09.24.13

Senate Votes To Confirm Federal Circuit Court Nominee

Hughes The First Openly Gay Judge To Serve On Appellate Court

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hailed the unanimous confirmation Tuesday of Todd Hughes to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Leahy also noted that Hughes’s confirmation marks an important milestone for the judicial branch—he is the first openly gay judge ever to serve on a Federal appellate court. The Senate voted to confirm him 98-0.

I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench,” Leahy said.

Hughes was unanimously reported by the Judiciary Committee on July 18, and his nomination has been pending in the Senate for over two months. With Hughes’s confirmation, 13 circuit and district court nominees await confirmation including 11 who won unanimous backing by the Judiciary Committee. Leahy called on Senators to support the confirmation of those important nominees and to work together to reverse the harmful impact sequestration poses to the court system and its ability to provide access to justice. The Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts held a hearing on the issue in July.

We have the benefit of the greatest justice system in the world for less than one percent of our entire Federal budget,” Leahy said.  “Yet, we refuse to provide this co-equal branch with the adequate resources it needs.  Let us work to reverse the senseless cuts to our legal system from sequestration so that we can help our coequal branch meet the Constitution’s promise of justice for all Americans.” 

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 Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the Nomination of Todd Hughes
September 24, 2013

Today, we are voting on the nomination of Todd Hughes to fill a judicial vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  This vote marks an important milestone—if confirmed, Mr. Hughes will be the first openly gay judge to serve on a Federal appellate court in our Nation’s history. I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench.

Mr. Hughes has extensive experience on issues that come before the Federal Circuit.  He joined the Department of Justice in 1994 and, since 2007, has served as Deputy Director for the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division. Mr. Hughes earned his B.A. cum laude from Harvard and his J.D. with honors from Duke Law School.  Upon graduating law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Robert Krupansky of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 

Mr. Hughes’ nomination was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee more than two months ago and could—and in my view should—have been confirmed within days.  At a time when judicial vacancies are once again above 90, this kind of needless delay undermines the serious work we have to do to ensure the ability of our Federal courts to provide justice to Americans around the country.  In addition to Mr. Hughes, we have 13 other Federal circuit and district nominees pending on the Executive Calendar.  Of those nominees, 11 were reported by voice vote and there is no good reason to not confirm them today. 

The delays in confirming noncontroversial consensus nominees have a real life impact on the American people and the economy.  It does not benefit anyone if litigants have their cases delayed for months and months because our Federal courts are understaffed.  Americans are rightly proud of our legal system and the promise of access to justice and speedy trials that is embedded in our Constitution. 

Also critical to the functioning of our courts is doing all that we can do to alleviate the harmful impact of sequestration.  As we debate the continuing resolution to fund the Federal government we must look to streamline wherever we can, but we should do so with care and not simply cut indiscriminately across the board.  We have the benefit of the greatest justice system in the world for less than one percent of our entire Federal budget.  Yet, we refuse to provide this co-equal branch with the adequate resources it needs.  Let us work to reverse the senseless cuts to our legal system from sequestration so that we can help our coequal branch meet the Constitution’s promise of justice for all Americans. 

I congratulate Mr. Hughes on what I expect will be an overwhelming vote in support of his confirmation.  And I commend President Obama for his continued commitment to nominating highly qualified and diverse individuals.

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