Barack Obama judicial appointment controversies

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U.S. President Barack Obama nominated over four hundred individuals for federal judgeships during his presidency. Of these nominations, Congress confirmed 329 judgeships, 173 during the 111th & 112th Congresses[1] and 156 during the 113th and 114th Congresses.[2]

The most potent filibustering of Obama's nominees occurred in the Republican controlled 114th Congress. Obama nominated 69 people for 104 different federal appellate judgeships during this Congress, and although some nominees were processed by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, many of them stalled on the floor of the Senate. With the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016, in the thick of a presidential election year, the Republican majority in the Senate made it their stated policy to refuse to consider any nominee to the Supreme Court put forward by Obama, arguing that the next president should be the one to appoint Scalia's replacement. Scalia's death was only the second death of a serving justice in a span of sixty years.[3]

Even while Democrats still controlled the Senate (2009-2014), Republicans filibustered many nominees, and Senator Chuck Grassley commented that more nominees could have been confirmed had Obama respected recess appointment precedent by not making recess appointments while the Senate was in session.[4] Although Obama never used a recess appointment to appoint a nominee to the federal bench, he had appointed some executive agency officials in January 2012.

As a response to the continuing blocking of several of Obama's nominees, Senator Harry Reid on November 21, 2013, invoked the so-called nuclear option and changed the Senate rules, meaning that a simple majority vote would suffice for all nominees except for the Supreme Court. This significantly sped up the pace of confirmations during 2014, especially to the district courts.[5]

Failed Supreme Court nomination[edit]

Following the February 2016 death of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court. At the time of his nomination, Garland was the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Scalia's death led to an unusual situation in which a Democratic president had the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court nominee while the Republicans controlled the United States Senate; before Scalia's death, such a situation last occurred when a Senate Republican majority confirmed Grover Cleveland's nomination of Rufus Wheeler Peckham in 1895.[6] Conversely, in February 1988, during an election year, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed Anthony Kennedy, who was the Republican President Ronald Reagan's nominee for the Supreme Court, though Kennedy had been nominated in November 1987[7] and was Reagan's third nomination to the seat. Garland himself was not personally controversial. However, political commentators widely recognized Scalia as one of the more conservative members of the Court, and noted that a more liberal replacement could shift the Court's ideological balance for many years into the future. The confirmation of Garland would have given Democratic appointees a majority on the Supreme Court for the first time since the 1970 confirmation of Harry Blackmun.[8] After the death of Scalia, Republican Senate leaders announced that they planned to hold no vote on any potential nomination during the president's last year in office.[9] Senate Democrats responded that there was sufficient time to vote on a nominee before the election.[10] Garland's nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. The nomination remained before the Senate for 293 days,[11] which is more than twice as long as any other Supreme Court nomination.[12] On January 31, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the position. Gorsuch was later confirmed on April 7, 2017 by a vote of 54–45[13] and sworn in on April 10, 2017.[14]

List of failed, stalled or filibustered appellate nominees[edit]

Failed nominees[edit]

