11.19.09

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Nomination Of Vermont Judge Christina Reiss For Vermont’s U.S. District Court Vacancy

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved the nomination of Vermont State Judge Christina Reiss of Essex Junction, to a judgeship on Vermont’s U.S. District Court.

Reiss’s nomination, approved without dissent in a voice vote, was steered through the committee by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the panel’s chairman.  Leahy had recommended Reiss to President Obama, who nominated her last month.  If confirmed by the full Senate, Reiss will be the first woman to serve on Vermont’s federal district court.  She would 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 [pronounced “rice”] 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 also chairs the Judiciary Committee, which first considers judicial nominations in the Senate.

Leahy said, “Senators of both parties have clearly seen that Judge Reiss has all of the qualities that are important on the federal bench.  She has abundant skill and experience, including a keen understanding of the powerful role that courts play in the lives of ordinary Americans.”

He noted that she emerged from a strong field of candidates.  “I thank them, and I commend the Commission for doing a superb job on behalf of Vermont, and for their deep respect for our independent federal judiciary.”

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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