July 14, 2011

Judiciary Committee Approves Five, but Postpones Vote on Former Kan. AG

Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved five judicial nominees today, but postponed a vote on former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is opposed by both his home-state senators.

Three nominees were approved without opposition by a voice vote: Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Higginson for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, DOJ antitrust official Katherine Forrest for the Southern District of New York, and state judge Jane Triche-Milazzo for the Eastern District of Louisiana, The Blog of Legal Times reports.

Former White House Associate Counsel Alison Nathan’s nomination to the Southern District of New York was approved by a vote of 14-4, and state judge Susan Hickey’s nomination to the Western District of Arkansas was approved 15-3. These five nominees now await confirmation by the full Senate.

Six was one of several nominees on which the committee did not take action today. Six has been opposed by not only his home-state senators, but also by some abortion groups who have expressed concern about his ties to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who appointed Six as attorney general when she was governor of Kansas, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

Six has received the support, however, of more than two dozen attorneys general, both Democrats and Republicans, who recently signed a letter supporting Six’s nominations, and former Tenth Circuit Chief Judge Deanell Reece Tacha, who left the court to become dean at Pepperdine University School of Law. University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said Tacha's endorsement letter “comes with the credibility of her long service on the bench and as chief judge.”

Yesterday, the committee held a hearing on several other nominees. During the hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy lamented that in the past two months, the Senate has taken action on only four nominees, at a time when more than 90 vacancies remain.

“Regrettably our progress in Committee considering judicial nominations in regular order has not been matched in the Senate, where agreements to debate and vote on judicial nominations have ground to a halt,” Leahy said.

Visit JudicialNominations.org to learn more about the judicial vacancy crisis and follow developments.