  • United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
    • Robert Chatigny (of Connecticut), to seat vacated by Guido Calabresi: during the 111th Congress, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd recommended Chatigny for a judgeship on the Second Circuit,[15] and he was nominated by President Obama on February 24, 2010.[16] The nomination quickly became controversial. Critics of Chatigny's nomination highlighted his controversial performance during the trial of serial killer Michael Bruce Ross, for whom Chatigny granted a temporary stay of execution.[17] Critics also pointed out his 2001 ruling declaring that a sex offender registration system violated a convict's civil rights and right to privacy, which was a ruling that drew bipartisan condemnation.[18] His nomination was returned by the Senate on August 5, 2010. He removed his name from consideration[19] and was not renominated when the 112th Congress convened.[15] Obama later chose U.S. District Judge Christopher F. Droney to fill the seat to which Chatigny had been nominated, and the Senate confirmed Droney without opposition on November 28, 2011.[20]
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • Goodwin Liu (of California), to newly created seat: Liu was nominated on February 24, 2010.[16] His nomination was returned by the Senate on August 5, 2010.[21] Liu had faced opposition due to his outspoken support of same-sex marriage and affirmative action,[21] and a 2008 article he wrote which claimed that there was a Constitutional right to receive welfare.[22][23] He was also denounced for his personal criticism of the Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.[24] Republican opposition to Liu was also due in part to his being considered as a possible Supreme Court candidate.[24] Liu was renominated at the start of the 112th Congress. On May 17, 2011, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed for cloture on Liu's nomination, with 60 votes needed to proceed to a floor vote on Liu's nomination. The cloture motion attracted only 52 of the 60 aye votes required. On May 25, 2011, Liu wrote to Obama requesting that his nomination be withdrawn due to the improbability that he would receive a floor vote.[25] On July 26, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown nominated Liu to a seat on the Supreme Court of California,[26] and he was sworn in on September 1, 2011.[27] Obama later nominated U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the Ninth Circuit seat to which Liu had been nominated,[28] and the Senate confirmed her without opposition on May 7, 2012.[29]
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • Edward C. DuMont: DuMont was nominated to the Federal Circuit on April 14, 2010.[30] If he had been confirmed, DuMont would have been the first openly gay United States appeals court judge.[31] The nomination languished for 18 months before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which never scheduled a hearing on it, despite having had hearings and votes for two later nominees to the same court. A spokesperson for Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the committee, said in August 2011 only that "There are questions in Mr. DuMont's background investigation that have to be resolved."[32] In November 2011, the National Law Journal reported that DuMont had submitted a letter to President Obama, asking that the president withdraw his nomination because one or more senators of the minority party on the Committee refused to allow the committee to give him a hearing. Obama withdrew DuMont's nomination later that day.[33] In November 2011, Obama nominated Richard G. Taranto to the seat to which DuMont had been nominated, and the Senate confirmed him without opposition on March 11, 2013.
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • Stephen Six (of Kansas), to seat vacated by Deanell Reece Tacha.[36] Former Kansas Attorney General Six was opposed by both home state Senators. Republicans claimed that he was a liberal extremist who would substitute his personal opinions for the law and the Constitution. Six's critics strongly condemned his conduct in a 2008 investigation of physician George Tiller, who was charged with performing illegal late-term abortions. Six was accused of improperly quashing a subpoena for Tiller's patient records.[37] Because of opposition by both of his home state Senators and negative publicity, the Senate Judiciary Committee did not act upon the nomination. The nomination was returned to the president on December 17, 2011, pursuant to the rules of the Senate, and the president chose not to renominate him.[38] President Obama later chose Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz to fill the seat to which Six had been nominated, and the Senate confirmed Moritz on May 5, 2014.[39]
  • United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • Caitlin Halligan (of New York), to seat vacated by John Roberts:[40] on September 29, 2010, President Obama nominated New York Solicitor Halligan. She became controversial because of her statement that "gun manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers contributed to a 'public nuisance' of illegal handguns in the state."[41] Her critics used that to claim that she was a liberal ideologue who would not uphold the Second Amendment and would base rulings on personal opinion rather than the law. Halligan was blocked by Senate Republicans in a mostly party-line filibuster in December 2011.[42] Obama renominated Halligan to the D.C. Circuit in June 2012.[43] The nomination was again returned to the President on August 3, 2012, as a result of Republicans refusing to allow the nomination to be held over during the Senate's extended summer recess.[44] Obama renominated Halligan to the seat on September 19, 2012.[45] On March 22, 2013, the President officially withdrew Halligan's nomination.[46] On June 4, 2013, Obama nominated Patricia Ann Millett to fill the vacancy. The Senate confirmed her on December 10, 2013.

