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Senator Statements

 

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Sen. Leahy: Senate Republicans Block Nine Judicial Nominees From Confirmation
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/20/13
“Republicans are once again—for the fifth year in a row—rejecting the longstanding Senate practice of scheduling confirmation votes on consensus nominees before the end of the session,” Leahy said. “The result is that we will spend a significant portion of the next year on the Senate floor doing work that should have been completed this year.” A total of 55 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee and on the floor will be returned to the White House because of Republican delay tactics, Leahy said, including recent obstruction of the Committee even meeting to consider nominees. Leahy noted that the Senate confirmed on Friday Brian Davis to a district court seat in Florida. Davis’s nomination lagged for 660 days. Judge Robert Wilkins, a nominee to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will be considered early next year. “As we approach the new year, I hope that reasonable Republicans will join us in restoring the Senate’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties and do its work for the American people,” he said.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy Statement at Dec. 19th Committee Exec Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/19/13
"Yet, for the last three weeks, the minority has prevented us from doing our work. Today, we have 18 nominees on the agenda—15 judicial and 3 executive nominees."

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Republican Opposition To Judicial Confirmation Hearing On Consensus Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/18/13
“The Republican shutdown of the Judiciary Committee is consistent with the obstruction we have witnessed over the last five years, which has led to record high vacancies in federal courts throughout the country. Home state Senators were consulted with respect to the nominees scheduled to appear before the Committee today who, when confirmed, will fill vacancies in California, Maine and Maryland, and an emergency vacancy in Kansas. The families of these nominees invested time and personal expense to travel to Washington for this hearing, losses they will never recover. This escalating obstruction undermines the Senate’s constitutional responsibility of advice and consent. “Just last week, Republicans prevented the Judiciary Committee from holding an executive business meeting to consider 18 highly qualified nominees, including two Texas U.S. Marshals. Those two nominees should have been approved by the Committee last month, but Republicans failed to attend the meeting to report their nominations. As Chairman of the Judiciary Com­mittee, I have consistently shown my commitment to work with all Senators to process nominations. This obstruction sets back the bipartisan cooperation we have seen in recent weeks on such legislative matters as the budget, the defense authorization bill, and the Farm Bill. If this obstruction continues with respect to judicial nominees, I will be forced to reconsider long-held policies that have upheld the rights of the minority party in this process.”

Sen. Leahy: Senate Confirms Pillard To The D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/12/13
“Despite having filled nearly half of law school classrooms for the last 20 years, women are grossly underrepresented on our Federal courts. We need women on the Federal bench,” Leahy said. “The Senate moved another step forward in that effort by voting to confirm Nina Pillard, one of several highly qualified women nominated by President Obama like Patricia Millett, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. I am proud to support such incredible nominees, and I applaud the Senate for voting to confirm Nina Pillard.”

Sen. Leahy: Senate Moves Closer To Filling Vacancies On D.C. Circuit; Pillard Poised To Be Confirmed To 10th Seat
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/10/13
“The D.C. Circuit is often considered to be the second most important court in the Nation and should be operating at full strength,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “Today we will take a step toward making this Court operate at full strength for the American people.”

Sen. Leahy: Senate Confirms Millett To The D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/10/13
"John Roberts was confirmed unanimously to the D.C. Circuit on the day the Judiciary Committee completed consideration of his nomination and reported it to the Senate—at a time when the caseload of the D.C. Circuit by any measure was lower than it is today. If only Senate Republicans had been willing to apply the same standard for Ms. Millett. Instead, they decided to filibuster her nomination even though they had promised to only filibuster nominations under “extraordinary circumstances.” If those Senators had been true to their word, I do not believe we would have reached the tipping point on the use of the filibuster. By refusing to allow a vote for any existing vacancy on the D.C. Circuit, Republicans took their determined obstruction to an unprecedented level.... Now that the Senate has changed its precedents to overcome the escalating obstruction of some, I hope reasonable Republicans will join us in restoring the Senate’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties."

Sen. Leahy on home-state Senator blue-slip process
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/27/13
"I assume no one will abuse the blue slip process like some have abused the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees on the floor of the Senate," Leahy said. "As long as the blue slip process is not being abused by home state senators, then I will see no reason to change that tradition."

