Outlook improving for some judicial nominees

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 15, 2012





WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Things are finally looking up for those judicial nominees waiting to be approved, including two from West Virginia.

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved Cathy Ann Bencivengo to be a U.S. District judge for the Southern District of California with a vote of 90-6.

The Senate was expected to vote Wednesday on the confirmation of Adalberto Jordan, of Florida, to be a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Although he has the backing of both Democrats and Republicans, Democrats were forced to hold a cloture vote on Monday because some GOP senators were trying to block Jordan's confirmation.

Carl Tobias, the Williams Professor of Law at University of Richmond's law school and a keen observer of the judicial nomination process, said Tuesday that Jordan's cloture vote means good things for other nominees, especially West Virginia attorney Stephanie Thacker.

Thacker was nominated by President Barack Obama in September to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Thacker would replace Judge M. Blane Michael, who died earlier this year. Michael had held the position since 1993.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in November approved Thacker's nomination to the federal appeals court. However, she must now be confirmed by the full Senate.

"The 89-5 cloture vote on Jordan actually improves Thacker's chances of being confirmed, and possibly sooner rather than later," Tobias said.

Though the timing still remains unclear, the law professor said March seems most likely, but April is still a possibility.

Tobias said the cloture vote also is a good sign for Berkeley Circuit Judge Gina Groh, who was nominated by Obama to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in May to fill the vacancy left by the 2006 death of Judge Craig Broadwater.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in October to approve Groh to the federal court.

"The vote also bodes well for Groh in the general sense that it may indicate the process will return to a more 'normal' state of voting on at least one district nominee a week," Tobias said.

"But we'll have to wait and see what the Senate schedules. She may be the next one up."

That means Groh will most likely be up for a vote in March, or possibly later this month, he said.

Bencivengo's vote, along with Jordan's, should help Democrats gauge whether Republicans will filibuster other nominations.

GOP senators are still fuming over Obama's decision last month to make a controversial recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to the post of director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The CFPB was created by the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul and is tasked with regulating consumer financial products.

Democrats, including Obama, argued Republicans were "stonewalling" Cordray's nomination.

So, Obama went ahead and appointed Cordray. In turn, some Republican senators have threatened to hold up the president's nominations.

In his State of the Union address last month, the president called for an end to the stalling. Instead, he asked the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a "simple up or down vote" within 90 days.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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