24 Biden judicial nominees advance to Senate vote

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United States circuit judge nominee Nancy Abudu testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
United States circuit judge nominee Nancy Abudu testifies before a Judiciary Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
  • Four circuit nominees advance, including abortion rights lawyer Julie Rikelman
  • District nominee Dale Ho, voting rights advocate, also moves ahead

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced 24 judicial nominees who did not win U.S. Senate approval in the prior Congress, as Democrats used their new majority control of the panel to approve the Biden administration's picks.

The four U.S. appeals court nominees — Nancy Abudu, Rachel Bloomekatz, Anthony Johnstone and Julie Rikelman — and 20 district court nominees were renominated by President Joe Biden last month, and they were expected to move ahead to the full Senate for consideration.

The committee had deadlocked or not voted yet on some of the nominees during the first two years of Biden's presidency, when the Senate was split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans and the committee in turn was evenly divided 11-11.

Democrats now hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate — and a 11-10 advantage in the committee — giving them the ability to vote out nominees who stalled previously in the face of Republican opposition.

"There's no presumption that if you didn't make it on the calendar the previous two years you are damaged goods," Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said at Thursday's hearing. "We just run out of time."

The panel advanced the nomination of Rikelman, an abortion rights lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, for the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In December, the committee had split 11-11 along party lines on her nomination.

Other circuit court picks advancing on Thursday after previously deadlocked votes were Nancy Abudu, a voting rights advocate with the Southern Poverty Law Center nominated to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, and Rachel Bloomekatz, an Ohio lawyer picked for the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit who had garnered Republican opposition over her past advocacy on behalf of a gun control group.

The committee also advanced the nomination of professor Anthony Johnstone of the University of Montana for the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit.

The highest profile of the previously stalled district court nominees who advanced on Thursday is Dale Ho, a voting rights lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, nominated to be a federal judge in Manhattan. He received a 11-10 vote.

The panel also advanced another once-deadlocked nominee to the Manhattan court, Jessica Clarke, who has served as the civil rights bureau chief under New York Attorney General Letitia James since 2019.

Two formerly stalled nominees to be district court judges in the Central District of California, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenly Kato and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hernán Vera, also received the judiciary panel's blessing on Thursday.

[NOTE: A previous version of this story misstated the division of Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats control the committee 11 to 10. The story was also updated to say the 24 nominees had not won Senate approval, rather than committee approval.}

Read more:

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U.S. Senate panel holds first votes on Biden judicial picks of 2023

Biden renominates another 17 judicial picks; only three not resubmitted

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Mike Scarcella in Washington, D.C.

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Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.