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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Senator Statements

 

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Sen. Leahy: Ensuring Judicial Independence Will Require SENATE Independence
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/13/17
"In light of the unconstitutional actions of our new President, the Senate owes the American people a thorough and unsparing examination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. That should include at least four days of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee where senators can ask questions of the nominee and also hear from multiple panels of outside witnesses. With the ideological litmus test that President Trump has applied in making this selection, the American people are justified to wonder whether Judge Gorsuch can truly be independent of the President who nominated him, and the moneyed interests that hand-picked him. This question can only be answered in an open and transparent process in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in contrast to the backroom and unilateral decision to deny Chief Judge Garland a hearing."

Sen. Leahy, On Senate Floor: Senator Sessions Lacks Independence To Be Attorney General
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/07/17
“There is simply nothing in Senator Sessions’ testimony before the Judiciary Committee that gives me confidence that he would be willing to stand up to the president.”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy, On the Nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/07/17
"Senator Sessions did not demonstrate to the Judiciary Committee that he would be willing to tell the president “no” on any issue, no matter how objectionable."

Sen. Leahy Comment On Partisan Attacks On The Federal Judiciary
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/04/17
“We need an Attorney General, like Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, willing to lose his or her job to do the right thing. And we need a nominee for the Supreme Court willing to demonstrate he or she will not cower to an overreaching executive. This makes it even more important that Judge Gorsuch, and every other judge this president may nominate, demonstrates the ability to be an independent check and balance on an administration that shamefully and harmfully seems to reject the very concept.”

Sen. Leahy: Statement On the Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch To The Supreme Court Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/31/17
“In light of the unconstitutional actions of our new President in just his first week, the Senate owes the American people a thorough and unsparing examination of this nomination. I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together. Instead, he outsourced this process to far-right interest groups. This is no way to treat a co-equal branch of government, or to protect the independence of our Federal judiciary. “Before Senate Republicans waged the unprecedented blockade of Chief Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court last year, the Senate took seriously its constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on nominees to the highest court in the land. But Republicans abdicated the Senate’s constitutional role by choosing politically-charged obstruction, so that a president who lost the popular vote could nominate extreme candidates to the Supreme Court. “President Trump said he would appoint justices who would overturn 40 years of jurisprudence established in Roe v. Wade. Judge Gorsuch has shown a willingness to limit women’s access to health care that suggests the President is making good on that promise. At his confirmation hearing in 2006, Judge Gorsuch stated, ‘Precedent is to be respected and honored,’ and he said it is ‘unacceptable’ for a judge to try to impose “his own personal views, his politics, [or] his personal preferences.’ Yet last year he tried to do just that, calling for important precedent to be overturned because it does not align with his personal philosophy. From my initial review of his record, I question whether Judge Gorsuch meets the high standard set by Merrick Garland. And with the ideological litmus test that President Trump has applied in making this selection, the American people are justified to wonder whether Judge Gorsuch can truly be an independent justice. I intend to ask Judge Gorsuch about these and other important issues in the coming months.”

Sen. Leahy Announces He Will OPPOSE Sessions Nomination For A.G.; “I have serious doubts that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General.”
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/30/17
“The Attorney General must faithfully serve all Americans. After carefully reviewing Senator Sessions’ extensive record, I am not convinced that he meets that threshold standard. So I must oppose this nomination,” Leahy said. ... Leahy sent to Sessions additional written questions about his views on the Violence Against Women Act, anti-Muslim extremist groups, Russia’s interference with the presidential election, ethics concerns with the new Trump administration. Leahy also specifically asked Sessions about his role in the drafting of President Trump’s executive orders to militarize the southern border and ban refugees from entering the country. Sessions has failed to respond to these questions. “I have serious doubts that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General. There have been months of media coverage about President Trump’s many conflicts of interest and the constitutional concerns they present. Yet Senator Sessions evaded questions on this topic by claiming that he has ‘not studied the issue.’ He has failed to provide answers to many of my written questions, including questions regarding his involvement in the drafting of the anti-Muslim executive order that has already disrupted lives and our national security,” Leahy said. He concluded: “Now, more than ever, we need an independent Attorney General—one who is committed to standing up for the constitutional and statutory rights of the disenfranchised. Unfortunately I do not believe this describes Senator Sessions. For these reasons, I am not confident that Senator Sessions would be an Attorney General for all Americans. I must oppose this nomination.”

