Oklahoma’s lone congressional Democrat says he doesn’t know who recommended Oklahoma City Assistant U.S. Attorney Arvo Mikkanen for a federal judgeship, a nomination that has stirred controversy in the state.
With Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, having already panned Mikkanen’s nomination to sit on the federal bench in Tulsa, Rep. Dan Boren tells the Tulsa World that Mikkanen wasn’t his choice either.
“From my knowledge, I know it didn’t come from anyone in the Oklahoma delegation,” said Boren, who as the state’s only Democrat in Congress would traditionally have input into judicial selections by a Democratic White House.
Boren has described the Mikkanen nomination as another misstep by the White House on federal appointments, the Tulsa World reported.
If confirmed, Mikkanen would be one of the few American Indians to sit on the federal bench. The Obama administration has made law enforcement for American Indians a priority, having poured millions of dollars into tribal justice programs. Last year, it established a Tribal Justice Office as a standalone component of the Justice Department.
President Barack Obama has struggled to fill federal positions in Oklahoma, where the state’s two senators are Republicans who give more advice than consent. More than two years after taking office, for example, the president has been unable to appoint his own U.S. Attorney in Tulsa. Thomas Scott Woodward has been an acting, interim and now court-appointed U.S. Attorney in the Northern District since June 2009.
But the statements from Boren suggest the White House hasn’t worked closely with Democrats in the state either, which can result in political friction.
Former Oklahoma City U.S. Attorney Dan Webber, called in by the White House to support Mikkanen’s nomination, said “even if someone dropped the ball on such a matter it should not be held against Arvo,” the Tulsa World reported.
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President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated veteran Department of Justice official Donna Murphy for a seat on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Murphy spent most of her career at the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. She began as a trial attorney and moved on to becoming deputy chief of the voting section, special counsel for police matters and deputy chief of the special litigation section.
Since 2003, she has been principal deputy chief for the housing and civil enforcement section, where she heads the section’s enforcement of federal statutes intended to prevent discrimination in credit and lending.
Murphy was one of six DOJ lawyers who made the list of potential nominees for the post.
Before Murphy’s tenure at DOJ, she clerked for Judge Myron H. Thompson on the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Alabama. She graduated from American University in 1986 and from Yale Law School in 1989.
Obama also nominated counsel Yvonne M. Williams at Miller and Chevalier Chartered and Jennifer Di Toro, legal director at the Children’s Law Center in Washington, for the other two slots on the court.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated an Oklahoma Assistant U.S. Attorney and a prominent New York securities and litigation lawyer to sit on federal courts.
Arvo Mikkanen, a prosecutor in the Western District of Oklahoma since 1994, is nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. The Yale Law School graduate has deep experience in Indian Country law. He has served as a trial and appellate judge for the Court of Indian Offenses and Court of Indian Appeals for the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache and other tribes. From 1991 to 1994, he served as the Chief Justice of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Supreme Court, according to a biography prepared by the White House.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) immediately objected to Mikkanen’s nomination, the Oklahoman newspaper reported. “I believe he is unacceptable for the position and another example of how politics in Washington neglect to take into account what is best for the people of Oklahoma,” Coburn told the newspaper, also complaining that he wasn’t consulted on the nomination.
Coburn declined to elaborate on his objections. Oklahoma’s other senator, Jim Inhofe, also a Republican, said he too is inclined to oppose the nomination, according to a report in the Tulsa World. And the only Democrat in the state’s Congressional delegation, Rep. Dan Boren, expressed displeasure that Oklahoma lawmakers were not consulted in advance.
Paul A. Engelmayer is nominated to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The 1987 graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as treasurer of the Law Review, is currently the partner-in-charge of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP’s New York office. He specializes in white collar crime and securities litigation, as well as maintains an appellate practice.
Before joining WilmerHale, Engelmayer was chief of the Major Crimes Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for three years. During the Clinton administration, he served as an assistant to Solicitor General Drew S. Days, III at the Justice Department. He held two other positions in the SDNY U.S. Attorney’s office: Deputy Chief Appellate Attorney in 1994 and Assistant United States Attorney from 1989 to 1994.
Engelmayer also served as a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1988 to 1989 and to Patricia Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1987 to 1988. His early start was in journalism. As an undergraduate at Harvard, he was editorial chairman of the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper that is a launching pad into elite journalistic circles. And he worked for a time as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, according to his law firm biography.
White House Counsel Robert Bauer urged senators on Tuesday to speed up confirmation votes on President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees, the Blog of Legal Times reported.
Alluding to Senate Republicans who place anonymous holds on nominees, Bauer said at an event hosted by the liberal-leaning American Constitution Society: “No shouting on the floor. Just: nothing. It is as if…it does not matter at all. It of course matters a great deal, to the nominees, to the courts to which they were nominated to serve and to the parties before those courts.”
