Senate panel advances Myrna Pérez, voting rights advocate, for 2nd Cir.

U.S. Senate panel holds hearing for attorney general nominee Garland
Drew Angerer/Pool via REUTERS
  • Pérez has served as deputy director of Brennan Center's voting rights and election program since 2019
  • White House announced a third 2nd Circuit nominee, Beth Robinson, who would be first openly gay female circuit judge

(Reuters) - The Biden administration's nomination of Myrna Pérez to serve on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals advanced on Thursday to the full U.S. Senate over Republican objections to her voting-rights advocacy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended Pérez's nomination in a 12-10 largely party-line vote.

Pérez, director of the voting rights and election program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law since 2019, was U.S. President Joe Biden's second nominee to the New York-based federal appeals court. Progressive groups praised her selection for the bench.

"Confirming Myrna Pérez is a no-brainer," Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said in a statement after the committee vote.

Public defender Eunice Lee's nomination to the 2nd Circuit is pending before the full Senate. A third nominee to the appeals court, Beth Robinson, a justice on the Vermont Supreme Court since 2011, was announced Thursday. Robinson would become the first openly gay female U.S. appeals court judge, the White House said.

Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, called Pérez "an experienced litigator who has dedicated her career to defending the right to vote, a fundamental right."

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa led opposition to Pérez, saying she "pretty clearly is the most outspoken liberal judicial nominee we've seen in this administration."

Republicans on the committee broadly criticized Pérez for her advocacy during the few months this year while she was under consideration for a seat but before she was nominated. Responding to that criticism, Durbin said judicial ethics canons apply only to nominees, not to candidates.

"Ms. Pérez continued to do her work as an advocate, even while she was under consideration for a nomination, [and that] is consistent from what we've seen from previous nominees," Durbin said.

Pérez, who has litigated election-law cases and spoken out against efforts to restrict voting, told judiciary committee members at her confirmation hearing on July 14 and later in written submissions that her work as an advocate would not skew the role she plays as a judge. She has held various roles at the Brennan Center for Justice since 2006, serving first as counsel there.

"I have spent the better part of the last two decades protecting a constitutionally-designed framework that has different people playing different roles. One role is that of an advocate, another role is that of a judge,” she said in a written submission. "The framework I have worked so hard to defend does not work if people do not perform their respective roles."

She said she will "impartially and objectively follow the law irrespective of any personal views I hold."

The judiciary committee also favorably advanced a handful of nominees to trial courts. Those nominees, who did not face criticism at Thursday's hearing, were Jia Cobb and Florence Pan for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; Sarah Merriam for the District of Connecticut; and Karen Williams for the District of New Jersey.

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