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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Senator Statements


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Sen. Leahy Congressional Record Statement on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 05/25/17
[S3172-33] "During my nearly 20 years as either chairman or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I encouraged Republicans and Democrats to work with President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama to find qualified, consensus nominees, and I protected the rights of Senators in both parties. As Ranking Member Feinstein noted in a memo that was circulated yesterday, no judicial nomination made by the last three Presidents was confirmed without the support of both home State Senators. I cannot recall a nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home State Senator. The blue slip is not a partisan issue; it is about constitutional checks and balances and the Senate's role in protecting the independence of our Federal judiciary. I encourage President Trump to follow the example of his predecessors from both parties and work with us to find consensus nominees to ensure that our Federal courts remain the envy of the rest of the world."

Sen. Franken on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/25/17
“It’s customary that the blue-slip process applies equally to both district and circuit court nominees — and Republicans certainly operated that way during the Obama administration,” Franken said, adding, “The committee should continue this custom and not change it simply because there’s a new president in the White House.”

Sen. Whitehouse [on home-state Senator blue slip requirement for judicial nominees]
(Democrat - Rhode Island) 05/25/17
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general who is [a member] of the Judiciary Committee, said he doubts that Grassley “would want to dismantle that long-standing Senate prerogative just to cater to the extremist impulses of this particular administration.” Given that appellate court seats are historically connected to individual states, “they should continue to be able to make recommendations,” Whitehouse said. “I think that would be a really dumb mistake to make just to appease the far right because it would have lasting consequences that would diminish the Senate both for Republican and Democrat senators.”

Sen. Schumer [on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees]
(Democrat - New York) 05/25/17
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted Republicans for departing from tradition, saying in a statement that “The Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate, not right wing interest groups, on the president’s judicial nominees.”

Sen. Feinstein: Setting the record straight on judicial nominees and blue slip
(Democrat - California) 05/24/17
"Some Senate Republicans have recently suggested that the so-called “blue slip” for judicial nominees is less important for circuit court nominations than district court nominations. (The blue slip is a process where both senators must sign off on judicial nominations in their own state.) In fact, no Obama administration district or circuit court nominee received a Judiciary Committee hearing unless both home-state senators approved of the nominee by returning their blue slips. The Senate is set to vote on the nomination of Judge Amul Thapar to fill a nearly 1,400-day vacancy on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Thapar’s nomination by President Trump was only possible because the blue slip was always honored for circuit court nominees during the Obama administration. President Obama last year nominated Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes to this Sixth Circuit vacancy. She received a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. However, Judge Tabor Hughes never received a hearing in the Judiciary Committee because both Kentucky senators did not return their blue slips.... Senate Democrats did not abandon the blue slip during the Obama administration even though the Senate Judiciary Committee was controlled by Democrats for six of the eight years. For example, Judiciary Committee Democrats did not advance Obama nominees in any of the following situations: Only one home-state senator returned the blue slip. Senators initially returned blue slips but later rescinded them. Judicial vacancies were left open for years. Senators recommended a nominee to the White House for a district court vacancy, but refused to return a blue slip for that same nominee when nominated to a circuit court vacancy. The blue slip serves an important purpose by incentivizing meaningful consultation and cooperation between the White House and Senate on judicial nominees. Eliminating the blue slip is essentially a move to end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees, allowing nominees to be hand-picked by right-wing groups. During the administrations of President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, no circuit court or district court nominees were confirmed without blue slips from both home-state senators. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a 2014 op-ed, “I continued this blue slip tradition. Not a single district court nominee received a committee hearing, and not one appeals court nominee was confirmed without the support of their home-state senators…”"