Leahy Supports Change In Senate Rules To Address Unprecedented Filibusters: “As a result of Republican obstruction of nominees, the Senate has failed to do its job for the courts and for the American people”
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/21/13
In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have blocked three highly qualified nominees to serve on the D.C. Circuit. Since 2009, 14 circuit court nominees have been filibustered, and Senate Republicans have forced cloture to end filibusters on nearly three dozen of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Meanwhile, federal judicial vacancies have consistently hovered around 90. The obstruction, Leahy said, “is damaging our ability to fulfill the Senate’s unique constitutional responsibility of advice and consent to ensure that the judicial branch has the judges it needs to do its job.” ... "I have always looked skeptically at efforts to change the Senate rules.” Today, Leahy said, the Senate “is faced with what to do to overcome this abuse and what action we should take to restore this body’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties and do its work for the American people.”

Sen. Leahy: Arguments of Convenience Block Judicial Appointments; Once described as unconstitutional by the GOP, filibustering has become its default strategy.
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/18/13
Sen. Patrick Leahy: "Senate Republicans have abandoned this responsibility, using unprecedented filibusters to delay and obstruct President Obama from appointing to the federal bench even nominations that enjoy bipartisan support. Senate Republicans have forced cloture, a procedural mechanism to bring a matter to a vote, to end filibusters on 34 nominees, nearly twice as many nominees than required cloture during President Bush's two terms. Almost all of these nominees were, by any standard, noncontroversial and ultimately were confirmed overwhelmingly. Republican obstruction has left the federal judiciary often with 90 or more vacancies over the past five years. ... Senate Republicans have abandoned this responsibility, using unprecedented filibusters to delay and obstruct President Obama from appointing to the federal bench even nominations that enjoy bipartisan support. Senate Republicans have forced cloture, a procedural mechanism to bring a matter to a vote, to end filibusters on 34 nominees, nearly twice as many nominees than required cloture during President Bush's two terms. Almost all of these nominees were, by any standard, noncontroversial and ultimately were confirmed overwhelmingly. Republican obstruction has left the federal judiciary often with 90 or more vacancies over the past five years.... The unprecedented obstruction also has affected the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ... The same Republican senator who in these pages recently cited caseload concerns once noted that "comparing workloads in the D.C. Circuit to that of other circuits is, to a large extent, a pointless exercise. There is little dispute that the D.C. Circuit's docket is, by far, the most complex and time consuming in the Nation.""

Sen. Leahy on Ronnie White renomination
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/18/13
“I was glad to see him come back. I thought he was extraordinarily well-qualified the first time. I think that John Ashcroft made a bad mistake,” Leahy said last week. “Every single Democrat voted for him, and every single Republican voted against him. I think it was outrageous.”

Sen. Leahy Statement at Judiciary Committee Business Meeting on 10th Circuit & D.C. Circuit
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/14/13
"The first nominee that we will consider today is nominated to the Tenth Circuit. That court has 10 active judges and 10 senior judges to handle 1,341 pending appeals. The D.C. Circuit has 8 active judges and 6 senior judges to handle 1,479 pending appeals. The Tenth Circuit has the lowest caseload of pending appeals per judge in the country. And it will go even lower once its two vacancies are filled. I want to make clear, however, that it is my belief that the nonpartisan Judicial Conference, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, is in the best position to determine the number of judges needed to handle the caseload of our coequal branch of government. Therefore, I will move forward today and call up the Tenth Circuit nominee for a vote. The Ranking Member’s talking points frequently focus on the number of appeals filed instead of the number of appeals pending in the D.C. Circuit. Anyone familiar with the nature of the cases heard by the D.C. Circuit knows that its cases are more complex than other appeals courts. With that important reality in mind, the number of pending appeals is a better gauge of the court’s actual workload and judgeship needs. For example, as of June 30, 2013 there were 1479 pending appeals in the D.C. Circuit. If the D.C. Circuit only had 1 additional appeal filed since the end of March, its caseload for the year would be 1480, not merely the 1, since the court would still have to dispose of the remaining 1479 appeals as well."

