12.22.10

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Confirmation Of Judge Mary Murguia Of Arizona To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit

Today the Senate is finally being allowed to consider a judicial nomination that has been stalled since August -- the nomination of Judge Mary Murguia of Arizona to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I would understand the resistance to considering the nomination if President Obama had selected someone opposed by her home state Senators.  But both Republican home state Senators support this nomination.  Unlike his predecessor, President Obama has worked with home state Senators, including Republican Senators.  Despite all his efforts, this consensus nominee has been stalled for months and months while awaiting final Senate action. 

When the nomination was considered by the Judiciary Committee before the August recess, it was reported unanimously.  Every Republican and every Democrat, all 19 members of the Judiciary Committee, voted in favor of her nomination.  Still, she has been stalled for months and months. This is part of the dangerous pattern perpetrated the past two years as President Obama’s highly-qualified judicial nominees have been stalled from final Senate action for extended periods.  This is another example of the unnecessary delays that have led to a judicial vacancies crisis throughout the country.  Judicial vacancies have skyrocketed to over 100 while nominations are forced to languish without final Senate action.  In fact, President Obama’s nominees have been forced to wait on average six times longer to be considered than President Bush’s judicial nominees reported by the Judiciary Committee during the first two years of his presidency.

When the Senate is finally allowed to take action, most of his nominations are confirmed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities or unanimously. Final Senate action on dozens of President Obama’s judicial nominations has been delayed without explanation or good reason and then confirmed unanimously.  The most outrageous examples are Judge Barbara Keenan of Virginia, who was confirmed unanimously to the Fourth Circuit, and Judge Denny Chin of New York, who was confirmed unanimously to the Second Circuit.  Both required cloture petitions to end the filibusters against their confirmations and then they were each confirmed unanimously. 

Others confirmed unanimously after months of delay are Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. of North Carolina, who was finally confirmed to the Fourth Circuit after almost six months of delay;  Judge Albert Diaz of North Carolina, who was finally confirmed to the Fourth Circuit after almost 11 month’s delay;  Judge Ray Lohier of New York, who was finally confirmed to the Second Circuit after almost eight months of delay;  Judge Beverly Martin of Tennessee, who was finally confirmed to the Eleventh Circuit after more than four months of delay; and James Greenaway of New Jersey, who was finally confirmed to the Third Circuit after almost four months of delay.   I expect Scott Matheson of Utah to be confirmed unanimously to the Tenth Circuit, but not until there have been six months of unnecessary delay.  I will not be surprised if Judge Murguia is confirmed unanimously, or nearly unanimously, after four unnecessary months of delay. 

Examples of district court nominees who have been delayed for between three and seven months before being confirmed unanimously are:  Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Eastern District of California, Judge Catherine Eagles of the Middle District of North Carolina, Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. of the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Ellen Hollander of the District of Maryland, Judge Susan R. Nelson of the District of Minnesota, Judge James Bredar of the District of Maryland, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi, Judge Edmond Chang of the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi of the District of Hawaii, and Judge Denise Casper of the District of Massachusetts. 

Ten years ago, Mary Murguia became the first Latina to serve as a Federal Judge in Arizona when she was nominated by President Clinton to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.  She will now become the first Hispanic—and only the second woman—from Arizona to serve on the Ninth Circuit.  I congratulate Judge Murguia and her family on her confirmation by the Senate today.

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