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U.S. Senate panel backs 9th Circuit nominee Sanchez, deadlocks on Thomas

2 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 panel votes 12-10 to advance Sanchez's 9th Circuit nomination
  • Committee tied 11-11 on Thomas to also join 9th Circuit

(Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel on Thursday voted in favor of nine of President Joe Biden's judicial picks, including a candidate for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but deadlocked on another selection for the San Francisco-based court along with two other nominees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on a 12-10 vote cleared the way for the full Senate to consider approving Gabriel Sanchez for a spot on the largest federal appeals court, but tied 11-11 on whether Holly Thomas should also join the 9th Circuit.

Republican opposition for two of Biden's district court nominees, Charlotte Sweeney to be Colorado's first openly gay federal judge, and Hernan Vera to serve in the Central District of California, also led to tied votes.

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The panel's tied votes on Thomas, 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 consideration of their nominations can begin.

The panel had split earlier on whether to advance one of Biden's two other 9th Circuit picks, Jennifer Sung. Vice President Kamala Harris on Nov. 3 broke a 49-49 tie vote to discharge her nomination.

Sung has not yet been confirmed and neither has Biden's other 9th Circuit pick, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.

Thomas, a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court since 2018, would be the second Black woman to serve on the 9th Circuit. Sanchez, a Latino, is a justice on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District.

Thomas worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. She went on to be special counsel to the New York solicitor general and as deputy director of California's housing and employment agency.

During an Oct. 20 hearing, Republicans on the committee focused many of their questions on Thomas's civil rights advocacy, including for transgender rights. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, called her an "activist advocate."

She pushed back at that suggestion.

"I haven't been an advocate for three years," she said. "I've been a judge."

Read more:

U.S. Senate panel advances 2nd Circuit nominee, divides over 9th Circuit pick

U.S. Senate panel advances 9th Circuit nominee Koh

9th Circuit nominee Holly Thomas defends prior role as civil rights advocate

GOP questions 9th Circuit nominee Sanchez on California parole reform

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

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