texas.... The U.S. Senate made progress last year confirming federal judges to long-vacant benches, including one in San Antonio. The San Antonio bench was vacant for nearly six years.
The Midland/Pecos bench opening must not be allowed to linger. The White House and Texas senators should put justice and border security before politics and fill the seat vacated by Junell as soon as possible. A long delay would be irresponsible."
Editorial: Move quickly to fill federal judge vacancy (El Paso Times [TX], 04/01/15)
"The most recent federal court vacancy in the Western District of Texas took more than five years to fill. That can't be allowed to happen again with a current vacancy.
The Western District covers a broad swath of Texas, from Waco to El Paso. It is among the busiest districts in the nation ... We encourage Texas' two senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, to quickly open the selection process for Junell's replacement.... Obama and the senators agreed to the appointment of Pitman, who was an excellent choice.
Surely they can find someone equally qualified to fill the current vacancy in the Western District of Texas."
The Threat to Obama from the Courts (New Yorker, 03/31/15)
Jeffrey Toobin: "Nearly every significant initiative of the Obama Presidency faces mortal, or nearly mortal, threats in the courts. ... There is no single defining piece of climate-change litigation, but industry representatives have brought multiple cases challenging virtually everything the Environmental Protection Agency has done to enforce the Clean Air Act. ... the number and scope of the legal threats to Obama appear unprecedented. This comes in part because, these days, the extreme polarization of political opinion in Congress is reflected in the federal courts as well. On the Supreme Court and on lower courts, the differences between conservative and liberal federal judges can lead to dramatic differences in results. Sometimes, it’s worth it for challengers to roll the dice in front of the right judge.... When Congress doesn’t act, the underlying problems don’t go away—and a President will try to address them on his own. This leads to lawsuits in response."
EDITORIAL: Senate Republicans fiddle while world warms: Our view (USA Today, 03/31/15)
"Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January, their actions on climate change have ranged from oblivious to laughable to reckless. ... Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary in the George W. Bush administration, calls global warming "a crisis we can't afford to ignore," and his institute is funding research and advocating for faster action.
George Shultz, secretary of State during the Reagan administration and a pillar of the GOP establishment, is calling for "significant and sustained support" for energy research and development."
Community Board: Midland needs a new federal judge (Midland Reporter-Telegram [TX], 03/30/15)
Community Editorial Board: "Midland-Odessa and Pecos Divisions are presided over by a single judge, and this one person presides over an area that covers 16 counties in West Texas, stretching from Midland to the edge of El Paso -- from the New Mexico border to the Rio Grande. Not surprisingly, criminal activity in this area is large and growing ...But, now West Texas sits with no federal judge appointed to serve our citizens -- no one permanently assigned to preside over the tremendous number of federal cases that need prosecution.... West Texas needs a full-time federal judge to be appointed -- and sooner, rather than later.
I ask my fellow citizens to contact our senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and urge them to begin the process of filling this important judicial position as early as possible. West Texas deserves nothing less."
RJ Editorial: Of bats and fungus (Record Journal [CT], 03/30/15)
"[B]ats play an important role in the ecological system, by pollinating flowers and spreading fruit seeds. Bat waste is so nutrient-rich, farmers use it to fertilize crops. Then bats protect those crops by gobbling up damage-causing insects. ...
The fungal disease taking its toll on bats — known as white-nose syndrome — has prompted the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to recommend placing the “endangered” tag on five of Connecticut’s eight native bat species.
This should be done."
Reid and the Federal Judiciary (Washington Monthly, 03/27/15)
Ed Kilgore: "That Reid, a big-time Senate traditionalist, let himself be convinced this harvest of judges was worth the trouble and controversy of changing the rules on filibusters was a sign he understood his particular challenge and met it."
PFAW Edit Memo: Senate Republicans' Failure to Confirm Obama Nominees — By the Numbers (People For blog, 03/27/15)
"A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when his judicial nominees were considered by a newly-Democratic Senate. ...by end of March 2007, the Senate had confirmed 15 new judges.
The Senate ended up confirming a total of 68 circuit and district court judges during that two-year period....Today, in stark contrast, the number of vacancies is climbing steadily, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 51 today. We see the same thing with judicial emergencies, which have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 23 today."
Living downwind from polluters, Jersey needs EPA muscle | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 03/27/15)
"The EPA wants to impose regulations that would reduce scores of pollutants spit out by power plants, but the coal industry and 21 states have dragged the agency into court to defend the practice of forcing New Jersey and other respiratory bystanders to gag on their smokestacks.... oral arguments before the Supreme Court Wednesday make it easy to pick a side ... Beyond the health concerns - which the EPA is required to protect - coal is a chief culprit in the conversion of the planet into a cosmic hothouse"
How Harry Reid Changed the Federal Courts (New Yorker, 03/27/15)
JEFFREY TOOBIN: "The Senate had confirmed only five Obama appointees to the federal appeals court in the election year of 2012, but Reid moved to double the pace in 2013. Republicans responded by filibustering almost every judicial appointment to the appeals court and slow-walking appointments to the district court, which had been routine and uncontroversial under earlier Presidents. ... With Reid’s blessing, Senate Democrats changed the rules so that only a majority would be required to move lower-court judgeships to a vote. Freed from the threat of filibusters, Reid pushed through thirteen appeals-court judges in 2013 and 2014, a group of exceptional quality. They included Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins on the D.C. Circuit. For the first time in decades, that court now has a majority of Democratic appointees. Other confirmations included such luminaries as Pamela Harris (a noted professor and advocate) on the Fourth Circuit, ... and David Barron (a Harvard law professor and Obama Administration lawyer) on the First. ... At the same time, Reid pushed through more than a hundred district-court judges in his last two years as majority leader."
Editorial Name your poison: For the GOP and coal industry, it's mercury (Los Angeles Times, 03/25/15)
"Given the science as well as the history behind the regulation of coal-fired plants, it is dismaying that the industry and some Republican states continue to challenge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set new limits. And it is especially disturbing that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear their case, which it will do Wednesday, even though its previous rulings on similar environmental matters have clearly upheld the EPA’s broad discretion to regulate such pollutants.... Federal anti-pollution laws exist not to save money (although sometimes they apparently do), but because they protect human lives, reduce suffering and preserve the environment."