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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Senator Statements

 

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Sen. Cruz still supports Jeff Mateer federal judicial nomination
(Republican - Texas) 09/28/17
Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday that he still supports federal judge nominee Jeff Mateer, a top lawyer for the state of Texas, despite revelations that Mateer has described transgender children as part of "Satan's plan" and warned that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality.... Cruz said the statements don't change his support for Mateer, a longtime conservative legal advocate who serves as the deputy to state Attorney General Ken Paxton. "His record as a lawyer and public servant demonstrates a fidelity to law and a commitment to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights," Cruz said in a brief interview at the Senate.

Sen. Cornyn raises fresh doubts about Texas judicial pick's 'Satan' remarks
(Republican - Texas) 09/28/17
Sen. John Cornyn raised fresh doubts Thursday about the White House nomination of assistant state Attorney General Jeff Mateer to be a federal judge in Texas. Mateer, in a pair of speeches in 2015, reportedly referred to the rights of transgender children as part of "Satan's plan" and defended the controversial practice of "conversion therapy" for gays. Cornyn, commenting publicly for the first time since Mateer's speeches were unearthed this month by CNN, said the speeches apparently were not disclosed to him as they should have been under a screening process set up by him and Sen. Ted Cruz. "We requested that sort of information about speeches and the like on his application," said Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. "And to my knowledge there was no information given about those, so it's fair to say I was surprised."... Cornyn said Thursday that he is reevaluating Mateer's nomination in light of the undisclosed speeches as well as other public utterances. "I am evaluating that information, and I understand there may be even addition information other than that which has previously been disclosed," he said in a conference call with Texas reporters. Cornyn, formerly a Texas Supreme Court Justice, said there should be no "religious test" for judges. "But it is important," he added, "that all of our judges be people who can administer equal justice under the law and can separate their personal views from their duties as a judge." He added: "Because the information had not been previously disclosed, we were not able to have that kind of conversation with Mr. Mateer, so we've got some work to do."

Sens. Cornyn, Cruz Praise White House Announcement of Fifth Circuit Nominees
(Republican - Texas) 09/28/17
“Jim Ho and Justice Willett are two exceptional legal minds who will faithfully interpret the law, not rewrite it," said Sen. Cornyn. “Mr. Ho skillfully defended the state before our nation’s highest court while Justice Willett has distinguished himself as a thoughtful jurist known for his legal writing. I was proud to join Senator Cruz in recommending both candidates and I look forward to building support among my colleagues for their nominations.” “I am thrilled to support the nominations of Don Willett and Jim Ho to the Fifth Circuit. I have been close friends with them both for decades, and I know them personally to be brilliant lawyers and principled conservatives,” Sen. Cruz said. “For over a decade on the Texas Supreme Court, Don Willett has proven himself to be a jurist of the highest order. His service on the court was simply one more step in a career of public service, from the Texas Governor Office, to the White House, to the Department of Justice, to the Texas Attorney General’s office. Every step along the way, Justice Willett has stood out as man of intellect and principle, and I am excited to see what he will accomplish on the Fifth Circuit. Jim Ho has proven throughout his accomplished career that he is a passionate defender of the Constitution and the rule of law. Jim has served with distinction in all three branches of government, including as a law clerk to the great Justice Clarence Thomas on the United States Supreme Court, an official at the Department of Justice, and a chief counsel here in the United States Senate. Jim also succeeded me as Solicitor General of Texas, where he argued some of this country’s toughest cases before its highest courts. I am confident that he will be a stellar jurist and an intellectual force on the court.”

Sen. Gardner Statement on Nomination of Dan Domenico to Colorado’s U.S. District Court
(Republican - Colorado) 09/28/17
“Dan Domenico is an excellent choice to serve on Colorado’s U.S. District Court,” said Gardner. “Dan’s dedication to the rule of law and time as Colorado’s Solicitor General make him an extremely qualified candidate that will make Colorado proud. I look forward to supporting Dan throughout his confirmation process.”

