07.26.11

Senate Confirms Two To Federal District Courts

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, July 26, 2011) – The U.S. Senate Tuesday voted unanimously to confirm two nominees to fill vacancies on U.S. Federal District Courts.  Paul Engelmayer was confirmed to fill a judicial emergency for the Southern District of New York, and Ramona Manglona was confirmed to fill a 10-year term on the District Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. 

 

Both nominations were reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee without opposition on April 7, nearly four months ago. 

There are 25 judicial nominations pending before the full Senate, including more than a dozen that have been pending since May or earlier.  Twenty of the judicial nominations pending now before the full Senate received unanimous support in the Judiciary Committee.  Despite the backlog, the Senate has voted on just seven nominations since the Memorial Day recess in May. 

Senator Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy spoke on the Senate Floor on Monday evening about the nominations.

 

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On Judicial Nominations

July 25, 2011

 

As Prepared for Delivery

 

Today, the Senate will finally vote on two judicial nominations reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee in early April.  Both could and should have been confirmed long ago.  Despite the support of every Democrat and every Republican on the Judiciary Committee, the nominations of Paul Engelmayer to fill a judicial emergency vacancy on the Southern District of New York and Ramona Manglona to fill a 10-year term on the District Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have been stalled for three and a half months on the Senate’s Executive Calendar.  These are the kinds of qualified, consensus judicial nominations that in past years would have been confirmed promptly, rather than being forced to languish for months because of Republican refusal to consent to debate and vote on nominations. 

At a time when judicial vacancies remain above 90, these needless delays perpetuate the judicial vacancies crisis that Chief Justice Roberts wrote of last December and that the President, Attorney General, bar associations and chief judges around the country have urged us to join together to end.  The Senate can do a better job working to ensure the ability of our Federal courts to provide justice to Americans around the country. 

Recently, Chief Judge Moreno of the Southern District of Florida wrote to the Senate leaders urging that they expedite action on two nominations to fill judicial emergency vacancies in that district.  Both Kathleen Williams and Robert Scola are among the many judicial nominees reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee and both are being delayed for no good reason.  Chief Judge Moreno writes: “[T]he judicial shortage with three vacancies in our district is becoming acute. For this reason, I ask your assistance in expediting both confirmations. The Judiciary Committee has found the nominees qualified and the people of South Florida eagerly await their service.”  Both of these nominees have the support of their home state Senators, Senator Nelson, a Democrat, and Senator Rubio, a Republican. 

They are among the 27 judicial nominees reviewed by the Judiciary Committee and reported favorably to the Senate for final action who are being stalled.  I am glad that we are finally being allowed to consider the two who will be confirmed today, but they have been waiting since early April.  This is not traditional.  This is not how the Senate has acted in years past with other Presidents’ judicial nominees.  It is not accurate to pretend that real progress is being made in these circumstances.  Vacancies are being kept high, consensus nominees are being delayed and it is the American people and the Federal courts that are being made to suffer. 

This is another area in which we must come together for the American people.  There is no reason Senators cannot join together to finally bring down the excessive number of vacancies that have persisted on Federal courts throughout the Nation for far too long.  Between now and the August recess, the Senate should consider all of the judicial nominees ready for a final vote, including the two desperately needed in southern Florida.

I expect the two nominations we will consider today will be confirmed overwhelmingly.  They are examples of the almost two dozen consensus nominees who are being stalled for no good reason.  Mr. Engelmayer is a nominee with unassailable credentials.  After receiving his undergraduate and law school degrees with honors from Harvard Law School, Mr. Engelmayer served as a law clerk to Judge Patricia Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and then to Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court.  He worked as a Federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York for nine years, where he climbed the ranks from a young lawyer to become Chief of the Major Crimes Unit.  Mr. Engelmayer served for two years as an Assistant Solicitor General for the United States.  Since 2000, he has been a partner in the law firm WilmerHale, where he practices civil and criminal litigation and regularly dedicates himself to pro bono work.  The ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated him well qualified to serve, its highest rating.  He is supported by his home state Senators.