Sen. Warren Floor Statement [opposing Thapar Sixth Circuit nomination]
(Democrat - Massachusetts) 05/24/17
[S3128-29] "I rise to oppose the nomination of Judge Amul Thapar to serve as a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.... His nomination comes on the heels of the nomination of now-Justice Neil Gorsuch, an ultraconservative who could not earn enough support to be confirmed under Senate's normal rules, a judge so radical, so controversial that Senate Republicans had to change the Senate rules and lower the vote threshold to force his nomination through the Senate. Now the Senate is poised to vote on a judge cut from the same cloth. Like Justice Gorsuch, Judge Thapar made the list of 21 acceptable judges that far-right groups drew up and handed to President Trump-- judges who would tilt the scales of justice in favor of the rich and the powerful.... For years, billionaire-funded, rightwing groups have worked hand in hand with Republicans to ensure that our courts advance the interests of the wealthy and powerful over the rights of everyone else. They abused the filibuster to stop fair, mainstream judges from filling vacancies on Federal courts, they slowed the judicial nominations process to a crawl, and they threw the Constitution and Senate precedent out the window by refusing to consider President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. ...There are many reasons to oppose Judge Thapar's nomination to the Sixth Circuit, from his decisions making it harder for working Americans to get access to the judicial system to his support for sentencing policies that don't make us safer but that exacerbate the problem of mass incarceration. There is a lot to object to, but I want to highlight one area that should concern every person who thinks government should work for all of us; that is, Judge Thapar's stance on money in politics.... In his decision, Judge Thapar said: ``There is simply no difference between `saying' that one supports an organization by using words and `saying' that one supports an organization by donating money.'' ... As the Sixth Circuit reminded Judge Thapar when it reversed his decision on donations, even the Supreme Court has refused to treat monetary donations as equivalent to direct speech."

Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 05/20/17
David Carle, a spokesman for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said no judicial nominee – district or circuit court – received a hearing without first receiving both home state senators' positive blue slips while Leahy was the committee chair. “They loved the blue-slip rule when it was President Obama and Chuck Grassley to his credit said I enforced it with a Democratic president, he’s going to enforce it with Republican president, so we’ll have the blue-slip rule,” Leahy told The Hill. Leahy was citing a 2015 op-ed in The Des Moines Register by Grassley. “I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it,” he wrote. Leahy said he’s going to take Grassley for his word. “He knew that I enforced it and he said he would enforce it,” he said.

Sen. Cornyn forgets Obama's Nourse, Selby & Haywood Circuit nominations blocked by single Senator blue slips
(Republican - Texas) 05/20/17
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate ... “I think there’s a difference between the blue-slip application at the district court level where the court is contained wholly within a state as opposed to a circuit court, which covers multiple states,” he said. “The idea that an individual senator could veto in effect a nominee at the circuit court level is really unprecedented and I think needs to be carefully looked at.”

Sen. Hatch [on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees]
(Republican - Utah) 05/20/17
“Frankly it’s served a very good purpose up to now,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. “I’ll have to listen to the debate and see what I’ll decide, but it has played a very noble, important role over the years.”

Sen. Franken on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/20/17
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) ... claims the process applies equally to both district and circuit court nominees “and Republicans certainly operated that way during the Obama administration.” “In my view, the blue slip plays an important role in ensuring that the Senate is able to fulfill its constitutional duty to provide ‘advice and consent,’” he said. “The Committee should continue this custom and not change it simply because there’s a new president in the White House.”

Sen. Stabenow on home-state Senator blue slip review of Joan Larsen Circuit Court nomination
(Democrat - Michigan) 05/14/17
Stabenow hasn’t made a decision on her blue slip and plans to review Justice Larson’s record, as does her colleague Sen. Gary C. Peters, Michigan Democrat. “As we move forward in the process, I will continue to listen to public input and consult with Michigan’s legal community to ensure that our state is served by highly qualified, fair and impartial judges that put the people of Michigan first,”

Sen. Grassley on blue slip rule [no exceptions for 8 years of Obama judges]
(Republican - Iowa) 05/11/17
“I think the blue slip is more respected for district court judges historically than it has been for circuit,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley said Thursday in an interview with Roll Call and the Associated Press for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program. The Judiciary Committee’s process has generally required senators to return a blue slip of paper consenting to hearings and markups of nominees for federal judgeships from their home states, but the Republican from Iowa argues that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. “It’s much more a White House decision on circuit judges than the district court judges,” Grassley said. “I mean this is going to be an individual case-by-case decision, but it leads me to say that there’s going to have to be a less strict use or obligation to the blue slip policy for circuit, because that’s the way it’s been.”... Grassley cited as an example of the greater deference to the White House an instance in the 1980s, when he and Sen. Roger Jepsen had made an appeals court recommendation to the Reagan administration that was ultimately dismissed. Speaking also to nominations at the district court level, Grassley said he would consider the extent of the conversations between President Donald Trump’s White House and Democratic senators. “I think it’s very important that the White House work very closely with senators, both Republican and Democrat. But particularly those states where they have two Democratic senators, and I think that a big factor for me is the extent to which those Democratic senators make sure that they have adequate communication with the White House,” Grassley said.