After Senator Sessions Fails To Provide Clear Answers, Senator Leahy Demands Answers From AG Nominee
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/25/17
Senator Patrick Leahy on Wednesday released additional written questions to Senator Jeff Sessions after the Attorney General nominee failed to directly answer Leahy’s questions about his views on the Violence Against Women Act, anti-Muslim extremist groups, Russia’s interference with the presidential election, ethics concerns with the new Trump administration, and other matters. Today’s follow up comes days after Senator Sessions failed to provide clear answers to written questions, refusing even to say whether he considered VAWA’s constitutionality to be “reasonably defensible.” Sessions’ other responses on whether he would follow established recusal standards as Attorney General raised serious concerns about his independence. “Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer must be independent and fair. Senator Sessions’ failure to provide direct answers to my written questions raises serious concerns that he would not be an independent Attorney General. The Judiciary Committee must have answers before we consider this important nomination,” Leahy said.

Sen. Leahy Releases Follow Up Questions To AG Nominee Sessions. . . Written Questions Sent Tuesday Focus On Violence Against Women Act, Conflicts Of Interest
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/17/17
Additionally on Tuesday, all nine Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee sent the nominee a letter [LINK] calling on him to allow investigations of Russia hacking to proceed and to recuse himself from those proceedings if he is confirmed. Senator Leahy’s written questions to Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions can be found online.

Sen. Leahy Op-Ed: Jeff Sessions, an extremist then and now
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/08/17
Sen. Patrick Leahy column: “Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a US attorney, let alone a US federal judge. He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.” (Senator Edward Kennedy, March 13, 1986) After four days of hearings and extensive testimony, Jeff Sessions’ nomination was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. ... also look at what the nominee has said and done since that time. When I pushed in 2009 to advance the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill championed by Kennedy, it was Sessions who sought to derail it. He asserted at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill that he was “not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination.” When I worked across the aisle in 2013 to reauthorize and greatly expand the Violence Against Women Act to protect students, immigrants, LGBT victims, and those on tribal lands from domestic violence and sexual assault, Sessions was one of just a handful of Senate Republicans to oppose it. And in 2015, it was Sessions who led the opposition to a resolution I offered in the Senate Judiciary Committee that simply reiterated the basic principle that “the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.” My amendment was supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the committee, including the Republican chairman. Sessions has repeatedly stood in the way of efforts to promote and protect Americans’ civil rights. He did so even as other members of the Republican Party sought to work across the aisle to advance the cause of living up to our nation’s core values of equality and justice

Further Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On Senator Jeff Sessions’ Nomination To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/04/17
"The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Therefore it is especially and increasingly troubling that less than one week before hearings are set to begin, Senator Sessions still has not been fully responsive to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his nomination. As a former ranking member of this Committee, Senator Sessions is well aware of the seriousness with which this Committee takes the confirmation process. This includes nominees providing senators with all the materials necessary to fairly evaluate a nominee’s record, including responsive materials required by the Committee questionnaire. However, my staff continues to find missing materials in public searches. For example, it appears that Senator Sessions has not produced any interviews during his time as Alabama Attorney General or as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Production of these materials is anything but a new requirement; it is a crucial and longstanding practice of the Judiciary Committee. I hope we can expect that before our hearing begins next Tuesday, every effort will be taken to ensure that we have all that we need to move forward in considering Senator Sessions’ nomination.”

Floor Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/29/16
"[F]or the past two years the Republican Party has enjoyed solid majorities in both the House and Senate. They control the schedule and the process. They can decide which legislation to call up for debate, and frankly for all intents and purposes, they can decide whether anything gets done around here. A good example is the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. If he had been treated like other Supreme Court nominees throughout the entire history of this country, he would have received a hearing and a vote and he almost certainly would have been easily confirmed just as he was when he was nominated to the DC Court of Appeals. Instead, the Republican leadership did not even give Judge Garland a hearing, much less a vote. The Republican Senators refused to do their job."

