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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Senator Statements


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ICYMI: Sen. Coons defends Senate ‘blue slip’ process for reviewing judicial nominees
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/21/17
Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, defended the Senate ‘blue slip’ process to Business Insider. "Judges are appointed with lifetime tenure, so it is critical that senators have the ability to secure judges for their home states that are qualified for their positions," Senator Coons told Business Insider. "This isn't a partisan issue, either — this allows Republican senators to prevent Democratic presidents from confirming unqualified or inappropriate judges for their home states, and vice versa. The blue slip process encourages bipartisanship, too, and it increases the chances of consensus candidates. Ending the blue slip process would diminish the ability of senators to provide input based on the local needs of their states, making it increasingly difficult for the Judiciary Committee to function in a bipartisan way."

Sen. Coons on home-state Senator blue slips
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/20/17
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider that the blue slip process has historically been "followed by members of both parties" and "ensures senators are consulted regarding nominees for seats from their home states." "Judges are appointed with lifetime tenure, so it is critical that senators have the ability to secure judges for their home states that are qualified for their positions," Coons said. "This isn't a partisan issue, either — this allows Republican senators to prevent Democratic presidents from confirming unqualified or inappropriate judges for their home states, and vice versa," he continued. "The blue slip process encourages bipartisanship, too, and it increases the chances of consensus candidates. Ending the blue slip process would diminish the ability of senators to provide input based on the local needs of their states, making it increasingly difficult for the Judiciary Committee to function in a bipartisan way."

White House Vetting Del. Senators' Picks for District Court Seats
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/05/17
"All three emerged as finalists after a weeks-long review process spearheaded by Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware's senior senator, and Sen. Chris Coons, who sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee.... they managed to hold off a group of Delaware Republicans who were advancing their own list of candidates.... both senators said that the White House Counsel's Office was actively mulling their selections. "We jointly interviewed these candidates, selected our recommendations, and then sent those recommendations on to the White House," Coons said in an emailed statement. "Our office has had discussions with White House Counsel Don McGahn, who invited our input, and his office indicated that our recommended candidates would be considered."... Carper and Coons had assembled a bipartisan judicial nominating commission, modeled off of Delaware's system for selecting candidates for state-level judgeships. According to sources, the panel reviewed between 10 and 20 candidates who had responded to Carper's calls for applications."

Sen. Coons on judicial nominations and selection
(Democrat - Delaware) 07/27/17
"This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration," Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider. "They will quickly be able to put judges on circuit courts all over the country, district courts all over the country, that will, given their youth and conservatism, will have a significant impact on the shape and trajectory of American law for decades. "I do think this deserves more attention given the consequence, the significance of what will eventually be a wholesale change among the federal judiciary," he continued...."What strikes me about the Trump administration's judicial-nomination process is how quickly they have moved," Coons said.... Coons said he and his fellow Democratic senator from Delaware, Tom Carper, were working with a judicial nominating advisory committee to help fill two district court vacancies in the state. Coons added that he expected the White House to consult him and Carper, and Grassley to continue the blue-slip practice. But he said that so far he felt that Grassley and the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, had done an admirable job in dealing with the massive number of nominations coupled with intense work involving the investigation into Russia's election interference.... Coons attributed the discrepancy in vacancies to "unprecedented obstruction by the Republican majority in the Senate in the latter years of the Obama administration" that led to many of these vacancies remaining unfilled.... Coons said the administration had clearly relied on The Federalist Society to do "virtually all their selection and vetting" of the nominees, adding that both the speed of nominations and the age of the nominees "have been striking." "Most have come before the committee so far have been a decade younger than the average nominee in previous administrations," he said. "And, you know, this partly reflects a long-term strategy by conservative judicial activists who over the last 30 years have developed a very strong bench, pun intended, of highly qualified, young lawyers who are educated and from well-regarded law schools, and are active in The Federalist Society, and had clerkships with senior judges, and are poised to be nominated and confirmed to take advantage of these openings."

