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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Facts show filibuster letter was all wrong (Pocono Record [PA] , 01/10/14)
GLENN SUGAMELI Letter to the Editor: "Facts and history dispel the arguments in a Jan. 2 letter, "Filibuster change will haunt Democrats."... Patricia Millett was praised by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce's chief litigator. The second nominee was endorsed by arch-conservative Viet Dinh, and the third was previously confirmed unanimously by the Senate as a federal judge....The recent Senate rules change, however, was triggered by Republican senators' repudiation of that compromise. Unprecedented filibusters had the declared intent and result of blocking votes on any possible Obama nominee to fill three D.C. Circuit vacancies, after Senate Democrats helped confirm four President George W. Bush judges to the court. ...Bipartisan Senate simple majority votes rejected Bork and confirmed Thomas, Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court."

Guest column: At-risk species still need protection (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 01/10/14)
George Fenwick: "Some of these critics blame the ESA (falsely) for larger economic problems. Some would gladly sacrifice rare species and their habitats in order to boost short-term profits. Allies of these critics in the U.S. Congress have repeatedly slashed funding for the ESA listing and enforcement process, which has been admirably carried out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service."

Republicans Say That the Senate Historian Opposes Filibuster Reform. Not Quite. (Slate Magazine, 01/09/14)
David Weigel: Sen. "Alexander has condensed those thoughts into a Politico op-ed. It makes one strategic mistake: It quotes from a 2013 history of the Senate, co-written by the body's official historian, Richard A. Baker, and journalist Neil MacNeil.... the authors acknowledge that the January 2013 filibuster reform was a positive thing. The book was published before the filibuster was ended for executive branch nominees, but when they referred to "long-needed changes" to correct "excessive use," I'm guessing the authors meant exactly that."

Morning report: judges  (Arkansas Times, 01/09/14)
Max Brantley: "The Senate Judiciary Committee had Obama judicial nominations, including Moody's and another from Arkansas, on its agenda this morning. They've all been pushed back a week ... Looks like more GOP obstructionism. Comments Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who follows the federal judiciary on further delays for Moody and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville: 'There is no reason for further delay other than obstruction as they are well qualified consensus nominees who deserve final votes. This only hurts the other judges in Ark. And people litigating in federal court there for no reason.'"

Morning Memo: Burr continues to stonewall judicial nomination (News and Observer [NC] , 01/09/14)
John Frank: "A renewed effort this week by the White House to fill the nation’s longest-running federal district court judicial vacancy — a seat in the Eastern District of North Carolina — again has been met by an unexplained stonewall. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, has yet to submit his “blue slip,” ... Burr has yet to explain his inaction. In July 2009, he included May-Parker, a federal prosecutor in the 44-county Eastern District that stretches from Raleigh to the coast, on a short list for President Barack Obama to consider. ... If confirmed, she would make history as the first African-American federal district judge in the Eastern District. The seat has sat empty since Jan. 1, 2006."

Republicans Obstruct Judicial Nominees They Supported Last Year (People For blog, 01/09/14)
"Among the 29 nominees delayed for no reason this morning are nine nominees who were approved by the committee last year but were denied a confirmation vote due to GOP obstructionism. All nine had been approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, eight of them unanimously....Another 15 of the nominees delayed today were scheduled for committee votes last year, but those votes were repeatedly delayed by the GOP."

Has Burr turned against a judicial nominee he recommended? (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 01/09/14)
Doug Clark, editorial writer: "A presidential nominee should be granted a hearing at least. ... Meanwhile, a federal judicial seat in North Carolina that's been open since 2006 remains unfilled ... and we don't know why."

Why is Sen. Burr blocking his own nominee? (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 01/09/14)
Editorial page editor, Taylor Batten: "Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is blocking his own nominee to the federal bench. In 2009, Burr sent a letter to President Obama recommending Jennifer May-Parker to be a U.S. District judge for the eastern North Carolina district, which runs from Raleigh to the coast. May-Parker, along with other nominees Burr recommended for other spots, had "the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction," Burr wrote. ... Burr is vetoing his own nominee by withholding the blue slip. Burr has not explained his approach.... May-Parker, chief of the appellate division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the eastern district, would become the first African-American judge in the district. The seat has been vacant since 2006 -- the longest federal district court vacancy in the nation. Burr's action is puzzling. If May-Parker has done something to lose his support, he should make that clear. If it's mere politics, he should submit his blue slip and let the Senate committee debate May-Parker's qualifications."