Sen. Cornyn reconsidering support for Jeff Mateer federal judicial nomination
(Republican - Texas) 09/28/17
Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday that he still supports federal judge nominee Jeff Mateer, a top lawyer for the state of Texas, despite revelations that Mateer has described transgender children as part of "Satan's plan" and warned that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality. Sen. John Cornyn said he was surprised to learn of those remarks, and is now reconsidering his support. The senators jointly recommended Mateer to President Donald Trump for a lifetime spot on the federal bench. The vice chairman of the panel of lawyers that screens nominees for the senators said last week that Mateer didn't disclose those statements. Cornyn confirmed that. "It's fair to say I was surprised about that," Cornyn told Texas reporters on a weekly call, adding that he plans to reserve judgment on Mateer pending a review with his staff.... Both Texas senators sit on the Judiciary Committee. Both, according to a committee aide, returned a "blue slip" -- the traditional method by which a home state senator gives permission for a nomination to proceed -- before Mateer's controversial comments surfaced last week....Cornyn said there should be no "religious test" for judges, but said they should "be people who can administer equal justice under law." "Because the information was not previously disclosed, we were not able to have that conversation," said Cornyn, himself a former Texas Supreme Court justice. "I've got some work to do until I can make that final conclusion."

Sen. Heitkamp Statement on U.S. Senate Approving Judge Erickson to Serve on 8th Circuit Court of Appeals: Senator Spoke on the Floor of the U.S. Senate Today Reinforcing Support for Erickson
(Democrat - North Dakota) 09/28/17
“Today I stood on the Senate floor to express my full support for Judge Ralph Erickson, an individual who has committed the bulk of his legal career to serving the people of North Dakota through his public service on both the state and federal benches,” said Heitkamp. “Judge Erickson, brings his own experience and empathy to each case he presides over and has shown a critical understanding of sovereignty and treaty rights of the tribes and North Dakota – as well as an acute awareness of the challenges and disparities in treatment of Native Americans under the law. Throughout his long legal career in North Dakota, Judge Erickson has earned the respect and admiration of not only Republican and Democrats in North Dakota – but of lawyers and individuals who have appeared before him on both sides of the issues. That balanced and fair approach has served him well on the District Court and in the Senate today as the bipartisan majority of my colleagues demonstrated their confidence in his judicial temperament to serve on the Eighth Circuit. By approving his nomination today, the U.S. Senate will help make sure every American standing before the Eighth Circuit will be served by a capable and exceptional judge from whom they can seek and find justice.”

Sen. Hatch Statement on the Nomination of Howard C. Nielson Jr. to Serve on the US District Court for the District of Utah
(Republican - Utah) 09/28/17
“President Trump has made an outstanding choice to fill the vacancy on Utah's federal District Court. Howard Nielson is a first-rate talent with broad experience and a commitment to the rule of law. He has sterling credentials and a solid reputation in the legal community. President Trump promised to make judicial nominations a priority for his administration, and today, he continued delivering on that promise. I applaud the White House for selecting such an exceptional nominee and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to see Howard confirmed.”

Sen. Feinstein: Protect Senate Power on Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - California) 09/25/17
An editorial memo with additional background on the history of the blue slip is available here [Link] “The blue slip is a Senate tradition that allows both home-state senators to have a say in which judges will serve in their states. It has been supported by Republicans and Democrats alike for 100 years, but it’s now in jeopardy by Senate Republicans who want to pack federal courts with Trump nominees. “Eliminating the blue slip would end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees and remove any incentive for the White House to choose mainstream candidates.... no judicial nominee has been confirmed without two blue slips in nearly 30 years, and fewer than five times in the last 100 years. Not a single Obama nominee received even a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, let alone a floor vote, without both blue slips having been returned.... the Obama White House didn’t just consult with Democratic Senators—it also consulted extensively with Republican senators. For example, Senators Hatch and Lee recommended Carolyn McHugh for the Tenth Circuit. Senators Isakson and Chambliss recommend Julie Carnes for the Eleventh Circuit. ... We’ve seen a troubling trend thus far in the Trump administration—candidates meeting only with Republican senators before they’re chosen. “The result is a White House that refuses to consult with Democratic senators on judicial nominees, then accuses them of obstruction when they want to fully review the nominees’ records. And now, they are threatening to eliminate the blue slip."