Successfully appointed nominees[edit]

  • United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • Barbara Milano Keenan (of Virginia), to seat vacated by H. Emory Widener: Keenan was nominated on September 14, 2009.[53] Keenan's nomination was not considered controversial,[54] but was subjected to what Virginia Senator Mark Warner called "unnecessary filibusters that came to an end with two unanimous, bipartisan votes."[54] Prior to President Obama's successful appointment of Keenan, President George W. Bush had unsuccessfully nominated three separate individuals to succeed Judge Widener: William J. Haynes, who was initially nominated in September 2003 and withdrew from consideration in January 2007; E. Duncan Getchell, who was nominated in September 2007 and withdrew from consideration in January 2008; and Glen E. Conrad, whose nomination in May 2008 expired at the end of Bush's presidency in January 2009. Cloture was successfully invoked on March 2, 2010 by a vote of 99–0,[55] and Keenan was confirmed later that day by a vote of 99–0.[56]
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • Patty Shwartz (of New Jersey), to seat vacated by Maryanne Trump Barry: New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, had not returned his blue slip—effectively blocking the nomination, because nominations at the time did not go forward without the support of home-state senators, which came in the form of a blue slip that was returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.[57] In January 2012, The New York Times reported that Menendez had not given a reason for not returning his blue slip and noted that Shwartz long had been in a relationship with the head of the public corruption unit for New Jersey's federal prosecutor. That was the unit that investigated Menendez during his 2006 election fight—an investigation that Menendez contended was politically motivated.[57] On January 13, 2012, Menendez announced that he had dropped his opposition to Shwartz's nomination.[58] On February 15, 2012, Shwartz received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On March 8, 2012, the Judiciary Committee reported her nomination to the floor of the Senate by a vote of 10 ayes to 6 nays. On January 2, 2013, her nomination was returned to the President, due to the sine die adjournment of the Senate.[59] On January 3, 2013, she was renominated. Her nomination was reported to the floor by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 14, 2013, by a vote of 11 ayes to 7 nays.[60] The Senate confirmed the nomination on April 9, 2013 by a 64–34 vote.
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • Andrew D. Hurwitz (of Arizona), to seat vacated by Mary M. Schroeder: Some Republican senators had objected to Hurwitz and required a cloture vote on his nomination because of his role some 40 years earlier as a young law clerk. Hurwitz had been a law clerk for then-U.S. District Judge Jon O. Newman, and in a 2002 law review article, Hurwitz wrote that he had helped to write—and still admires the legal framework for—Newman's opinion striking down Connecticut's abortion law, just a year before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.[61] Both of Hurwitz's home-state senators have supported his nomination, but other Republican senators objected to it.[62] After a Republican filibuster on Hurwitz's nomination, senators voted 60–31 on June 11, 2012 to invoke cloture.[63] Senators then confirmed Hurwitz on June 12, 2012, in a voice vote.[64]
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • Adalberto Jordan (of Florida), to seat vacated by Susan H. Black. Jordan's nomination was the subject of a filibuster by Senate Republicans, who had no major objections to Jordan himself but were angry by unrelated recess appointments by President Obama in early January 2012. On February 9, 2012, Senator Harry Reid motioned to invoke cloture on Jordan's nomination. Cloture was achieved in an 89–5 vote on February 13, 2012,[67] and the Senate confirmed Jordan on February 15, 2012 in a 94–5 vote.[68]
    • Jill A. Pryor Originally nominated February 16, 2012 to seat vacated by Stanley F. Birch. Georgia's two Republican senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss refused to return their blue slips, thus blocking her nomination.[69] In September 2013, it was reported that a deal was in the works between the White House and the Senators to ensure a hearing on the Pryor nomination and to fill the other district court vacancies within Georgia, thus upsetting those in the Georgia's Democratic delegation.[70] On May 13, 2014, a hearing was held on her nomination. On June 19, 2014, her nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote. On July 30, 2014, Senator Harry Reid motioned to invoke cloture on Pryor's nomination. On July 31, 2014, the Senate voted 58–33 for cloture on Pryor's nomination. On September 8, 2014, the Senate voted 97–0 in favor of confirmation.
  • United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard to seats respectively vacated by John G. Roberts, Jr. and Douglas H. Ginsburg: in November 2013, Republicans blocked the nomination of three nominees by filibustering.[71] Republican Senators called Obama's nominations "court packing", which evoked but was not analogous to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.[72] As a response to these actions Senator Harry Reid on November 21, 2013, invoked the so-called nuclear option which changed the Senate rules and meant that a simple majority vote would suffice for all nominees except for Supreme Court nominees.[5] Millet was confirmed on December 10, 2013, by a vote of 56–38, Pillard was confirmed on December 11, 2013, by a vote of 51-44.
    • Robert L. Wilkins to seat vacated by David B. Sentelle: in November 2013, Republicans blocked the nomination of Wilkins by filibustering.[71] On November 14, 2013, Senator Harry Reid motioned to invoke cloture on Wilkins' nomination. The Senate failed to invoke cloture on November 18, 2013, by a vote of 53–38.[73] Republican Senators called Obama's nominations to the DC Court "court packing", which evoked but was not analogous to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.[72] As a response to these actions, Reid on November 21, 2013, invoked the so-called nuclear option which changed the Senate rules and meant that a simple majority vote would suffice for all nominees except for Supreme Court nominees.[5] Cloture was subsequently invoked on January 9, 2014, by a vote of 55–38. Wilkins was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 55-43 on January 13, 2014.[74] His confirmation marked the first time the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had a full complement of judges in over 22 years since Clarence Thomas left the court on October 23, 1991 upon his elevation to the Supreme Court.

