Senate confirms rare Biden judge pick from Republican-led state

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees
U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Brookman delivers remarks during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 25, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis
  • Only three of Biden's judicial nominees have been confirmed by voice vote
  • Matthew Brookman is rare Biden judicial nominee with home state Republican backing

March 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate did something rare late on Wednesday: It unanimously confirmed one of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees.

The Senate on a voice vote unanimously approved elevating U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Brookman to a U.S. district court judgeship in the Southern District of Indiana, a state with two Republican senators.

The lack of Republican opposition to Brookman marked a rarity for the Democratic president's judicial nominees. Of 119 confirmed judicial nominees, only two others did not require roll call votes and were instead unanimously approved by voice vote.

By comparison, 26 of Republican President Donald Trump's 92 appointments at this point in his presidency received voice votes, according to data collected by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Just 10 of the Biden's 87 confirmed district court appointments hail from states with one or more Republican senators, a fact progressive advocates say points to the need to bring an end to the Senate's "blue slip" tradition.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has maintained a custom of requiring senators to return "blue slips," named for the color of the paper forms, supporting district court nominees from their home states for them to advance.

The panel's Republican leadership did away with the requirement for blue slips for appellate court nominees during Trump's tenure.

Progressive groups like Demand Justice and the American Constitution Society have argued that maintaining the "blue slip" tradition has allowed Republicans to obstruct Biden from nominating new judges in their states to fill vacancies.

But while Senator Dick Durbin, the committee's Democratic chair, has said he would not honor a blue slip that discriminates based on race, gender or sexual discrimination, he had stood by the tradition and urged bipartisan cooperation.

At a hearing in January, Durbin held out Brookman as the rare example during Biden's tenure of two Republicans working with the White House to successfully name a judge and thanked GOP Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun of Indiana for doing so.

Brookman worked for decades as a federal prosecutor, first in Missouri starting in 1999 and later in Indiana from 2002 to 2016, when he became a federal magistrate judge.

At a January hearing, Young called Brookman an example of a nominee with "the potential for broad bipartisan support." Biden had announced plans to nominate Brookman in late December and his nomination moved swiftly through the Democratic-led Senate.

Read more:

Few Biden judicial nominees at Senate hearing as 'blue slip' concerns loom

Graham urges Republicans to work with Biden on judicial nominees

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at