Ramona Villagomez Manglona is currently an Associate Judge on the Superior Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), having previously served as a Justice Pro Tempore on the Guam Supreme Court and a Judge Pro Tempore on the Guam Superior Court.  From 1998 to 2003, she worked in the CNMI Office of the Attorney General is several capacities, including a term as Attorney General.  Born in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, Judge Manglona earned her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and her J.D. from the University of New Mexico.  When confirmed, Judge Manglona will be the first indigenous person to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.   Her confirmation should also save money and help ease the burden on judges who have had to travel to the Pacific from the mainland to provide judicial resources.

I, again, thank Senator Grassley for his cooperation in working with me to make progress in Committee considering judicial nominations in regular order.  Our work on the Committee has not been matched in the Senate, where agreements to debate and vote on judicial nominations are too few and too far between.  These are only the sixth and seventh nominations the Senate has considered in the last two months, at a time when vacancies have remained near or above 90, and despite the many consensus nominees ready for final Senate action. 

These will be only the 13th and 14th nominees confirmed this year who had their hearings this year.  The other confirmations were all from the group considered by the Judiciary Committee last year, but were renominated after having had their confirmations delayed unnecessarily last year.  Ignoring the words of the Chief Justice and others concerned with the continuing high number of judicial vacancies, Senate Republicans have continued the pattern and practice of delay for virtually all judicial nominees. 

In addition to the two nominations we consider today, there are currently 25 judicial nominations fully considered by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate for final action.  Of them, 20 were unanimously reported, without a single negative vote.  The two nominations we consider today were reported in April.  There remain 13 judicial nominations on the calendar reported favorably by the Committee in May or earlier, 11 of them were reported unanimously.  When I urged that the Senate to take up and vote on the many consensus judicial nominations on the calendar and ready for final action before the Memorial Day recess, Republican Senators would not agree to consider a single one.  With almost a score of judicial nominees available to the Senate for final action, only one was considered before the July 4th recess.  This is not the way to make real progress.     

Regrettably, the Senate has not reduced vacancies as dramatically as we did during the Bush administration.  Federal judicial vacancies around the country still number too many, and they have persisted for far too long.  Whereas the Democratic majority in the Senate reduced vacancies from 110 to 60 in President Bush’s first two years, Senate Republicans’ insistence on objections and delays have resulted in judicial vacancies still numbering more than 90 two and a half years into President Obama’s term.  By now, judicial vacancies should have been reduced to similar levels, but we have barely kept up with attrition.   

In fact, the Senate has reversed course during the Obama administration given Republican objections, and the slow pace of confirmations are keeping judicial vacancies at crisis levels.  Over the eight years of the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2009, we reduced judicial vacancies from 110 to a low of 34.  That has now been reversed, with vacancies staying near or above 90 for the last two years.  The vacancy rate -- which we reduced from 10 percent to six percent by this date in President Bush’s third year, and ultimately to less than four percent in 2008 – is back above 10 percent. 

By this time in the third year of the Bush administration, the Senate had confirmed 136 judges.  That is more than 40 percent more than the number of President Obama’s nominees we have been allowed to process to confirmation. We have a long way to go to do as well as we did during President Bush’s first term, when we confirmed 205 of his judicial nominations. The Senate confirmed 100 of those judicial nominations during the 17 months I was Chairman during President Bush’s first two years in office.  So far, as we near the end of President Obama’s 30th month in office, the Senate has only been allowed to consider and confirm only 91 of President Obama’s Federal circuit and district court nominees.  Despite the needs of the Federal judiciary, as evidenced by Chief Judge Moreno’s recent letter, which I ask unanimous consent be made part of the Record at the conclusion of my remarks, the delays in confirmation of President Obama’s consensus nominees continue to the detriment of the American people. 

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