U.S. Senate advances Biden's 4th Circuit nominee Benjamin

DeAndrea Benjamin, a nominee to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on November 15, 2022, in Washington, D.C. U.S. Senate/Handout via REUTERS
  • Senate Judiciary Committee advances DeAndrea Benjamin's 4th Circuit nomination
  • Senate confirms 95th judicial nominee of Biden's tenure

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a new judge in Ohio and moved closer to delivering President Joe Biden his 100th confirmed judicial nominee as a committee advanced the nomination of a South Carolina judge to a federal appeals court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-9 to advance the nomination of DeAndrea Benjamin, a state court judge in South Carolina who would become the second woman of color to serve on the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Democratic-led panel also voted in favor of four district court nominees from Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington state.

The committee votes came shortly before the Senate confirmed the 95th judicial nominee of Biden's tenure, voting 64-32 to elevate Cincinnati-based U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Hopkins to a district court position.

Further votes are being teed up, setting the stage for the Democratic president in the coming days to reach the 100th milestone. The vast majority have been women or people of color in keeping with Biden's pledge to diversify the federal bench.

Benjamin, who is Black, currently serves in Columbia, South Carolina, on the state Fifth Judicial Circuit, a trial court.

She was recommended to Biden by South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, who at a Nov. 15 hearing called her a "longtime friend" whose family members were "fixtures" in the state capital of Columbia. Her husband, Steve Benjamin, is the former mayor of Columbia.

Her nomination garnered rare support from her state's two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, who returned "blue slips" and backed her nomination.

Despite the home-state support, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the panel's ranking Republican, opposed Benjamin, citing rulings favorable to criminal defendants and concerns about if "she is committed to enforcing the Constitution and laws as written."

Four other nominees received favorable votes by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Myong Joun, a nominee in Massachusetts, is a Boston municipal court judge who earlier in his career focused on criminal defense and civil rights litigation. Colleen Lawless, a nominee to the Central District of Illinois, is a state court judge in Sangamon County, Illinois.

Robert Ballou is a magistrate judge nominated to be a district court judge in the Western District of Virginia, while Seattle lawyer Kymberly Evanson of Pacifica Law Group is up for a judgeship in the Western District of Washington.

Read more:

U.S. Senate confirms first Black federal appellate judge from Indiana

Senate Democrats ramp up nominee push, weighing 4th Circuit pick

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