Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Judicial Nominations
May 8, 2014
Today, we are again voting to overcome Republican filibusters of four highly qualified judicial nominees. The nominees are Judge Robin Rosenbaum to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit; Indira Talwani to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts; James Peterson to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin; and Nancy Rosenstengel to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
Before proceeding with the qualifications of these four judicial nominees, I would like to address some questions regarding the nomination of David Barron. Mr. Barron has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. There have been press accounts that Senate Republicans are placing a hold on Mr. Barron’s nomination because they are seeking access to a Justice Department memorandum regarding Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda leader who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.
Since Senate Republicans have blocked every single judicial nominee this year from receiving an up-or-down vote, it comes as no surprise that they would attempt to block Mr. Barron as well. This is nothing new. As for the Justice Department memo, the Majority Leader and I have urged the administration to make the memo available to all Senators and the administration has agreed. All Senators can review it for themselves. All members of the Judiciary Committee were previously able to review this memo, and now that his nomination is before the full Senate, it makes sense that all Senators will have that opportunity.
I am confident that once we proceed with Mr. Barron’s nomination that Senators will vote to confirm him. He is brilliant nominee who is currently a professor at Harvard Law School. He is a nationally recognized expert on constitutional law, the separation of powers, administrative law, and federalism. He clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice Stevens has such high regard for Mr. Barron that the Justice attended his nomination hearing.
Mr. Barron has been an outstanding law professor and public servant. He has the credentials, expertise, and temperament to make an outstanding judge. As the acting head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel in the beginning of the Obama administration, one of Mr. Barron’s first actions was to withdraw several of the torture memos that OLC issued during the Bush Administration that found “enhanced interrogation techniques” lawful, including sleep deprivation, stress positions, and waterboarding.
Mr. Barron has stood up for the rights of gay and lesbian students. In 2005, he co-authored amici briefs in the case Rumsfeld v. FAIR, which challenged the Solomon Amendment. The Solomon Amendment provided that if an institution of higher education denies military recruiters or ROTC programs access to campus, the entire institution would lose certain Federal funds. Until 2011, the Department of Defense discriminated based on sexual orientation and many universities did not permit discrimination on campus. In response to a question for the record from Senator Grassley on the issue, Mr. Barron said: “With respect to my participation along with other faculty members and my dean as amici in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, I believed it was important as a faculty member at Harvard Law School to help in the effort to ensure that gay and lesbian students at my institution continued to have equal opportunities to seek legal employment.”
Mr. Barron is truly an outstanding nominee and I hope all Senators will support his nomination when it comes up. Today, we will vote to end the filibusters of four other very highly qualified nominees.
Judge Robin Rosenbaum has been nominated to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. She has served since 2012 as a U.S. District Judge in the Southern District of Florida, where she was previously a United States Magistrate Judge. Prior to her judicial service, she served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida from 1998 to 2007. Judge Rosenbaum has previously practiced as at Holland & Knight, LLP and as a Trial Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division. In 1998, she served as a law clerk to Judge Stanley Marcus of the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She has the bipartisan support of her home state senators, Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio. The Judiciary Committee reported her nomination by voice vote to the full Senate on March 6, 2014.
Indira Talwani has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. She has worked in private practice at Segal Roitman, LLP since 1999, and has been a partner at the firm since 2003. She has previously practiced at the law firm of Altshuler Berzon LLP, where she was also a partner. After graduating from law school, Ms. Talwani served as law clerk to Judge Stanley Weigel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. She has the support of her home state senators, Senator Warren and Senator Markey. The Judiciary Committee reported her favorably to the full Senate by voice vote on February 6, 2014.
James Peterson has been nominated to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. He has worked in private practice at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. since 1999, where he has been a Shareholder since 2007. Mr. Peterson has served as lead counsel on at least 15 civil cases that have been litigated to judgment. He has also actively participated in nine jury trials, three of which he was lead counsel. Mr. Peterson has briefed and argued civil appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the Federal Circuit, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He has also authored two amicus briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Peterson has served as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated Mr. Peterson “Well Qualified” to serve on the Western District of Wisconsin Court, its highest rating. He has the bipartisan support of his home state senators, Senator Johnson and Senator Baldwin. The Judiciary Committee reported him favorably to the full Senate by voice vote on February 6, 2014.
Nancy Rosenstengel has been nominated to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. She has served since 2009 as the Clerk of Court to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. She previously served for 11 years as a career law clerk to Judge G. Patrick Murphy of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Illinois. As a career law clerk, she assisted Judge Murphy in hundreds of civil and criminal cases. She also worked in private practice at Sandberg, Phoenix, & von Gontard as an Associate from 1993 to 1998. She earned her B.A. cum laude from the University of Illinois in 1990. She earned her J.D. with honors from the Southern Illinois University Law School in 1993, where she was as an editor on the Southern Illinois University Law Journal. She has the bipartisan support of her home state senators, Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk. The Judiciary Committee reported her nomination by voice vote to the full Senate on March 6, 2014.
Each of these nominees has the experience, judgment, and legal acumen to be good judges in our Federal courts. I thank the Majority Leader for filing cloture petitions and I hope my fellow senators will join me today to end these filibusters so that these nominees can get working on behalf of the American people.
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