List of failed, stalled or filibustered district court nominees[edit]

Failed nominees[edit]

  • United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
    • Louis B. Butler: Butler ran for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2000, but was defeated by a wide margin.[75] He was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2004, but he narrowly lost the 2008 election to retain the seat.[76] On September 30, 2009, President Obama nominated Butler to serve as a judge. Critics argued that Butler should not be appointed to the federal bench after having been twice rejected by the voters of his state.[76] Butler's critics also accused him of being a liberal ideologue who was hostile to tough criminal sentences and the rights of gun owners.[77] He was also controversial for a ruling which effectively overturned the state's limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits and another ruling in which he supported "collective liability" in lead paint cases in which companies could be held liable for products that they didn't produce. This led to charges that he was overly beholden to trial lawyers.[78] Senator Ron Johnson, who was elected in 2010, immediately put a hold on Butler's nomination once he took office, and senators returned Butler's nomination to the White House in December 2011. On November 7, 2013, Obama nominated James D. Peterson to fill this vacancy, and he was confirmed on May 8, 2014.
  • United States District Court for the District of Maryland
    • Charles Bernard Day: Day, a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Maryland, was initially nominated in July 2010, but his nomination was withdrawn by President Obama on October 31, 2011. According to Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, Day was blocked from receiving a hearing by Senate Republicans.[79] However, Senator Chuck Grassley stated that Committee members had "insurmountable concerns" about matters raised during a background investigation of Day, adding that Day "is aware of those problems and is free to share that information if he so desires.[80] In November 2011, Obama nominated George Levi Russell III to fill the vacant seat to which Day had been nominated, and the Senate confirmed Russell on May 14, 2012.
  • United States District Court for the Western District of New York
    • Michael Charles Green: Green, then Monroe County District Attorney in western New York, was nominated on January 26, 2011. At first, he generated little controversy and was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But his nomination languished for more than six months before being returned to the White House at the behest of Senate Republicans at the end of the session of Congress that concluded in December 2011. Utah Senator Mike Lee was the lone senator to oppose Green in the committee vote. In follow-up questions to his hearing testimony, however, several Republican senators focused on Green's decision to seek drug treatment rather than jail for some offenders, while others queried Green about his views on the death penalty. On December 18, 2011, a White House spokesman told a local newspaper that President Obama would not be renominating Green to the seat.[81] "Mike Green would have made an outstanding judge, and it is very unfortunate not only for him, but for a strong judiciary, that partisan politics stood in the way," Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement on December 18, 2011. On December 19, 2011, Green said at a press conference that he blamed local opposition on his failed judicial nomination, as a result of his prosecution of public corruption.[82] In May 2012, Obama nominated longtime Rochester judge Frank Paul Geraci, Jr. to the seat to which Green had been nominated, and the Senate confirmed Geraci without opposition on December 13, 2012.
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma
    • Arvo Mikkanen: Mikkanen was nominated after being recommended by Democratic Governor Brad Henry.[83] His nomination was immediately met with opposition from members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation, with Republican Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn and Democratic Representative Dan Boren expressing disappointment that they were not consulted on the nomination.[84][85] However, the White House disputed that they did not consult with the Oklahoma congressional delegation.[85] Public opposition to Mikkanen's nomination had centered around procedural grounds rather than substantive issues about Mikkanen himself.[84][85] In February 2012, President Obama nominated then-federal magistrate judge John E. Dowdell to the seat to which Mikkanen had been nominated. The Senate confirmed Dowdell on December 11, 2012.
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
    • Natasha Perdew Silas: Georgia's two Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, opposed Silas, a staff attorney at the Federal Public Defender program for Northern Georgia, for reasons which they declined to discuss publicly. As a result, Silas did not receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[86] Her nomination was returned to Obama on December 17, 2011. On December 19, 2013, Obama nominated Mark Howard Cohen to fill this vacancy. He was confirmed on November 18, 2014.
    • Linda T. Walker: Originally nominated on January 26, 2011. Her nomination expired when it was returned to the President on December 17, 2011. On December 19, 2013, Obama nominated Leigh Martin May to fill this vacancy. She was confirmed on November 13, 2014.