Sen. Casey reported blue slip concerns with potential David Porter Third Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Pennsylvania) 05/11/17
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Porter’s other home-state senator, has warned the White House he’s prepared to withhold Porter’s blue slip if Trump nominates him. Casey has “serious concerns” with this nomination, said the source.

Congresswoman Norton: In Setback for D.C. Equality, Trump Nominates D.C. Federal Judge Without Consulting D.C.’s Only Federal Representative
(Democrat - District of Columbia) 05/09/17
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that, although she requested consultation, the Trump Administration has nominated Dabney Friedrich to the District Court for the District of Columbia without consulting Norton, which was the practice of the last Republican administration, under President George W. Bush. In March, Norton wrote President Trump asking for the courtesy of consultation on federal law enforcement officials nominated to serve the District of Columbia. Presidents Clinton and Obama extended Norton the courtesy to recommend these officials in the same manner as Democratic senators. Norton is still reviewing what is known of Friedrich’s nomination, but said that she had no information to question the nomination. She said that D.C.’s lack of representation in the Senate is particularly unfair for nominations of federal officials who serve the District, including judges .... Under Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), like his immediate predecessor and some prior chairmen, the committee has not considered nominees for federal judge, U.S. attorney, or U.S. Marshal unless both home-state senators, regardless of party, consent to the nominee moving forward. ... “Considering that the President and I are not in the same party, I did not request to recommend nominees, but instead asked for consultation courtesy, using the precedent under the Bush Administration, which informed me of the candidate before a nomination, solicited my opinion, and even gave me the courtesy of interviewing the candidates,” Norton said. “I never had occasion to differ on the president’s selection. District of Columbia residents have no representation in the U.S. Senate, but they pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States to support their country. They should not be denied a say on the federal officials nominated to serve them. I urge Trump officials to reconsider the process they used for this selection and give our residents a voice by consulting with me on future selections of federal officials who serve this city, as the Bush Administration did.”

Sen. Stabenow on Joan Larsen nomination to Michigan seat on U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
(Democrat - Michigan) 05/09/17
“They informed me that they would [nominate Larsen], and I indicated we’ll go through our process and review and get input,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said in a brief interview on Monday.

Sen. Cotton on home-state Senator blue slips
(Republican - Arkansas) 05/09/17
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that if Democrats start abusing the so-called blue slip rule, Republicans should consider dumping the policy, which allows a senator to block a judicial candidate from his or home state by simply not returning a blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.... “I think the blue slip tradition can be helpful if it encourages the White House to consult in advance with senators,” Cotton told Hewitt, an avowed opponent of the blue slip rule. “But we can’t allow Democratic senators to continue to obstruct this president’s agenda. If they’re just arbitrarily not returning blue slips, we have to consider changing that tradition to one of its past other forms.”... “Let’s be clear. It is not a rule. It is not written down in the Senate rules or the rules of the Senate Republican Conference,” Cotton said on Hewitt’s show. “And the tradition changes substantially based on the preferences and the views of the Senate Judiciary chairman.”

Sen. Hatch on filling Utah federal district court vacancy
(Republican - Utah) 05/08/17
Even with the announcement of the new nominees, other Republicans are eager for the Trump White House to send more candidates for the judiciary, particularly for vacancies in their home states. “We’re concerned,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee. There is one judicial vacancy in Utah, which has been open since 2014. “We’ve already made our suggestions. They know that we’re interested in getting that taken care of.”

