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Menendez Bows To Pressure, Backs Obama’s Judicial Nominee

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) will back Patty Shwartz to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit after taking heat from the White House and newspaper editorial boards for opposing her.

“After an in-depth discussion today with Judge Patty Shwartz, I am pleased to announce that I am supporting her nomination to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals,” Menendez said in a release. “Judge Shwartz satisfactorily answered questions covering important legal topics such as current law on the rights of corporations under the First Amendment, constitutional limits on Executive Branch power and the application of heightened standards of review under the Constitution. She adequately allayed my earlier concerns.” 

“I am grateful to members of the federal bar whom I respect greatly —  Gerry Krovatin, James Cecchi and John Vazquez — for sharing their positive insights regarding Judge Shwartz’s abilities,” Menedez continued.

Menendez initially opposed Shwartz’s nomination after meeting her in August and asking her about issues he felt appellate judges should know about, such as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Menendez agreed to a second meeting after receiving a letter from Shwartz Wednesday evening requesting it, his office said.  

Democrats and Menendez, who served as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman for the past election cycle, see the Citizens United ruling as one of the defining issues of the 2012 cycle and have pushed to pass legislation to undo the decision’s effects.

Under Citizens United corporations were declared to be citizens, giving them the right to spend unlimited funds on elections and calling that spending an expression of free speech rights.

In July, Menendez and four other Democratic Senators introduced legislation that would require that a majority representing all of a company’s outstanding shares must vote to approve a company’s political spending.

He felt Shwartz’s answers in the initial interview were unsatisfactory and did not give his assent to her nomination. The move is the first time a Democrat has blocked one of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees.

Menendez has taken heat for the decision, including charges that his opposition has more to do with retaliation than anything else. Shwartz is romantically linked to Jim Nobile, who led a federal corruption investigation against Menendez. Democrats have argued the probe was politically motivated. No charges were ever brought, and the five-year probe was ended in October.

But Menendez’s office has dismissed the idea and said his concern over the nomination stems strictly from Shwartz’s qualifications.

The American Bar Association has given her a “unanimously well qualified” rating and the White House is sticking by its choice.

“We obviously want to see all of the president’s nominees considered in a timely manner,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. “And we would like this nominee also to be considered in a timely manner.

“Whatever obstacles are presented by members of the Senate to nominees, we are always disheartened by those,” Carney continued. “The president’s put forward very qualified nominees, including [Shwartz], and they ought to be considered on the merits.”

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