    • Michael P. Boggs: Originally nominated on December 19, 2013 to the seat expected to be vacated by Judge Julie E. Carnes, who was nominated to United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on the same day. David Scott, U.S. Representative from Georgia's 13th district, criticized the nomination of Boggs because of Boggs' votes in the legislature to retain Confederate insignia in the state flag of Georgia, restrict abortion, and ban same-sex marriage.[87] Boggs was nominated as part of a group of nominees that won approval of Georgia's U.S. Senators, to allow votes on their nominations.[87] He received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 13, 2014, but his nomination was not reported from committee. On December 30, 2014, Senator Chambliss revealed that he had been advised in late November by White House chief of staff Denis McDonough that Boggs would not be renominated.[88] On July 30, 2015 the President nominated judge Dax Eric López to the vacancy.
    • Dax Eric López: On July 30, 2015, President Obama nominated López to serve as a judge, to the seat vacated by Julie E. Carnes, who was elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.[89] Senator David Perdue announced that he would not return Lopez's blue slip, effectively killing his nomination.[90] The seat was later filled by Trump nominee Michael Lawrence Brown.
  • United States District Court for the District of Nevada
    • Elissa F. Cadish: On February 16, 2012, President Obama nominated Cadish, a Clark County District Court Judge, to be a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.[91] She would have replaced Philip M. Pro who took senior status in 2011. Because Senator Heller had refused to return his blue slip, the Senate Judiciary Committee did not hold a hearing on her nomination. Heller's opposition to her nomination and his invocation of "senatorial courtesy" was because of a statement by Cadish indicating that she believed that there was no individual right to keep and bear arms, a statement which was made in 2008, prior to Supreme Court decisions explicitly recognizing an individual right to keep and bear arms.[92] On March 8, 2013, Cadish requested that President Obama withdraw her nomination, and on March 13, 2013, Obama formally withdrew the nomination.[93] On January 16, 2014, Obama nominated Richard Franklin Boulware II to fill this vacancy, and he was confirmed on June 10, 2014.
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
    • William L. Thomas: On November 14, 2012, President Obama nominated Thomas to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida[94] to replace Adalberto Jordan.[95] If confirmed, Thomas would have been the first openly gay black male to serve as a federal judge.[96] On January 2, 2013, his nomination was returned to the President, due to the sine die adjournment of the Senate. On January 3, 2013, he was renominated to the same office. On September 19, 2013, Senator Marco Rubio announced that – although originally he recommended Thomas to the President – he would not return his blue slip.[97] His nomination was returned to the President because of the sine die adjournment of Congress on January 3, 2014. Obama decided not to resubmitt the nomination a third time.[98] Florida Circuit Court Judge Robin L. Rosenberg was nominated to the seat on February 26, 2014, and she was confirmed on July 22, 2014.
  • United States District Court for the District of South Carolina
    • Alison Renee Lee: A state Circuit Court Judge since 1999, Lee was originally nominated on June 26, 2013, to the seat being vacated by Cameron McGowan Currie, who took senior status on October 3, 2013.[99] South Carolina Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott opposed her nomination because of a controversial decision that she made involving burglary suspect Lorenzo Young. Lee consolidated his bonds and reduced the bond total from $225,000 to $175,000 for Young, who subsequently was released and then later charged in a July 1 murder.[100][101] Because of opposition from her home state senators and no opportunity of receiving a committee hearing, on September 18, 2014, Obama withdrew her nomination.[102] The seat was later filled by Trump nominee A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr..
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina
  • United States District Court for the District of Kansas
    • Terrence J. Campbell: On January 28, 2016, President Obama nominated Campbell to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, to the seat vacated by Kathryn H. Vratil, who took senior status on April 22, 2014.[104] On December 7, 2016, Campbell, in letters to Obama and Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, requested that his name be withdrawn from further consideration.[105] His nomination expired on January 3, 2017, at the end of the 114th Congress. The seat was later filled by Trump nominee Holly Lou Teeter.
  • United States District Court for the District of Utah
    • Ronald G. Russell: On December 16, 2015, President Obama nominated former Centerville Mayor Russell to serve on the United States District Court for the District of Utah, to the seat vacated by Ted Stewart, who took senior status on September 1, 2014.[106] Russell, a Republican, had the support of Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Russell received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 20, 2016, and was approved without objection on May 19. However, Russell's nomination stalled on the floor, due to the blockade on confirmations imposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democratic objections to expediting Russell's nomination without confirming longer-pending Democrats. Without floor action, Russell's nomination was returned to the White House unconfirmed on January 3, 2017.[107] The seat was later filled by Trump nominee Howard C. Nielson Jr..

