04.09.13

Senate Votes To Confirm Shwartz To Third Circuit

. . . Third Circuit Nominee Lagged For 13 Months Despite Support Of New Jersey Governor

WASHINGTON –The Senate voted Tuesday to approve the nomination of Patty Shwartz to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A highly qualified nominee with the support of New Jersey’s Republican governor, Shwartz’s nomination was stalled for 13 months.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) welcomed the Senate’s vote of 64-34 to approve Shwartz’s nomination, but he noted that “This is another of the many judicial nominees who could have been confirmed last year.”

“Judged on her qualifications and her record, Judge Patty Shwartz should be confirmed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote,” Leahy said in a statement before the floor vote.  “She should not have been delayed for more than a year.  Sadly, this is not an isolated case but one in a steady pattern of obstruction.” 

The judicial vacancy rate has consistently hovered around 80 during the Obama administration, yet despite the growing need for qualified judges, his judicial picks are consistently held up in the Senate far longer than those appointed by President George W. Bush. Just last month, Senate Republicans filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to fill a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals left vacant since 2005. Halligan’s nomination was recently withdrawn as a result, but 14 other judicial nominees are still waiting for a vote on the Senate floor.

 “Now that Senate Republicans have during the last four years filibustered more of President Obama’s moderate judicial nominees than were filibustered during President Bush’s entire eight years—67 percent more, in fact—I urge them to abandon their misjudged efforts that sacrifice outstanding judges for purposes of partisan payback,” Leahy said.

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 Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On the Nomination of Judge Patty Shwartz of New Jersey to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
April 9, 2013

Last month Senate Republicans filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to fill a vacancy on the D.C. Circuit that arose when Chief Justice Roberts left the D.C. Circuit to join the Supreme Court eight years ago.  Caitlin Halligan is a woman who is extraordinarily well-qualified and amongst the most qualified judicial nominees I have seen from any administration. It is a shame that narrow, special interests hold such influence that Senate Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote on her confirmation with multiple filibusters of her nomination and procedural objections that required her to be nominated five times over the last three years.

Had she received an up-or-down vote, I am certain she would have been confirmed and been an outstanding judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  Instead, all Senate Republicans but one supported the filibuster and refused to vote up or down on this highly-qualified woman to fill a needed judgeship on the D.C. Circuit.  Senate Republicans attacked her for legal advocacy on behalf of her client, the State of New York.  It is wrong to attribute the legal positions a lawyer takes when advocating for a client with what that person would do as an impartial judge.  That is not the American tradition.  That is not what Republicans insisted was the standard for nominees of Republican Presidents but that is what they did to derail the nomination of Caitlin Halligan. 

Also disconcerting were the comments by Republicans after their filibuster in which they gloated about payback.  That, too, is wrong.  It does our Nation and our Federal Judiciary no good when they place their desire to engage in partisan tit-for-tat over the needs of the American people.  I rejected that approach while moving to confirm 100 of President Bush’s judicial nominees in just 17 months in 2001 and 2002.

The filibuster of the nomination of Miguel Estrada was different.  It was to obtain access to information about his work and whether he acted ideologically as his supervisor at the Office of Solicitor General had alleged.  Had we gotten access to those materials, there would have been a vote on the Estrada nomination.  Republican Senators now demand access to all sorts of materials while filibustering for the first time in our history the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, as well as the nominee to head the CIA and judicial nominees.  They cannot do that and still complain about the Estrada nomination.

Now that Senate Republicans have during the last four years filibustered more of President Obama’s moderate judicial nominees than were filibustered during President Bush’s entire eight years—67 percent more, in fact—I urge them to abandon their misjudged efforts that sacrifice outstanding judges for purposes of partisan payback.

Today the Senate will finally consider another circuit court nomination that has been delayed for no good reason.  The nomination of Judge Patty Shwartz of New Jersey to the Third Circuit has been needlessly stalled for 13 months since being favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee.  This is another of the many judicial nominees who could have been confirmed last year.  She is another qualified nominee who is supported by her home state Senators and by the Republican Governor of New Jersey.  After this prolonged and unnecessary delay, I am pleased that she will finally be allowed to join the Third Circuit to serve the people of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands.

In 10 years as a United States Magistrate Judge in the District of New Jersey, Judge Shwartz has handled more than 4,000 civil and criminal cases and presided over 14 cases that have gone to verdict or final judgment, including 11 jury trials.  Before becoming a judge, Judge Shwartz spent 14 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of New Jersey, where she ultimately rose to become Chief of the Criminal Division.  During her time as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Judge Shwartz tried more than 15 jury cases to verdict, all as sole or chief counsel.  It was while serving in the U.S. Attorneys Office that Chris Cristie, then U.S. Attorney and current Governor of New Jersey, became acquainted with her and her work.

Governor Christie has written to the Committee in support of Judge Shwartz’s nomination.  He said that she “was an impressive Criminal Chief; hard working, bright, articulate, great with people and conversant with the law.”  He added: “As a Magistrate Judge, she also performed admirably and garnered the respect of the entire legal community.  Again, her hard work, amiable personality, patience, intelligence, and knowledge of the law were lauded by all who appeared before her.”  I ask that his full letter appear in the Record at the conclusion of my statement.

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has rated Judge Shwartz unanimously well qualified, the highest possible rating from its nonpartisan peer review.  She has the support of  Senator Lautenberg and Senator Menendez.

By any objective measure, Judge Shwartz is a nominee with solid legal credentials and qualifications.  Rather than evaluating her on her record, some have tried to claim there is an issue because Senator Menendez met with her before supporting her.  They infer, despite denials by the nominee and Senator Menendez, that she must have made him some untoward commitment on how she would rule on some matter.  There is no basis for that claim.

It is past time for the Senate to consider her nomination on the merits of her record and to confirm her.  Her nomination has been stalled on the Senate floor for thirteen months.  This is just one example of the unnecessary delays that prompted a New York Times editorial about the delays in filling judicial vacancies.  I ask that a copy of that editorial be included in the Record at the conclusion of my statement.

Judged on her qualifications and her record, Judge Patty Shwartz should be confirmed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.  She should not have been delayed for more than a year.  Sadly, this is not an isolated case but one in a steady pattern of obstruction.  This is especially harmful at a time when judicial vacancies remain above 80.  Filibusters and delays based on fictions do not help Americans seeking justice in our Federal courts.  Instead, they cause delays, overcrowded dockets, overburdened courts and have gone on too long.

When confirmed, Judge Shwartz will be one of just three women serving as active judges on the Third Circuit.  It is time to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to vote to confirm this qualified nominee so that she may better serve the American people as a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

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