This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee reported four United States District Court nominees to the Senate floor, where they now await their final confirmation votes.
The nominations of John Lee to the Northern District of Illinois, John Tharp, Jr. to the Northern District of Illinois, George Russell III to the District of Maryland, and Kristine Baker to the Eastern District of Arkansas were reported out on a voice vote with overwhelming bipartisan support from the committee members. Only Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) -- who has pledged knee-jerk opposition to every single nominee -- opposed the nominations. Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), the only Republican in attendance, announced that Senator Lee opposed the nominees “for reasons unrelated to the qualifications of the candidates,” voting no as a means of expressing an opinion on an unrelated matter.
Three of the four vacancies these nominees will fill vacancies that the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts has declared to be “judicial emergencies.”
As has become usual practice for Republicans during the Obama presidency, Senator Grassley invoked a committee rule to delay consideration of Andrew Hurwitz for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals until the next committee meeting. Since the Senate will be in recess next week, it will be at least two weeks before action can be taken to move his nomination forward to the full Senate. The vacancy Hurwitz has been nominated to fill is also a judicial emergency.
Earlier this week, the Judiciary Committee held hearings on four nominees: Patty Shwartz to a seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; Mary Lewis to a seat in the District of South Carolina; Jeffrey Helmick to a seat in the Northern District of Ohio, and Timothy Hillman to a seat in the District of Massachusetts.
For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on judicial nominations, see the Alliance for Justice’s Judicial Selection Project webpage.