Successfully appointed nominees[edit]

  • United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
    • John J. McConnell, Jr.: McConnell was first nominated on March 10, 2010.[108] McConnell had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, including over eight thousand each to the campaigns of Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.[108] McConnell's critics contended that his prolific political contributions suggest that McConnell would be a partisan judge.[109] On May 4, 2011, the Senate invoked cloture on McConnell's nomination in a 63–33 vote, and he was confirmed later that same day in a 50–44 vote.[110] At the time, the cloture petition to break the filibuster marked one of the rare instances that such a motion had been required to force a vote on a district court nominee, with only three prior instances recorded.[111]
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of California
    • Edward M. Chen: Chen faced opposition due to his work as an attorney for the ACLU.[21][112] On May 5, 2011, Senator Harry Reid received unanimous consent from the Senate to proceed to an executive session of the Senate at a future time, eliminating the need to file for cloture on Chen's nomination.[113] On May 10, 2011, Chen was confirmed by a 56–42 vote.
  • United States District Court for the District of Arizona
    • Rosemary Marquez: On June 23, 2011, President Obama nominated Marquez, a Tucson defense attorney, to the federal court in Arizona. However, Arizona's two Republican senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, refused to return their blue slips.[114] McCain said that he did not believe that Marquez was qualified, telling a newspaper, "I've been working with Sen. Kyl, but we do not feel at this time that she's qualified."[115] On January 28, 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on her nomination as well as five other individuals nominated to the same court. She was confirmed on May 15, 2014, by a vote of 81–15.
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
    • Ronnie L. White: On November 7, 2013, President Obama nominated Missouri Supreme Court Justice White to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.[116] White had previously been nominated for the same position by President Bill Clinton in 1997, but the nomination was defeated.[117] The nomination drew controversy, as Republicans charged White as being a liberal ideologue who was biased in favor of criminal defendants. He received a hearing before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on May 20, 2014.[118] On June 19, 2014 his nomination was reported out of committee by a vote of 10–8.[119] On July 16, 2014, the Senate voted 54–43 for cloture on White's nomination, ending a Republican-led filibuster. Later that same day, senators voted 53–44 to confirm White.[120]

