U.S. Senate confirms 9th Circuit nominee; panel deadlocks on 3 Biden judicial picks

3 minute read

Holly Thomas at her U.S. Senate nomination hearing on Capitol Hill, Oct. 20, 2021. REUTERS via Handout

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  • Senate confirms Holly Thomas to join the 9th Circuit
  • Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocks on Dale Ho's nomination

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to make Holly Thomas the second Black woman to ever serve on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as a Senate panel deadlocked on three of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees including a prominent voting rights activist.

Thomas was approved on a 48-40 vote hours after Republican complaints about social media posts by one of Biden's most prominent picks, Dale Ho, led the Senate Judiciary Committee to deadlock on his nomination to become a Manhattan federal judge.

He was one of 12 nominees being considered by the committee to move on to a full Senate vote. Nine won its support, including Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, a nominee to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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The panel split 11-11 on whether to advance Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, and two of 10 other district court nominees up for votes, Charlotte Sweeney for the District of Colorado and Hernan Vera for the Central District of California.

Ho has faced conservative criticism over his opposition to voting restrictions. Republicans criticized Ho for attacking multiple GOP senators on Twitter before being nominated to join the Southern District of New York.

"Mr. Ho has repeatedly shown that he is a partisan activist who lacks the judicial temperament to serve as a federal judge," Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the panel, said Thursday.

Ho during a Dec. 1 hearing apologized for his "overheated rhetoric," and Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said Thursday he believed in "redemption."

The panel's tied votes on Ho, Sweeney and Vera mean they will face an additional procedural hurdle as the Senate must vote to discharge their nominations from the committee before any final vote.

It cast just such a discharge vote in December for Thomas after the panel deadlocked on her, too.

She is the 13th of Biden's appellate nominees to win confirmation and the fourth to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit following Lucy Koh, Jennifer Sung and Gabriel Sanchez.

Thomas has served as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court since 2018 after earlier working at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

She previously also served as special counsel to the New York solicitor general and as deputy director of California's housing and employment agency.

Read more:

U.S. Senate advances 9th Circuit pick as Schumer readies more judiciary votes

In bid for N.Y. federal bench, ACLU litigator apologizes for 'overheated' tweets

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