Sens. Carper and Coons Move on Federal Court Vacancies
(Democrat - Delaware) 06/09/17
As Delaware's Democratic senators move ahead with a bipartisan committee to vet potential candidates for two openings on the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the White House has not initiated a formal process for reviewing applicants, sources said this week. A spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Carper confirmed Wednesday that the state's senior senator had sent letters to a roster of attorneys who had expressed interest in filling the seats being vacated by District Court Judges Sue L. Robinson and Gregory M. Sleet, asking the applicants to confirm their interest in the positions.... The spokeswoman, Katie Wilson, described the correspondence as a "joint effort" by Carper and Sen. Chris Coons—who sits on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee—to elicit more information before bringing applicants in for interviews with the committee, which is modeled off of Delaware's system for vetting judicial nominees at the state-court level. According to sources, potential candidates were also asked to fill out a formal questionnaire that the Judiciary Committee uses to review applicants for federal judgeships. A timeline for the review process was not immediately clear, but Wilson said the senators hope to "move expeditiously."

Delaware U.S. Senators on filling two district court vacancies
(Democrat - Delaware) 05/30/17
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, who is the state's senior senator; and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, who sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee, have tried to gain leverage in the process to fill out the court. Carper has put out multiple calls for interested Republicans to apply for the post, while Coons has talked about establishing an independent, bipartisan commission to vet potential nominees.

Sen. Coons on filling Delaware district court vacancy
(Democrat - Delaware) 04/09/17
Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat, said he has had a “very constructive conversation about the path forward” with the administration about filling the one district court opening in his home state.

Sen. Coons on MSNBC: “This is not a good week for the Senate”
(Democrat - Delaware) 04/05/17
Senator Coons on Judge Gorsuch: "Let's be clear, that effort to change the Senate rules will be taken up by Republicans. When I announced in the Judiciary Committee Monday that I would join my fellow Democrats in voting against cloture, the rest of the sentence was, unless working together, Republicans and Democrats, we can find an agreement to get past this moment. I felt, as did all of my colleagues, that Merrick Garland was the subject of a seven-month long partisan filibuster. That denying Judge Garland, who was nominated by President Obama, even a hearing on the committee, let alone a vote, was the equivalent of a partisan filibuster. I reached out to many of my Republican and Democratic colleagues. I've had a number of meetings and conversations in recent days, trying to see if there was some agreement we could reach to trust each other to move ahead with cloture on Judge Gorsuch and have the next Supreme Court nominee be more of a consensus candidate, where Democrats could have input on who would be nominated. Ultimately, those efforts have been unsuccessful. This is not a good week for the Senate. I am not optimistic here around the long-term path forward. But I have no regrets about opposing Judge Gorsuch. Having really dug into his judicial record, having met with him several times, and having interviewed him over four days of Judiciary Committee hearings."

[VIDEO] Senator Coons opposes the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch in the Senate Judiciary Committee
(Democrat - Delaware) 04/03/17
Senator Coons’ remarks, as delivered, are below:...

Sen. Coons: “I will be voting against cloture unless we are able to…find a way to avoid the 'nuclear option'”
(Democrat - Delaware) 04/03/17
“On Thursday, the full Senate will participate in what’s called a ‘cloture vote.’ It’s one of the Senate’s many long traditions, and though many Americans might not know exactly what it means, it means that we are done debating, that we are ready for the final vote. And almost always a combination of both Democrats and Republicans are required for us to get to cloture. So, on Thursday, we’ll be voting to decide whether we’re ready to finish debating the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch. I am not ready to end debate on this issue, so I will be voting against cloture unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to avoid ‘the nuclear option’ and ensure that the process to fill the next vacancy on the Court is not a narrowly partisan process, but rather an opportunity for both parties to weigh in and ensure we place a judge on the Court who can secure support from members of both parties.”

Senator Coons: Judge Gorsuch is “what I’d call a ‘smiling Scalia’”
(Democrat - Delaware) 03/22/17
"I think it’s important to look past the personality and to really understand his framework and his approach to decision-making, because, if confirmed, he will likely be a Justice for 25-30 years."

