11.22.09

U.S. Senate Confirms Vermont Judge For Court Vacancy

. . . Christina Reiss Will Be First Woman To Serve On Vermont’s U.S. District Court

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Vermont State Judge Christina Reiss to a judgeship on Vermont’s U.S. District Court.  

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) steered Reiss’s nomination to confirmation by unanimous consent on Saturday night during a rare weekend session in which the Senate also voted to proceed to a debate on health reform legislation.  Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has kept the Vermont nomination on a fast track, securing Judiciary Committee approval of the nomination on Thursday after a hearing on the nomination a few weeks earlier.  Leahy had recommended Reiss to President Obama, who nominated her last month.   

Reiss (pronounced “rice”), of Essex Junction, Vt., will be the first woman to serve on Vermont’s federal district court and will fill the vacancy created when Judge J. Garvan Murtha announced his intention to take senior status on the court, opening the first such vacancy in Vermont in several years. 

Reiss was appointed as a state judge in 2004 by Governor Jim Douglas (R), after having been a partner in two Vermont law firms.  Reiss currently serves as a judge in the Lamoille District of the Vermont Superior Court and Vermont District Courts.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from St. Michael’s College of Vermont and her law degree, in 1989, from the University of Arizona College of Law.  Her experience includes practice as a private litigator specializing in a wide range of legal areas including media, land use, business, employment and federal criminal law.  She received a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association.  

Her selection is the product of screenings conducted by Vermont’s Judicial Nominating Commission, whose members were appointed by Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Vermont Bar Association.  U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) also had input during the selection process.  Of the many applications received, the 9-member nonpartisan panel interviewed and vetted eight finalists, then recommended four to Leahy for consideration.  By longstanding practice, the senior senator of the President’s party recommends candidates for judicial vacancies.  Leahy is Vermont’s senior senator, and the Judiciary Committee first considers judicial nominations in the Senate.  

In a statement after the Senate's confirmation vote, Leahy said, “Judge Reiss is well prepared to step into this vital role in our justice system.  She brings impressive assets of skill and experience to her work on the federal bench in Vermont.  Filling this vacancy has been a high priority for our state, and I appreciate the cooperation we have received in completing this work amid a crowded Senate schedule.” 

Noting that Reiss emerged from a strong field of candidates, Leahy again thanked them and also commended Vermont’s Judicial Nominating Commission for their work.  

Leahy had joined the late Senator Robert Stafford (R-Vt.) in putting together a merit commission for an earlier Vermont judicial vacancy, and Leahy also followed that practice since becoming Vermont’s senior senator.  Merit commissions are not required, but Leahy has said they work well in finding qualified candidates who are grounded by their experience in their communities and that they are “a good fit for our approach to government in Vermont.”

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