Effects of vacancies[edit]

A 2016 study found that the current rate of federal judicial vacancies (10 percent) had led prosecutors to dismiss more cases and had led defendants to be more likely to plead guilty and less likely to be incarcerated.[121] The authors found that "the current rate of vacancies has resulted in 1,000 fewer prison inmates annually compared to a fully-staffed court system, a 1.5 percent decrease."[121]

Nominations that were made at the end of Obama's term and later renominated[edit]

Successfully appointed renominees[edit]

  • United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida
    • William F. Jung: On April 28, 2016, President Obama nominated Jung to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, to the seat vacated by Anne C. Conway, who took senior status on August 1, 2015. Jung had been previously nominated for the same court by President George W. Bush in 2008, but the nomination was not acted upon by Senate Democrats, with Obama nominee Charlene Honeywell being appointed to that seat instead. For this 2016 nomination, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Jung unanimously "Well Qualified."[122] In spite of this, his nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress.[123] On December 21, 2017, he was nominated a third time by President Trump.[124] On February 14, 2018, a hearing on his nomination was held.[125] On March 15, 2018, his nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[126] On September 6, 2018, his nomination was confirmed by voice vote.[127]
  • United States District Court for the District of Idaho
    • David Nye: On the recommendation of Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, President Obama nominated Nye on April 5, 2016 to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho.[128][129] Nye was nominated to the seat vacated by Edward Lodge, who took senior status on July 3, 2015. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on June 21, 2016.[130] On July 14, 2016, his nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[131] His nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. Senators Crapo and Risch indicated that if Nye was not confirmed in the 114th Congress, then they would recommend him to President Trump for renomination in the 115th Congress.[132] He was subsequently renominated by Trump in 2017, and his nomination was confirmed unanimously on July 12, 2017.
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • John Milton Younge: On July 30, 2015, President Obama nominated Judge Younge to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to the seat vacated by Mary A. McLaughlin, who assumed senior status on November 18, 2013.[145] He received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 9, 2015.[146] His nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. On July 13, 2018. President Trump announced his intent to renominate Younge to the same seat.[147] On July 17, 2018, his nomination was sent to the Senate.[148] On July 31, 2019, the Senate confirmed his nomination by voice vote.
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
    • Susan Paradise Baxter: On July 30, 2015, President Obama nominated Baxter to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, to the seat vacated by Sean J. McLaughlin who resigned on August 16, 2013.[145] She received a hearing on December 9, 2015.[146] On January 28, 2016, her nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[149] Her nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress, with Trump nominee Peter J. Phipps being appointed to the seat instead. On December 20, 2017, her renomination to the same seat was announced by President Trump and sent to the Senate.[150] On February 15, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to support her nomination on a voice vote.[151] On August 28, 2018, her nomination was confirmed by voice vote.[152]
    • Marilyn Jean Horan: On July 30, 2015, President Obama nominated Judge Horan to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, to the seat vacated by Terrence F. McVerry, who assumed senior status on September 30, 2013.[145] She received a hearing on December 9, 2015.[146] On January 28, 2016, her nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[149] Her nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. On December 20, 2017, her renomination to the same court was announced by President Trump and sent to the Senate.[150] She was nominated to the seat vacated by Gary L. Lancaster, who died on April 24, 2013.[153] On February 15, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to support her nomination on a voice vote.[151] On September 6, 2018, her nomination was confirmed by voice vote.[154]
    • Robert J. Colville: On July 30, 2015, President Obama nominated Colville to the seat vacated due to the death of Judge Gary L. Lancaster, on April 24, 2013.[155] He received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 9, 2015.[156] His nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress, with fellow former Obama nominee Marilyn Jean Horan being appointed instead. On March 1, 2019, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Colville to serve as a United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.[157] On March 5, 2019, his nomination was sent to the Senate. President Trump nominated Colville to the seat vacated by Arthur J. Schwab, who took senior status on January 1, 2018.[158] On May 9, 2019, his nomination was reported out of committee by a 15–7 vote.[159] On December 19, 2019, his nomination was confirmed by a vote of 66–27.
