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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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LETTER: Senate should act on judicial vacancies now, not later (Erie Times-News [PA], 11/25/14)
Brenda Barron: "Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, along with their colleagues in the Senate, must make confirmation of judicial nominees a priority in the upcoming "lame duck" session....Republican obstructionism has delayed or derailed many of President Obama's judicial nominations. The resulting shortage of judges means our court system is now struggling to keep up with the growing backlog of cases."

The GOP targets the EPA, again: Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 11/24/14)
"It was inevitable that congressional Republicans, bloated by midterm hubris, would renew their attack on science with the vigor of a sadistic child who tears the wings off butterflies. So the House passed two “reform” bills aimed at the EPA this week.... Essentially, it is another attempt by some to prevent the EPA from adopting new rules that protect public health."

Editorial: Fix the Senate (Boston Globe, 11/24/14)
"Increasingly, senators have been using their role of “advice and consent” to delay and refuse, not just controversial nominees, but everyone. Republicans are trying to run out the clock on Obama’s term. This is abuse of power. Nominees, the vast majority of whom have put other professional responsibilities on hold to serve their country, deserve consideration. Now that the Senate is set to change hands, leaders should agree to hold up-or-down votes as soon as possible on these nominees.... Another change that should be made is the removal of anonymous holds....When Democrats were faced with near-universal obstructionism on their nominees, they changed the Senate rules to avoid filibusters and get more quickly to an up-or-down vote. Thanks to the so-called “nuclear option,” it only takes 51 senators to confirm a presidential nominee... Presidential nominees deserve consideration, and the public deserves a government that is able to break through gridlock."

EDITORIAL: Texas sea turtles’ future in jeopardy (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 11/23/14)
"The bad news comes as federal research dollars have been slashed, funding from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment for turtle patrols along the Texas coast is coming to an end, and turtle patrols have been cut. The Natural Marine Fisheries Service has abandoned plans to require excluder devices on shrimp boats to safeguard against turtles drowning in nets. It would be terrible to lose these turtles after the investment of so much time, effort and funding to grow their numbers. We urge the federal government to restore funding taken from the Mexico/U.S. Binational Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Population Restoration Program."

U.S. Senate needs to confirm federal judges (Denver Post [CO] , 11/23/14)
Amanda Gonzalez letter to the editor: "Colorado’s senators have gone back to Washington for a “lame duck” session, and one area where bipartisan cooperation might be possible is the confirmation of federal judge nominees. More than 60 federal judgeships are vacant, and 16 nominations are sitting waiting for Senate votes — mostly with bipartisan approvals by the Judiciary Committee.... We deserve a fully staffed judiciary to make sure justice is served. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet should remain in Washington until the Senate clears its calendar of pending judicial nominees."

Make sure federal courts fully staffed (Editor's Inbox) ( Mason City Globe Gazette [IA], 11/23/14)
Dean Genth: "I urge Sen. Chuck Grassley to use his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to make sure our federal courts are fully staffed. Federal judges hear cases that directly affect the lives of everyday Americans, including cases addressing clean air and water,... Many of the pending nominees are the result of bipartisan agreement."

Letter: Terms up for Begich but work left to be done (Juneau Empire [AK] , 11/20/14)
John Dunker: "there is just enough time for the Senate to confirm the outstanding judicial nominations to our federal courts, so essential to our system of checks and balances (if the Dems have the will). Sadly, this is not likely to be bipartisan so expect loud howling, but the result of the Democratic majority’s inaction now would likely be two more years of partisan Republican blocking of judicial nominee confirmations, a growing number of vacant seats on the court bench, currently 64, and lengthening docket backlogs. Inaction would then be the Senate Democrats’ legacy as well as the Republicans,’ a legacy that could extend far beyond the next two years in its effect on how the courts help shape our society."

Senate Republicans Use Lame Duck To Block Their Own Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 11/18/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed Senate Judiciary Committee action by a week on nine judicial nominees for no evident reason. That group includes three Texas nominees with strong support from Texas Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R). Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is refusing to submit his so-called "blue slip" to advance a Utah judicial nominee he's previously praised as "well known and highly regarded." And Republicans are forcing four Georgia judicial nominees with strong support from Georgia's GOP senators to each wait an extra day before they can get confirmed."

Congress should fill judicial vacancies (Miami Herald, 11/18/14)
Letter to the Editor by Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida: "Currently, there are more than 60 judicial openings across the federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months, or even years, because of partisan gridlock and obstruction. All across the country, these vacancies are seriously hurting citizens’ ability to have their day in court. The lame-duck session in Washington provides senators, including Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, a chance to address this growing crisis. At least two dozen nominees are or will soon be awaiting confirmation votes. Senators need to act quickly and in a bipartisan spirit to make the most of the session by filling the judicial vacancies with qualified nominees."

