Leahy Calls for Action on Judicial Nominees

Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:12am

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called on Republicans on Tuesday to approve the 22 judicial nominees awaiting confirmation as the chamber prepares for a larger Supreme Court battle this summer.

“Senators should vote up or down,” Leahy said at a press conference, complaining that Republicans were slow-walking scores of judicial and executive nominees. “When you have these constant filibusters, you’re voting ‘maybe.'”

Leahy declared the 40 lower court vacancies nationwide “a judicial emergency.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Judiciary member and the Conference vice chairman, said Republican objections were raised “only for the reason of partisan gridlock.”

Schumer noted that New York’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which Justice Sonia Sotomayor once served on, has four openings and three nominees awaiting approval. The Judiciary panel unanimously approved one of the pending nominees, Denny Chin, who if confirmed would be the only Asian-American on the federal circuit court

“The Second Circuit can’t afford to be under-manned like this,” Schumer said, adding that Chin “is going to pass over, but they’re holding him up.”

While Leahy has periodically harped on the issue since last year, the latest salvo comes as the Senate prepares to consider President Barack Obama’s second Supreme Court nominee. Leahy’s press conference also came three days before his panel will hear testimony from Goodwin Liu, a controversial nominee to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who will likely face a difficult confirmation process.

Leahy and Schumer said Democrats would be getting “revved up” on the issue of judicial nominees in the coming weeks, holding late-night votes and daring Republicans to object to Obama’s picks. While they did not offer a timeline, Leahy said the Judiciary panel would press on with Supreme Court confirmation hearings after they have a nominee, regardless of whether the executive calendar’s list of judicial names is cleared.

“I think we can do more than one thing at a time,” he said.