Commentary

Middle District Judge nominee still awaiting confirmation

Loretta BiggsLoretta Copeland Biggs, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. District Judge in North Carolina’s Middle District, has not yet been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biggs appeared before the Committee on November 13 for her scheduled hearing and is now waiting on approval by the Committee. If she is approved by the Committee, Biggs’s nomination will then be forwarded to the Senate floor where it will be considered and voted on by the full Senate.  This entire process must occur within the next few weeks in order for Biggs to be confirmed before the Senate’s lame-duck session ends. Nominees who aren’t confirmed this month will have to do it all over again next year, starting with being renominated.

Currently, it seems to be taking approximately a month between when hearings are held and when the Committee approves a candidate. Unfortunately, there is no exact timeline for how long this may take because there are many permitted ways to stall and obstruct the process. At the Committee’s last hearing, for instance, Charles Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa, unnecessarily decided to delay approval of nine judicial nominees for a week. This in turn delayed scheduling a vote on the Senate floor and will delay the eventual vote itself (which generally seems to occur two to three months later).

These delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. There has been a long pattern of Republicans attempting to prevent the President from confirming judges in a variety of ways including not recommending nominees for vacancies in their home states, not approving candidates by returning “blue slips” and by delaying the vote on the Senate floor. Statistics show that on average it has taken 142 days for Obama’s nominees for district court judge to be confirmed after the Judiciary Committee hearing. In comparison, former President George W. Bush’s district court judge nominees were confirmed a mere 55 days after their initial hearings.

President Obama’s other District Judge nominee in North Carolina has also fallen victim to these delay tactics. As has been reported in this space on numerous occasions, Jennifer Prescod May-Parker, nominated for the Eastern District, has been waiting since June 2013 for any movement on her confirmation. May-Parker has not been able to have a hearing in front of the Committee because, for no apparent reason, Senator Richard Burr has not returned his “blue slip” indicating his support for her. This judgeship has now been vacant for almost nine years causing a serious backlog of cases.

With only a few weeks left in the lame-duck session, we’ll find out soon enough if Biggs will actually be confirmed or whether she will be yet another victim of obstructive tactics by Senate Republicans.

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