EDITORIAL: President, Senate must begin filling federal court vacancies, including 2 in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 11/17/14)
"[T]here is a very real problem in filling vacancies to the lower federal courts. The issue is most pressing here in Western New York....Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has recommended that the president nominate Denise O’Donnell, a former U.S. attorney, to replace Skretny and Lawrence J. Vilardo, one of Western New York’s top litigators, to replace Arcara. The president has yet to nominate either one. Both are respected by Democrats and Republicans and, as such, deserve to be nominated and then confirmed. There are 62 vacancies on the federal courts, with 36 nominees pending, and 28 future vacancies, with two nominees pending. The vacancies only worsen delays in the federal court system. The president has a duty to nominate qualified people for the vacancies, and the Senate has a duty to investigate and vote on the nominees. Talk of Supreme Court vacancies is an argument for another day. The president and the Senate need to deal with the immediate problem in the lower courts."

PD Editorial: A bold step on climate change  (Press Democrat [CA] , 11/16/14)
"In short, human activity is contributing to climate change, and we are approaching the point of no return. Against that backdrop, the landmark agreement between the United States and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a major breakthrough. The antagonistic reaction from coal-country Republicans who will lead the next Congress is an even larger disappointment."

Mercury News editorial: China climate pact at least sets back deniers (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 11/15/14)
"But at its core, the pact shows that the Chinese government accepts the scientifically proven impact of carbon emissions on the rapidly warming climate and wishes to be seen as doing something about it. This is in contrast to a newly empowered Republican Congress, however, which considers it all a joke."

The Register's Editorial: Nation needs Grassley's leadership (Des Moines Register [IA], 11/15/14)
"One of the Judiciary Committee's most important duties is to recommend whether the Senate should give its blessing to the president's nominees to the federal judiciary. The confirmation process has become mired in partisan rancor .... As a member of the committee and as a rank-and-file senator, Grassley has done his part to perpetuate if not exaggerate those confirmation wars. In his new role as chairman, Grassley should work to end them. That would be a major accomplishment in the interest of improving the reputation of the Senate and the functioning of the federal courts. ... Every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote from the Senate with a simple majority prevailing. ... Senators should respect the president's constitutional appointment power by confirming even nominees they may disagree with. Grassley has a mixed record on that point. In the past he voted for nominees whose politics he opposed because he agreed with the principle of presidential prerogative. But in recent years he has become increasingly partisan, casting votes against otherwise highly qualified nominees he considers too liberal.... It is time for these destructive confirmation wars to end. Now that he is to become chairman of the committee that acts as a gatekeeper for judicial nominees, Grassley has the opportunity to make that happen, and he should."

EDITORIAL: Grassley is a good fit for Judiciary (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 11/14/14)
"We’re confident that Grassley will treat judicial appointments and other nominees fairly, and resist pressure to delay and obstruct purely for political ends. We don’t want a “rubber stamp,” but we also don’t want competent, qualified nominees to be sacrificed to political brinkmanship."

Saturday's Letters: ELECTION MANDATE (Florida Times-Union, 11/14/14)
Damien Filer: "Until the remaining vacancies are filled — and there are more than 60 of them — the shortage of judges will mean a backlog of cases that makes access to justice difficult for many Americans. If our Florida senators want to show they are in Washington to get the job done, then moving quickly to fill the remaining court vacancies is a good start. The Senate should remain in session until it has cleared its calendar of pending judicial nominees."

Editorial: U.S.-China climate deal offers hope  (Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, 11/14/14)
"Last week’s historic U.S.-China agreement on carbon emissions could be a turning point in the world’s climate change strategy if both sides live up to their promises. ...For the United States, China’s pledges dampen a long-standing excuse for congressional inaction."

Editorial: Promising move on climate change but what will Republicans say now? (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 11/14/14)
"Now that China has committed to producing enough zero-emissions energy by 2030 to power the entire United States, Sen. Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans will have to find a new excuse for doing nothing about climate change.... Longer term, it also makes sense that the world's largest country wants to avert massive droughts, floods, rising sea levels, superstorms and the resulting conflicts, suffering, chaos and costs. If anything is shocking, it's the lack of urgency in the U.S. Congress, especially among Republicans, to protect our descendants from climate disaster."

Filling the federal court vacancies (The Hill, 11/14/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Obama has actually enjoyed remarkable success in nominating and confirming very qualified mainstream candidates while shattering all records for diversity vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and sexual preference. Because Republicans and Democrats agree that filling the 60 federal court vacancies with qualified consensus jurists is essential to delivering justice, they should promptly cooperate to propose and appoint excellent judges."