Letter from 8 Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to Chairman Grassley on Sen. Sessions nomination to be Attorney General
(Democrat - ) 11/28/16
“We all have personal and cordial relationships with Senator Sessions and know him to be a strong advocate for his political positions. But as you know, his job as attorney general, if he is confirmed, will be different; he will have to be an independent attorney general who is willing to set aside personal beliefs and political positions in service of larger obligations.... When our country is struggling with so many divisions, the committee and the entire Senate must ask whether Senator Sessions is the right man to lead the agency charged with securing and protecting the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans,”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Reports Of Senator Jeff Sessions’ Nomination To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/18/16
“The Attorney General serves as the chief law enforcement officer in the country. The Attorney General must be independent and fair. The Attorney General must be deeply committed to the rule of law and must ensure that all people are treated equally before the law. This means that he or she is also the chief protector of civil rights and civil liberties for everyone in our Nation. That has never been more important than in this moment, when hate crimes have spiked across the country, especially against Muslim and LGBTQ Americans. And when we have a President-elect who has proposed religious tests, a return to torture, and a deportation force that threatens to remove millions of immigrants. Senator Sessions and I have had significant disagreements over the years, particularly on civil rights, voting rights, immigration and criminal justice issues. But unlike Republicans’ practice of unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, I believe nominees deserve a full and fair process before the Senate. The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”

Sen. Leahy To Serve As Vice Chairman Of Senate Appropriations Committee
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/16/16
“I do not come to this decision lightly. Both the Appropriations Committee and the Judiciary Committee are on the front lines of so many of today’s pressing issues. These include the priorities we decide in funding the federal government in our annual appropriations bills, and the future of the Supreme Court. And as the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to offer a strong and outspoken voice in defending our Constitution, protecting and promoting human and civil rights, defending Americans’ privacy, and fighting for judicial independence."

Sen. Leahy Comments On The Alarming Calls By Some Republicans For Permanent Obstruction Of Judicial Nominees, Incl. SCOTUS
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/27/16
“Eight months ago Republican senators attempted to justify their unprecedented obstruction of a Supreme Court nominee by claiming that the American people needed to be heard through the election. Now that we are on the eve of that democratic moment, some at last are making clear that this justification was simply a political farce. .... These Republicans are proving that they have no intention of doing their jobs and that their blockade of judicial nominees is purely driven by politics. “This amounts to piecemeal evisceration of the Constitution. I hope that reasonable Republicans will repudiate these calls for wholesale and enduring obstruction and get back to work to address skyrocketing judicial vacancies. Americans should not accept a Senate that has done almost nothing to address the vacancy crisis in courts throughout our country. Senators should honor their oaths of office and keep their word to the American people.”

Sen. Leahy: As Republicans’ Unprecedented Obstruction Continues, A Diminished Supreme Court Begins Its New Term With Only Eight Justices
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/04/16
“Despite what the Republican Leader has said, there is absolutely no reason to be proud that the Supreme Court is now, for a second term, diminished,” Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said. “A Supreme Court of only eight justices is unacceptable and Americans deserve better. Americans should not accept a Senate that has done almost nothing to address the vacancy crisis in courts throughout our country.” He added: “Senate Republicans should be working across the aisle to ensure that our independent federal judiciary can function. Instead, Republicans have refused to do their jobs and they have left town, avoiding their responsibilities to the American people and the independent judiciary that serves them.”

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement: Nomination of Merrick Garland [and other judicial nominees]
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/27/16
"Eleven years ago this week, ... the Senate confirmed John Roberts to the Supreme Court ... . He had his Judiciary Committee hearing in September and ... was confirmed about two weeks later, September 29. ... By the standards the Democrats gave to Republicans, Chief Judge Garland should have been confirmed by Memorial Day. We have had more than 6 months to examine his record. It is not as though the Senate has been consumed and overworked considering other nominees; the last time we confirmed any judicial nominee was on July 6. Republicans refuse to allow votes even on uncontroversial district court nominees who have been pending more than a year, even those supported by Republicans in their States, and our independent Federal judiciary is suffering as a result of this unprecedented obstruction, as a result of the Senate not doing its job. It is long time past for the Senate to do its job."

Sen. Leahy Statement On the Supreme Court Nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/27/16
"Yet unlike Chief Justice Roberts, who was confirmed in about two months, Chief Judge Garland has been pending before the Senate for more than six months. That is longer than any Supreme Court nominee in history. No hearing. No vote. No consideration at all by the Senate."

