Judiciary Committee Reports Four District Court Nominations

WASHINGTON (Thursday, October 15, 2009) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved four nominations to federal district courts in California.  The nominations will now await consideration by the full Senate.

The nominations of Jacqueline Nguyen to the Central District of California, Edward Chen to the Northern District of California, Dolly Gee to the Central District of California, and Richard Seeborg to the Northern District of California were first considered at a hearing on September 23.  The four nominees reported Thursday join 15 other nominations approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee that remain pending on the Senate’s executive calendar, including six that have been stalled since before the Senate’s August recess.  There are now 11 judicial nominations pending before the full Senate.

“All the nominees reported today are extremely qualified individuals and three of the four nominees were rated as unanimously well qualified by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).  “I am pleased that President Obama has continued his pledge to nominate well qualified men and women who reflect America’s diversity and I hope that these nominations are not held up on the Senate floor.”

The next hearing to consider pending nominations will be held on October 21.  The Committee will consider the nominations of Jane Stranch to be a U.S. Circuit Court Judge for the Sixth Circuit, and Benjamin Tucker to be Deputy Director for State, Local and Tribal Affairs for the Office of Drug Control Policy.  The hearing will be webcast live online.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
 Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Judicial Nominations
Executive Business Meeting
October 15, 2009

All four of the nominees on the agenda today are superbly qualified for lifetime appointments to the Federal bench.  All four come with strong endorsements from Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer, who each recommended them.

This is an historic day.  This is the first time that three Asian Pacific American nominees have been considered by the Committee at the same time.  In fact, three Asian Pacific American judicial nominees have never been confirmed in the same year.  The progress we make today is long overdue.  Of the approximately 875 judges on the Federal bench, only eight are Asian Pacific American.  That is less than one percent.

President Obama is following through on his commitment to nominate men and women to the Federal bench who reflect the diversity of America.  Diversity on the bench helps ensure that the words “equal justice under law,” inscribed in Vermont marble over the entrance to the Supreme Court, are a reality, and that justice is rendered fairly and impartially.  Today is an important milestone not only for the Asian Pacific American community, but for all Americans.

I protected the right of the Ranking Member and the Republican Senators on the Committee to delay action on these nominations for one week.  But we should not further delay making progress in reporting all four nominations to the full Senate, especially in light of the excessive obstruction of nominees on the Executive Calendar that we have seen.

There are currently seven judicial nominations, as well as eight nominations for key positions in the executive branch that have been reported by this Committee, that are stalled in the Senate.  The stalling has reached unprecedented proportions.

This is the first year of the President’s term, when the President is traditionally accorded deference and is able to appoint people to help administer the executive branch.  Yet nominees to be Assistant Attorneys General in charge of four of the 11 Divisions at the Justice Department still await Senate action, three of them from before August recess.

With respect to judicial nominees, the story is even worse.  We have confirmed only one circuit court and one district court nomination all year.  President Obama made his first judicial nomination, that of David Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit, in March, and it has been stalled on the Executive Calendar since early June, despite the support of the senior Republican in the Senate, Senator Lugar.  By this point in President Bush’s first term with a Democratic majority, the Senate had already confirmed eight of his judicial nominations, including four circuit court nominations, even though President Bush did not make his first nomination until May.

The delays in considering judicial nominations pose a serious problem in light of the alarming spike in judicial vacancies on our Federal courts.  There are now 96 vacancies on Federal circuit and district courts and another 24 future vacancies already announced—that is 120 vacancies total.   Vacancies now near record levels.  Justice should be neither delayed nor denied to any American because of over-burdened courts.  We can do better.  The American people deserve better.

I hope that Senators from both sides of the aisle will join be in supporting all four non-controversial well-qualified nominees on our agenda today.    

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