Commentary: Addressing backlog of judicial nominees: A “must” for the upcoming lame duck session (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Rob Schofield: "Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. As we’ve detailed at length in this space previously, two of these vacancies are here in North Carolina and one has sat empty for eight years. In such an environment, it is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote....In the 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed."

Former Fed. Defender Judge Luis Restrepo Nominated for 3rd Cir. (Findlaw, 11/13/14)
U.S. Third Circuit blog by William Peacock: "in 2012, he was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with the support of both Pennsylvania senators (one from each party) and with widespread support in Congress. Given that both of Pennsylvania's senators are on board with his nomination once again, and the wide margin of his confirmation vote last time, even the midterm switch to a Republican-controlled Senate doesn't seem like much of an obstacle to confirmation. After all, this is about as middle-of-the-road as a nominee of a Democratic president can get."

Judiciary Committee hearing today for Middle District nominee Loretta Copeland Biggs (Progressive Pulse [NC], 11/13/14)
Sharon McCloskey: "if confirmed by the Senate, Biggs will take the seat opened up by Judge James Beaty, who nows serves on senior status. Her addition to the court would be welcome news and would begin to address the stunning lack of diversity on the state’s federal bench. But another nominee, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker — chosen by the President to fill the country’s oldest federal District Court vacancy out in eastern North Carolina — continues to languish. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr inexplicably continues to withhold the “blue slip” indicating his support for her for, despite his public statements condemning delays and other obstructive tactics interfering with judicial confirmations."

Editorial: A Major Breakthrough on Climate Change (New York Times, 11/13/14)
"The deal jointly announced in Beijing by President Obama and China’s president, Xi Jinping, to limit greenhouse gases well beyond their earlier pledges ... the agreement cuts the ground from under people like Mitch McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, and others who have long argued that there is no point in taking aggressive steps against greenhouse gases as long as major developing countries refused to do likewise."

Editorial | A key climate deal (Courier-Journal [KY] , 11/13/14)
"As the world’s two leading producers of greenhouse gases, the United States and China can lead the way in reducing dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum and thereby reducing carbon emissions linked to climate change.... Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell ... should be heartened that China has joined the United States to fight such pollution. It was just last month, while campaigning, that he said “no on else is going to do that.” ...Far from acknowledging his error, Mr. McConnell issued a statement bashing the president"

Editorial Why the U.S.-China climate deal is so important (Los Angeles Times, 11/13/14)
"Conservative Republicans seem to see the battle against climate change as a costly and unnecessary war on cheap and plentiful energy. ... In truth, there is a dollar cost either way, and studies estimate that the price of ignoring climate change — in the form of flood, drought, crop loss and so forth — is far higher than that of doing something about it."

Letter of the Day: A chance to address judicial backlog (Tampa Tribune [FL] , 11/13/14)
Mark Ferrulo: "there is a critical opportunity for senators to demonstrate that they can set aside differences and get the people’s work done. How? By moving quickly to fill the remaining judicial vacancies that have hamstrung our court system. Federal courts rule on cases that directly impact our lives, including cases addressing pollution, immigration, bankruptcy, equal rights, access to health care and more. But without adequate staffing, cases get backlogged, and justice cannot be served. There are more than 60 judicial openings across our federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months or even years due to partisan gridlock and obstruction. Across the country, these vacancies are seriously impacting citizens’ ability to have their day in court."

Burr, Hagan join to support judicial nominee (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 11/13/14)
Editorial writer Doug Clark’s Blog: Off The Record: "

Editorial: Bold step on climate change (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 11/12/14)
"The agreement between the United States and China to curb carbon emissions is a historic step toward addressing the dire threats posed by climate change."

Editorial: Senate needs to get on with Loretta Lynch’s U.S. attorney general confirmation: Confirming Loretta Lynch to be the next U.S. Attorney General should be the job of this Congress, not the next. (Seattle Times [WA] , 11/12/14)
"The Senate confirmation process has become increasingly excruciating — with nomination of 33 federal judgeships pending, 16 of them on the Senate floor.”

Lame duck session is personal for some people (Washington Post, 11/12/14)
Al Kamen: "The 16 district (trial court) judges pending also offer ground for compromise — in part because they’re not up for the more important appeals court seats. Two of them already have “unanimous consent” agreements, so they are assured of putting on the robes. Most of the rest enjoy solid GOP backing, including four backed by Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, four from Pennsylvania supported by Sen. Pat Toomey and two from Kentucky, including one who’s Sen. Rand Paul’s neighbor and friend. Another eight district court nominees are expected to be on the floor next week, including three who are backed by Texas GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. So if anyone’s looking for any easy “See? We can get things done,” chest-thumpers, nominees may be the place to start."