White House Gives Up On William Thomas, Gay Black Judicial Nominee Blocked By Marco Rubio (Huffington Post, 01/08/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "Rubio has been single-handedly blocking Thomas for months, despite recommending him to Obama in 2012 as a nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. ... HuffPost previously reviewed materials provided by Rubio's office that outlined the senator's justification for sinking Thomas' nomination, and nothing egregious stood out in either of the two cases."a

Richard Burr Blocks Judicial Nominee After Recommending Her To Obama (Huffington Post, 01/08/14)
Rubio isn't the only Republican senator holding up a judicial nominee he previously supported. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is also refusing to advance Jennifer May-Parker, a nomiee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, though Burr previously put May-Parker forward for the post. In a July 2009 letter to the White House, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Burr recommended May-Parker for the slot and described her as having "the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction." Obama formally submitted her nomination to the Senate in June 2013. But May-Parker hasn’t moved since because Burr is withholding his "blue slip" to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- a de-facto rule in the committee that allows a senator to advance or block a nominee for his or her home state. Fellow North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D) has submitted her blue slip. Burr hasn't said why he's holding up May-Parker, and there is urgency to the delay: The North Carolina judicial seat, empty since 2005, is the longest-standing court vacancy in the country. May-Parker would also make history, if confirmed, as the first African-American district judge in the 44-county Eastern District

Letter shows that Richard Burr previously endorsed nominee he’s now blocking for court seat (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/08/14)
Rob Schofield: "Perhaps part of the reason for the resubmission of the nomination was the recent coming to light of a letter from 2009 (reported by The Huffington Post) in which Burr explicitly endorsed May-Parker for the seat! ... Let’s hope the President and his team are right and that Senator Burr comes to his senses and endorses May-Parker right away. At a bare minimum, he needs to publicly address and explain his complete flipflop on the matter as soon as possible or face real questions about his honesty and integrity."

Republican reversals on judicial nominees stymies White House (Daily Kos, 01/08/14)
Joan McCarter: "Two Republican senators have withdrawn their support of federal judge nominees they had previously recommended to President Obama. Sen. Marco Rubio withdrew his endorsement of William Thomas to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has pulled his support from Jennifer May-Parker, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina that he put forward. The Florida seat has been vacant for 20 months and is categorized as a judicial emergency. Rubio put Thomas forward, back in 2012, then backtracked, refusing to provide a "blue slip" to the Judiciary Committee to advance the nomination. The North Carolina seat have been vacant since January 1, 2006, making it the longest-running vacancy in the federal judiciary."

On Senate Blue-Slips, A Modest Proposal (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 01/08/14)
Andrew Cohen: "The Administration gave up on Thomas’ nomination even though he was well qualified for the position and even after Rubio’s stated reasons for blocking the nomination were undermined by, well, by the facts. You could say that Rubio was for Thomas before he was against him. At least Rubio gave a reason for his flip-flop ... When Oklahoma’s two Republican senators blocked the nomination of Arvo Mikkanen for a trial seat in 2011, for example, they never publicly explained why. Nor did Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican from North Carolina, who blue-slipped Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination there after first endorsing her candidacy. ... if a senator checks off “I oppose” to a nominee that senator ought to be required to explain in detail why."

Marco Rubio Single-Handedly Blocks Nomination Of Black, Gay Federal Judge (Above the Law, 01/08/14)
Joe Patrice: "Blocking judges for nakedly political reasons is uncouth, and the fig leaf that Senator Rubio found was the sentence Judge Thomas imposed in one hit-and-run case during the course of his nearly decade-long stint on the bench. Unfortunately for the senator, the prosecutor of all people sided with Judge Thomas: ... Senator Rubio is just clutching at straws to get back his conservative bona fides ... But the question posed by this episode is whether any other ambitious senator (or for that matter any senator fearing a rightward primary challenge) will join the “blue slip” brigade."

