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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

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Senator Statements


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Sen. Cornyn on Texas federal judicial vacancies
(Republican - Texas) 01/23/15
"I'm concerned about the length of many judicial vacancies in Texas and will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Senate, in the Texas congressional delegation, and also with the White House to move this process along," Cornyn told the [Houston] Chronicle. "Through our bipartisan Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, Senator Cruz and I have recommended several excellent candidates for these vacancies, whom the president has nominated, and we will continue pushing for their swift confirmation."

Sen. Cantwell Floor statement opposing unsuccessful amendment
(Democrat - Washington) 01/21/15
"This amendment makes it very difficult for citizens to retain counsel, particularly related to the Endangered Species Act. I don't know why we would be handicapping legal cases just because they deal with the environment. ... the ESA was signed into law in 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon and was intentionally drafted to manage and to engage citizens in the protection of endangered species.... the Lee amendment would weaken the prevailing citizen's request for reimbursement under an Endangered Species Act--and narrow those restrictions of equal access to justice. This is because the cap on fees would include the Equal Access to Justice Act, which often falls well below the market-based rate for attorneys. Basically, what the Lee amendment does is say you will not be able to recap on the attorneys' fees at the cost of doing business, and their hope is that citizens will then not have representation before the courts on issues such as clean air, clean water, and other environmental issues."

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, Hearing On Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/21/15
"I am encouraged that the first hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee under the helm of Chairman Grassley is on judicial nominations. I look forward to working with him throughout the 114th Congress to fill vacancies on our federal courts to ensure that our co-equal branch of government is working at full strength.... four judicial nominees whom we could have considered last year if their home state Republican Senators had agreed. Two of the Texas nominees— Judge Alfred Bennett and Judge Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr.—are nominated to fill judicial emergency vacancies. The third Texas nominee, Judge George C. Hanks, Jr., is nominated to fill a vacancy that has been open for more than seven months and the Utah nominee, Justice Jill N. Parrish, will fill a vacancy that has been open for more than a year. I am pleased that both Texas and both Utah Senators have now consented and these nominees are finally getting a hearing today. All four of the judicial nominees before us today have strong qualifications along with the support of their Republican home state senators."

Senator Warren and Senator Markey Re-Convene the Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations to Consider Boston Vacancy
(Democrat - Massachusetts) 01/21/15
"Candidates interested in applying for a U.S. District Court nomination must submit their applications to the Advisory Committee by February 23, 2015."

Senator Coons named top Democrat on financial services appropriations subcommittee
(Democrat - Delaware) 01/09/15
U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) will be the ranking member — the top Democrat — on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government in the 114th Congress. ... The Subcommittee also oversees funding for the entire federal judiciary. “Equal representation under the law is one of our nation’s bedrock values,” Senator Coons said. “Yet too often we don’t provide our judiciary with the funding or investment necessary to ensure justice is administered fairly, equally, and swiftly. It’s critical that Congress does more to value the role our judiciary plays in our democracy, and as ranking member, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure Congress dedicates the resources that America’s justice system requires.” Senator Coons is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has authorizing responsibility for the federal bench."

New Judiciary Chairman Grassley on Committee priorities
(Republican - Iowa) 01/07/15
JUDGE CONFIRMATIONS: "We're going to start out with hearings, even before we get to the attorney general, on judges that are left over from last time," Grassley said.

Sen. Reid Remarks On Opening of 114th Congress
(Democrat - Nevada) 01/07/15
"And while we worked to improve the economy without Republicans’ help, we also worked to fulfill our constitutional obligation to offer advice and consent on Presidential nominations. Just last Congress we confirmed 132 judges – the most since the Carter Administration. Overall, we confirmed 611 of the President’s nominees last Congress in spite of Republican opposition. As we speak, we have an Attorney General and a Secretary of Defense waiting to be confirmed. I remind everybody that last Congress the Republicans mounted an unprecedented filibuster of the nominee for Secretary of Defense. Imagine what we could do if we worked together. I challenge my friend, the Majority Leader, to change course and work with Senate Democrats in confirming the President’s nominees in the 114th Congress. Working together, we can easily meet and surpass last Congress’ benchmark of 611 confirmations."

