Senate Judiciary Committee Reports 7 Judicial Nominees; 23 Nominees Now Await Senate Votes

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved seven pending judicial nominations, sending the nominations to the full Senate for consideration.  The Committee also approved eight U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal nominations.

Following the Committee votes Thursday, 23 judicial nominations will now be pending on the Senate’s executive calendar, including six circuit court nominees.  Nominations reported to the full Senate as long ago as January have been stalled on the calendar.  Seventeen of the nominations were reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee.  District court nominations have faced particular delays, with Senate Republicans objecting to scheduling votes on nominations reported by the Committee several months ago.

“A number of recent articles have discussed the judicial vacancy crisis that has been created by the Republican strategy of slow-walking consideration of non-controversial nominations,” said Leahy.  “These include district court nominations, which have traditionally been considered without delays, and have never before been targeted for obstruction by Democrats or Republicans when supported by their home state Senators.  There is no good reason to hold up consideration for weeks and months of nominees reported unanimously from the Judiciary Committee.”

District court nominations have waited on average more than three times longer for votes on the Senate floor after being reported by the Judiciary Committee than did President Bush’s district court nominees.  Circuit court nominees have waited five times longer for a Senate vote after being favorably reported by the Committee.

Senate Democrats have sought time agreements to debate and vote on pending nominations.  In a series of statements before the August recess, Democratic Senators spoke on the Senate floor about pending nominations, and requested consent to schedule debate and votes on pending judicial nominations.  Republicans objected to the requests.

For a list of nominations reported by the Judiciary Committee today, visit the Committee’s website.  For more information about judicial nominations, click here.

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Opening Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Committee On The Judiciary,
Executive Business Meeting

September 23, 2010

Today, the Committee will consider eight judicial nominations held over from last week.  Three of these nominees had their hearing nearly eight weeks ago, before the August recess.  I thank Senator Whitehouse for chairing that hearing.  They include Judge Kathleen O’Malley, a widely-respected and widely-praised nominee to the Federal Circuit.  Senator Hatch and I, along with the other members of this Committee, are familiar with the important work of the Federal Circuit, including its jurisdiction over intellectual property matters.  Two of Senator Hatch’s former staffers serve as judges on that circuit court.  Judge Randy Rader is now the Chief Justice.  Judge Sharon Prost has also been a member of that court since, as chairman, I worked to ensure her consideration during the summer of 2001.  There are currently three vacancies among that court’s 12 authorized judgeships. 

The two other nominees from that July hearing will fill vacancies on the District Court for the District of Columbia.  One is well known to the Senators of this Committee, as she was Committee counsel for 10 years.  She was a highly-decorated former Federal prosecutor who Senator Sessions will remember from her work on many criminal justice and national security issues.  Senator Hatch will no doubt remember her work on our Digital Millennium Copyright Act, our Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and our No Electronic Theft Act.  Senator Kyl and Senator Grassley will recall for her work on our National Information Infrastructure Protection Act and our Computer Fraud and Abuse statute, and important oversight matters including our bipartisan hearings on Ruby Ridge that led to improvements at the FBI. Senator Cornyn will recall her work on Electronic Freedom of Information initiatives.

Beryl Howell grew up in a proud military family. She was awarded her undergraduate degree with honors in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and earned her law degree at Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She clerked for Judge Dickinson Debevoise on the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.   She joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York in 1987. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she worked there almost six years and rose to be the Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Section. Her grand jury investigations and prosecutions included complex public corruption, narcotics and money laundering cases involving the leadership of the Chinatown Flying Dragons gang, the Cali drug cartel and others.

Descriptions of her cases read like crime novels. She successfully prosecuted the leadership of a Chinatown gang, called the Flying Dragons, for heroin trafficking, and extradited the head of the gang after he fled to Hong Kong. She successfully prosecuted a group of Colombian drug dealers and arrested the gang members just as they were packing almost $20 million in cash from narcotics proceeds into a hidden compartment of a truck to smuggle it out of the country. Then, some of these defendants attempted a prison escape by bribing officials, and she successfully prosecuted the perpetrators of the escape plan. She also handled the successful investigation and prosecution of over 20 corrupt New York City building inspectors engaged in extortion.

She was twice awarded the U.S. Attorney Special Achievement Award for Sustained Superior Performance, has received commendations from the FBI, DEA, and the New York City Department of Investigation, and received the prestigious Attorney General’s Director’s Award for Superior Performance. 

She left us in 2003 to help establish the Washington, D.C., office of a consulting and technical services firm specializing in digital forensics, computer fraud and abuse investigations.  While in the private sector, she received the FBI Director’s Award for her work assisting in a Government cyber-extortion investigation.

She was a member of the Commission on Cyber Security of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has taught legal ethics as an adjunct professor at the American University Washington College of Law.  She has twice been confirmed by the Senate to serve as a member of the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission, to which she was appointed by President Bush. 

We rarely have before us nominees to the bench with the breadth of experience that she brings. She has spent more than 23 years in public service. In addition to her experiences in the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the Federal Government, she has also been a law professor, a lawyer in private practice, and a principal and in-house general counsel at a business that she helped to grow internationally.

I have every confidence that she will serve as a fair and impartial Federal judge.  There are currently four vacancies on the District Court here in D.C. and I hope that we will vote today to begin filling them before the October recess. 

We also have before us the nomination of Robert Wilkins for another of those Federal District Court vacancies here in D.C.

The other five judicial nominees are well known to us.  They have each been previously considered and voted on by this Committee and reported favorably to the Senate.  I do not expect any votes will be changed by anything we say here today about those nominations, so I hope we can proceed to complete action on them, as well, without unnecessarily expanded debate.

We also have a legislative agenda.  Senator Whitehouse has patiently and persistently worked to create the broadest consensus possible for his small business-related bill.  I trust that today we will be able to take action on a long overdue measure to provide criminal sanctions for knowingly placing unsafe food products in commerce.  Senator Cardin would like to see action on his law clinics bill. 

I now turn to our ranking Republican for his brief opening statement.

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