Law 360: Hispanic Caucus Slams Delay In Latino Judge Confirmations
Law360, New York (December 14, 2015, 6:35 PM ET) -- Members of Congress’ Hispanic caucus accused their fellow lawmakers Friday of blocking the confirmation of four Latino federal judicial nominees, saying Republicans have delayed a vote on placing presidential picks on the bench in New Jersey, Georgia, the Court of Federal Claims and the Third Circuit.
The four Latino judicial nominees have been waiting for a collective 1,300 days for a final vote by Congress that would confirm them as federal judges, a statement released by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday.
“We should be doing everything possible to create a more diverse judicial system that looks like and truly represents our diverse population,” said CHC First Vice Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. “I urge Senate Republicans to act on pending judicial nominees, including four Hispanic nominees, who are awaiting confirmation. Help us send a message that Congress can be responsive and ensure a representative judicial system.”
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Senate Republicans of "obstruction" in delaying federal judicial confirmations, contending the tactic disproportionately affected Latino nominees like Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, who has been awaiting confirmation to the Third Circuit for more than a year since his November 2014 presidential nomination.
A vote on Restrepo’s confirmation has since been scheduled for Jan. 11 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Twenty-four nominees are currently pending in what Democratic leaders have called a systematic effort to keep President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees off the bench.
Republican lawmakers have argued both that this year's numbers have been skewed by the 11 nominees “rammed through” during the lame duck session at the end of the last Congress, when they should have been held over for the new Congress, and that judicial confirmation numbers should be considered as a whole across the entire Obama presidency — more than 300, comparing well with other recent presidents' records — not merely on a single-year basis.
After the Senate confirmed its 11th judge of the session, Travis R. McDonough, to the Eastern District of Tennessee on Dec. 7, Reid noted that lawmakers skipped over the earlier-nominated Restrepo and voting on three other Latino nominees.
The others are Armando Bonilla, the first Latino nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; John M. Vazquez, nominated to the District of New Jersey; and Dax E. Lopez, nominated to the Northern District of Georgia. If confirmed, Lopez would be the first Hispanic lifetime-appointed federal judge in that state.
“It’s time for Senate Republicans to stop delaying and confirm the pending judicial nominees,” CHC Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said in a Friday statement. “It’s important for our judges and the judicial system to reflect the diversity of the 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.”
--Editing by Kelly Duncan.