Republicans seek rare 2nd hearing on Biden judge pick over police comments

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Nusrat Choudhury, a nominee to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 2022. U.S. Senate/Handout via REUTERS

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  • Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans seek second hearing for Nusrat Choudhury
  • Choudhury has denied making statement about police killings of unarmed Black men

(Reuters) - Senate Republicans are seeking to force an ACLU lawyer to appear for a rare second hearing on her nomination to become a federal judge in New York after she denied ever saying that police killings of unarmed Black men happen "every day."

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in announcing the request on Thursday acknowledged that having Nusrat Choudhury come back for another hearing after an earlier one on April 27 was "unusual."

But Grassley said a second hearing was necessary because Choudhury, following her initial hearing, contradicted herself by denying in a letter ever saying at a 2015 panel discussion at Princeton University that "the killing of unarmed Black men by police happens every day in America."

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"That gives us serious concerns that this is a major case of 'confirmation conversion,'" Grassley said.

Democrats have teed up a committee vote on Choudhury's nomination by President Joe Biden to be a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York for as soon as the panel's next executive business meeting.

Grassley at a hearing on Thursday said the committee's Republicans had sent a letter on Wednesday to Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, the panel's chairman, asking for Choudhury to come back to address her denials.

It was not immediately clear if Durbin would oblige or would continue to proceed to a vote. A spokesperson for Durbin had no immediate comment.

Choudhury, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If confirmed, Choudhury would become the country's first female Muslim federal judge.

During her April 27 hearing before the Senate judiciary committee, Choudhury, when asked by Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana about the 2015 statement initially said she was not sure she made that statement but then said she "said it in my role as an advocate."

Her testimony at the hearing prompted law enforcement groups including the Fraternal Order of Police and the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association to oppose her nomination, a fact Grassley cited Thursday.

But in a letter she sent the committee two weeks later after the hearing, Choudhury said she "did not make this statement," that it was "misattributed" to her, that it was not true, and that she regretted not saying so at the hearing.

"Such a statement is inconsistent with my deep respect for law enforcement, appreciation for the risks they take, and the important role they play in advancing public safety," Choudhury wrote.

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