Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Nominations of Valerie Caproni and Vernon Broderick

Today we will be voting on just 2 of the 11 district and circuit nominees left pending on the Senate floor prior to the August recess.  Ten of these nominees had been reported by voice vote, and there was no good reason we could not have confirmed them then and allowed them to get to work on behalf of the American people.  I hope that Senate Republicans will not seek to drag out the nominees that will be left pending on the floor after today, as they did for the nominations left pending at the end of last year.  It took us until May of this year to confirm 9 of the 10 circuit and district nominations that were ready for votes last year, and it will likely take us another month or two to work our way through this new backlog.

One effect of this obstruction is that for the first time in nearly two years, our Federal district courts are again facing what the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service calls “historically high” vacancies.  This could have been avoided if Senate Republicans had simply followed Senate tradition and allowed votes on the nine consensus district nominees before the recess. 

The Republicans’ effort to obstruct and delay the confirmations of nominees means that over the course of President Obama’s administration the number of judicial vacancies nearly doubled.  In January 2009, there were 53 Federal district and appellate court vacancies.  Today, there are 94 Federal district and appellate court vacancies—37 of which have been designated as judicial emergency vacancies by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  This is unacceptable.  We have the nominees we need to make progress, but we do not have the consent we need from Senate Republicans.

Republicans have argued that we do not need to pick up the pace of confirming Federal judges, because we have confirmed more of President Obama’s nominees than at the same point in 2005, the fifth year of George W. Bush’s presidency.  The facts tell a different story.  President Bush made just 5 new circuit and district nominations in 2005, compared to 43 new circuit and district nominations by President Obama this year.  With more nominees to consider, it only makes sense that we have held more hearings and confirmed more judges this year than in 2005. 

Today the Senate will vote on the nominations of Valerie Caproni and Vernon Broderick to fill vacancies in the Southern District of New York.  Since the time of her nomination until today, the seat to which Ms. Caproni is nominated has been added to the list of judicial emergency vacancies by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the Courts.  Ms. Caproni is currently Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Northrop Grumman Corporation.  She has served the public in various capacities, including as General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2003 to 2011, as Regional Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Pacific Regional Office from 1998 to 2001, and as a Federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York from both 1985 to 1992 and 1998 to 2001.  During her tenure as a Federal prosecutor, she served as Chief of the Criminal Division, Chief of the Organized Crime & Racketeering Unit, and Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit.  Ms. Caproni also has extensive experience in private practice, having served as counsel in the New York office of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, and as an associate at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.  Following law school, Ms. Caproni clerked for the Honorable Phyllis Kravitch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Mr. Broderick has split his career between Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where he is currently a partner and was previously counsel and an associate, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Mr. Broderick has extensive experience in Federal court.  He has also tried 11 jury cases to verdict.  Since he was appointed in 2003 by Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Broderick has served on the Commission to Combat Police Corruption. 

Both nominees have the support of their home state Senators, Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand.  Both nominees were also unanimously rated “Well Qualified” by the nonpartisan ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, its highest rating.  They were reported by the Judiciary Committee by voice vote nearly three months ago.

I hope the Senate moves to confirm these nominees, but reducing Federal judicial vacancies from 94 to 92 is not enough.  It is well past time for the Senate to get serious about giving our Federal courts the resources it needs to provide justice for the American people.  In July the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts held a hearing on the impact of sequestration that highlighted the damage that these senseless cuts are doing to our justice system. 

Tomorrow, Senator Coons will chair another hearing in that Subcommittee to evaluate the judgeship needs of Federal courts across the country and hear testimony on the Coons-Leahy Federal Judgeship Act of 2013, which would implement the Judicial Conference’s recommendations for desperately-needed new judgeships.  I hope that Senators from both sides of the aisle will support this bill, which is based on what judges across the Nation believe they need to administer justice effectively.  Addressing the resources of a co-equal branch of our government should not be politicized.  We need to end sequestration, and act responsibly in addressing the staffing needs of our justice system so that it can continue to serve the American people and be a model for other countries.

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