[VIDEO] Senator Coons delivers opening statement at Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing
(Democrat - Delaware) 03/20/17
"What stands out to me is your tendency to go beyond the issues that need to be resolved in the case before you. I have seen a pattern in which you have filed dissents, dissents from denials of rehearing, concurrences, or even concurrences to your own majority opinions, to explore broader issues than what's necessary, to revisit long-settled precedent, and to promote dramatic changes to the law. This pattern concerns me because these additional writings hint at an unwillingness to settle on a limited conclusion and forge a narrow consensus with your colleagues."

Sen. Coons on Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination
(Democrat - Delaware) 02/28/17
On Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch: “I’ve got a lot of homework to do. I look forward to digging into his judicial record, and then we’re going to have confirmation hearings, probably about I think three weeks from now.”

[VIDEO] Sen Coons on President Trump’s response to Judge Gorsuch’s comments: “The larger issue here is that judicial independence is at risk”
(Democrat - Delaware) 02/09/17
"Frankly what matters here is whether or not Judge Gorsuch, who will be up for confirmation for the Supreme Court, in meetings with Senators and then ultimately publicly demonstrates judicial independence, demonstrates his understanding that an independent judiciary is one of the cornerstones of our constitutional order, and that President Trump’s recent comments personally attacking or challenging judges, who are delaying or may ultimately overturn his travel ban, deserve respect not to be attacked.... In my meeting with Judge Gorsuch, I will also ask him about judicial independence and I think, in due course, we will ask him about that during the confirmation hearing.... The larger issue is that judicial independence is at risk. ... I think President Trump is going to harm both Judge Gorsuch’s chances of confirmation and his standing as president if he continues to undermine the independence of the federal judiciary.”

Sen. Coons on Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination and potential filibuster
(Democrat - Delaware) 02/01/17
Coons told reporters Wednesday morning that he is only in favor of calling for a vote on Gorsuch in the Senate Judiciary Committee and would not commit to supporting a floor vote at this early stage. “I think we’ll get to that,” he said, when asked whether he supports holding a vote on ending an expected Democratic filibuster. “He should get a hearing and vote [in] committee.” Coons said it was “a misunderstanding” to characterize his position as supporting an up-or-down, simple-majority vote on the Senate floor. He said that Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has announced Democrats will require a 60-vote threshold for Gorsuch, something he did not disagree with. “It is a 60-vote threshold vote, that is what it is,” he said. ... “There’s been a lot of back and forth about what a filibuster means for a Supreme Court nomination. Here’s my understanding. It doesn’t mean that we go to the floor and get out the cots and stay there and talk for 26 hours. It is simply a question of whether there is or isn’t a 60-vote threshold,” he said.

Senator Coons Announces Opposition to Senator Sessions’ Nomination for Attorney General
(Democrat - Delaware) 01/13/17
“After reviewing Senator Sessions’ decades-long record and participating in a thorough Judiciary Committee hearing, and after also hearing from many Delawareans, I have decided that I will vote against President-elect Trump’s nomination of Senator Sessions to serve as our nation’s next Attorney General. “I have served alongside Senator Sessions for six years, and during that time, we have worked together constructively on several criminal justice issues, including support for local law enforcement, reauthorization of the Victims of Child Abuse Act and restoration of funding to the Federal Public Defender Service. On many more issues, however, including several that are core to my view of justice, Senator Sessions has vigorously opposed bipartisan reform efforts. “Any President deserves some latitude in picking nominees who support their principles, but on many important issues, including voting rights, civil rights, sentencing reform, LGBT rights, domestic violence protections, immigration reform, religious freedom, civil liberties, and torture, Senator Sessions has actively opposed bipartisan efforts to advance justice. While I believe Senator Sessions will uphold the law, even those he disagrees with, the role of Attorney General is bigger than that. I am concerned that Senator Sessions’ record as a prosecutor and an elected official demonstrates that on too many occasions he did not take action when there was an opportunity to stand up for the vulnerable, promote civil rights, or advance justice. “Today, the battle for equality continues in America, and our Attorney General cannot simply watch the march of history pass him by. After carefully reviewing and considering his 30 years of public service, I do not believe that Sen. Sessions has taken sufficient action to demonstrate his commitment to lead the Department of Justice’s important work for all Americans.”