Bauer suggested the Senate confirmation process needs to be reformed, but did not request any changes to Senate rules or name any specific nominees who have languished.
Instead Bauer emphasized that senators can exercise bipartisanship through multiple ways, including acknowledging that the current pace of confirmations is too slow, Obama is allowed to have “reasonable” differences after deliberating with senators, and that each nominee should eventually receive a vote.
Bauer said senators offer vague reasons as to why they oppose one of Obama’s nominees, both before and after the names become public.
According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, there are 101 vacancies on the federal district and circuit courts.
The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys called on Senate leaders to schedule votes on non-controversial judicial nominees, saying the vacancies were making it hard for prosecutors to be effective.
John E. Nordin, the NAAUSA vice president for membership and operations, wrote in a letter last week to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that federal judicial vacancies “are reaching historic highs.” The full Senate has yet to consider 26 nominees the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed for judgeships on U.S. District Courts and U.S. Circuit Circuit Courts of Appeal.
“Our members - career federal prosecutors who daily appear in federal courts across the nation - are concerned by the increasing numbers of vacancies on the federal bench,” Nordin wrote in the Dec. 17 letter. “These vacancies increasingly are contributing to greater caseloads and workload burdens upon the remaining federal judges. Our federal courts cannot function effectively when judicial vacancies restrain the ability to render swift and sure justice.”
The NAAUSA said Senators should vote on nominees who received the backing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel said Tuesday.
During the first two years of the Bush administration, when Democrats in the opposite party controlled Senate, the chamber confirmed 100 judicial appointments. By contrast, the 111th Congress has confirmed 53 circuit and district nominations to date.
As of today there are 26 pending judicial nominations, with the Senate scheduled to vote on two more nominations this afternoon. Many of these nominations were reported as early as last January and from the 26 vacant slots, 15 are considered judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
The executive director of the NAAUSA, Dennis Boyd, said such a letter is unusual for the association to send to Senate leaders.
“These vacancies increasingly are contributing to greater caseloads and workload burdens upon the remaining federal judges. Our federal courts cannot function effectively when judicial vacancies restrain the ability to render swift and sure justice,” said Nordin.
The Senate on Thursday evening confirmed four federal judges whose nominations had been stalled, leaving 34 judicial nominations pending.
The newly confirmed judges are John Gibney in the Eastern District of Virginia, James Bredar for the District of Maryland, Catherine Eagles in the Middle District of North Carolina and Kimberly Mueller in the Eastern District of California.
“For months, these nominations have languished before the Senate, without explanation and for no reason,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a statement. “Today, we confirm them unanimously. These confirmations will help fill a few of the judicial vacancies around the country, which have reached historically high levels.”
The confirmations were the first for the judiciary since Sept. 13, said Leahy, who has been critical of Senate Republicans for refusing to clear a backlog of President Barack Obama’s nominees.
Eagles and Mueller were approved by the Judiciary Committee on May 6 and Gibney on May 27. Bredar was reported out of committee on June 10.
The Leahy statement noted that most of the pending nominations received unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 19 of the nominations are to fill seats designated as judicial emergencies by the nonpartisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Of the 34 judicial nominations still pending before the Senate, eight are circuit court nominations.
Among the judicial nominees still in limbo are Goodwin Liu for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated four people for positions on the U.S. district and appellate courts.
Robert L. Wilkins is the nominee for U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia. Wilkins currently is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Venable LLP. He previously was an attorney with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and was named by The Legal Times as one of the 90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years.
Judge Anthony Joseph Battaglia is the nominee for U.S. district judge for the Southern District of California. Battaglia currently is a magistrate judge for the Southern District of California. He previously was a civil litigator in San Diego with the Law Offices of John Marin, as a sole practitioner and at the firm Battaglia, Fitzpatrick & Battaglia.
Judge Edward J. Davila is the nominee for U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California. Davila currently is a judge of the Superior Court of California. He previously was a deputy public defender in the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office and in private practice at the law firm of Davila & Polverino.
Susan L. Carney is the nominee for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney currently is deputy general counsel of Yale University and has previously served as Yale’s acting general counsel. Previously, Carney served as associate general counsel of the Peace Corps. In private practice she has worked at Rogovin, Huge & Lenzner; Tuttle & Taylor; and Bredhoff & Kaiser, all in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated two former federal prosecutors and one current Assistant U.S. Attorney to be U.S. District Court judges.
- Ellen Lipton Hollander (Maryland): The Associate Judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland from 1979 to 1983. Read more about Hollander here.
