Courts & the Law, News

Trump ends longest-running federal judicial vacancy with confirmation of UNC professor

Richard E. Myers II

After 14 years, the Eastern District of North Carolina finally has a new federal judge.

Richard E. Myers II is a UNC Chapel Hill Law professor and was confirmed Thursday by the Senate 68 to 21. He was nominated by President Donald Trump, who bested two prior presidents in ending the longest running vacancy in the federal judiciary.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama unsuccessfully tried to fill the position.

Trump’s initial nominee, Thomas Farr — who has been connected to white supremacy and voter suppression tactics — also was not confirmed. A Raleigh based attorney, Farr frequently represents the state’s Republican party in voting rights cases. He has been lead counsel for the GOP in redistricting cases and in the voter identification law challenge.

Most recently, he served as one of many attorneys representing the legislature in partisan gerrymandering litigation.

Farr was nominated to fill the same vacant seat in 2006 by Bush but never got a vote from the Senate.

Obama had nominated both Jennifer May-Parker, the Chief of the Appellate Division at the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former state Supreme Court justice and vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Both are accomplished Black women whose nominations were blocked by the Senate, particularly North Carolina Congressman Richard Burr.

From Bloomberg Law on Myers’ confirmation:

Myers, who is black, is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and is a former federal prosecutor. He, like many of Trump’s nominees, is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, and is the faculty adviser for UNC’s chapter of the organization.

The vacancy Myers filled was one of about 50 considered a judicial emergency in the U.S. Emergencies are determined by an algorithm that weighs how long the seat has been open and each judges’ workload.

Myers’ confirmation comes as the Republican-led Senate is in an all-out push to confirm more judges by year’s end. The Senate confirmed eight district judges this week, bringing the total of Trump appointments to district and circuit courts to 170. That includes Supreme Court appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump previously said he aims to have 183 federal judges appointed by the end of the year.

In addition to Myers, the Senate is also confirmed a judge to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham’s home state of South Carolina.

From the News & Observer:

Myers said at his confirmation hearing that only “an amazing opportunity for new service” prompted him to leave the school.

“He has an outsized positive effect on our law school in so many different ways,” Martin H. Brinkley, dean of the law school, said earlier this year.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina covers 44 counties from Raleigh to the coast. Court is held in six cities: Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Greenville, New Bern, Raleigh, and Wilmington. Myers said he would make his chambers in Wilmington.

No African American has served on the bench in the district. Burr said Myers would integrate the court. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said during his introduction that Myers would be “the first African American on his court.”

Asked if he considered himself African American, Myers said, “I consider myself human. I consider myself human. Jamaican American. For some folks, it’s a really important thing for them. For me, I would really like to be considered on my own merits every step of the way.”

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