Sen. Leahy on confirming judicial nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/19/16
Senate Democrats are blasting their Republican colleagues for not only blocking the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but also 53 other judges in the lower courts, calling their obstruction “unprecedented” and “irresponsible.” “These are supposed to be nonpolitical positions,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary, said. “I’ve been here longer than anybody else, I’ve never seen anything so irresponsible.” In the last two years of the George W. Bush presidency, Leahy said, the Democratic majority confirmed 68 of his judges. In Obama’s last two years, the Republican majority has confirmed 22 judges. “We put through 10 of them in September just before we recessed for the election,” Leahy said. “They’re not willing to follow the Constitution, they won’t do their job.”

Sen. Leahy: Senate Republicans Have Not Confirmed A Single Judicial Nominee In More Than Two Months: While GOP Refuses To Act, Judicial Vacancies Increase To 90; And Because Of GOP Inaction, SCOTUS Nominee Merrick Garland Has Been Pending For Six Months
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/15/16
“The Republican leadership should not schedule recess until we confirm Chief Judge Garland and the 30 judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar,” said Leahy, who as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2008 steered 10 of President Bush’s judicial nominees to confirmation in the month of September alone. Those 10 confirmations reduced the number of judicial vacancies all the way to 34, roughly one-third of the 90 that exist today. “There is no good reason we cannot do for these nominees this September what I did for President Bush’s judicial nominees eight years ago.” Among the nominees pending on the Senate calendar are five nominees to fill vacancies on the Court of Federal Claims (CFC). All five were nominated over two years ago, and they were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee twice. One of those nominees, Armando Bonilla, would be the first Hispanic judge to hold a seat on the CFC if he is confirmed. Yet Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) continues to block these nominees. Senate Republicans have also refused to confirm the longest pending district court nominees on the calendar, Edward Stanton of Tennessee and Julien Neals of New Jersey, despite the support of their Republican and Democratic home state Senators.

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, Executive Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/15/16
"On the agenda today, we have two judicial nominees who should be reported favorably. Judge Lucy Koh to the Ninth Circuit and Judge Florence Pan to the District Court in the District of Columbia. Both are eminently well qualified.... The Republican leadership should not schedule recess until we confirm these two nominees and the 28 other judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar. In September 2008, when George W. Bush was president, I was chairman of this Committee. Despite the impending presidential election, I held two hearings that month for 10 judicial nominees. Each of those 10 nominees were confirmed in one September day. After those confirmations, not a single nominee was left on the Executive Calendar before the election. There is no good reason we cannot do for these nominees this September what I did for President Bush’s judicial nominees eight years ago."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement On the Pending Nominees to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/13/16
"[F]or 2 years, President Obama's five eminently qualified nominees to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims have been awaiting a vote. This court ... allows citizens to seek prompt justice against our government. Yet 2 years of obstruction by a single Senator, the junior Senator from Arkansas, has forced the court to operate without one-third of its allotted judges. While these five nominees have been waiting for a vote, another judge retired, leaving the court with only 10 judges for 16 seats, or a vacancy rate of 38 percent. This takes Senate Republican obstruction of judicial nominees to a new level.... I have heard no objections to the qualifications of any of the five nominees to this court. One of these nominees, Armando Bonilla, would be the first Hispanic judge to hold a seat on the Court.... During the Bush administration, the Senate confirmed nine judges to the Court of Federal Claims, with the support of every Senate Republican. So far, during the Obama administration, only three Court of Federal Claims nominees have received confirmation votes.... Senate Republicans' obstruction playbook leaves no court behind. It spans from the very top, with their complete refusal to give a hearing and a vote to Chief Judge Merrick Garland, to the article III circuit and district courts, to the article I Court of Federal Claims, where citizens go to sue their government. This blockade of all five CFC nominees makes no sense, especially because not a single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee raised a concern about these nominees either during the committee hearings on these nominations 2 years ago or during the Committee debate 2 years ago or last year."

Sen. Leahy Op-Ed: Constitution Day: Protecting our democracy
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/13/16
Sen. Patrick Leahy: "partisan obstruction of a Supreme Court nomination is not only unprecedented but it is contrary to the constitutional design of the Framers. Senate Republicans’ shutdown of any consideration of the Supreme Court nominee diminishes both of the other co-equal branches of government. It imposes a novel time limit on one of the most important constitutional roles of our president. And it diminishes the role that our highest court can play while it operates with a long-standing vacancy.... In 2010, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Chief Judge Garland would be “a consensus nominee” and there was “no question” he could be confirmed to the Supreme Court.... There is still time for the Senate to correct its course and consider Chief Judge Garland’s nomination. There should not be an empty seat on the bench when the Supreme Court convenes on the first Monday in October. If there is, it will represent the disrespect that Senate Republicans have not only for the president’s powers under the Constitution but for the independent judiciary that the Constitution created."