- James K. Bredar (Maryland): The U.S. Magistrate Judge for Maryland was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Colorado from 1985 to 1989. Read more about Bredar here.
- Edmond E. Chang (Northern District of Illinois): The Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois has held his current position since 1999. Since 2005, he has served as Chief of Appeals for the Criminal Division, and he previously served as Deputy Chief of the General Crimes section.
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Giving expression to mounting frustration in the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee he hoped they would move “more expeditiously” on law enforcement nominees.
Holder, in an opening statement during an oversight hearing Wednesday, noted that 19 U.S. Attorney nominees and 17 U.S. Marshal nominees are awaiting committee action.
“A backlog of this magnitude is unusual. I have spoken to the chairman and the ranking member about this concern, and I am hopeful it will be addressed without further delay,” Holder said.
More than year into the Obama administration, fewer than half of the nation’s 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices are occupied by a Senate-confirmed prosecutor nominated by President Barack Obama. The Senate panel has approved 40 U.S. Attorney nominees, 36 of whom have already won Senate confirmation.
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the panel’s ranking member, said the White House, rather than the committee, was to blame for the inertia.
“I think if you look where the delays are, they are the lack of nominations,” Sessions said.
A looming confirmation battle over the successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens would bode poorly for law enforcement nominees. Last year, the committee did not move on other judicial or executive nominations while the Senate worked on filling the vacancy created by Justice David Souter’s retirement.
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the panel’s chairman, and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said recently they plan to press for confirmation of district and circuit judges this time around, but they made no mention of law enforcement nominees.
The Justice Department’s No. 2 spot has been absent a Senate-confirmed official since early February, when David Ogden stepped down.
Holder’s statement on U.S. Attorney and Marshal nominations:
Looking ahead, I hope the Judiciary Committee will help the Department achieve its goals and meet its responsibilities by confirming the President’s law enforcement nominees more expeditiously. There are currently 19 U.S. Attorney nominees and 17 U.S. Marshal nominees awaiting committee action. A backlog of this magnitude is unusual. I have spoken to the Chairman and the Ranking Member about this concern, and I am hopeful it will be addressed without further delay.
Read Holder’s full statement here.
Escalating a war of words over President Obama’s judicial nominations, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) blasted Senate Republicans Tuesday for hanging judicial nominees out to dry and dredged up some old dirty laundry from the Clinton administration.
“Senate Republicans have delayed and obstructed nominees chosen after consultation with Republican home state senators,” Leahy said in a floor speech. “The obstruction and delay is part of a partisan pattern. Even when they cannot say ‘no,’ Republicans nonetheless demand that the Senate go slow.”
To date, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved 29 of Obama’s judicial picks. Thirteen of those are currently pending before the Senate.
According to Leahy, Republican senators have refused to assent to time agreements, which would limit the amount of debate on a nomination. Without a time agreement, the Senate must vote to invoke cloture, a procedure that shuts off all debate and requires 60 votes, in order to move to legislation or a nomination. Even with cloture, the process is time-consuming, and can eat up the better part of a week, if Republicans insist on using all 30 hours of post-cloture debate time.
Republicans maintain they are not blocking nominations. In a January floor speech on the nomination of 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Beverly Martin, the Judiciary panel’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, suggested that Leahy had purposefully delayed a vote on the non-controversial nominee so that Republicans would get the blame for slowing down the confirmation process.
“Republicans have been and are ready and willing to proceed to a roll call vote on her nomination for months but, for whatever reason, our Democratic colleagues, the leadership, would not take yes for an answer,” Sessions said.
“Some of my Democratic colleagues have said they want to confirm judicial nominees at the same pace the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed President Bush’s nominees,” he continued. “I think my colleagues should be careful what they wish for, because President Obama’s nominees have fared far better than President Bush’s.”
On Tuesday, Leahy rejected that insinuation and noted that during the Clinton administration, Republicans used a little-known committee procedure, blue slips, to secretly kill dozens of President Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees.
Blue Slips refer to a Judiciary Committee policy, whereby nominees for appellate and district courts do not advance without the approval of both home state senators. The practice is named for the color of the paper that senators use to signal their approval or disapproval of nominees. As a result, a nominee’s home-state senator can slow down or effectively kill a nomination simply by not returning the form.
When Leahy became chairman of the committee in 2001, he changed the policy on blue slips to make them public.
“Republicans’ suggestion that Democrats are delaying in their consent to advance these nominations is also more than ironic since they have never acknowledged, nor accepted, responsibility for pocket filibustering more than 60 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees,” Leahy said Tuesday. “When I became chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I made Senators’ consent forms, or blue slips, public for the first time. I am still waiting for Republicans to agree to make public their blue slips from 1993 through 2000.”