In holding over nearly 50 judicial nominees Tuesday, including two renominees for the Northern Indiana District Court, Democrats on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee called for a return to the traditions of honoring blue slips and relying on the American Bar Association’s evaluations.
The Judiciary Committee met to consider the 44 nominees for the federal bench who had been renominated by the White House. Among them were Holly Brady and Damon Leichty, who have been put forth to fill the vacant seats on the U.S. District Court for the Northern Indiana District Court. They had previously been nominated in 2018 but, like the other 42 nominees, neither were confirmed before the 115th Congress adjourned.
None of the 44 nominees, 33 of whom were candidates for judgeships in district court, received a vote by the committee. In fact, Iowa’s Sen. Charles Grassley and South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, the new committee chair, were the only Republican members who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Democratic members used their time to voice their opposition to William Barr, who has been nominated to be the U.S. Attorney General. Also, they advocated for the committee to return to its practices of the past.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member, raised concerns about how quickly the committee had been moving the Trump administration’s judicial nominees through the process and to the Senate floor. She said the committee had been doing its work without observing the traditions that had ensured the proper vetting of potential judges.
“One of this committee’s most important responsibilities is to review and evaluate the president’s nominees for lifetime appointments,” the California Democrat said. “I hope this committee recommits to moving well-qualified consensus nominees.”
Both Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Christopher Coons, D-Del., called attention the committee’s abandonment of the longstanding practice of holding hearings only for nominees who had received the support, or blue slips, of both home state senators. In addition, they highlighted their apprehension about the committee no longer taking into consideration the ABA ratings of the judicial nominees.
“I think we need to return to traditions of this committee of seriously consulting the ABA,” Coons said, “and taking into account their assessments and then finding ways that on a bipartisan basis we can move forward on appropriately qualified nominees.”
When they were nominated, Brady and Leichty received the blue slips from Indiana’s Sen. Todd Young, Republican, and then-Sen. Joe Donnelly, Democrat. Also, both were rated by the ABA with Brady receiving a qualified rating and Leichty receiving a well-qualified rating from a substantial majority of the association’s standing committee on the federal judiciary.
Brady, attorney at Haller & Colvin P.C. in Fort Wayne, has been nominated to replace Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen. Leichty, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in South Bend, has been nominated to replace Judge Robert Miller Jr.
The judiciary committee had narrowly approved Brady on a party-line 11-10 vote, but the Senate never voted on her confirmation. Although Leichty testified at a hearing in November, the committee did not vote on his nomination.