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nomination of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/12/13
"Confirming these two highly qualified nominees is the right thing to do and it will make history--once these two extraordinary women are confirmed, the D.C. Circuit will be the first Federal appellate court in our country to have an equal number of women serving as judges as men. ...In 2003, the Senate unanimously confirmed John Roberts by voice vote to be the ninth judge on the D.C. Circuit – at a time when its caseload was lower than it is today – and, in fact, his confirmation marked the lowest caseload level per judge on the D.C. Circuit in 20 years. Not a single Senate Republican raised any concerns about whether the caseload warranted his confirmation, and during the Bush administration, they voted to fill four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit – giving the court a total of 11 judges in active service. Today there are only eight judges on the court. ... In 2003, the Senate unanimously confirmed John Roberts by voice vote to be the ninth judge on the D.C. Circuit – at a time when its caseload was lower than it is today – and, in fact, his confirmation marked the lowest caseload level per judge on the D.C. Circuit in 20 years. Not a single Senate Republican raised any concerns about whether the caseload warranted his confirmation, and during the Bush administration, they voted to fill four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit – giving the court a total of 11 judges in active service. Today there are only eight judges on the court. ... The D.C. Circuit should be operating at full strength as it was when President Bush held office. ... If the Republican caucus continues to abuse the filibuster rules and obstruct the President’s fine nominees to the D.C. Circuit, then I believe this body will need to consider anew whether a rules change should be in order."

Sen. Leahy Calls On Senate Republicans To End Filibuster Of Highly Qualified Circuit Court Nominee
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/12/13
"“Like Caitlin Halligan, and like Patricia Millett, I am confident that Nina Pillard would be confirmed if Republicans would stop filibustering and allow an up or down vote on her nomination,” Leahy said in a floor statement. “If Republicans vote in lock step to continue their filibuster against Nina Pillard, Senate Republicans will have blocked three outstanding women in a row from being confirmed to what is considered the second highest court in our country.”

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Woods and Brown district court nominations, vacancies, and GOP filibusters and home-state Senator delay of nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/04/13
"If confirmed, Ms. Brown would be the first African-American woman to serve as a Federal judge in Mississippi. I am proud that together we will reach a landmark moment in diversity on the Federal bench, and I commend President Obama, Senator Wicker, and Senator Cochran for their important efforts. ... We have more than 90 judicial vacancies, and 37 of these vacancies have been designated as emergency vacancies due to high caseloads by the nonpartisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.... there was a lot of talk by Senate Republicans that Senate Democrats should be concerned with filling judicial emergency vacancies rather than the DC Circuit, which they claim does not need more judges. We all know that their arguments about the DC Circuit have nothing to do with caseload and everything to do with the political party of the President nominating.... if the filibuster rules continue to be abused by my Republican colleagues I will have no option but to reconsider my longstanding opposition to such a change.... nearly half of the emergency vacancies are empty because of Republican obstruction. First, there are 15 judicial nominees pending before the full Senate, including 7 nominees who would fill judicial emergency vacancies if the Republicans would allow us to vote on them today ... Much of these delay tactics occur earlier in the process,... In fact, there are judicial emergency vacancies that have persisted for years because certain Republican Senators refuse to either return their blue slip or provide a recommendation to the President."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Senate treatment of GW Bush and Obama D.C. Circuit Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/04/13
"I would note that when President Bush nominated John Roberts for the ninth seat to the DC Circuit, he was confirmed by every single Republican and Democrat voting for him. Patricia Millett, with exactly the same credentials as he for the Ninth seat, was filibustered by the Republicans. Were they treated differently? Yes."

Chairman Leahy Statement on D.C. Circuit Vacancies and Nominees at Judiciary Committee Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/31/13
"When President Bush held office, there were no objections to confirming John Roberts to the D.C. Circuit, when the court’s caseload, measured by pending appeals per active judge, was reduced to its lowest level in the past 20 years. The Senate then confirmed three more of President Bush’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit: Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh. These nominees filled the tenth, eleventh, and again the tenth seats, and not a single Senate Republican raised any concern about whether those judges were truly needed. Patricia Millett is nominated to the seat that John Roberts vacated, the ninth seat.... This past July , the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Phillips to the Tenth Circuit. With his confirmation, the number of pending appeals per active judge on that court dropped from 150 to 135. The D.C. Circuit currently has 185 pending appeals per active judge. Despite that higher caseload, some Senate Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit’s caseload is too low, and that three of its judgeships should be eliminated."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Panel Approves Nomination To D.C. Circuit; Wilkins Would Fill Third Vacancy On Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/31/13
“Later today the Senate will vote on whether to end a filibuster against another nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Patricia Millett. In the course of that debate, I have heard Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit does not need any more judges,” Leahy said. “History shows that these Republican arguments have nothing to do with caseload and everything to do with the party of the president.”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nomination of Patricia Millett to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/31/13
"No student of history can honestly say that nominating candidates to existing vacancies is court-packing. ... by the time Peter Keisler was nominated, four of President Bush’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit had been confirmed. Only one of President Obama’s nominees to this court has been confirmed and another has been filibustered. Mr. Keisler was nominated to the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit – and would have marked the fifth time a President Bush nominee was confirmed the court and the second time a Bush nominee was confirmed to be the 11th judge on the court. At that time, Democrats noted the hypocrisy of Republicans pushing to confirm a second judge to the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit after they had blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination in 1996 to be the 11th judge. ... he circuit court with the lowest caseload is actually the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which as of June 30, 2013, has 1,341 total pending appeals and 134 pending appeals per active judge. In contrast, the D.C. Circuit has 1,479 total pending appeals and 185 pending appeals per active judge....If Ms. McHugh and Ms. Moritz are both confirmed, the Tenth Circuit will be at full strength with 12 active judges. ...Some have also cited the D.C. Circuit’s six senior judges as a reason to filibuster Patricia Millett’s nomination. Of course, the Tenth Circuit has 10 senior judges,"