Sen. Coons on Sen. Sessions nomination to be Attorney General
(Democrat - Delaware) 11/29/16
"I think Sen. Sessions had a long and complex record that deserves to be fully reviewed," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. "There are areas that I think, based on recent developments and some of Donald Trump's statements in his presidential campaign, that we should all be paying attention to, not least of which is the protection of civil rights and civil liberties."

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,”

Senator Coons’ statement on the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as U.S. Attorney General
(Democrat - Delaware) 11/18/16
“Today, President-elect Trump nominated Senator Sessions to serve as Attorney General, the top federal law enforcement official in our country. During our time as colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions and I have worked constructively together on some important matters, including the reauthorization of the Victims of Child Abuse Act. We have also disagreed about many issues fundamental to the direction of the country, including immigration, civil rights, and criminal justice. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the confirmation process is a responsibility I take seriously. The Department of Justice must ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. I am committed to treating Senator Sessions’ nomination fairly, and I expect Senators of both parties to scrutinize closely Senator Sessions’ record and experience to determine whether he is an appropriate candidate for this critical post.”

Sen. Coons Floor Statement: Nomination of Merrick Garland [and other judicial nominees]
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/27/16
[Page S6116] "We should start by holding public hearings, by letting the people of the United States understand what, if any, questions or concerns there might be about this talented, capable, decent man, Judge Merrick Garland, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court, and then build on that momentum by giving timely, thorough consideration to the President's other nominees for judgeships across the country. With 89 judicial vacancies--with 89 current judicial vacancies--from district courts to courts of appeals, to the U.S. Supreme Court itself, our inaction doesn't just create uncertainty for those involved, it impairs our courts and actively harms our constitutional commitment to justice."

Sen. Coons Unanimous Consent Request [to Vote on 5 Court of Federal Claims Nominees]
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/13/16
"[O]n the question of the Court of Federal Claims, today, currently, there are just 10 active judges, although it is authorized to have 16. The five nominees whom I brought to the floor today and have asked unanimous consent to proceed on were first nominated in April or May of 2014 and have waited more than 2 years for their confirmation here by the Senate. No one has raised an objection to their qualifications, and each of them has twice now unanimously been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee without concerns being raised or advanced about either their qualifications or the need to fill these judicial vacancies. With fewer active judges, cases have piled up in the Court of Federal Claims, which is often called ``the people's court'' because of its role in hearing cases brought by citizens and businesses against the Federal Government. From 2012 to 2015, the number of pending general jurisdiction cases per active judge has nearly doubled .... We have received letters from the chief judge of the Court of Federal Claims and the past president of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims Bar Association urging our swift action on these nominees. ... Bonilla would be the first Hispanic judge to hold a position on this court and was strongly endorsed by the Hispanic National Bar Association.... I believe it is time we come together in a bipartisan fashion to do our job, confirm these five nominees to these judicial vacancies, and allow them to get to work serving our Nation on the Court of Federal Claims."

Sen. Coons Floor Statement on Supreme Court Nomination of Merrick Garland
(Democrat - Delaware) 09/08/16
"In the 100 years we have had a Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Senate, we have never had this situation, where the President does his job under the Constitution and nominates an eminently qualified jurist and the Senate Judiciary Committee refuses--just refuses--to conduct a hearing, to give a vote, to bring it to the floor, and to offer a final vote. ... President Obama fulfilled one of his most important constitutional responsibilities. Now all 100 Senators, on this 176th day that we are waiting to fill this 9th vacancy on the Supreme Court, must do our job and provide appropriate advice and possibly consent to the President's nominee. The Senate has a valuable opportunity to show our constituents, the American people, and the world that even in the midst of a divisive Presidential campaign, our democratic and constitutional system still works. We cannot allow yearlong Supreme Court vacancies to become routine"