Senator Feinstein, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member: Setting the record straight on judicial nominees and blue slip
(Democrat - California) 09/25/17
Editorial memo on history of the blue slip and consultation with home-state Senators on judicial nominees

Sen. Wyden on Oregon bipartisan process of vetting federal judicial candidates
(Democrat - Oregon) 09/25/17
Sens. Wyden and Merkley have said they will fight Bounds’ confirmation because he was not vetted by a bipartisan committee. Through a spokesman, Wyden said Trump cut ahead of Oregon’s traditional vetting process – currently underway but not yet completed.... “The process has long been done by a committee of Oregonians that considers applicants from our state’s legal community,” Wyden’s spokesman Hank Stern said in an email. “That process is underway and Oregon’s senators have explained to the White House that this process is part of a long, bipartisan tradition of judicial nominees being thoroughly vetted by a committee of Oregonians in order both to ensure the highest quality candidate and to avoid any taint of nepotism and patronage in a lifetime judicial appointment.”

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."

Sen. Schumer on home-state Senator blue slips
(Democrat - New York) 09/20/17
“Now we have the circuit court, and the blue slip has always been recognized. I will be meeting with Senator McConnell, Senator Grassley, and the ranking Democrat on the committee, to make the case to hold the blue slips.”

Sen. Whitehouse on home-state Senator blue slips
(Democrat - Rhode Island) 09/20/17
Pointing to past statements from McConnell and other Republicans, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Judiciary Committee member, told Business Insider in a statement that the practice "ensures that home-state senators and the people they represent can weigh in on the judges who will serve them." "Republicans, Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley among them, have taken advantage of this tradition for decades," Whitehouse said. "People who claim to be Senate institutionalists should not engage in wholesale destruction of Senate traditions just for immediate partisan advantage."

Sen. Lee on home-state Senator blue slips
(Republican - Utah) 09/20/17
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider in a statement that the blue slip process "should be used to prompt consultation between the Senate and the White House," but that it "isn't an invitation to thwart the president's power to nominate."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee: Respect Prerogative of Home-State Senators; President Obama nominated Justice Hughes. Sens. McConnell and Paul did not return their blue slips, and Justice Hughes never received a hearing.
(Democrat - California) 09/19/17
Letter to the Editor: The editorial board completely discounts the history of the blue slip, which requires both home-state senators to sign off on judicial nominees from their state ("The Al Franken Standard," Sept. 13). Here are the facts: In 2016 alone, President Obama's nominations of Judge Abdul Kallon for the 11th Circuit, Justice Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit and Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit did not move forward because they didn't receive two blue slips. Trump nominees have been confirmed to two of these vacancies, and nominees for the two other vacancies are pending. Consider the specifics of the Sixth Circuit vacancy in Kentucky: In March 2016, after the vacancy had been open for almost 1,000 days, President Obama nominated Justice Hughes. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul did not return their blue slips, and Justice Hughes never received a hearing. Their prerogative as home-state senators was honored, and the prerogative of home-state senators should continue to be honored. The editorial board was silent when these highly qualified nominees were blocked ....

Sen. Blumenthal on home-state Senator blue slip requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - Connecticut) 09/14/17
“I have not detected any groundswell of support to do away with it,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Thursday.

Sen. Grassley undecided on how to resolve ‘blue slip’ judicial holdups
(Republican - Iowa) 09/14/17
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said Thursday he hasn’t decided whether to disregard the chamber’s blue slip tradition and push through one of President Trump’s appeals court picks over the objections of a home-state Democrat. “You need to ask me in a month,” he told The Washington Times.

Sen. Cornyn on home-state Senator blue slip requirement for judicial nominees
(Republican - Texas) 09/14/17
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said it could be reasonable to do away with the tradition “on a case by case basis.” Cornyn specifically pointed to Franken’s decision to block Straus not because of concerns about his qualifications for the job, but because of the legal theory to which he subscribes. “I think it’s good to have consultation and for the White House to be required to work with senators of both parties on nominees, but where a senator admits that the nominee is qualified, but simply disagrees with the judge’s judicial philosophy I think that’s an inadequate reason to block him,” Cornyn told Courthouse News.