Leahy: Senate Should Confirm Millett To The D.C. Circuit Court; “She deserves to be considered on her merits”
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/30/13
"Through her legal work, Ms. Millett has earned broad bipartisan support. This includes the support of Peter Keisler, Carter Phillips, Kenneth Starr, Theodore Olson and Paul Clement and a bipartisan group of 110 appellate practitioners, as well as 37 Deputy Solicitors General and Assistants to the Solicitor General from both Republican and Democratic administrations. She is supported by both the National President of the National Fraternal Order of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of the New York Police Department. Ms. Millet has the support of the military community including Major General Clark H. McNair, Jr., U.S. Army, Retired; Michael Hall, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army, Retired; Blue Star Families; and the Gallant Few."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Judicial nominations, vacancies and funding
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/14/13
"One critical problem is that we have more than 90 judicial vacancies, including 39 that have been designated as emergency vacancies due to high caseloads by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the Courts. While we will vote to confirm two additional judges today, we are moving far too slowly and are not keeping pace with the urgent needs of our Federal judiciary. We must do better.... there remain far too many judicial vacancies. Because of the government shutdown, we have been unable to hold hearings, process, and approve nominees in the Judiciary Committee for the last two weeks. It does our country a serious injustice when we fail to provide our Federal courts with the resources it needs."

Sen. Patrick Leahy Floor Statement on Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/07/13
"While I am pleased that we are finally getting to vote on these nominees, voting on just 2 of the 13 judicial nominees currently pending on the floor is not enough to make real progress in reducing the vacancies on our Federal courts. Our Federal judicial vacancies currently number more than 90, including 39 that have been designated as emergency vacancies due to high caseloads by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the Courts. There is no good reason for us to not get back to what used to be the regular order in the Senate of taking up and confirming consensus nominees within days of being reported out of Committee. We need to get these talented men and women off the Senate calendar and into the courtroom so they can get to work on behalf of the American people."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement On the Impact of the Shutdown on the Judiciary & Government Transparency
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/05/13
"[W]ith the ongoing shutdown of the entire federal government, a handful of ideologues in the House of Representatives are holding the entire judicial system hostage and this threatens our entire democracy. Earlier this year, in the face of sequestration, a group of 87 federal district judges warned that sustained budget cuts “have forced us to slash our operations to the bone, and we believe that our constitutional duties, public safety, and the quality of the justice system will be profoundly compromised by any further cuts.” Now, thanks to the Republican shutdown, according to a letter to all Federal courts from Judge John Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Judiciary will only be able to remain open for approximately 10 business days into October."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Votes To Confirm Federal Circuit Court Nominee; Hughes The First Openly Gay Judge To Serve On Appellate Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/24/13
"I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench.... Mr. Hughes’ nomination was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee more than two months ago and could—and in my view should—have been confirmed within days. At a time when judicial vacancies are once again above 90, this kind of needless delay undermines the serious work we have to do to ensure the ability of our Federal courts to provide justice to Americans around the country. In addition to Mr. Hughes, we have 13 other Federal circuit and district nominees pending on the Executive Calendar. Of those nominees, 11 were reported by voice vote and there is no good reason to not confirm them today."

