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Latin Post: Congressional Hispanic Caucus: GOP Senate Obstructing Latino Judicial Nominees' Confirmation

Dec 14, 2015
In The News

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), comprising of House and Senate Latino Democrats, has called on Senate Republicans to expedite the confirmation votes for four Latino judicial nominees.

The U.S. Senate is tasked to confirm or deny any of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, and throughout the year, four Latinos are still waiting for their confirmation vote dates.

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, who currently serves for the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was nominated in November 2014 to sit for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Before the Senate is allowed to confirm Restrepo, the Senate Judiciary Committee had to first conduct a background check and approve whether the full Senate should vote him. In July, the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Restrepo, but the Senate has yet to confirm him.

On Dec. 9, the Senate "reached an agreement" to "consider" the nomination of Restrepo for Jan. 11, 2016. According to a statement, the Senate agreed for a 30-minute debate followed by a roll call confirmation vote by 5:30 p.m.

Also awaiting confirmation votes are Armando Bonilla, who could become the first Latino to serve the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; John Michael Vazquez, to serve for the District of New Jersey; and Dax Eric Lopez for the Northern District of Georgia, where he would be the first Latino appointed to a lifetime judicial position in the state.

"It is incomprehensible that Republicans are playing politics with our judicial system, especially at a time when our courts are most overwhelmed and in need of judges," said CHC Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. "What we have before us is another example of Republican obstructionism."

Sanchez called for the "swift" confirmation of the Latino judicial nominees. She said there is an importance to have the U.S. judicial system reflect the country's diversity.

"It's time for Senate Republicans to stop delaying and confirm the pending judicial nominees. There are four Latino nominees awaiting confirmation -- all respected members of the legal community who are more than qualified to sit on the bench," said CHC Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who also acknowledged that the judicial system and its judges should mirror the diverse communities they serve.

"Leaving judicial nominees in limbo is a disservice to the overburdened legal system and to the people in their communities who are waiting patiently for their day in court," added Gallego.

Former CHC Diversity and Inclusion Chair Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., noted Bonilla, Lopez, Restrepo and Vazquez have impressive records yet, collectively, have had their nominations pending for more than 1,300 days.

"For too long, Senate Republicans have refused to bring to the floor qualified candidates to serve as judges in our nation's courthouses," said Luján, later adding, "It's time for Senate Republicans to allow a vote to fill these important positions."

Last July, the Senate confirmed Kara Farnandez Stoll to become the first Latina on the Federal Court of Appeals. Obama nominated Farnandez Stoll on the same November day as Restrepo. Farnandez Stoll had received her Judiciary Committee approval in April and was unanimously voted 95-0 on July 7. Five senators did not vote, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.