(Republican - Idaho) 05/08/17
Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch today welcomed the nomination of Idaho District Judge David C. Nye of Pocatello by President Donald Trump to fill the open U.S. District Court judgeship in Idaho. Judge Nye was previously nominated to the same position by President Obama in 2016 and approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 114th Congress concluded without completing the confirmation process. The Trump administration, in consultation with both Crapo and Risch, re-nominated Judge Nye as one of the first district judicial nominations sent to the Senate by the White House. “I thank the President for moving quickly to renominate Judge Nye. His unanimous approval by the Judiciary Committee last year demonstrates Judge Nye’s eminent qualifications of strong credentials and service to the legal community,” said Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the nomination. “According to the Judicial Conference, Idaho, like many other states, is facing a judicial emergency and needs a second District Court judge to help manage its caseload. I will be working with my colleagues to move Judge Nye’s confirmation and hope that he will be confirmed quickly.” "Today's announcement is a win for Idahoans and our state's judicial system," said Senator Risch. "Judge Nye is a sound and principled jurist who has my full confidence. I will continue to work with my colleagues to have his nomination confirmed as expeditiously as possible, as I have since day one."

Sen. Durbin on President Trump judicial selections
(Democrat - Illinois) 05/08/17
“We know that there is a prized list now from [conservative] special interest groups and one of them is now on the Supreme Court,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said Monday, referring to recently-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. “If that’s the way the president is going to choose the leaders of the judiciary, we need to ask some probing questions about why these special interest groups believe these particular judges are the best choices.” Of the blue-slip powers, Durbin added: “As long as we have the authority, we’ll use it if necessary.”

Sen. Young on Barrett nomination to Seventh Circuit seat Myra Selby was nominated to fill
(Republican - Indiana) 05/08/17
Republican Sen. Todd Young said in a statement, “I could not be more pleased with the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the federal bench. During the vetting process, I had the chance to interview Mrs. Barrett and expressed to the White House my belief that she would be a home run pick. I’m glad the President views her with as much regard as I do. With this selection, President Trump continues to demonstrate a knack for nominating individuals to the federal bench who will faithfully interpret the Constitution of the United States. Mrs. Barrett’s qualifications should make for a swift, bipartisan confirmation process.”

Sen. Franken on lack of meaningful consultation on David Stras Eighth Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/08/17
A spokesman for Franken said the senator was “not meaningfully” consulted and the White House declined the Minnesota senator’s recommendations to fill the vacancy at the St. Louis-based appeals court. A separate Senate Democratic aide said the Trump administration notified, rather than consulted, the senators, declining to ask for input before announcing the nominee. Lack of consultation on judicial nominees goes against traditional White House practice, say veterans of the nominations process. “In the Obama administration, people would not return their blue slips simply because they felt they weren’t consulted efficiently,” said Christopher Kang, who served as deputy counsel to former President Barack Obama. Kang, now the national director at the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said 17 judicial nominees during Obama’s tenure were blocked because home-state senators declined to give approval, or return his or her blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Franken’s Statement on Trump Nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for the Eighth Circuit
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/08/17
Senator Al Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on President Trump's nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to serve on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals: "Justice David Stras is a committed public servant whose tenure as a professor at the University of Minnesota underscores how much he cares about the law. I am concerned, however, by that fact that Judge Stras' nomination is the product of a process that relied heavily on guidance from far-right Washington, DC-based special interest groups—rather than through a committee made up of a cross-section of Minnesota's legal community. As President Trump's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, I will be taking a close look at his record and his writings in the coming weeks to better understand how he thinks about the important matters before our federal courts today."

Republican senators aren't willing to give the president more power to get his nominees installed
(Republican - ) 05/08/17
Democrats will retain the blue-slip leverage, at least for now. A broad swath of Senate Republicans is opposed to doing away with the tradition ... Grassley said he plans to abide by it. In addition to Grassley, more than a half-dozen other Republicans on the judiciary panel said in interviews that they have no plans to ditch blue slips. That's the case even though doing so would allow Trump to more easily install conservative judges, particularly in states with two Democratic senators. “That’s been the traditions of the Senate, that home-state senators have a say,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a senior member of the committee. “I’m not about to give up my rights as a senator to have a say about district court judges who’ll represent my constituents long after the president’s gone.” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who has 11 district court vacancies in his home state, along with two empty appellate court seats, called the blue slip an “equal opportunity irritant.” “When it’s an impediment, then people don’t like it. When it’s helpful, people like it,” Cornyn said. “What it does [is], it provokes a negotiation, which I don’t think is an altogether bad thing.” Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) offered a similar defense of the practice. “We used it effectively — myself with Sen. [John] McCain — to negotiate with the Obama administration on judges,” Flake said. “I like that tradition.”

