Senate Judiciary Committee Reports First Judicial Nominations

WASHINGTON (Thursday, June 4, 2009) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday reported the first judicial nominations of the 111th Congress.  Judge David Hamilton is a nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Judge Andre Davis is a nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  The Committee also reported one executive nomination to the Senate for consideration.  Thomas Perez is nominated to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.  All three nominees appeared before the Judiciary Committee at a hearing on April 21, 2009.

Hamilton’s nomination was reported by the Committee by a vote of 12-7.  The Davis nomination was reported by a 16-3 vote, and the Perez nomination was reported by a 17-2 vote.  Hamilton first appeared before the Committee during a hearing on April 1, 2009.  After a Republican boycott of the April 1 hearing, Leahy invited Judge Hamilton to testify in a rare second confirmation hearing on April 21. 

Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on two nominations, Judge Gerard Lynch to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Mary Smith to be Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division at the Department of Justice.  Information about pending nominations is available on the Committee’s website.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the Hamilton Nomination
Executive Business Meeting
June 4, 2009

Today the Committee voted to report favorably the nomination of Judge David Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit, along with the nominations of Judge Andre Davis from Maryland to the Fourth Circuit, and Tom Perez to be the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division.

The Committee’s consideration of Judge Hamilton took a month longer than it should have, in my view.  His hearing was on April 1.  Republicans needlessly boycotted his confirmation hearing and requested a second hearing.  I accommodated them by including him in a second hearing.  Only one Republican Senator bothered to appear. 

Judge Hamilton is a well-respected, well-qualified nominee strongly endorsed by his home state Senators, including the senior Republican in the Senate, Senator Lugar.   

As I have said before, I view President Obama’s nomination of Judge Hamilton as something to be commended rather than obstructed and delayed.  The President worked with both home state Senators, a Republican and a Democrat, to select a highly-qualified and respected nominee.  Senator Lugar and Senator Bayh are both thoughtful Senators.  Just as I consistently sought to encourage President Bush to work with home state Senators, and tried to expedite confirmation of his nominees when he did, I tried to proceed promptly on the nomination of Judge Hamilton.  It should not have been delayed, it should not have been obstructed, it should not have been reported on a party line vote with all Republican Senators rejecting the strong endorsement of Senator Lugar.

Senator Lugar’s testified in support of Judge Hamilton.  He described him as “an exceptionally talented jurist” and “the type of lawyer and the type of person one wants to see on the Federal bench.”  Senator Lugar continued:

“I have known David since his childhood.  His father, Reverend Richard Hamilton, was our family’s pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, where his mother was the soloist in the choir.  Knowing first-hand his family’s character and commitment to service, it has been no surprise to me that David’s life has borne witness to the values learned in his youth.”

Senator Lugar also praised the process he and Senator Bayh had undertaken for recommending judicial nominees from Indiana, thanking Senator Bayh for “the thoughtful, cooperative, merit-driven attitude that has marked his own approach to recommending prospective judicial nominees” and his “strong support for President Bush’s nominations of Judge Tinder for the Seventh Circuit and of Judge William Lawrence for the Southern District of Indiana.”   I supported both of those nominees with the endorsement of both of Indiana’s Senators and both were easily confirmed.  This nomination should be no different. President Obama’s nominee is apparently being penalized because the President made a prompt, bipartisan nomination in March.  Judge Hamilton, his family, Senator Lugar, the court, and the people who are served by the Seventh Circuit, which includes Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, deserve better treatment.

I call on Senators from both sides of the aisle to heed the advice of the senior Senator from Indiana, which he offered when testifying in support of Judge Hamilton two months ago:

 “I believe our confirmation decisions should not be based on partisan considerations, much less on how we hope or predict a given judicial nominee will ‘vote’ on particular issues of public moment or controversy.  I have instead tried to evaluate judicial candidates on whether they have the requisite intellect, experience, character and temperament that Americans deserve from their judges, and also on whether they indeed appreciate the vital, and yet vitally limited, role of the Federal judiciary faithfully to interpret and apply our laws, rather than seeking to impose their own policy views.” 

Senator Lugar believes Judge Hamilton “is superbly qualified under both sets of criteria.”  So do I.  Judge Hamilton is a well-respected Federal judge not known for partisanship or an ideological agenda.  In light of his superb record, broad support, and unanimous “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, it is no wonder Judge Hamilton’s nomination for this important appellate seat has the support of both home state Senators.  He should be confirmed with a strong bipartisan majority. 

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