Sen. Markey on underrepresentation of women in our federal judiciary
(Democrat - Massachusetts) 09/13/17
“The underrepresentation of women in our federal judiciary is a longstanding problem that President Trump is ignoring with his slate of nominees," Senator Markey said in a statement. "Women and people of color bring unique perspectives on issues ranging from criminal justice to affirmative action to reproductive rights, and our federal judges and U.S. Attorneys should reflect that diversity.”

Sen. McConnell on home-state Senator blue slips [which he used to block a hearing on Obama Circuit Court nominee Justice Lisabeth Hughes]
(Republican - Kentucky) 09/13/17
“My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview with The New York Times for “The New Washington” podcast. He said he favored retaining the blue slip authority for lower-level district court judges.

Sen. Grassley spokesman on blue slips
(Republican - Iowa) 09/13/17
“The blue slip consultation process typically grants the President greater deference on circuit court nominees than at the district level,” Taylor Foy, a Judiciary Committee spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said in a statement. But, he added, just because the blue slip process isn’t absolute for appeals court nominees, it doesn’t mean senators shouldn’t still be consulted. “The blue slip process was always intended to ensure consultation, and Grassley fully expects senators to continue to abide by that tradition,” Foy said.

Sen. Schumer on home state Senator blue slip requirement for judicial nominees
(Democrat - New York) 09/13/17
With the conflict escalating, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, has requested a meeting with Mr. McConnell and the top Republican and Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee to dissuade Republicans from weakening the blue slip. “Getting rid of the blue slip would be a mistake,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. He said he would argue to Mr. McConnell and Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that since majority control of the Senate has been in flux in recent years, members of both parties should remember that they could find themselves back in the minority. “Preserving some of the minority’s power in the Senate has broad support because every one of us knows we’re probably going to be in some of each,” Mr. Schumer said.

Sen. Franken on home-state Senator role in judicial selection
(Democrat - Minnesota) 09/12/17
“When the [blue-slip] process works as it should, the White House joins with home-state senators to identify qualified, consensus nominees,” Franken said. “And when the president and the senators are of different parties, that should mean identifying judicial moderates. Unfortunately, President Trump has demonstrated that he is less concerned with working collaboratively to fill judicial vacancies than his predecessor, which is not surprising given the fact that he has outsourced the job of identifying potential judges to the far-right Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.”

Sen. Bennet on blue slip for Allison Eid 10th Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Colorado) 09/08/17
“The blue slip has been submitted, but that’s not a sign of support,” a spokesperson for Bennet said. “He hasn’t weighed in, but she meets the minimum requirements for the position.”

NM Sens. on judicial selection
(Democrat - New Mexico) 09/08/17
Several members of the delegation declined to comment last week on the candidates or on whether they have concerns about Levi’s New Mexico experience. “The New Mexico delegation continues to work together to identify and recommend qualified New Mexicans for presidential appointments, as it did with the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal nominations,” said Sens. Udall and Martin Heinrich – both Democrats – and Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, in a joint statement.

Sens. Wyden & Merkley letter to White House Counsel
(Democrat - Oregon) 09/07/17
“As you are aware, in May we wrote you to explain Oregon’s long bipartisan tradition of working together to identify the most qualified candidates for judicial vacancies, ... “You have demonstrated that you were only interested in our input if we were willing to preapprove your preferred nominee... The judicial selection process is not a rubber stamp, and the insinuation that our offices were purposefully delaying the process is an indication of the partisanship with which you are pursing this nomination.”

Norton Criticizes Trump Administration for Continuing to Ignore D.C. on Judicial Nominations, Virginia Resident Nominated
(Democrat - District of Columbia) 09/07/17
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) sharply criticized the Trump administration for its continued refusal to consult with her on nominations for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the administration today nominated Matthew Spencer Petersen, of Virginia, to serve as a judge. Norton will urge Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to question Petersen on whether he intends to reside in the District during his tenure, as she has done for previous Trump administration nominees. “Seven months into his presidency, the Trump administration continues to ignore and disrespect District residents by refusing to consult with us on nominations,” Norton said. “We demand a say, like residents of states, on those who will serve in our jurisdiction.”