Sen. Leahy Comment After Meeting With Supreme Court Nominee Chief Judge Merrick Garland
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/08/16
“It has been almost six months since I met with Chief Judge Garland following his nomination to the Supreme Court. In that time, Senate Republicans have done nothing to give this respected judge fair consideration or to ensure that the Supreme Court can properly function as the final arbiter of law. I wanted to see Chief Judge Garland again today to make sure he understood that I and Senate Democrats are still fighting to ensure that he receives the same fair treatment given to previous nominees. It is early September. There is plenty of time for a public confirmation hearing and a confirmation vote so that Chief Judge Garland can join the Supreme Court when it convenes on the first Monday in October. The time for partisan posturing is over. It is time Senate Republicans to do their jobs.”

176 Days After Judge Garland Was Nominated To The Supreme Court, Senator Leahy Addresses The Senate About Continuing Republican Obstruction Of The Nomination
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/08/16
"Since public confirmation hearings began in the Judiciary Committee for Supreme Court nominees a century ago, the Senate has never denied a nominee a hearing and a vote. The late Justice Scalia received a hearing 42 days after his nomination. Justice Kennedy, who was the last justice confirmed in a presidential election year, received a hearing in the Judiciary Committee just 14 days after President Reagan nominated him. ... We should have a hearing next week. The Judiciary Committee can debate and consider the nomination the following week and then the full Senate can debate and vote on his confirmation by the end of September. We have taken far less time in the past to confirm Supreme Court justices .... This is a problem of Senate Republicans’ making but it is also one they can solve – and they should do so without any further delay."

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/08/16
"In 2008, in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, I convened two judicial nominations hearings during the month of September for a total of ten nominees. And the Senate confirmed all ten of those nominees later that same month, leaving no nominees pending on the floor and reducing the number of judicial vacancies to 34. With the number of vacancies currently at 90, now is not the time to shut down the confirmation process. The Committee should hold another nominations hearing this month and the Senate should vote on all the pending judicial nominations on the Senate floor as well as the nominees receiving hearings this month. There are seven lower court nominees who have the support of their home state Senators who are ready for a hearing. These include three nominees for the Western District of Washington, a court where 43 percent of the seats are vacant; three nominees to district courts in Florida who have the bipartisan support of their home state Senators; and one nominee to the District of Colorado who has the bipartisan support of her home state Senators. We should also have a hearing for the nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. These are important vacancies that require a second nominations hearing this month. As members of this Committee, our duty to work on judicial nominees does not end with their committee hearing. It is not enough to report these well-qualified nominees out of Committee but then leave them twisting in the wind because of obstruction by Senate Republicans. The 27 judicial nominees on the Executive Calendar, and the additional one I expect we will report out today, all have bipartisan support. They deserve a vote without further delay,"

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/07/16
"The Judiciary Committee today welcomes five judicial nominees to fill emergency vacancies in Texas. One of these seats has been vacant for over three years, so this hearing is long overdue. In all, there are currently 10 district court vacancies in Texas, and another two at the circuit level. Each one of those 12 vacancies has been deemed an emergency. In fact, more than one-third of all judicial emergency vacancies are in Texas. While the national vacancy rate has doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent since Republicans took over the majority last year, the vacancy rate for Federal district courts in Texas is twice as high at an alarming 20 percent.... When I was chairman in the 2008 election year, this Committee held two hearings in September for 10 of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Several of those nominees had been nominated just two months prior in July 2008. All 10 of those nominees were confirmed in one day that same month. The Committee’s work on circuit and district nominations must not stop today. I hope this Committee will hold second judicial nominations hearing this month, just as I convened two during the month of September in 2008. There are seven nominees with the support of their home state Senators for whom the Committee has received all necessary materials. These seven include three nominees for the Western District of Washington, a court where 43 percent of the seats are vacant; three nominees to district courts in Florida who have the bipartisan support of their home state Senators; and one nominee to the District of Colorado, whose home state Senators, one Democrat and one Republican, have written to the Chairman urging that she be listed on a committee hearing. We should also have a hearing for the nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. There is no good reason to allow any of these vacancies to remain open."