The President has resubmitted 64 judicial nominees to the Senate... (Southern District of Florida Blog, 01/07/14)
David Markus: "...including Robin Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor. Notably, William Thomas was left off of the list. This really is too bad as he never got his chance for an up or down vote with the Senate. The federal judiciary's loss is the state court's gain."

Rubio Should Not Have the Last Word on Florida Nominee (People For blog, 01/07/14)
"Rubio's opposition meant that Thomas was never afforded an opportunity to correct the record in a public hearing, under the current "blue slip" policy of Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy. ...Another Florida judge was so frustrated at the misinformation being reported about this case that he wrote a letter to Sen. Rubio correcting the record and explaining how the sentence was consistent with Florida's sentencing guidelines for the crime.... The second case ... Judge Thomas's decision had come in 2006 (many years before the nomination), was widely reported at the time, and was well known when Rubio recommended Thomas for a federal judgeship. ... If Sen. Rubio genuinely had a problem with the nomination, he could have publicly testified before the Judiciary Committee. But he did not dare do that, since his reasons were too flimsy to withstand the scrutiny he would have received"

Burr’s silent blockade continues (Progressive Pulse [NC], 01/06/14)
Rob Schofield: "speaking of why courts matter and why progressives need to a do a better job of fighting back against the right-wing stranglehold on judicial nominations, today marks the 3 1/2 month mark since NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey first reported on Senator Richard Burr’s silent and unexplained blockade of Federal District Court nominee Jennifer May-Parker. That such an important elected official has been allowed to take this action without any explanation to his constituents and not yet received universal condemnation from every news media outlet in the state is a continuing outrage."

Shaheen’s vote to alter Senate’s filibuster rules was a vote for progress (Telegraph [Nashua, NH], 01/05/14)
Mike Pignatelli Op-Ed: "no longer can tea party Republicans gridlock the government and our judicial system by refusing to hold a simple up or down vote on federal judges"

Editorial: Southeast Florida must head off effects of climate change, sea level rise (Palm Beach Post [FL], 01/04/14)
"The Post reported last month that rising sea levels threaten more than half of Florida’s endangered species. What threatens wildlife also threatens humans, which is why all of Southeast Florida must work to head off this potential crisis."

Editorial: Thumbs down (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/03/14)
"Thumbs down to the Obama administration for failing to nominate a replacement for U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, who moved to senior status 14 months ago. Meanwhile, Fresno's federal courthouse labors under one of the highest caseloads in the nation and, as The Bee's John Ellis reported on Dec. 28, judicial employees there anxiously await Ishii's replacement. Don Fischbach, a Fresno attorney who chaired a screening committee of potential nominees set up by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, told Ellis that the committee long ago finished its work."

Editorial: The raptors' return / Success story (Press of Atlantic City [NJ] , 01/02/14)
"40 years ago, New Jersey adopted the Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act, and Congress enacted the federal Endangered Species Act. ... The return of the eagles, ospreys and falcons is also a civics lesson. It teaches us that we can tackle big problems that at first seem insurmountable. We've done it before. This recovery wouldn't have been possible without government programs and without strong environmental regulations."

The anniversary of a federal act of empathy (Salt Lake Tribune [UT] , 01/01/14)
Terry Tempest Williams: "if we look at the success story behind the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, we may be impressed by what a single law with vision can do.... The 1973 Endangered Species Act has been more than 99 percent successful at preventing extinction of species under its watch.... A journalist from Washington, D.C., recently asked me, "Who is the most powerful individual in the American West right now?" "Sage grouse," I answered."

Save the Shark, Save the World (New York Times, 12/31/13)
OP-ED By JOSHUA S. REICHERT: "Given China’s immense size and expanding influence, it has the potential to play a key role in helping to solve the problems of climate change, overfishing, pollution and conservation. The new shark-fin diplomacy may prove to be a pivotal event — but only if China adopts the environmental leadership that the world so desperately needs."

