The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 15, 2012
U.S. Senate breaks logjam on federal judicial nominees

There's apparently a deal today in the U.S. Senate that would break a logjam on federal judicial nominees that has stalled several California judges in waiting.

Several reports say that top Democrat Harry Reid and GOP leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to allow floor votes by May 7 on 14 of 22 pending nominations -- two a week.

Reid has been pushing for the votes, focusing on the 14 who received bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee. They include two from California: Jacqueline Ngyuen for the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal and Michael Fitzgerald for the Central District of California.

UPDATE: The Senate voted 91-6 on Thursday to confirm Fitzgerald.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who recommended him to the White House, noted that he makes history as the first openly gay federal judge in the state.

"The federal bench in California will gain an extremely talented new judge as a result of today's historic vote to confirm Michael Fitzgerald," Boxer said in a statement. "His sharp intellect and broad legal experience will make him a tremendous asset to the people of the Central District. While I am pleased by today's overwhelming vote, it is shameful that he had to wait so long for a vote and I hope that Republicans will stop blocking the confirmation of highly qualified nominees."

As The Bee's editorial board pointed out last week in calling for votes on the nominations, both those courts are overburdened with cases, slowing justice for everyone.

Reid took the high-stakes step on Monday of scheduling votes to end filibusters on 17 of the nominations. In return for allowing the votes, Republicans will reportedly get Senate consideration of a jobs bill aimed at small businesses passed by the GOP-controlled House.

Several liberal-leaning advocacy groups have also been lobbying for the confirmation votes.

"Today's agreement is good news for many Americans who have been facing understaffed courts and delayed justice simply because of partisan gridlock in the Senate," People for the American Way's Marge Baker said in a statement. "But, unfortunately, today's progress doesn't end the Republican gridlock. Even after these 14 nominees are confirmed, far too many seats on our federal courts will still be vacant. President Obama's nominees still face consistent, unprecedented delays. It is absolutely ridiculous that it took such pressure to allow votes on a group of eminently qualified nominees with strong bipartisan support."

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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