Sen. Tom Udall Offers Rules Reform Proposal to Fix the Broken Senate
(Democrat - New Mexico) 01/06/15
"We changed the rules to prevent the minority from abusing the rules and obstructing scores of qualified nominees for judicial and executive appointments. ... I believe that drastic step was unfortunate. But it was also necessary. The minority has a right to voice objections-but not to abuse the rules to obstruct justice by preventing judges from being confirmed or by preventing the president from getting his team in place. By changing the rules, the 113th Senate was able to confirm 96 judges. In fact, it confirmed more judges than any modern Congress since 1980."

Reid: Senate Confirmed Over 130 Judicial Nominations, The Most In 33 Years
(Democrat - Nevada) 12/17/14
“Throughout the 113th Congress, Senate Democrats have focused on confirming well-qualified judicial nominees to relieve the judge shortage plaguing our nation’s justice system. Despite unprecedented obstruction, today’s statistics show that Senate Democrats were able to overcome political gridlock and confirm the highest number of district and circuit court judges in a single Congress in over thirty years. These talented nominees had impressive backgrounds and experiences, and their confirmations will bring us one step closer to a judiciary that reflects the diversity of our nation.”

Sen. Carper on Senate failure to fill D.C. local court vacancies
(Democrat - Delaware) 12/17/14
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate committee that oversees D.C. affairs, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Senate’s failure to fill the Superior Court vacancies “simply isn’t fair to District residents and those nominees willing to serve and it’s an injustice that the Senate failed to address this session.” Carper in November criticized the Senate's delay in voting on Superior Court nominees. In his statement on Wednesday he urged his colleagues to “right this wrong” when the new session began next year.

Sen. Feinstein Announces Confirmation of Haywood Gilliam as District Judge
(Democrat - California) 12/16/14
“Haywood Gilliam has an outstanding record as a federal prosecutor in the Northern District and a private practitioner,” said Senator Feinstein. “He began his career as a law clerk to Judge Thelton Henderson on this same court, and I am confident he will serve the Northern District with great distinction for many years to come.” The Northern District, which frequently hears major technology cases, has a substantial caseload. According to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the court has averaged 632 weighted filings per judgeship over the past four years, which is 20 percent above the average caseload and well above the threshold for a “judicial emergency.” Criminal felony cases take 47 percent longer to complete than the national average, and civil cases take 19 percent longer than the national average to go to trial.

Sen. Harkin on belated Senate judicial confirmations
(Democrat - Iowa) 12/16/14
"Republicans have just slow-walked judicial nominations," said Harkin. "What we're doing is what we should have done the last couple of years."

Sen. Grassley Floor Statement on lame duck confirmations of judges
(Republican - Iowa) 12/13/14
"[W]e do confirm judges during a lameduck if those judges were reported to the floor before the election. What we typically don't do is report judges out of committee during a lameduck and then also confirm them that same year ... In 2002, 20 judges were confirmed during the lameduck, but 18 of those judges had been reported out of committee before the midterm election. Only two of those judges were reported during the lameduck, and that was because these two judges waited for more than a year for a hearing."

Senator Leahy: Judiciary Committee Sends Three Judicial Nominees To Full Senate
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/11/14
“It is imperative for the Senate to continue to work on nominations. With cooperation there is still time to confirm these non-controversial nominees before we adjourn for the year,” Leahy said. “I hope that at the very least, the Texas senators will work to get consent on their side of the aisle to confirm the three district court nominees to fill judicial emergency vacancies pending on the Executive Calendar,” Leahy said. “These Texas nominees were nominated more than five months ago and reported out on unanimous voice vote. There is no objection on my side of the aisle to confirming them today.”

Senate Majority Leader Reid on pending judicial nominees
(Democrat - Nevada) 12/10/14
"Maybe we’ll have to work the weekend and maybe even work next week. I know that’s tough duty for everybody, but we may have to do that,” Reid said. “We have a number of nominations we’re going to do … we have nine judges left. We’re going to do those.”

Sens. [Tom] Udall, Merkley Urge McConnell to Continue Rules Reform to Fix Broken Senate
(Democrat - Oregon, New Mexico) 12/09/14
"We are greatly encouraged by reports that the next majority is leaning towards retaining the most recent change lowering the cloture threshold for most nominees," the senators wrote. "This change has allowed critical executive and judicial vacancies to be filled in a more timely fashion in line with long standing Senate traditions, as well as restored the constitutional majority standard for advice and consent."

