Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Nominations Of Miranda Du And Susie Morgan

Today, the Senate will finally vote on the nominations of Miranda Du to fill a judicial emergency vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada and Susie Morgan to fill a judicial vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Both nominations have the bipartisan support of their home state Senators, and were reported by the Judiciary Committee over four months ago.  The Senate is still only considering judicial nominations that could and should have been confirmed last year.  The judicial vacancy rate remains nearly twice what it was at this point in the first term of President George W. Bush.

Last week, I noted an article about the “crushing caseload” that the Federal courts in Arizona currently face.  In that article, the Chief Judge of Arizona’s Federal trial court noted that they are in “dire circumstances” and that they are “under water” from all the cases on their docket.  Like the district court in Arizona, the one in Nevada is also in desperate need of judges, as evidenced by its designation as a judicial emergency.  As that same article noted, an insufficiency of judges “lessens the quality of justice for all parties involved.”  This is why it is so crucial that we confirm these nominees as soon as possible.

Delay is harmful for everyone.  An editorial from the Tuscaloosa News last week stated that “[D]elays are objectionable in themselves:  They deprive the courts of needed personnel, slow the administration of justice and deter well-qualified candidates from agreeing to be considered for the bench.”  I ask unanimous consent to include a copy of the article, entitled “Congress needs to stop judicial partisan games,” in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks. 

The needless four-month delay in the consideration of these nominations is another example of the delays that have been caused by Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to agree to schedule these nominations for votes last year.  As the editorial from the Tuscaloosa News noted: “[T]he determination of Senate Republicans to delay President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees – even those who have won bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee – is emblematic of the polarization that also has sabotaged efforts of the two parties to work together on numerous other fronts.”  The editorial concludes by urging that there be “no more partisan games.”

A recent memorandum from the Congressional Research Service confirms what we have long known:  The delay and obstruction from Senate Republicans have resulted in President Obama’s judicial nominees waiting much longer for a floor vote than judicial nominees under the past four presidents.  These tactics, of course, have resulted in a much lower number and percentage of confirmed judicial nominees under President Obama – despite the fact that President Obama’s judicial nominees have by and large been consensus nominees.

The consequences of these months of delays are borne by the more than 150 million Americans who live in districts and circuits with vacancies that could be filled as soon as Senate Republicans agree to up or down votes on the 17 judicial nominations currently before the Senate.  Our courts need qualified Federal judges, not vacancies, if they are to reduce the excessive wait times that burden litigants seeking their day in court.  It is unacceptable for hardworking Americans who turn to their courts for justice to suffer unnecessary delays.  When an injured plaintiff sues to help cover the cost of his or her medical expenses, that plaintiff should not have to wait three years before a judge hears the case.  When two small business owners disagree over a contract, they should not have to wait years for a court to resolve their dispute.

Today, we can finally end the needless delays on these two qualified nominees.  Miranda Du was born in Vietnam.  She left the country with her family by boat in 1978 and immigrated to the United States after spending a year in refugee camps in Malaysia.  If confirmed, she will become the first Asian Pacific American appointed to the Federal bench in Nevada.  Both of Nevada’s Senators, the Majority Leader and Republican Senator Dean Heller, support Ms. Du’s nomination.  Senator Heller has said that Ms. Du will “make an outstanding district court judge.”  She also has the support of the Republican Governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval; the Republican Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, Brian Krolicki; and the Republican Mayor of Reno, Robert Cashell; each of whom has personally worked with Ms. Du.  I ask unanimous consent to include a copy of the letters of support from each of these individuals in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

Governor Sandoval fully supports Ms. Du’s nomination.  In his recommendation letter, he wrote that when Ms. Du appeared before him when he was a judge, she “was always well prepared and represented her clients with integrity and distinction.”  He further stated that she had his “full support” for confirmation as a Federal district judge.  Ironically, he was the judge in the one case on which Republicans rely to criticize the nominee.  As the judge, he had overlooked the jurisdictional argument when initially deciding against dismissing the case.  The Magistrate Judge on the case issued sanctions, but Governor Sandoval ultimately struck the motion for sanctions as moot when Ms. Du and her legal team resolved the dispute with the third-party.  In addition, Ms. Du testified candidly about the incident during her Committee hearing and in her response to the Questions for the Record, acknowledged that she had “learned a great deal from this experience.”  Incidents like this have never held up a nomination before in the past, and it should certainly not hold up Ms. Du’s nomination.  President Obama’s nominees should not be held to a different or new standard.

She has spent her 17-year legal career in private practice as a partner at a law firm in Reno, Nevada.  She currently serves as chair of the firm’s Employment & Labor Law Group.  Ms. Du’s story is compelling.  She was selected by Super Lawyers as a 2009 “Mountain States Rising Star” and was named as one of the “Top 20 Under 40” Young Professionals in the Reno-Tahoe Area in 2008.  That she is being opposed because she and her legal team filed a third-party complaint on behalf of a client in one case is to hold her to a new standard than Senate Republicans have utilized with other nominees and other Presidents in the past. 

The other nominee we consider today is Susie Morgan.  She has worked in private practice for 30 years.  Her nomination has the bipartisan support of Louisiana’s Senators, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican Senator David Vitter.  Following her law school graduation, Ms. Morgan clerked for Chief Judge Henry A. Politz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  She was unanimously rated as qualified by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to serve as a Federal judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Her nomination was approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last November.

The Senate needs to make real progress, which means going beyond the nominations included in the agreement between Senate leaders to include the 17 judicial nominations currently before the Senate for a final vote and the eight judicial nominees who have had hearings and are working their way through the Committee process.  There are another 11 nominations on which the Committee should be holding additional hearings during the next several weeks. 

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