Senate Confirms Two District Court Judges

WASHINGTON – The Senate Tuesday afternoon confirmed two nominations to fill vacancies on federal district court.  The Senate confirmed Timothy Black to a seat in the Southern District of Ohio, and Jon E. DeGuilio to a seat in the Northern District of Indiana. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has been pressing for floor time to consider the more than 20 judicial nominations pending before the full Senate.  Sixteen of the 22 judicial nominations still pending on the Senate’s executive calendar were reported by the Judiciary Committee without dissent.  Judicial nominations have been pending since as long ago as November. 

The full text of Leahy’s statement on the confirmation of Timothy Black and Jon DeGuilio follows.

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Nominations Of Timothy S. Black And Jon E. DeGuilio
May 11, 2010

This week, the President nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.  I trust that her nomination will be treated better than President Obama’s other judicial nominations, including these.  President Obama nominated Jon DeGuilio to fill a judicial emergency vacancy in Indiana last year.  He was unanimously reported by the bipartisan membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early March.  His nomination has been held hostage for two months.  President Obama nominated Judge Timothy Black last January, and he was reported unanimously in early February.  His nomination has been held hostage for three months for no good purpose, and with no explanation.  Republican objection to their consideration has stalled both these nominations.  Now that they are finally receiving votes, I suspect they will be confirmed unanimously, as have so many of President Obama’s nominations.  So why the delay?  Why the weeks and weeks, and months and months, of obstruction?  This obstruction is of nominees that Senate Republicans support.  This is wrong.  I have called for it to end, but the Republican Senate leadership persists in this practice.

By this date in President Bush’s first term, 56 of President Bush’s judicial nominations had been confirmed.  Now that President Obama is in the White House, Republicans have allowed votes on only 23 of his Federal circuit and district court nominees.

The two nominations we consider today, that of Timothy S. Black to the Southern District of Ohio and Jon E. DeGuilio to the Northern District of Indiana, should have been considered and confirmed months ago.  Both nominations have the support of Democratic and Republican home state senators.  Both received positive ratings from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.  Both were reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee months ago by voice vote, without any dissent -- Judge Black on February 11 and Mr. DeGuilio on March 4.

As of today, there are 24 of President Obama’s judicial nominations favorably reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee stalled on the Senate’s Executive Calendar.  The Senate has confirmed only 23, even though these nominations were reported as far back as November.  Even after the Senate acts today, there will be 22 judicial nominees still pending, and 16 of those nominations were reported without a single negative vote.  These should be easy for the Senate to consider in a timely manner and confirm.  And yet, Republicans continue to stall.

The majority leader has had to file cloture petitions to cut off the Republican stalling by filibuster on President Obama’s nominees 22 times.  Three times he has had to file cloture to proceed with judicial nominees, only to eventually see those nominees confirmed, two of which were confirmed unanimously.  This stalling and obstruction is wrong.  

We should be doing the business of the American people, like reigning in the abuses on Wall Street, rather than having to waste weeks and months considering nominations that should be easily confirmed.  Several Senators have gone to the floor in recent weeks and have been outspoken about these delays and secret holds on judicial nominations, as well as scores of other Presidential nominations on which the Republican minority refuses to act.  Regrettably, Republicans have objected to live requests for action on these nominations.  They have also refused to identify who is objecting, and the reasons for the objections, in accordance with the Senate rules. 

The action of the Republican minority to place politics ahead of constitutional duty by refusing to adhere to the Senate’s tradition of quickly considering noncontroversial nominees reminds me of the 1996 session when the Republican majority considered only 17 of President Clinton’s judicial nominations.  That was a low point I thought would not be repeated.  Their failing to fill judicial vacancies led to rebuke by Chief Justice Rehnquist.  But they are repeating this unfortunate history today, again allowing vacancies to skyrocket to over a hundred, more than 40 of which have been declared “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Despite the fact that President Obama began sending judicial nominations to the Senate two months earlier than President Bush, the Senate is far behind the pace we set during the Bush administration.  As I noted earlier, by his date in George W. Bush’s presidency, the Senate had confirmed 56 Federal circuit and district court judges.  In the second half of 2001 and through 2002 the Senate with a Democratic majority confirmed 100 of President Bush’s judicial nominees.  Given Republican delay and obstruction this Senate may not achieve half of that. Last year the Senate was allowed to confirmed only 12 Federal circuit and district court judges all year.  That was the lowest total in more than 50 years.  So far this year, despite two dozen nominations on the Executive Calendar, we have confirmed only 11 more.

The Republican pattern of obstructionism we have seen since President Obama took office has led to this unprecedented backlog in nominations on the Senate calendar awaiting final consideration.  We should end the backlog by restoring the Senate’s tradition of moving promptly to consider noncontroversial nominees with up-or-down votes in a matter of days, not weeks, and certainly not months.  For those nominees Republicans wish to debate, they should come to time agreement to have those debates and votes.  It is passed time to end the destructive delaying tactics of stalling nominees for no good purpose.

The confirmation of the two nominations we consider today is long overdue. 

Judge Black has served the Southern District of Ohio for six years as a Federal magistrate judge. 

Before that, he spent a decade as a municipal court judge, and he also had a long career as a civil litigator.  His nomination has the support of both of his home state Senators, Senator George Voinovich and Senator Sherrod Brown, one a Republican and one a Democrat.

Mr. DeGuilio served the Northern District of Indiana for six years as its U.S. Attorney.  In addition, he has more than a decade of experience as a lawyer in private practice, and he also worked as a local prosecutor.  He has the support of both of his home state Senators, Senator Richard Lugar and Senator Evan Bayh, one a Republican and one a Democrat. 

I congratulate the nominees and their families on their confirmations today.  I urge the Republican leadership to restore the Senate’s tradition practice and agree to prompt consideration of the additional 22 judicial nominees they continue to stall.

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