In Our View/Endangered Species Act As the ESA hits middle age (Herald [WA] , 12/31/13)
"NEPA's environmental impact statements reshaped the responsibility of government, documenting how we affect the natural world and reining in (some) of the damage. ... The ESA was similarly elastic and ambitious. All federal departments would need to work in common cause to conserve the habitats of threatened and endangered species. It was a watershed law that has made a tangible difference not only for threatened critters but for entire ecosystems. As The Herald's Bill Sheets reports, 99 percent of the listed species have avoided extinction. And many of the success stories had a positive effect on mammals of the bipedal variety (read: you and me.) ... Without an ESA, we would have a less ecologically rich planet."

The Law That Saved the Bald Eagle (New York Times, 12/31/13)
Editorial Page Editor's blog by ROBERT B. SEMPLE JR.: "on Saturday the environmental community rightly celebrated the 40th anniversary of the passage of one of the most ambitious of the Nixon era’s landmark environmental statutes: the Endangered Species Act. ... most of those species, once headed for extinction, can hardly be expected to rebuild healthy, sustainable populations overnight. A much better measure is that only about 30 species have gone to their doom, 37 species have been or will soon be removed from the list, and well over half are deemed stable or on the road to recovery. ... Individual species aside, the act’s provisions requiring the preservation of a threatened animal’s habitat has resulted in enormous gains for the environment as a whole."

The value of wildlife conservation in Colorado  (Pueblo Chieftain [CO], 12/30/13)
Jonathan Proctor, Rockies & Plains program director for Defenders of Wildlife: "Coloradans can be proud this month as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) — our nation’s law designed to protect imperiled plants and animals from extinction — turns 40. Some of the ESA’s greatest success stories have occurred and are now occurring in our own back yard."

Guest Columnist Lee Talbot: Four decades of conservation in jeopardy? (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 12/29/13)
"One would think that with such success, the 40th anniversary of the ESA would be celebrated from coast to coast. But instead, the ESA is in grave danger. There is a segment of our elected officials that is willing to kill off any sort of regulation, no matter how beneficial it is to the public....Bills that would be unheard of a few decades ago now seem commonplace; extremes such as legislation to sell off our federal lands, waive environmental safeguards, undermine endangered species protections and allow for dangerous and unsustainable development on our public lands don’t even appear to rank high enough on the radar to be covered by the press today. This anti-regulatory, anti-conservation movement on Capitol Hill is unprecedented. It is too willing to sell our health, wildlife and natural treasures off for short-term corporate gains for the few, resulting in long-term loses for our country and our people."

EDITORIAL Our Opinion: Endangered; Proposal before Congress would change the way we protect species (Tallahassee Democrat [FL] , 12/29/13)
"Now, there is a serious threat to the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act (Senate Bill 1731), introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., would hand more of the decision-making on endangered species to the states. Each new listing of an endangered species would require a joint resolution of Congress as well as approval of the governors in states affected. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have to pay landowners more than the market value of their land if its value was reduced by an endangered-species listing. The Fish and Wildlife service would be barred from managing or monitoring species that occur only within one state. Translation: Economics would gain the upper hand over species protection. Here in Florida, home to so many visible and popular endangered species, the people understand the value of the current law. A survey by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences found that 66 percent of those responding felt the Endangered Species Act should be strengthened, and 78 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “the use and development of land should be restricted to protect endangered species.”"

Viewpoints: 40-year-old Endangered Species Act sets a high standard in forbidding extinction (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 12/29/13)
Peter Moyle: climate change is warming the rivers and accelerating the declines of already depleted fish populations....The Endangered Species Act sets a high standard in this regard because it not only forbids extinction; it also mandates recovery of each species to a more sustainable state."

Editorial: Bad year for manatees; With record number of sea cow deaths in 2013, Florida must get serious about self-preservation (Florida Today, 12/29/13)
"Because in a state so dependent on its aquatic environments, looking to 2014 and beyond, manatees just might be Florida's version of a canary in a coal mine."