Sen. Toomey Floor Statement for Leeson district court nomination
(Republican - Pennsylvania) 12/04/14
"I wish to start by thanking Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley for facilitating and moving his candidacy through the process, through the committee, and Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, our respective leaders, for bringing the nomination to the Senate floor. I appreciate that cooperation. I should also point out that I am very grateful for the cooperation of my colleague Senator Casey. Senator Casey and I have spent a lot of time and energy making sure we fill the vacancies that occur on the Federal bench in Pennsylvania with absolutely the most qualified, terrific Pennsylvanians, and we have been blessed that so many wonderful Pennsylvanians have offered to serve in this role, to make this sacrifice for public service. In the 4 years I have been in the Senate, Senator Casey and I have confirmed 13 district judges. We placed a judge in the Reading courthouse in Berks County, which had been vacant for 3 years; placed a judge in the Easton courthouse, which had been vacant for 10 years; and when Mr. Leeson is hopefully confirmed this afternoon, that will bring our total to 14."

Toomey: Senators Casey, Toomey Announce Confirmation of Joseph Leeson to PA Eastern District Court
(Republican - Pennsylvania) 12/04/14
"I am thrilled that Jay Leeson will soon join Judge James Knoll Gardner in Allentown as a district court judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania," said Senator Toomey. "For the first time, the Allentown courthouse will have two sitting federal district court judges. This is a great day for the city, and I am confident that Mr. Leeson will excel on the federal bench. I will continue working with Senator Casey to recommend well-qualified judges to serve the people of Pennsylvania." In the last three and a half years, Senators Casey and Toomey have worked together, in a bipartisan fashion, to recommend to the President accomplished jurists of high ability and integrity to preside in the federal courts of Pennsylvania. With Mr. Leeson, they have now confirmed 14 Pennsylvania district court judges to the federal bench.

UPDATED: Republican Home-State Senators Support Judicial Nominees
(Republican - Utah, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky, North Carolina) 12/03/14
Links and excerpts for Republican home-state senator support of judicial nominees during Senate's lame duck session and history of prior lame duck confirmations.

(Republican - Pennsylvania) 12/03/14
"I rise to offer my support as well to the two nominees to serve as judges for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Jerry Pappert and Mark Kearney ... Let me start by thanking Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley for facilitating this process and handling this at the committee level, and I want to thank Leader Reid and Leader McConnell for bringing these nominees to the Senate floor. ... it has been a pleasure to work with Senator Casey. In the 4 years I have been in the Senate, we have confirmed 11 district court judges. ... that number will rise to 13 members of the Federal bench from Pennsylvania in just the past 4 years. We have one additional district court nominee, Joseph Leeson, awaiting a vote from the full Senate, and I am looking at a speedy confirmation of his candidacy as well. Before I speak on the two nominees before us this evening, I want to briefly note how pleased I was that on November 20 the Senate confirmed Wendy Beetlestone to serve on the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania."

Senate Majority Leader Reid on Floor Agenda
(Democrat - Nevada) 12/01/14
"We have a number of vitally important nominations that must be confirmed."

UPDATED: Republican Home-State Senators Support Judicial Nominees
(Republican - Utah, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky, North Carolina) 11/25/14
Links and excerpts for Republican home-state senator support of judicial nominees during Senate's lame duck session and history of prior lame duck confirmations.

(Democrat - Oregon) 11/24/14
“A year ago, our nation and our democracy were threatened by partisan obstruction that was packing our courts and preventing our agencies from doing their jobs. ... Moreover, providing a fair Senate vote on President Obama’s nominees to fill three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court – the second most important court in the country – was crucial to restoring the Court’s integrity. The Senate has also more than doubled the pace of votes on judicial nominations. Enabling these nominees to receive fair up-or-down votes will have profound effects on issues that affect Americans every day, from clean air to women’s health to keeping Wall Street in check. With nearly 300 executive and judicial nominees confirmed this past year, we’ve made a real difference and are breaking through the gridlock to help restore a government that works for working Americans.”

Sen. Baldwin: Wisconsin Senators Applaud Confirmation of Judge Pam Pepper to the Eastern District of Wisconsin
(Democrat - Wisconsin) 11/20/14
“Addressing vacant federal judgeships in Wisconsin has been a top priority for me since I was sworn in to the Senate,” said U.S. Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to have worked with Senator Johnson to put in place a nonpartisan Federal Nominating Commission and a process for moving judicial nominations forward because the people of Wisconsin deserve to have experienced and qualified judges working for them. Pamela Pepper has had a distinguished career as a judge, federal prosecutor, public defender and attorney in private practice. She will be an outstanding U.S. Federal District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.”