Delaware Delegation Reacts to Supreme Court Ruling on President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration
(Democrat - Delaware) 06/23/16
“I’m extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s deadlocked decision regarding President Obama’s efforts to help tens of thousands of children and families who have made a home in the United States,” said Senator Carper. ... “It is also critical to note that today’s ruling was not an affirmative decision to block these executive actions, but a clear lack of a decision in the absence of a full bench. A 4-4 tie is a stark reminder of the damage being done to our country and our democracy by Republicans’ refusal to consider the nomination of Judge Garland to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Every member of the Senate has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, some of us many times over, and failing to consider this nomination is an abdication of our responsibilities to this country. It is unacceptable for us to continue playing partisan politics with the Constitution and hampering our country’s highest court. We know all too well that justice delayed is justice denied and that is exactly what we have witnessed today. The Senate must do its job and fill this vacancy to restore our Supreme Court to full strength.” “The 4-4 decision by the Supreme Court today leaves millions of families and kids vulnerable to deportation with no path towards citizenship. It’s a clear demonstration of why we need comprehensive immigration reform – and how the Supreme Court vacancy has hobbled the Court’s ability to address our country's most urgent problems,” said Senator Coons. “The Court's inability to reach a decision today not only threatens to tear apart families who are already contributing to this country, but also leaves the United States without clarity on an issue at the heart of our identity. I’m disappointed by today’s decision, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do our jobs and move forward with Chief Judge Merrick Garland's confirmation.” “I’m extremely disappointed in this decision. It only underlines the dysfunction hampering our highest court as they sit without a full bench."

Sen. Coons Floor Statement on Federal Judiciary Vacancy Crisis
(Democrat - Delaware) 05/10/16
“Unfortunately, the Senate’s blockade and refusal to fulfill its constitutional obligation on judicial nominations goes far beyond Chief Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Senator Coons said. “Frankly, the federal judiciary faces a crisis because of the Senate’s continued inaction to confirm judicial nominees who passed unanimously out of committee. The number of judicial vacancies has reached an alarming level. We owe it to the American people to do our job and ensure we have a fully functioning justice system.”

Sen. Coons Floor Statement: ongoing vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court
(Democrat - Delaware) 04/06/16
"I think the best way for the American people to exercise that voice is for this body to do its job, for the Senate Judiciary Committee to conduct full, fair, and open hearings, and to allow Judge Garland to answer searching questions of the sort that many of us are asking him privately, but then we should ask publicly and then have a vote--a vote by the people's representatives in this body."

Senator Coons’ statement on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court
(Democrat - Delaware) 03/16/16
“In Judge Merrick B. Garland, the President has nominated a candidate whose judicial experience and previous Senate confirmation suggest someone eminently qualified for consideration for the Supreme Court. Despite that, every nomination to our nation’s highest court deserves close scrutiny, and I look forward to diving deeply into Judge Garland’s qualifications and background and, of course, meeting with him in person — a courtesy I urge every Senator to extend. “With Judge Garland’s nomination, President Obama has fulfilled one of his most important constitutional responsibilities. Now, all one hundred members of the Senate must do our jobs by providing advice and consent on the President’s nominee. The Senate has a valuable opportunity to show the American people — and the world — that even amidst a divisive presidential campaign, our democratic system still works. We cannot allow year-long Supreme Court vacancies to become the new normal. In the months to come, how the Senate conducts itself will set a precedent for future vacancies — and send a strong signal about whether our constitutional order can still function.”

(Democrat - Delaware) 03/03/16
"[S]ince its formation a century ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee has provided a hearing, a vote or both for every single Supreme Court nominee. The only exceptions being those that went straight to the floor because their confirmations were supported so broadly....EVEN ... where a majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a nomination, that nomination proceeded to the floor of the Senate to ensure that advice and consent--our constitutional duty--could be carried forward."

SJC Dems: Committee Must Allow Public Hearings For SCOTUS Nominee: In Letter to Chairman Grassley, Dems Write: “The American people deserve to have their elected officials make decisions in a transparent and accountable manner”
(Democrat - ) 02/24/16
"Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic members on Tuesday called on Republicans to drop their wholesale obstruction of a Supreme Court nominee and allow the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty of advice and consent.... Since the Judiciary Committee began holdings hearings for Supreme Court nominees in 1916, every pending Supreme Court nominee has received a hearing, except 9 nominees who were all confirmed within 11 days."