Bill Clinton judicial appointment controversies

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During President Bill Clinton's first and second terms of office, he nominated 24 people for 20 different federal appellate judgeships but the nominees were not processed by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. Three of the nominees who were not processed (Christine Arguello, Andre M. Davis and S. Elizabeth Gibson) were nominated after July 1, 2000, the traditional start date of the unofficial Thurmond Rule during a presidential election year. The Democrats claim that Senate Republicans of the 106th Congress on purpose tried to keep open particular judgeships as a political maneuver to allow a future Republican president to fill them. Of the 20 seats in question, four were eventually filled with different Clinton nominees, fourteen were later filled with Republican nominees by President George W. Bush and two were left open during Bush's presidency. Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the United States Senate during the 110th Congress, and Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee under Reid, repeatedly mentioned the controversy over President Clinton's court of appeals nominees during the following controversy involving the confirmation of any more Republican court of appeals nominees during the last two years of Bush's second term. Senate Republicans of the 110th Congress claimed that Democrats were refusing to confirm certain longstanding Bush nominees in order to allow a future Democratic president in 2009 to fill those judgeships.

During his presidency, Clinton also nominated 45 people for 42 different federal district judgeships who were never confirmed by the United States Senate.

List of failed appellate nominees[edit]

Others who were nominated or considered for nomination to federal appellate courts[edit]

While not a controversy, one other Clinton appellate court nominee, Barbara Durham, withdrew before being confirmed, but not because of Republican opposition. Rather, Durham, a conservative jurist whom Clinton nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit as part of a deal with then-Washington Sen. Slade Gorton, withdrew because of illness. Clinton instead nominated Republican lawyer Richard Tallman of Seattle to the seat to which he had nominated Durham, and Tallman was confirmed in 2000.

While he was never formally nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Peter Edelman was strongly considered by Clinton for a seat on that appeals court in late 1994. After the influential Republican member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Orrin Hatch informed Clinton that he had intended to oppose Edelman's nomination, Clinton dropped plans to nominate Edelman to the D.C. Circuit, choosing Merrick Garland instead.[1]

In its November 1997 issue, the American Spectator reported that President Clinton had intended to nominate Teresa Wynn Roseborough in 1997 to a vacant seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch took senior status. The American Spectator noted, however, that Sen. Orrin Hatch, the then-chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, had "balked" at the idea of Roseborough, who was one of four finalists (the others were Leah Ward Sears, Clarence Cooper and Frank M. Hull) and had "suggested that a more moderate Clinton-appointed U.S. district judge, Frank Hull, would have clear sailing." Indeed, Frank M. Hull was confirmed by the Senate in a 96-0 vote in September 1997.[2]

Failed district court nominees[edit]

During his presidency, Clinton nominated 45 people for 42 different federal district judgeships to federal district courts who never were confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Like the appellate court nominations mentioned above, many of these nominees were blocked by Republicans either in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was controlled by Republicans for six of the eight years of Clinton’s presidency, or on the Senate floor, where one nominee, Ronnie L. White, was defeated by senators.

Of the 42 federal district judgeship vacancies in question, 17 eventually were filled with different Clinton nominees, 24 were filled by nominees of President George W. Bush and one never ended up becoming vacant because the district judge holding it never received confirmation to be elevated to an appellate court. Of Clinton's 45 failed district court nominees, four, Legrome D. Davis, David S. Cercone, Dolly M. Gee and Sue E. Myerscough, subsequently were nominated by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to federal district judgeships and then confirmed by the Senate.

The failed Clinton district court nominees:

See also[edit]

References[edit]