Texas Senators on judicial nominees
(Republican - Texas) 11/20/14
A Senate committee recommended three nominees for federal judgeships Thursday, paving the way for their approval before the full Senate....Cornyn said on his weekly call with Texas reporters that he and Cruz “would like to move quickly” on the three Texas judicial nominations. “All of these nominees were recommended to the White House by me and Sen. Cruz … My hope is that we can actually get these three good nominees confirmed” during the lame duck session."

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/20/14
“Today, we also have nine judicial nominations and one executive nomination on the agenda. All of the judicial nominations were held over last week and are ready to be reported to the Senate floor. At last week’s mark up, I had hoped to report at least the three nominations to fill judicial emergency vacancies in Texas. Unfortunately neither Texas Senator showed up to make the case to other Republican members to report out the Texas nominees and the Ranking Member asked that they be held over. One of these Texas vacancies has been left empty for six years. With nine current, and four known future, Texas district court vacancies, I hope the Texas Senators will secure cooperation on their side of the aisle so that rather than adding them to the list of routine filibusters they can be confirmed by consent before we adjourn.”

Sen. Leahy: Judiciary Committee Unanimously Approves Leahy-Cornyn FOIA Improvement Act. . . Nine Judicial Nominees Also Approved At Thursday Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/20/14
"Eight nominees to fill vacancies on our Federal district courts and one nominee to the U.S. Court of International Trade were also reported on Thursday. Those nominees now join 20 judicial nominees awaiting confirmation by the full Senate. There are currently 61 judicial vacancies throughout the country, and Leahy urged the Senate to approve the pending nominees who could fill some of those seats before the end of the year."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement [on Belated Confirmation of Three Georgia District Judges]
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/18/14
"We have confirmed three judges from Georgia and I want to compliment the two Senators from Georgia for their hard work, both in the Judiciary Committee and the White House. And in that, I am sorry they had to wait so long. On this side of the aisle we cleared every one of those for a voice vote months ago. I am sorry that your side wanted to delay it, but I see a 100-0 vote, and the voice votes are accurate. But I compliment the two Senators from Georgia for sticking with their nominees."

Senate Majority Leader Reid Floor Statement: WORKING TOGETHER
(Democrat - Nevada) 11/17/14
"We have many nominations that have not been completed. ...We have gotten some judges done. That is because we changed the rules to do the outlandish thing of having a majority of the Senate determine whether someone should be confirmed. ... But I say to my friend, in spite of that, we have been able to get a lot of judges done, we are going to wind up--by the time the Judiciary Committee continues to do the good work they do, we will probably have over 20 judges who need to be approved this Congress. ... We have scores--we are approaching, counting judges and all of the nominations, well over 150 who have been held up, people who have been waiting and waiting. These are jobs that are needed in our country; these are not new positions we have created. So I would hope we can get past the bitterness that has been created in this body and get the nominations done. There is no reason a judge-to-be should have to wait for all this time, as the Senator from Vermont has indicated, just to get a vote."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on need to confirm pending judicial nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/17/14
"[T]oday we will vote to end Republican filibusters on three district court nominations for Georgia, two of which are judicial emergency vacancies. The Senate should not need to waste our time jumping through these procedural hurdles to confirm nominees who are strongly supported by two Republican home State Senators. After we vote to invoke cloture and confirm these three nominees, we will still have 17 judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar--11 to serve on district courts and 6 to serve on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Another nine judicial nominees will be recommended by the Judiciary Committee this Thursday. By the end of the week, there will be 26 nominees reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee pending before the full Senate. All but a few of these nominees will have been reported unanimously and several are from States with at least one and sometimes two Republican home State Senators, including: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, and Texas. These nominees should all be confirmed before we recess in December. As I mentioned last week, I hope that Senate Republicans will work with Senate Democrats to ``clear the decks'' on pending business before the end of the 113th Congress, as the incoming majority leader has suggested. So let us work together as we have in past lameduck sessions to get these nominees confirmed and serving their communities. In 2002, after the midterm elections, Senate Democrats worked to confirm all 20 of President Bush's judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar all but one by voice vote. In the 2006 lameduck session, after Senate Democrats won the majority in the elections, Democrats agreed to confirm all 14 of President Bush's judicial nominations pending on the Executive Calendar, but this package was blocked by a Republican Senator. In the most recent lameduck sessions, in 2010 and 2012, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. We should do the same now."