Sen. Leahy Statement on On the Nominations of Patricia Campbell-Smith and Elaine Kaplan [and more]
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/16/13
"There is no good reason why we could not also vote to confirm the consensus and noncontroversial Article III nominees on the Calendar. One effect of these unnecessary delays is that for the first time in nearly two years, our Federal district courts are again facing what the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service calls “historically high” vacancies. This means that there are now more seats empty on the districts courts than there were during 90 percent of the time during the 34 years after the Ford Administration."

Sen. Leahy Statement at Judicial Nominations hearing
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/11/13
"In 1984 Senate Republicans had no problem voting to create a twelfth seat on the D.C. Circuit, and then voting to confirm President Reagan’s and President George H.W. Bush’s nominees to that seat. When Bill Clinton, a Democratic president, nominated Merrick Garland to the twelfth seat, Senate Republicans suddenly had an epiphany that the twelfth seat was unnecessary and should not be filled. Later, Senate Republicans continued to oppose the confirmation of Judge Garland even for his nomination to fill the eleventh seat. It is quite astonishing that Senate Republicans continue to recycle these arguments every time a Democratic President is in office. Now they say that only eight seats are needed. ... This effort to manipulate the size of an important court in order to achieve political goals is simply wrong. Just as President Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme was rejected in 1937 by the Judiciary Committee and the Senate, the Senate should reject this attempt to politicize the D.C. Circuit. The filibuster threats against President Obama’s well-qualified nominees are purely political, and they are unworthy of this chamber."

Sen. Leahy Statement on Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 [and on need to fill D.C. Circuit vacancies]
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/10/13
"The last time Congress passed a comprehensive judgeships bill was 1990, when 85 new judgeships were created.... The Coons-Leahy bill reflectsthe current judgeship recommendations of the Judicial Conference of the United States, whose presiding officer is Chief Justice John Roberts. ... Republican bill, S. 699, would eliminate one Federal judgeship altogether, while moving one to the Second Circuit and another to the Eleventh Circuit, even though neither circuit has actually requested additional judgeships. This would reduce the D.C. Circuit to only eight judgeships.It is disappointing that all eight Republican Senators on this Committee are supporters of this judgeship stripping bill, even though they have voted a combined 42 times to confirm Republican presidents’ nominees to the same seats they now seek to remove."

Senator Patrick Leahy Statement On the Nominations of Valerie Caproni & Vernon Broderick, delay & obstruction of judicial nominations and confirmations, and need for new judgeships
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/09/13
"The Republicans’ effort to obstruct and delay the confirmations of nominees means that over the course of President Obama’s administration the number of judicial vacancies nearly doubled. In January 2009, there were 53 Federal district and appellate court vacancies. Today, there are 94 Federal district and appellate court vacancies—37 of which have been designated as judicial emergency vacancies by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts....Tomorrow, Senator Coons will chair another hearing in that Subcommittee to evaluate the judgeship needs of Federal courts across the country and hear testimony on the Coons-Leahy Federal Judgeship Act of 2013, which would implement the Judicial Conference’s recommendations for desperately-needed new judgeships."

Sen. Leahy Statement On the Nomination of Raymond Chen [and on other judicial nominees]
(Democrat - Vermont) 08/09/13
"Today, the Senate confirms the 200th of President Obama’s circuit and district nominees. Thanks to Senate Republicans’ concerted effort to filibuster, obstruct and delay his moderate judicial nominees, it took almost one year longer to reach this milestone than it did when his Republican predecessor was serving as President, over 10 months in fact. ... So the Republicans’ effort to obstruct and delay the confirmations of President Obama’s nominees means that we have essentially not been permitted to make any net progress in filling vacancies. We have barely kept up with attrition.... compared to the same point in the Bush administration, there have been more nominees filibustered, fewer confirmations, and longer wait times for nominees, even though President Obama has nominated more people and there are more vacancies. ... I hope that Senate Republicans will end their misguided attempt to strip the D.C. Circuit of three seats and that we will be allowed to consider her nomination on the merits of the nominee.... In addition to the 87 current vacancies, the Judicial Conference has identified the need for 91 new judgeships, so that the people who live in the busiest districts can nonetheless have access to speedy justice. Earlier this week, Senator Coons and I introduced a bill to create those judgeships... Eleven of the twelve circuit and district nominees currently pending before the Senate were reported by voice vote. There is no reason we cannot consider all 12 today."