by Jeremy Leaming
On the heels of reaching a limited deal in the Senate to move on seven executive branch nominations, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) urged the Senate to stop slow-walking and blocking nominations of African-Americans to the federal bench.
Although President Obama has made significant strides in diversifying the federal bench, too many of his minority nominees have faced delays or have seen their nominations scuttled. And a 2010 study of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts showed the federal bench is still dominated by men.
Specifically the representatives who participated in a press briefing this morning hosted by the CBC took aim at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for delaying the nominations of Brian Davis to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District and William L. Thomas for the U.S. District Court for the District of the Southern District, who is openly gay.
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), said, “I am thoroughly frustrated that Marco Rubio is continuing to hold up the nomination of a stellar judge from Jacksonville. Judge Brian J. Davis was first nominated by President Obama last Februaryto serve on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.”
The Tampa Bay Times reported that both Davis and Thomas were approved by Florida’s Judicial Nominating Commission. According to the newspaper, Rubio and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley are troubled by comments made by Davis a decade ago about the resignation of Joycelyn Elders, the U.S. surgeon general during the Clinton administration.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) noted that it is not just the Florida nominees that are being held up, saying the picture is large and disconcerting.
A working group of the CBC chaired by Norton found that “while the president has kept pace and often surpassed prior presidents in black judicial appointments, a disproportionate number of African-American nominees have been held up or slowed. Almost one-third (10 of 33) of the judicial nominees currently pending in the Senate are African Americans.”
She urged the Senate to stop delaying these nominees, concluding, “As our country has become one of the most diverse in the world, a judiciary that reflects that diversity is virtually mandatory. Respectfor the rule of law requires respect for the fairness of the judiciary. The Senate establishes the threshold of fairness by confirming a judiciary that represents the diversity of the citizenry whose cases federal judges are called upon to decide. The Congressional Black Caucus will not quietly allow highly-qualified African American judges to be sidelined without hearings or to be held up on the Senate floor after being voted out of the committee.”
For more on the vacancy crisis on the federal bench, see JudicialNominations.org.