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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on five judicial nominees, two to fill judicial emergencies

The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings today (September 19) on the nominations of Katherine Polk Failla, to the Southern District of New York; Pamela Ki Mai Chen, to the Eastern District of New York; Troy L. Nunley, to the Eastern District of California; Sheri Polster Chappell, to the Middle District of Florida; and Mark A. Barnett, the Court of International Trade. The confirmations of Chappell and Nunley would each fill a judicial emergency vacancy, particularly Nunley’s nomination to the Eastern District of California, which faces the greatest backlog of filings in the country.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) chaired the hearing, while Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) were also in attendance. Senator Bill Nelson introduced Chappell to the Committee, while Senator Feinstein introduced Nunley and Senator Schumer introduced Chen, Failla, and Barnett.

Each nominee spoke on the importance of judicial modesty and following precedent. All of the nominees also expressed agreement that some of the most important values of a judge are fairness, willingness to listen to and understand the parties, keeping an open mind, and maintaining the transparency and legitimacy of the bench. The nominees come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including prosecutors’ offices, civil rights enforcement, private practice, and state court judgeships.

Expedient action on nominees is especially important with the Senate session set to come to a close in the coming days. There are currently 10 nominees pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee, including 8 district court and 2 circuit court nominees, and 21 nominees pending on the Senate floor, including 17 district court and 4 circuit court nominees. If the Senate does not act soon to confirm the slew of nominees awaiting votes, the federal courts will go into the November election with 94 total vacancies, 33 of which are judicial emergencies.

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on judicial nominations, visit AFJ's Judicial Selection page.

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