Sen. Klobuchar on David Stras Eighth Circuit Nomination
(Democrat - Minnesota) 05/08/17
A spokesperson for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who along with Sen. Al Franken is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the senator "looks forward to meeting with the judge and reviewing his judicial record."

Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Members on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees
(Republican - Idaho, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana) 05/08/17
In addition to Grassley, more than a half-dozen other Republicans on the judiciary panel said in interviews that they have no plans to ditch blue slips. ... Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who has 11 district court vacancies in his home state, along with two empty appellate court seats, called the blue slip an “equal opportunity irritant.” “When it’s an impediment, then people don’t like it. When it’s helpful, people like it,” Cornyn said. “What it does [is], it provokes a negotiation, which I don’t think is an altogether bad thing.” Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) offered a similar defense of the practice. “We used it effectively — myself with Sen. [John] McCain — to negotiate with the Obama administration on judges,” Flake said. “I like that tradition.”

Sen. Schumer Statement on President Trump’s 1st Slate of Lower Court Nominees
(Democrat - New York) 05/08/17
“Instead of allowing these groups to single-handedly pick judges that will tilt the lower courts to the hard right for a generation, the president should work with members of both parties to pick judges from within the judicial mainstream who will interpret the law rather than make it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

Sen. Cornyn [on blue slip home-state Senator requirement for judicial nominees]
(Republican - Texas) 05/08/17
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who has 11 district court vacancies in his home state, along with two empty appellate court seats, called the blue slip an “equal opportunity irritant.” “When it’s an impediment, then people don’t like it. When it’s helpful, people like it,” Cornyn said. “What it does [is], it provokes a negotiation, which I don’t think is an altogether bad thing.”

Sens. Inhofe, Lankford Applaud Nomination of Scott Palk for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma
(Republican - Oklahoma) 05/08/17
Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford (R-Okla.) today applauded President Trump’s nomination of Judge Scott Palk to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma . “By nominating Scott Palk to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, President Trump is upholding his campaign promise to nominate to the federal bench principled jurists who are committed to enforcing the Constitution’s limits on federal power,” Inhofe said. “Scott has an extensive record of distinguished service both a prosecutor and as an assistant dean and assistant general counsel at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He is well known in Oklahoma for his honesty, integrity and his fair and balanced approach in applying the law. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on his quick and fair confirmation.” “Scott is a great candidate to serve as a federal judge for the US District Court for Oklahoma because of his dedication to uphold the rule of law,” Lankford said. “Scott’s years of work in Oklahoma make him exceptionally qualified to serve as one of Oklahomans federal judges, and I applaud President Trump for nominating a strong candidate that will represent our state and nation well.”

Idaho Senators feel Judge Nye renomination could expedite confirmation
(Republican - Idaho) 05/07/17
In Idaho, Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, had urged the Trump administration to re-up Nye's nomination this year, Crapo said in an interview last week. “He’s already been through an FBI process and through the [American Bar Association] process,” Crapo said of Nye. “And so although there probably has to be a short, quick redo of that, we feel [the confirmation] could be expedited.”

Sen. Rubio Press Release: Carlos López-Cantera to Chair Statewide Panel Vetting Federal Judicial Candidates
(Republican - Florida) 05/04/17
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) will once again constitute the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) to identify highly qualified individuals as finalists to become U.S. district judges in each of the three judicial districts in Florida. ... “I am extremely pleased to have Carlos López-Cantera serve as statewide chair of Florida’s Federal Judicial Nominating Commission,” said Rubio. “Carlos is well-suited for this position and I am confident he is dedicated to this important process and will successfully lead the commission in identifying exceptional candidates to serve on the federal bench in Florida. I look forward to reviewing the commission’s selections and working with Senator Nelson and the president to ensure that these critical positions are filled.”... The commission will send the names of the finalists to Senators Rubio and Nelson for their individual and independent review and, if neither senator objects, those names will be forwarded to the White House for the president’s consideration. Both senators reserve their constitutional rights to render advice and consent on any candidate or nominee.