April 01, 2009

Leahy Sets Hyperpartisan Tone for Judicial Nominations

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy moved forward today with the confirmation hearing of the first Obama judicial nominee, David Hamilton.  Only 15 days have passed since Hamilton's nomination was announced.  Under Leahy's leadership, Bush appellate nominees faced an average of 197 days between nomination and hearing.  Adding to the short time period is the extensive body of work that Hamilton has amassed during his 15 years on the federal bench in Indiana.  The BLT reports:

"Specter said the timing of the hearing kept his staff from fully examining Hamilton’s record, including 1,150 written opinions taking up 9,500 pages from Hamilton’s 15 years as a judge for the Southern District of Indiana.

'The Constitution, as we all know, calls on the Senate to confirm. And indispensable to the confirmation process is an opportunity to examine the record of the individual. And that means a hearing, and that means questions and answers, and that means an opportunity to prepare,' Specter said."

What is the rush?  The Seventh Circuit, to which Hamilton has been nominated, is not one of the circuits that is in dire need of judges.  What is Sen. Leahy attempting to hide?  It perhaps has to do with the fact that Hamilton may go beyond the usual ideological battles.  As I previously noted, he was originally deemed "not qualified" by the ABA, and he was publicly rebuked by the Seventh Circuit for abuse of discretion.

Leahy also had some shenanigans up his sleeve before the hearing even began.  CQ Politics reports:

"Leahy not only held the hearing, he scheduled two nominees for executive branch posts to appear as well. And shortly before the hearing started, Leahy moved it to the beautifully adorned but very small Senate Appropriations hearing room on the ground floor of the Capitol. Dozens of relatives and friends of the nominees, along with committee staff and reporters, crammed themselves into the standing-room-only hearing. There weren't even enough chairs at the table for all of the committee members, had they chosen to show up."

With the numbers in the Senate, it is likely that Hamilton will pass, but there was no reason for Sen. Leahy to strike such a hyperpartisan tone.  As a result of his actions, the GOP boycotted todays hearing.  This stands in stark contradiction to the bipartisan tone set be Bush.

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