  • United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
    • Mary S. McElroy: On September 8, 2015, President Obama nominated McElroy to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, to the seat vacated by Mary M. Lisi, who took senior status on October 1, 2015.[133] She received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 9, 2015.[146] On January 28, 2016, her nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[149] Her nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. On April 10, 2018, President Trump announced his intent to renominate McElroy to the same seat.[160] On April 12, 2018, her nomination was sent to the Senate.[161] On October 11, 2018, her nomination was reported out of committee by a 19–2 vote.[138] On January 3, 2019, her nomination was returned to the President under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6 of the United States Senate. On April 8, 2019, Trump announced the renomination of McElroy.[140] On May 21, 2019, her nomination was sent to the Senate.[141] On September 11, 2019, her nomination was confirmed by a voice vote.
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Texas
    • Walter David Counts III: On March 15, 2016, President Obama nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Counts to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, to the seat vacated by Robert A. Junell, who took senior status on February 13, 2015.[175] Counts was selected as a compromise between the Obama White House and the state's two U.S. Senators, both Republicans. On September 7, 2016, a hearing was held on his nomination.[176] While Counts generated no controversy, the nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. On September 7, 2017, President Trump renominated Counts to the same seat.[177] On October 26, 2017, his nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[178] On January 11, 2018, the Senate voted to confirm Counts by a vote of 96–0.[179]
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
    • Gary Richard Brown: On July 30, 2015, President Obama nominated Brown to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, to the seat vacated by Sandra J. Feuerstein, who assumed senior status on January 21, 2015.[145] He received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 21, 2015.[180] On November 5, 2015, his nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote.[181] His nomination expired on January 3, 2017, at the end of the 114th Congress. In August 2017, Brown was one of several candidates pitched by the White House to U.S. Senators from New York Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as judicial candidates for vacancies on the federal courts in New York.[182] On May 10, 2018, President Trump announced his intent to renominate Brown to the same seat. On May 15, 2018, his nomination was sent to the Senate. On September 13, 2018, his nomination was reported out of committee by a 21–0 vote.[183] On January 3, 2019, her nomination was returned to the President under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6 of the United States Senate.[184] On April 8, 2019, Trump announced the renomination of Brown to the same seat.[140] On May 21, 2019, his nomination was sent to the Senate.[141] On December 19, 2019, his nomination was confirmed by voice vote.

Renominees pending confirmation[edit]

  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
    • Diane Gujarati: On September 13, 2016, President Obama nominated Gujarati to serve as a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, to the seat vacated by John Gleeson, who resigned on March 9, 2016. Her nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress.[185] In August 2017, Gujarati was one of several candidates pitched to New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand by the White House as judicial candidates for vacancies on the federal courts in New York.[182] On May 10, 2018, President Trump announced his intent to renominate Gujarati to the same seat. On May 15, 2018, her nomination was sent to the Senate. On August 1, 2018, a hearing on her nomination was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[186] On September 13, 2018 her nomination was reported out of committee by a 21–0 vote.[183] On January 3, 2019, her nomination was returned to the President under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6 of the United States Senate.[187] On April 8, 2019, Trump announced the renomination of Gujarati.[140] On May 21, 2019, her nomination was sent to the Senate.[141] If she is confirmed, Gujarati will become the first Indian American to serve as an Article III federal judge in New York.[188] Her nomination is currently pending before the full United States Senate.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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