Leahy Helps Solve Impasse On Sixth Circuit Nominations

President Sends Former Clinton Nominee To Senate For Consideration

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, April 15, 2008) – After weeks of negotiations, the Senate is poised to resolve an impasse with the Bush administration over vacancies on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House today withdrew the nomination of Steven Joseph Murphy to fill a Michigan seat on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and instead nominated Judge Helene White, a former nominee to the Sixth Circuit during the Clinton administration.  Judge White’s nomination was stalled by the Republican-led Senate, which didn’t consider a single nomination to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the last three years of the Clinton administration. 

“I want to thank Senators Levin and Stabenow for working with the President and with me on these nominations,” said Leahy.  “The nominations received today can go a long way toward resolving a difficult and contentious situation that has existed since Senate Republicans shut down the confirmation process for Sixth Circuit nominees during the last three years of the last Democratic president’s term.”

Leahy continued, “This has been a longstanding problem.  President Clinton’s nominations of Judge Helene White and Kathleen McCree Lewis of Michigan, along with that of Kent Markus of Ohio, were blocked by Senate Republicans.  President Bush has tried to take advantage of that situation.  I urged him to work with the Michigan Senators.  After seven years he finally has, and we have a significant development that can lead to filling the last two vacancies on the Sixth Circuit before this year ends.”

Levin and Stabenow are expected to support the nominations along with the Sixth Circuit nomination of Raymond Kethledge, and the Committee is likely to schedule hearings for them once the necessary paper work has been received by the Senate.  During the Clinton administration, the Republican-led Senate three times failed to consider White’s nomination to a seat on Sixth Circuit.  The Republican majority returned three Sixth Circuit nominations to President Clinton without action, and left four vacancies on that circuit court at the end of the Clinton administration, including two deemed judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  There are currently just two vacancies on that circuit, including the seat to which White was nominated today.


“This stands is sharp contrast to the four vacancies that the Republicans perpetuated on that circuit at the end of President Clinton’s term,” Leahy said.  “Senate Democrats have succeeded in not repeating the terrible treatment of President Clinton’s nominees, already cutting circuit court vacancies in half and lowering them in nearly every circuit.   I thank the President for finally working with us, and congratulate the Michigan Senators for their efforts.  We are resolving a problem on which neither of my two Republican predecessors as Judiciary Committee Chairman was able to make progress.”


Since the start of the Bush administration, the Senate has confirmed seven nominations to the Sixth Circuit.  In this time, the Senate has also cut circuit court vacancies by more than half, reducing them in nine of the 13 circuit courts.


The Senate last week confirmed five judicial nominations, including a circuit court nominee to fill the final vacancy on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.


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For background on Senate consideration of judicial nominations, click here.

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