05.05.10

Senate Now Voting On Three District Court Nominees

WASHINGTON – The Senate will vote this afternoon on three pending district court nominations, the first votes to be held on judicial nominees in two weeks.  The Senate is expected to confirm Nancy D. Freudenthal to the District of Wyoming; Denzil P. Marshall, Jr., to the Eastern District of Arkansas; and Gloria M. Navarro to the District of Nevada.  Twenty additional judicial nominations remain pending on the Senate’s executive calendar.  They have been pending on the calendar since as long ago as November.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) released the following statement in connection with the votes.

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

On The Nominations Of Nancy D. Freudenthal, Denzil P. Marshall, Jr.,
And Gloria M. Navarro To Be Federal District Court Judges

May 5, 2010

Senate Republicans have not allowed the Senate to act on a judicial nominee for almost two weeks. They have continued to stall the almost two dozen judicial nominees reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee, dating back to last November.  These 23 judicial nominees awaiting final Senate action include 17 who were reported without any negative votes.  That is right -- Senate Republicans continue to block Senate consideration and confirmation of nominees, including judicial nominees, who are not only going to be confirmed, but will likely be confirmed unanimously. 

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

Senator Whitehouse, Senator McCaskill and a number of other Senators have taken up the cause against these delays and secret holds.  I thank them.  They made live requests for action on the Senate floor to bring these matters into the light.  Regrettably, those Republican Senators who had objected did not come forward to identify themselves or the reasons for their objections in accordance with Senate rules. 

By this date in George W. Bush’s presidency, the Senate had confirmed 52 Federal circuit and district court judges.  As of today, only 20 Federal circuit and district court confirmations have been allowed by Senate Republicans.  As I have noted there remain another two dozen additional judicial nominations stalled before final Senate action by Republican obstruction.  It should not take two weeks to work out time agreements on three noncontroversial nominees.  Nominees reported without a single negative vote in Committee should not be stalled for months for no good reason.

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.  In the second half of 2001 and through 2002 the Senate confirmed 100 of President Bush’s judicial nominees.  Given Republican delay and obstruction this Senate may not achieve even 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.  Meanwhile, judicial vacancies have skyrocketed to more than 100, more than 40 of which have been declared to be “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

There is no explanation or excuse for what continues to be a practice by Senate Republicans of secret holds, and a Senate Republican leadership strategy of delay and obstruction of this President’s nominations.  That is wrong.

Throughout the past month, a number of Senators have come before the Senate to discuss this untenable situation and to ask for consent to proceed to scores of noncontroversial nominations.  Republicans objected anonymously and without specifying any basis whatsoever.

These long delays unfortunately continue to be part of a pattern of Republican obstructionism that we have seen since President Obama took office.  In a dramatic departure from the Senate’s traditional practice of prompt and routine consideration of noncontroversial nominations, Senate Republicans have refused month after month to join agreements to consider, debate and vote on nominations.  This unprecedented practice has led to a backlog of nominations and a historically low number of judicial confirmations.  

We should restore the Senate’s tradition of moving promptly to consider noncontroversial nominees pending on the Calendar, with up-or-down votes in a matter of days, not weeks, and certainly not months.  For those nominees Republicans wish to debate, we should come to agreements for when to have those debates and votes.  It should not take cloture in order for the Senate to get its work done and fulfill its constitutional advice and consent responsibilities.  

I, again, urge the Senate Republican leadership to abandon its destructive delaying tactics and allow the Senate to act on the backlog of nearly two dozen judicial nominees reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the last six months that they have stalled for no good purpose.

The three nominations we consider today should have been confirmed months ago, and I predict will each be confirmed overwhelmingly.  Nancy Freudenthal has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the District of Wyoming.  She has decades of experience as a public servant and a lawyer in private practice, and she currently serves as Wyoming’s First Lady.  Ms. Freudenthal has been rated “well qualified” by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary and, when confirmed, she will be that state’s first female Federal judge.   The Judiciary Committee favorably reported Ms. Freudenthal’s nomination by voice vote without dissent on February 11—nearly three months ago -- and her nomination has the support of both of Wyoming’s Republican Senators, Senator Enzi and Senator Barrasso. 

Judge D. Price Marshall has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the Eastern District of Arkansas.  The Judiciary Committee also favorably reported his nomination by voice vote without dissent nearly three months ago, on February 11.  Judge Marshall is currently a well-respected judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, and he spent 15 years in private practice in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  He also served as a law clerk to Seventh Circuit Judge Richard S. Arnold.  Judge Marshall has earned the highest possible rating, unanimously “well qualified” from the ABA Standing Committee, and he has the strong support of both of his home state Senators, Senator Pryor and Senator Lincoln.

Gloria Navarro has been nominated to serve as a Federal district court judge in Nevada.  The Judiciary Committee reported her nomination by voice vote without dissent two months ago, on March 4.  When the Senate finally confirms her, Ms. Navarro will become the only woman, and the only Hispanic, on the Nevada district court.  Ms. Navarro, who has been rated “qualified” by the ABA’s Standing Committee has gained valuable experience as a Chief Deputy District Attorney in Clark County, Nevada, as a public defender and as a lawyer in private practice.  Her nomination has the support of both of her home state Senators, Senator Reid and Senator Ensign. 

The three judicial nominees the Senate considers today have each been stalled by Republican objection for months.  Each has the support of his or her home state Senators.  In one case, that is two Republican Senators, in another that is two Democratic Senators, and in the third case that is one Democratic Senator and a Republican Senator.  Each of these confirmations is long overdue.  I congratulate the nominees and their families on their confirmations today.

I urge the Republican leadership to agree to prompt consideration of the additional 20 judicial nominees they continue to stall.

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