11.16.15

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Judicial Nominations

Today, we will vote on the nomination of LaShann Hall to be a Federal district judge in the Eastern District of New York.  She was nominated over a year ago, and her nomination was voted out of the Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote more than five months ago.  Ms. Hall is an outstanding African American attorney who will fill a judicial emergency vacancy.  There is no reason Senate Republicans should have delayed her confirmation for this long.

The Senate this week should also vote on the next nominee on the calendar, who was nominated on the same day over a year ago as Ms. Hall.  Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo will be the first ever Hispanic judge from Pennsylvania on the Third Circuit.  Judge Restrepo has strong bipartisan support from his home state Senators, Senator Toomey and Senator Casey, and there is an urgent need to fill the emergency vacancy on the Third Circuit to which he has been nominated.  I have heard no objection to his nomination, and Senator Toomey has said he not only strongly supports Judge Restrepo’s confirmation but he also recommended him to the President.  I hope the Majority Leader will finally schedule his vote this week.

In the eleven months that the Senate has been under Republican control this year, the Senate has only voted to confirm 9 judges.  This obstruction has resulted in needless delays for hard-working Americans who seek justice in our Federal courts.  Currently pending on the Senate floor are nominees who would fill judicial emergency vacancies in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Minnesota, New Jersey, Iowa, New York, and California.  Senate Republicans have refused to alleviate the urgent needs in those states.  It does not have to be this way.  When Senate Democrats were in the majority during the last two years of the Bush presidency, we had already confirmed 36 judges by this same time.  We made sure that we fulfilled our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent to ensure that the American people had a fully functioning Federal judiciary. 

Senate Republicans’ obstruction has caused judicial vacancies to pile up across the country.  Since Senate Republicans took over the majority at the beginning of the year, judicial vacancies have increased by more than 50 percent.  The number of “judicial emergency” vacancies since Senate Republicans took the majority has risen by a stunning 158 percent.  The American people deserve better. 

We should follow well-established Senate precedent by confirming all consensus nominees before the end of the year.  Each of the judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar was reported out of the Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote.  And each has the backing of their home state Senators, including Republican Senators.  In fact, the next nominee after Ms. Hall and Judge Restrepo is Travis McDonough who has been nominated to fill a judicial vacancy on the Eastern District of Tennessee.  Next week will mark the one year anniversary since Mr. McDonough was nominated, but it appears there is no relief in sight as his nomination continues to be held up by Senate Republicans, despite the strong support he has from his home state Senators, Senator Alexander and Senator Corker.  I see no reason why he and the rest of the nominees pending should not be confirmed before we recess at the end of the year.  As the New York Times put it in an editorial last Friday urging confirmation votes on all pending judicial nominees, “With each day that passes without a vote on Judge Restrepo and other nominees, Republicans undermine the justice system, and the biggest victims are ordinary Americans who cannot count on fully functioning courts.”  I ask unanimous consent to include a copy of this editorial in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

Shortly we will begin voting on LaShann Hall to fill a judicial emergency vacancy in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  She is currently a partner at the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, LLP, in New York, where she has practiced since 2010.  She was previously in private practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.  She has the support of her two home state Senators, Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand.  She was voted out of the Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote on June 4, 2015.  I urge my fellow Senators to support her confirmation.

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